Who I met and what I got at ALA

What can I say? It was my first time. Of course I'm going to remember it! ;)

DAY 1 :: Friday

author Katherine Applegate signing my library's copy of THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN author Katherine Applegate signing a book for Maya
[Katherine Applegate signing The One and Only Ivan for my library and Roscoe Riley Rules for my daughter]

Graphic novelist Raina Telgemeier and my new ALA friends
[Middle Grade Meet-up at the Hilton: Back row, L to R: J. Reed (Reederama), Susan Dee (The Book Maven's Haven), LibLaura5 (15 Books & LibLaura5). Front row, L to R: Cynthia Alaniz (Teaching in Cute Shoes), me, graphic novelist Raina Telgemeier (GoRaina!).]

ALA Day 1 haul

[Day 1 haul]

DAY 2 :: Saturday

author Marie Lu

[Marie Lu signing Legend and Prodigy for my son]

Me and author/illustrator Tad Hills

[author/illustrator Tad Hills signing Rocket Writes a Story for my daughter]

author Susan Cooper interviewed by Roger Sutton

[author Susan Cooper and Roger Sutton: The Live Five interview at the Horn Book booth]

ALA Day 2 haul
[Day 2 haul]

DAY 3 :: Sunday

ALA 2012 Newbery-Caldecott Banquet 
[The Newbery-Caldecott Banquet program (watch Elementary librarian Travis Jonker's video of what the program looks like on the inside)]

Caldecott winner Chris Raschka Newbery winner Jack Gantos (sorry about the crappy quality)

[Caldecott winner Chris Raschka and Newbery winner Jack Gantos]

author/illustrator Peter Brown

[author/illustrator Peter Brown watching the Andrew Carnegie Medal-winning video production of his Children Make Terrible Pets]

The receiving line post-banquet
[The post-Banquet receiving line]

As much as I loved the banquet, I was just as excited about meeting Betsy Bird (and sitting at her table!) and seeing Mr. Schu again:

Me and Betsy Bird
[Betsy and her amazing Shrinky Dink necklace. Read about its creation here.]

Me and Mr. Schu
[Teacher-librarian extraordinaire Mr. Schu]

What I learned at ALA :: a newbie's perspective

I've been on twitter for awhile and I've been lucky enough to become online friends with a few teachers and librarians around the country. Every January and June they tweet about the American Library Association's conferences (Midwinter in January, Annual in June). During those few days every six months, all I could do was 1) be green with envy over the authors they met and ARCs they picked up, or 2) keep away from twitter so I wouldn't become green with envy. So, if the conferences sounded so good on twitter, why didn't I just go? Well, you have to understand, like all large conferences, these last at least four days, cost an arm and a leg just to attend (at least on a library media specialist's low hourly wage), and require traveling to distant locales like Chicago and New Orleans. It just wasn't feasible.

Well, no longer! This year's Annual was in Anaheim, not too far from where I live. The location impediment could be checked off the "Why I can't go" list. How about the attendance fee? It turns out you can get free exhibit floor passes through various vendors. True, that means you can't attend any of the actual sessions that help you become a better librarian, but visiting the exhibit floor is a great introduction to what the conference offers.

[I'll post more about my personal experiences at ALA Annual in a separate post.]

As I explained above, this is a long-ish conference, which requires travel for most attendees. Planning is key to making the conference experience as pleasant as possible. I can't speak for the packing part (I listed some other blog posts at the bottom) but I can share what I figured out as a first-time ALA attendee:

Things to bring:
  • business cards (be sure to have your social media information on there)
  • water, snacks, and lunch
  • iPhone or iPad
  • good walking shoes
  • a light cardigan (we're librarians/library people, that's what we wear!)
  • extra tote bags
  • rubber bands for posters
  • binder clip
  • pre-printed address labels (include email address, if possible)
  • cash and/or checks
  • pens, Sharpies, Post-It notes

Things I found helpful:
  • Plan, plan, plan! I took a couple of days before the conference to really check the conference website's exhibitors page (they have a schedule of major author signings by day and publisher), author websites/blogs, publisher websites/blogs, twitter, and Facebook to come up with a plan of who I wanted to see and what ARCs I wanted. (Library Journal puts out an ALA Galley & Signing Guide that was pretty helpful, although the books listed were mostly not kidlit.)
    ARCs and giveaways my map of the exhibit floor
    I put that information into a simple spreadsheet. It was also a good idea to print out a map of the exhibit floor and color in the booths I would be visiting most. ALA also has a Scheduler site and mobile app (the app may be specific to each conference) but I didn't want to create a log-in for it, and I prefer paper schedules for these kinds of things. In the end, I abandoned the spreadsheet and wrote a schedule of exactly where I needed to be and what I needed to be doing at what time and I just went down the schedule, checking off everything I accomplished.
    What my daily plan started out looking like  What my daily plan ended up looking like

  • As soon as you can, go through the Aisle by Aisle Exhibitor Guide & Coupon Book. (You get it when you register.) Some of the booths require you to bring the actual coupon in order to receive the giveaway, others are a bit more lax and will scan the barcode on your ID badge. (I missed out on the DK giveaway because I forgot the coupon at home.) It's also helpful to use your pre-printed address labels on the back of the coupons that ask for your contact info. a binder clip is handy to keep your paperwork together

  • I have a small cross shoulder purse that I converted into a hip pouch by shortening the strap and running it through the belt loops on my pants. The purse held my schedule & map, wallet, business card holder, a pen, and iPhone. I opted to keep it around my hips instead of across my shoulders because I had a backpack on (the first day) and I knew I was going to be carrying multiple (heavy) tote bags on my shoulders.
    my converted purse/hip pouch

  • Write your twitter handle on your conference ID badge, especially if you're active on twitter or plan to check twitter frequently during the conference. I met fellow readers in line waiting for authors and it was nice to be able to give them a business card and/or immediately search for them on twitter.
    ALA badge --> write your twitter handle on it

  • Don't be shy about talking to publisher reps; they're there to generate excitement about their books. You should also share your enthusiasm for any books you've read by their publishing house. Giving them feedback helps the publishers understand what readers want to read and what they need to keep publishing -- that can only benefit the reader (and the author!). I shared which books are popular in my library at Sourcebooks and the rep generously allowed me to have a couple of extra display books from the series I mentioned.

  •  Ask, ask, ask! Some publishers hide their ARCs and don't make public what they have. But they are more than happy to help you if you ask about specific titles. In fact, Random House has a sign out requesting that you ask the rep for an ARC. And if they can't give you one at that moment, they're pretty good about telling you when they'll be available. (It's also important to keep going back to the booth to see what new titles they bring out. Oftentimes they'll only set out a certain number of copies each day of a specific title so you might have to go back day after day before finally getting it.)

    I was rather shameless about asking them how a certain author's signing was going to go. I'd swing by before the scheduled signing and ask them if a purchase was necessary, whether the actual ARC was going to be available, and which table the author was going to sign at (it helps at big booths in particular so you know where to start lining up). That kind of information can help you prioritize where to spend your money and time.

  • Friday night (the first day the exhibit floor is open to the public) is pretty crazy and frenzied, probably because the publishers had the most books out at once and no one had any sessions to go to. If there's a book you really want, this is the time to get it. If you can only plan for one day, make it Friday! (Some of the books I picked up for free on Friday night were being sold on Saturday; I think it's because the author came by and autographed them.)
  • Bringing my lunch on Saturday was a great idea. There are food vendors near the convention center, in the Hilton's lobby area, and nearby, but if your time -- and money -- are precious to you, bring a sandwich and some healthy snacks.

  • I ran out of cash, which turned out to be a blessing and a curse. Besides giving away ARCs, most booths also sell already-published books at deeply discounted prices ($5~$10 for hardbacks, $2~$5 for paperbacks). Cash and checks are accepted, and a few booths can handle credit cards. You should also be aware that some booths require a book purchase to either get an ARC or have a book signed by an author.

    I didn't understand this system until I got to the exhibit floor on Saturday and I didn't bring much cash, nor did I have any checks with me. Simon & Schuster (which, I think, was working with local indie bookseller Mrs. Nelson's) had a credit card machine but none of the other booths I went to had one. Consequently, I ran out of cash before the afternoon signings that I really wanted to go to (R.L. LaFevers, Laini Taylor, and Adam Gidwitz), all of which required a purchase. I was bummed that I missed these signings, but it also saved me from buying books I already owned/read so I could get ARCs or an autograph. Like I said, it was a blessing and a curse. (Of course, after I got home, I realized one of the bills I thought was a $1 bill was actually a $5 bill -- I totally could've gone to one of those signings! Grr!)

    Nicole (a friend of a friend) has a nice recap of ALA and some tips, especially about the last day, which I missed.

  • Be polite. I didn't come across any rude behavior while I was there, but if you read around the book blogosphere you hear about people's misbehavior on conference exhibit floors. Practice common courtesy and decency and everyone will have a good time. Don't be greedy or pushy with the ARCs, and I shouldn't even have to say this, but don't steal! The publishers provide ARCs and access to books that aren't published yet as a service to readers, librarians, and bookstore owners. It's really unacceptable and unethical to take more than your fair share (especially if it's for reasons not purely motivated by love of reading and books).

    There is etiquette surrounding ARCs and what you do with them, but I don't know all of the details. My friend Alethea gave me some advice but I should probably do some research about the proper use of ARCs (blog giveaways, circulating in libraries, etc.).

Things I found not-so-helpful:
  • Oddly enough, a backpack wasn't so helpful. The exhibit floor is crowded, you're rushed, and it's hot -- all things that are not conducive to you having a backpack to stash your loot in. It might be helpful to have if you're planning to carry non-essentials/infrequently accessed items in it (i.e., your lunch for later, a water bottle, your sweater, extra business cards, etc.).

  • My friend suggested getting the tote bag at McGraw Hill. It's a great bag, but it was a tad on the cumbersome side because it's wide. It kept bumping into things (and people!) every time I turned my body, so I ended up leaving it in my car trunk and stashing ARCs and posters in it.

  • I was contemplating bringing my SLR camera; I'm glad I didn't! You will seriously become weighted down with books; having one more thing to schlep around and bring out to use is a hassle. My phone camera (even my old iPhone 3GS) sufficed, and it's easier and quicker to then tweet or post the pictures online.

  • As much as I emphasized planning for the conference, over-scheduling and trying to stick to the entire plan will kill you. It's certainly OK to go in with a detailed plan of everything you would like to do/see, but be realistic and don't be disappointed if you don't get to everything on your list. I had originally planned to attend Friday through Sunday, but I pooped out by mid-afternoon on Saturday. I wisely decided to skip Sunday to rest so I could attend the Caldecott/Newbery Banquet that night. Sure, I missed some authors I really wanted to meet but it would've taken me days to recuperate if I had forced myself to go on Sunday.

Final thoughts:

I won't lie -- as excited as I was about going to ALA, it was an overwhelming experience. I can only imagine what it would be like if I had to go to actual conference sessions in addition to trying to get to author signings (oftentimes in two totally different places). It worked out well that I only had to concentrate on getting around the exhibit floor.

In the mad rush of trying to get ARCs and meeting authors, you can get swept away by a sense of urgency like you have to get this or that book, or that you're not getting the most of the experience because you missed out on something. Once I accepted that I could only do so much and it wasn't the end of the world if I didn't get to everything on my schedule, I started to explore and discover books that I might've overlooked otherwise. It also helped me to be more selective about what I picked up. What I really wanted was already a substantial number of books so I'm glad I started telling myself to cool it with the grabby-grabby hands; my husband thanked me too.

It's important to take a few moments every once in awhile to remove yourself from the hustle and bustle and take a breather; call someone and share your excitement, start reading one of your ARCs, hydrate yourself, get some fresh air, anything that will energize you. Remember to have fun, meet people, and share the love of books!

Other sites that help you with packing and conference attendance:


Leigh Bardugo signing at Mysterious Galaxy Redondo Beach

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo has been on my radar for awhile; it's been getting buzz since before it came out in early June (so I can't even remember where I first heard about it). Since my local public library is part of a large system it often gets books right after publication. I recently discovered that you can put holds on books that are still in the process of being cataloged. That's how I got my hands on Shadow and Bone pretty quickly. And I'm so glad I did -- I know this book (and the entire Grisha trilogy) is going to gain in popularity as word spreads about it.

I was hoping to see Leigh at ALA Annual last weekend but wasn't able to make it to her signing. I was pleased when I saw on twitter that she was going to be at Mysterious Galaxy Redondo Beach. And I was also glad that I had finished reading the book before tonight; I couldn't wait to tell her how much I liked it. (Seriously, go out and buy/borrow the book right now!)

[Leigh reading from Shadow and Bone]

The evening began with Leigh explaining why the book takes place in a Russia-inspired country called Ravka. As one might expect, it's the question she gets asked the most (it was the first thing I wondered as well). As a fan of fantasy herself, she's read (and loved) many stories that take place in medieval England and Europe. She wanted a different setting and was inspired by an atlas she found in a used bookstore that had a picture of men in Russian fur hats standing in the snow. At first she wanted to use the "cosmetic details" of Russia -- the architecture, the clothes, etc. But as her research delved deeper into Russian history, she found that the real life details of Russian serfs and nobles worked in her storyline.

From there she created a fantasy world of three countries at war: Ravka (where Shadow and Bone takes place), Fjerda to the north, and Shu Han to the south (I'm guessing Fjerda was inspired by Norway (or another Scandinavian country) and Shu Han is Leigh's fantasy world equivalent of China). On the book's website there's a helpful section about Ravka and Leigh's world building. I could be wrong because I'm not super knowledgeable about fantasy (although it's my favorite genre), but I haven't read any fantasy books originally written in English that take place in world's inspired by Russia, so I felt this was a really unique setting. It's also a world that uses mechanical technology. There are guns and a whole group of Grisha called the Order of Fabrikators who are good at building/making things. Consequently, her books have been dubbed Tsarpunk. It's the kind of classification that, if you're coming to this book not knowing anything, gives you a pretty good idea of the kind of world you're about to enter.

My question to her was about whether she reads a lot of YA and if she set out to intentionally write YA. Her answer was no. When she was growing up there really weren't books marketed as YA (true for me too); fantasy was fantasy. She wanted to write a book that would reach readers who might not usually read fantasy, and hopefully be inspired to read more. I think she totally accomplished that, although I may be a bit biased since my reading habits often lean toward fantasy.

The second book in the series, Siege and Storm, doesn't come out until 2013. I'm not happy about that because that's a long time from now! (To hold me over (for just a wee bit) until it comes out, I'm going to read a companion piece Leigh wrote, The Witch of Duva: A Ravkan Folk Tale.) The second book is already written but Leigh is sworn to secrecy about its contents. The two things she did divulge were that 1) the Apparat doesn't have a huge part in the second book but is pulling strings throughout the story arc, and 2) she didn't kill a character in the second book that she thought she was going to, making it a bit more difficult for herself when she writes the third book!

Although I already read my copy of the book from the library, I bought a personal copy to have autographed. She was lovely in person and was kind enough to give me one of the last remaining bottles of Shadow and Bone nail polish. I know this was a coveted item (lots of people wanted it at ALA) so I'm happy to receive it, especially since nail polish is the only kind of make-up I use.

[Minor spoilers ahead so skip down after the photo if you don't want to know some stuff that happens in the book.]

After I walked away I had to double-back because I actually forgot to tell her I liked the book! I also admitted that I wanted Alina to kiss the Darkling and then felt bad afterward for feeling that way. That's exactly what Leigh wants you to feel; the Darkling has had hundreds of years to perfect the art of manipulating his power to attract people to his cause. (During my conversation with Leigh I made a mistake by saying the Darkling was 120 years old; that's what he told Alina but it's a lie -- it's all a lie!) I wonder if he's still capable of love, or if he ever was. Perhaps this is something that will come up in subsequent books.

[Leigh signing my copy of Shadow and Bone]

During her talk, Leigh pointed out a Sarah in the audience. Afterwards, she had this Sarah sign a book she pulled out of her purse, and some other attendees crowded around her. I realized that Sarah was Sarah Maas, author of Throne of Glass (publication date: August 7, 2012). Her book was one of the few I actually wanted to get at ALA and wasn't able to. What luck! I approached her and she was sweet enough to sign my author/illustrator book. She and her husband even chatted with me for a few minutes about movies and independent bookstores. I can't wait to get my hands on her book (again, through placing a hold at my library). In the meantime, I'm going to go read the four e-novella prequels of Throne of Glass (more information about them here).

It was another great YA author signing at MGRB! I enjoy the smaller setting of these author visits at independent bookstores. You can actually talk to the authors for a bit instead of being rushed through a line (I'm just speaking of my recent experience at ALA). I hope Leigh comes back to MGRB when Siege and Storm comes out.


It's Monday! What are you reading? From Picture Books to YA

Week 7 of It's Monday! What are you reading? is kinda pathetic (again) because I was preoccupied with the last week of work. My other excuse is that I visited the American Library Association's annual conference exhibit floor in Anaheim over the weekend. My weekends are my reading days so I lost a lot of reading time being away from home. I wasn't able to finish Shadow and Bone or Zoobiquity, both of which I'm enjoying. But summer has officially started for me so I anticipate a lot of reading very, very soon!


The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen

Larf by Ashley Spires

Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett

The Perfect Present by Fiona Robertson

Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham



I came home with so many books (most of them ARCs/AREs) from ALA! I still have to go through the pile to figure out what I want to read first ... decisions, decisions! I'll be working on a blog post about my conference exhibit experiences next.


It's Monday! What are you reading? From Picture Books to YA

Week 6 of It's Monday! What are you reading? And what an unproductive reading week it was. But I'm going to blame it on the excitement and busy-ness of my husband graduating from his Ph.D. program this week.


Butterfly Fever by Lori Haskins

The Happy Hocky Family Moves to the Country! by Lane Smith



Zoobiquity: What Animals Can Teach Us About Health and the Science of Healing by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers
[I put this book on hold but it didn't arrive at my branch this week so I had to put off reading it, which is fine since I'm still in the middle of Steampunk!]


It's Monday! What are you reading? From Picture Books to YA

I'm surprised that I've continued It's Monday! What are you reading? for 5 weeks! If you know me at all, I'm notorious for starting things and never following through (the original purpose of this blog is a prime example). Even when I don't get around to reading what I planned to read, there's a sense of accomplishment knowing that I make reading a priority. However ...

The school year is winding down, which means I'm a bit preoccupied with my kids finishing school this week, my poor attempts at trying to get the library in order by the end of next week, my husband's graduation from his PhD program this weekend, Father's Day on Sunday, and planning for the summer. All of that combined means I'm behind in my reading! I know, I know, excuses, excuses, but sometimes real life gets in the way.


Larry Gets Lost in San Francisco by Michael Mullin and John Skewes

Betty Bunny Wants Everything by Michael B. Kaplan

Teach Your Buffalo to Play Drums by Audrey Vernick

The Real Princess: A Mathemagical Tale by Brenda Williams

Shiver Me Letters: A Pirate ABC by June Sobel

The Owl and the Woodpecker by Brian Wildsmith

Bobbie Dazzler by Margaret Wild

Madam President by Lane Smith

 No More Pencils, No More Books, No More Teacher's Dirty Looks! by Diane De Groat

The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman



Zoobiquity: What Animals Can Teach Us About Health and the Science of Healing by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers (I placed the book on hold at the library so I should be able to read it this week)