ALA Annual 2016 Recap
Hey y'all!Sorry for the absence - it's been a bit hectic. The past two weeks have been absolutely insane.From June 14-21, I was in Delaware for Firefly Music Festival. I flew home and immediately started prepping for American Library Association's annual conference in Orlando, which I attended on Saturday. On Sunday, I ran my last teen book club at Oxford Exchange in Tampa. Then on Monday, it was back to Orlando for the final leg of the conference. I've had one day in town (today!) which I spent packing for our 26-hour drive to Canada tomorrow, an annual trip with my family. For the record, that drive is done in one car with five people, two dogs, and a whole lot of luggage.If you've been following the blog, you may already know that this was my first time ever going to ALA! I've tackled BEA (BookExpo America) before - in 2012 and 2015 - but I'd never tried out ALA.I wrote this über-panicky post last week about having absolutely no idea what to expect and going into it blind. On Friday night, I spent an hour or so perusing fall catalogs for books I might want to look at, but I still had no idea really what I was looking for, with the exception of a few titles.My haul post is coming later (I promise), most likely in the early hours of the morning after I finally pack and settle on what books I'm bringing to our lake house. Also, Wordpress is mixing up my links at the moment so I'm going to try really hard to link to what I can and follow up later.In the meantime, enjoy my recap.
Grace Took ALA
Day One - Saturday
I woke up on Saturday absurdly early, having laid out my clothes and lists the night before. I downloaded the directions onto my phone, along with my Firefly playlist to entertain me on the way to Orlando. I'd asked Twitter about lanyards, parking, and a few other odds-and-ends, but still had no idea what I was getting into (I tried to soothe my nerves by telling myself I'd been to publishing conferences before - how different could it be, really?) But the thought of there NOT being mass schedules, publicized galley drops, and cross-posted signings made me incredibly anxious.Made some coffee, got out of the house pronto. The drive itself was pretty easy (thank God) and I managed to get to Orlando with most of my sanity intact. I also learned that librarians can be very aggressive drivers, as I had several nervous moments while merging into Orange County Convention Center traffic.I parked in something that looked vaguely like the right lot and wandered with some other book people through the massive black hole that is the convention center. When we finally found signs that convinced us that we WERE in fact in the right building, I managed to easily check in for my badge.At this point, the floor had already opened, but I was still shocked by how few crowds there were. At BEA, I swear, there's always a line for everything.From BEA, I've definitely learned to tweet out my outfits for each day so that readers and other bloggers can recognize me on the floor. (Gray blazer, black shirt, black leather skirt, slip-ons.) It ended up not really being necessary for ALA just because I barely knew anybody there.Bone Gap by Laura Ruby just won the Printz, and I caught the end of her signing line. I also joked with her that it's lucky that the medal already matches the color scheme. That's a decorated, atmospheric, wonderful book!I stumbled into the line for Tim Federle's The Great American Whatever by sheer luck (which was a good thing, because my friend Willa had been harassing me about getting his signature - but she sent me an ARC of it so I already had the book.) He was super sweet and I got a little starstruck for sure.I wandered through the booths, saying hi and asking about titles that I was curious about. There were a lot of books I hadn't heard of before that sounded fascinating, and I loved hearing the different pitches. Also, I love asking people how they got into the business, and it was really nice to hear about their various paths.I stumbled across Erica Barmash, one of my favorite publicists. She works at Bloomsbury, and she caught me up on their latest titles and her latest adventures. I ended up getting a copy of Kate Messner's The Seventh Wish (which has had a lot of "controversy" surrounding it because some schools don't like the fact that it's a middle grade dealing with a parent's addition.)Later, I had another woman at Bloomsbury ask me if Erica pitched The Edge of Everything to me using the term "bounty hunter from hell." Spoiler alert: she did. And I definitely asked her for a copy after that.One part of ALA that I immediately noticed and appreciated was how involved they were with Pride, the recent tragedies in Orlando, and progressive lit. There were a lot of booths doing special presentations or features that lent diverse titles a lot of visibility, and there were plenty of opportunities for participants to get involved with service in the area. A lot of progressive and representative titles are coming out this year, which was truly a glorious trend to see.Other trends I noticed in YA titles: time travel, 9/11, witches, narratives told over short spans of time, and futuristic glamour.I ended up filling up my tote bag, which I hadn't been expecting. So I made the trek back to the parking lot to nab my suitcase, which was luckily still in my car since I'd been too exhausted to unpack after Firefly. It was MASSIVE so I was a bit embarrassed - I didn't fill the entire thing, but it looked pretty conspicuous. I dumped all my festival clothes into the backseat and rolled it through to bag check, where I spent $3 on the blissful comfort of only having to travel downstairs to relieve the burden on my shoulders. (Lugging around books is KILLER on your back, y'all. I was legitimately sore afterwards, and the straps left lines on my shoulder blades.)The convention center had decent lunch, and I honestly think the pizza I had may have been the best food I'd ever tasted - a product of sheer delirium and nothing but coffee in my stomach.I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering, until 2 P.M. Penguin dropped copies of A Torch Against the Night, and some lovely frazzled publicists had to wrangle a line of eager bloggers and librarians. They managed the line really well.Afterwards, I immediately jumped in line to see David Levithan, who is perhaps the best person on the planet. I ADORE David. I met him at BEA this year, and I fangirled so hard. I love his writing; I love what he does. Even in person, he's always smiling and gracious. He signed copies of The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily (I read its predecessor every year around Christmastime) and a book of our choosing.Then, I headed to the Simon & Schuster booth to see one of my favorite people, Siobhan Vivian. Siobhan is great; I've said it before, but she's one of my best author friends. She's been stuck with me since my gangly, awkward fourteen-year-old days and she was probably the person most excited to see me at BEA 2012 (which made me so happy.)It was such a joy to see her again, especially since she greeted me with a bear hug and introduced me to everyone around her. I met up with her after her signing to sit and chat in a corner of the convention center, and it was lovely to catch up finally. She told me about her next book and it sounds fabulous. We also begged a passing librarian for a picture. (It's on her insta - to be linked to later, by the way. Mama, I made it.)After saying goodbye to Siobhan, I was pretty done with my day. I'd gotten some books I was looking forward to, met some kind publicists, and seen some favorite authors. So I gathered my books and headed out - after stopping at the NASA booth to stare at their virtual map of the Earth at night for about twenty minutes.
Day Two - Monday
I was excited for ALA, but after a day "off" - that consisted of me running errands and running book club - I was really on the fence about making the drive all the way to Orlando. It's only an hour and a half (depending on traffic), but I was so far gone after the week I'd had. Luckily, two friends tagged along with me.They'd never been to a book conference before, and were both avid readers, so I decided to show them the ropes. It was nice to have the motivation to get out of bed at 5:45, make my coffee, gather my lists, stumble into the car. We left at 7 to beat the weekday traffic, so we ended up getting to Orlando early enough to get some donuts. (Delicious.)I checked them in with their badges, and checked my wonderful Boston Public Library bag. It's basically just a huge tote bag, and I normally take it to the beach. We were on the floor when it opened, and I showed them to the various booths - pitching the conference to them in the same way that the publicists pitched books. I also cautioned them about the appeal of free books. When I first started going to conferences (in my limited experience), I really had to get into the habit of truly evaluating whether or not I would read and review a book, rather than simply wanting the book in the stack. I hope I got the message across. They did pretty well though, so I wasn't worried.Because I'd gotten most of the books I wanted on Saturday, Monday felt pretty leisurely to me. I took a closer look at a lot of the booths, especially ones that weren't simply for books. Again, stuck around at the NASA booth for a while and talked to the workers.It felt like there were significantly less people there, probably because I knew a lot of people had flown out on Monday. Siobhan and Erica had both left. I'd wanted to meet Sarah Dotts Barley, an editor at Flatiron who worked on two of my favorite books of the year, and her author Stephanie Garber but it ended up not working out because of travel times. Still, it was great to see people I'd talked to on Saturday. I did meet Booki Vivat at HarperCollins, who was an absolute sweetheart.Two publicists made my day by procuring the last copies of galleys that I'd really wanted: Vassa in the Night and What Light. Complete day-makers, right there.Around noon, it got a little hectic. Many of the booths were clearing out, and so they wanted to get rid of all their display copies. The line for the Penguin Random House giveaway - in which each person could pick out five books from either side that they wanted - was insane. We were close to the front, but I still saw a lot of cattiness, which I never really understand. First of all, if you don't get a book you want at a conference, you can usually email a publicist to request it. Also, all ARCs come out eventually; some just require a little more patience. That was my only iffy part of ALA though, and I usually see that more at BEA.PRH was well-organized and efficient in the way that they ran their giveaway, and I was pretty happy with it. After, I just had a few things to do to wrap up my conference. I swung by some booths that had titles I knew I'd love, and gave them my card so I might be able to get involved in publicity later on or help with a blog tour.Another part of ALA specifically that was interesting to me is that they sold titles. At BEA, they don't deal with a lot of finished copies unless they're part of a signing. I bought the entire Mysterious Benedict Society series (and got them signed!!!) for less than $20 and bought a few hardcovers from Chronicle, Disney, and others. It was dangerously cheap to buy books there, so I came home with much more than I should have.Finally, it was time to leave. I don't think I've ever been as content as I was getting home, drinking a cold glass of water, and collapsing into bed.
Now, it's close to midnight and I still haven't packed. I have, however, shelved all my lovely new books - priorities!