ALA Day One

I apologize in advance that this is long. People said they wanted details so I gave details! Friday is mainly about the pre-conference, book suggestions, and a little bit of rubbing elbows with big names!

My day started at 4:30 am. Yes, that’s right 4:30! Not something that made me particularly happy, but a necessary evil in order to get ready, call a cab, and catch the 6:10 train into Chicago. The train ride was very uneventful (wish I could have slept) but made it to the Hilton in plenty of time to check-in/get ALA materials and head over to my pre-conference (Genre Galaxy). I didn’t know anyone heading to this pre-conference, but I was lucky enough to meet Lisa on my way over. We hit it off almost immediately and ended up sitting by each other/spending the pre-conference together.Lisa and I were one of the first ones in the room, so we spent the time talking about programming & books while we had coffee/water and waiting for it to begin. I’m pretty sure we had a good 45 minutes to wait so there was a lot of good information passed back and forth!

The event finally began at 9:00am and after some introduction James Kennedy (Order of the Odd Fish) kicked off the show. Man, what a wake-up! Out came this guy with a wild appearance and sparkling pink/purple scarf and tells us “Inviting me here today has been a mistake”. I was confused at first but soon found myself laughing, especially when he claimed he was the “Sarah Palin of fantasy.”




Of course, it only got better when he challenged “Neil Gaiman” to The Cube of Trials. The winner would receive the 2009 Newbery Award. The loser would be sacrificed to the ALA Gods. The challenges? They were unbelievable tough and included: Rock, Paper, Scissors; Thumb Wrestling; Crane Fighting; Fiercest Face; Spelling Bee; Foot Racing; Tag Team Wrestling; and Fencing. The winner? Well, Neil Gaiman of course!!

While James Kennedy was loads of fun, he had much more to offer. I loved how he said that fantasy can encourage creativity through fan fiction, fan art, and cosplaying. He also gave plenty of ideas of how to build off this creativity in order to get teens more involved in the library. There were two suggestions I really liked and hope to incorporate into my library:

– Book Art Contest: Have teens design their own cover art for their favorite books. The winners’ work will replace current cover art. A good way to show them off would be to have a special display. What teen wouldn’t love to check out a book that had their friend’s art work on it!
– Creating Soundtracks: Teens can go to Largehearted Boy and create soundtracks for their favorite books. List could be turned into bookmarks or hung in teen area. Maybe even room for a possible contest?

If you want to see more of his actual speech and videos visit James Kennedy’s Blog.

Next up was Dom Testa. He was interesting to listen to and I liked how he pointed out that sci-fi is a good way to connect kids to science and the internet/social networking. I was surprised/happy to hear that kids ask him a lot of questions regarding the science of his book (more than anything else!). He also talked a lot about a project he did with a school, which was interesting but I’m afraid I didn’t write down too many notes. Some of it would have been a little hard for me to do, but you can check out more at Dom Testa’s Site or the Big Brain Club. I plan to check these resources more in-depth myself in the coming weeks.

Now it was Simone Elkeles’ turn! She was easily one of my favorite speakers of the day. The interview video she showed of teens was hilarious and informative. (love em, love em, love em!) She had a lot of good things to say including a gentle reminder that romance stories can have valuable lessons to them. Some of my favorite quotes/suggestions were:

–  Today my mom went to jail. I don’t remember why. (from her daughter’s school journal)
– Create a “What’s Next After Twilight” booklist
– Create a teen couples book club

We only had one more speaker before lunch, David Lubar. I have to say that he was quite funny, but no information that I could really walk away with. I know that humor changes over time (which was one of his big points) but I would have liked to know more about the genre/what books he recommended (beyond his own). I can’t remember if there was a humor booklist in my packet, but I certainty hope there was! Once Lubar was done it was off to lunch (which was absolutely delicious!)

After lunch was one of my top favorite panels. It was local teens talking about books, summer reading, and book clubs. Here are some the top tidbits I took away:

– They feel like book groups are too controlling and too much like homework
– They prefer reading a popular book. Ideally they would like a separate book group for every genre so they don’t have to read books they don’t like.
– They loved summer reading because of the freedom to read what they wanted, the prizes, and because it’s easy to do. They loved candy and signed books the most.

The next few panels were speakers on certain genres such as Edgy Fiction, Mysteries, and Historical Fiction. I won’t go through each one by one, but I will give you a few highlights:

– Next big thing is zombies, horror, and mash-ups. Two upcoming recommendations were The Tear Collector & Monstrumologist. (Edgy Fiction)
– Edgy Fiction is about having a honest, true view of life
– May be good to work with school counselors to get Edgy Fiction into teen hands
– Good Mystery events include: Crime Scene, Mystery Dinner, and True Crime in History

The last panel of the day was made up of Holly Black and Libba Bray! Goodness, I have to say that Libba is absolutely random. She had the audience and Holly just rolling. My favorite question that she asked Holly was “What book would you like to see turned into a musical, what would one of the numbers be, and who would you cast?” See what I mean by completely random? It was fun to hear about how Geektastic came about and other little tidbits about their writing and lives.

Before I knew it, the pre-conference was over. I grabbed my swag bag (scoring good DC comic poster, Geektastic, and much more) and headed over to the Holiday Cocktail where I was to meet my boss. The cocktail was aimed at more juv authors so I didn’t really know any of the authors there. However, I did get to meet a lot of other people that my boss knew. I always enjoy the chance to network a little and to meet new people. I know there are so many people that I can learn from in this field and love any knowledge they pass on to me. After mingling a little bit, we grabbed a taxi and headed over to the Penguin Cocktail.

Now the Penguin Cocktail is where the party was! Although, I have to admit I was quite nervous. I mean John Green, Laurie Halse Anderson, Sarah Dessen, and Jacqueline Woodson all in one room! Talk about intimidating. In fact, I only worked up the nerve to talk to John Green. And that was basically only because my boss headed his way and started the convo! (And I’ve even talked to John Green before! He acted like he remembered, although I’m sure he didn’t. Still made my day!) He was very nice as always and it was a lot of fun talking to him. I don’t think I’ll ever get use to mingling with my idol authors, but it was fantastic to be in the same room with them. I ended up walking out with free autographed books from all of them plus Ingrid Law, Gennifer Choldenko, and Richard Peck. The cocktail started to wind down about 7:30pm or so. My boss continued on to the dinner and I happily grabbed a taxi back to hotel and just relaxed for the rest of the night.

Again I apologize for such a long post. If anyone is interested in some of the booklists or other notes from the pre-conference just let me know and I can email them to you. I have to say day one was an amazing start to ALA and it only got better!


  1. Hey! Looks like you had some great fun at all the different sessions you went to. Next time it’s here in Chicago, I’m going to make sure to get to some of those – although the exhibits were overwhelming enough. Love the video of Gaiman and Kennedy, I laughed so hard.

    1. He was soooo funny. I was dying during most of his speech. I got to a couple of programs while I was there and am sooo glad I did. You’ll see a couple more in the rest of the posts 🙂

    1. the exhibits are great, but the other side really can be a lot of fun too. I really wish I had the chance to do even more than I did.

  2. Im so jealous that you got to have such a productive day. As fun as the cocktail parties and meeting authors must be I have to admit I’m a content geek. I loved hearing about new ways to get the word out on reading and fun ways to program. I’m not a librarian but I imagine some of what was suggested could probably translate to blogging (though adapted differently to fit the medium)

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