ALA Recap: My Favorite Moments

I’m not even sure where to begin with this post. This conference (minus sad news received from home) was hands down the best conference I’ve ever been to.  I’m afraid if I tried to do a play by play I’d get too long winded. Instead, here is a list of my favorite moments (in no particular order):

1. YA Librarian/Blogger Meet-up: I was a little nervous going into this one, because I don’t do well in crowds. However, Kelly promised me it’d be a good time and I’m happy to report she was right. I got to mingle with a lot of others including Sarah, Abby, a local English teacher, Flux, and many more. Brent Hartinger was also there and it took a lot for me not to fangirl on him. I absolutely loved The Geography Club and consider it a staple LGBTQ book.  (And I may have told him this once…or twice) A HUGE thank you to Jim of Baen Books for coming and covering a good portion of the drinks!

2. Youth Media Awards: Okay, so I may have been dragged to this. Not that I didn’t want to go, but it was at the crack of dawn. I’m a teen librarian, 7:00am does not compute in my brain. Although, I’m really glad I got to go. I may not have had any guesses, but it was fun being in the midst of it all. I have a lot to add to my TBR list now. And while most people are talking about the Printz or Newbery, I was the most excited by the Stonewall. I had a special place for LGBTQ books and am so happy to see it finally has it’s own award! And the picks! Oh my, such good picks! I was thrilled, THRILLED, to see Freaks and Revelations get a nod. I hope it gets a lot more attention now (because it deserves it).

3. Morris Award Reception: Wow, just wow. These speeches were just beautiful and inspirational. I wished this had been done at Annual instead of Midwinter, because these speeches deserved to be heard by a larger crowd. The best quote of the night? Shit happens in your brain when you read (Blythe Woolston). Can I just say I really, really want this on a shirt?

4. Being Part of a New Trend: So, Abby and Kelly started this new trend by having authors sign their fingernails. Abby got Lauren Myracle to sign hers and Kelly got Lisa McMann. I figured I would jump in on the fun and had Blythe Woolston (Morris Award Winner) sign mine! In case you’re wondering, she put S.H.I.Y.B.W.Y.R.B.W. (The acronym to her wonderful quote and her initials)

5. Simon & Schuster Preview: I am so thankful and grateful for S&S for this invite. Lisa McMann was awesome (and had GREAT HAIR) and it was nice to learn about what they’re publishing this Spring. I’ll be highlighting at least one or two of their titles in my later book buzz post!

6. Networking: Easily my top favorite part of this conference was the many hours talking to fellow librarians. This is what ALA is all about. Seriously. It’s not about the books, it’s about sharing ideas with others in the field. I walked away with many new friends, all who are very dear to me now. Thank you to Kelly, Abby, Katie, Sarah, Andy, Angie & Kelly M. for making this such a memorable trip. I miss my ILOAs already and cannot wait for NOLA when we will all be reunited. There is sure to be lots more gelato & P&G in our future.

7. Exhibit Hall: I wasn’t going to put this. Honestly, I wasn’t. The hall was so low on my list because of everything else this time. I only spent maybe 2-3 hours total on the floor over 3 days. I got to learn about some very buzz worthy books (which I’ll post about later), but the reason it’s making my list is how happy my teens will be. All the ARCS go to my teens. I will read a lot of them as well, but most of them were picked up to make them happy. I run a teen reviewer program and those teens get first dibs. However, they are also used for my Summer Reading Program as prizes. I get a fairly small but adequate budget to run my SRP. While I’m good at being frugal, that money has to cover all prizes, performers, and event supplies. The ARCs I get, allow me to give those teens more books that I would be normally. They don’t go into the catalogue or book sale, but directly into the hand of teens. And believe me, their excitement over them makes every shoulder pain worth it.

ALA Midwinter = unexpected, but a lot of fun

So, ALA Midwinter was in Boston last week. After my experience in Chicago, I was completely hooked and was a little sad that I couldn’t swing it. However, after arming my boss with a good wish list I was okay just knowing that good books would still make their way back to me! And after all, I’ll be going to the next 2 years worth of Midwinters & Annuals thanks to my new committee position. Of course (as most of you know by now) plans got changed…a lot. My boss unfortunately was unable to go and offered me a chance to go in her place. (Have I mentioned I have the BEST boss?) And while it was less than 24 hours before I had to leave, well, this was not something I could not say no to! After a little scrambling to do last minute packing and securing a ride to the airport (<3 you Jess!) I was ready to head off to Boston!

Friday morning saw me up at 5am in order to get ready and get to Midway in time for my 9:30am flight. (Again much, much love to Jess!) Bags checked, planed boarded, and soon I was in Boston, MA! Right away, I knew my day would be a full one. I barely had time to eat lunch, check into the hotel, and get my badge before running off to a meeting with EgmontUSA. This had to be my absolutely favorite part of the conference. I got the chance to sit one-on-one with people from EgmontUSA. As some of you may know, I love EgmontUSA and already try to do my best to keep up with what they’re doing. I think I surprised them by how much I did know, especially when I was like “Already know that one!” and would ramble on about it. Yes, there was indeed lots and lots of rambling mainly thanks to favorites like The Cinderella Society. After a while, they started to joke that I should stand at their booth and “sell” the book to others! (And, really, any time ladies!) In the end, I left with several fantastic ARCS that I can’t wait to read, such as False Princess, Things I Knew About Love, Raised by Wolves, and The Rise of Renegade X.

After the meeting, I had just enough time to swing by the early opening of the exhibits and managed to score my top-wants including Will Grayson, Will Grayson, Radiant Shadows, Perchance to Dream, and Guardian of the Gate. To say I walked away a very happy girl was an understatement! But there was no time to rest because I had to hurry back to hotel for a dinner at Sel de la Terre. Oh my god, can I just rant about the food for a bit! It was absolutely fantastic! I had sweet potato soup, Roasted Chicken, and ended it with a chocolate cake, marshmallow, and ice cream dessert. I was a bit out of my realm here, but it was fun to connect with other librarians and even a new twitter friend! We got back to the room quite late and I was more than ready for bed!

Saturday morning offered no chance for sleep! I was up and out of the hotel in time to catch the shuttle to make a 7:15am breakfast with HaperCollins. Can I just say ARC-Heaven?! This breakfast was for their juv/ya fiction and they had almost every upcoming title out to take. But, you should be proud of me, I practiced restraint and choose carefully which books I wanted. (Ok, this doesn’t mean that I didn’t still get a bagful, but it’s for the teens, right?!) Breakfast was very nice and I got to talk to several HaperCollins reps and fellow librarians. It was a very pleasurable experience and one I hope to get a chance to go to again!

After breakfast, I ran back to the hotel, dumped my books, and then headed back to the exhibits. I was lucky enough to met up with Gail and walk around with her a bit. I would tell you some of the cool titles I got, but my exhibit time is starting to all run together and I can’t remember what I got when. (When my box arrives I’ll make a master list of all I got) I do remember leading Gail around and making sure she got the books she really wanted. We must have spent a good 3-4 hours walking around with a lunch break thrown in, too. As we walked, we bumped into both Laura and Mitali. At this point, a migraine and exhaustion got the best of me and  I headed back to hotel for a while.

After a little nap, I was feeling a bit better and decided to try the Tweet-Up. Oh my, can I just say I felt so overwhelmed at this? There were at least 100 people in a small space and it was utter chaos in my eyes. My shy nature took over and I was very ready to run away. I managed to last an hour before I slipped away. My next adventure was go to another dinner, but by the time I got back to the hotel I was feeling sick and decided to stay in for the night. I enjoyed a little twitter talk before collapsing for night.

Sunday was definitely my busiest day. I was up and out very early again for another HarperCollins breakfast. This time it was for picture books. This is one of those events my boss hinted that she wanted me to go to, so I made sure it happened. Again more talk with fellow librarians and reps and a few picture book galleys to take back to the office/co-workers. Then it was off to the exhibits, but I didn’t spend a whole lot of time in the book section. Instead I wandered over to the other side and hit up the more research/services area. I got to see a demo of an online-based summer reading, which I’m crossing my fingers that we may eventually end up on! (Or at least something similar!) After that, I raced off to Random House’s Spring/Summer preview. It was fun to hear them talk about the different titles coming out. Several I had never heard of and really am kind of excited about like Party and Folly.

I got a little break for lunch before heading over to the BBYA Teen Session.  I managed to catch one of the committee meeting last time and was excited to see what the teens had to say. I ran into Mitali and sat with her during the session. I was kind of surprised by what the teens did and didn’t get up to talk about. Some of the books they were excited about flew under my radar, while I was sad to seem some of my favorites passed over. I think my favorite quote come from one of the teens as she said “do all authors think that teens are depressed? If we are, it’s because we read books like this!” She got quite a bit of applause and it was a good reminder to all that just because teens have issues, doesn’t mean they want to read about them! Don’t forget that authors! In other words, please, please keep the fun, less-angsty books coming!

It was back to the hotel to get ready for another dinner at Restaurant Stella. Mm, a girl could really get used to this stuff! The food here was my favorite of the whole conference. They had these rice balls with Parmesan cheese that were to die for! Ok, maybe I was a little out of my element again, but who can complain about good food and fun company? Not to mention, I ran into one of my old co-workers/friends and got to catch up with her a bit. I think seeing her was one of the best surprises of the trip!

Monday still did not allow for any sleeping in. I mean, I had to be up to “hear” the Youth Media Awards announced. I wish I could have been there in person, but the shuttle schedule didn’t allow me to get over there in time, so I settled for the webcast/live chatroom.There were a couple of surprises, especially for the Printz. I haven’t read ANY of the Printz winners, so I’m withholding my comments right now. However, I don’t know that the winners have high teen appeal, but at this point I’m not sure that most of the Printz winners really do. At any rate, it was nice to experience the announcements with some of my other twitter friends.

After that, it was back onto the shuttle to mail a box of books home (48 lbs!) and walk away thankful that no one stabbed me because I had the tape/labels/any other shipping supplies. I have learned that going to ship books on the last day right when they open is a bad, bad idea! Never, ever again! My ALA experience ended with another short walk around the exhibits to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Plus, since it was the last day, display books were dirt cheap! I walked away with Naughty List and Match Made in High School for $4.00! Got to love that!

And that my dear readers, it all I have to tell. I’m sure I’ve missed some things, but that is all the major highlights. To say I had fun is an understatement. To say I left exhausted is an even BIGGER understatment! But all in all, it was a great experience. I can’t wait for Annual in D.C., which promises to be an even bigger deal. After all, putting Katie, Sarah, and myself in the same hotel = party time. Only 5 more months!!!! I swear it needs to get here faster!

ALA Day Two

Thankfully day two did not start at 4:30am! Ok, so 6:00 am isn’t much better, but it’s not 4:30am! Michelle met me at the hotel at 7:00am and we promptly jumped on the shuttle bus and headed to the opening of the exhibits. She had yet to register and with this being my first time I had no idea what to expect. Luckily, the lines weren’t that bad and she had her badge before 8:00am. Of course, this meant we had an hour to kill so we decided to get some (overpriced!) breakfast. We also had time to jump over to the will-call line to get the tickets Jessica had passed off to Michelle. (So wish you could have been at the events Jess!!)

At 9:00am the exhibits opened and everyone rushed in. My plan had already been to head to Scholastic first; after all, I would almost sell my soul for
Catching Fire. So, we get there and are told to form a line and they’d release copies at 10:00am. Thankfully, we were one of the first 10-15 people in line. You have no idea how many happy dances I did. Since we had an hour to wait, I left Michelle in line to grab my other top must-haves, which included Fire and Rage: a Love Story. I still cannot believe I was able to get both of them. Swung back to the line and there was still a good amount of time to wait. I get horribly antsy when waiting in lines so I decided to swing over to Little Brown. This is when I met my favorite rep. of the entire weekend, Connie Hsu. Let me tell you she totally rocked my world. She gave me soooooooo many good MG & YA recommendations it is not even funny. They had a sheet so that ARCs could be mailed after ALA and I added several because of her! In fact, she had me so enthralled with recommendations I almost didn’t make it back for Catching Fire! They decided to open the boxes early (around 9:30am) and I literally got there as they started to pass them out! I was also able to get a super cool Scholastic bag and a copy of Shiver at the end.

My next big thing to do was to go to the Cindy Pon signing; but since we had a time to waste, we decided to check out some of the other publishers. I think we may have run over to Simon & Schuster to grab my last must-have, The Hollow. I really can’t remember who we all checked out while we waited, but I know we went back to Harper Collins, Feiwel & Friends, Random House and Little Brown. I do remember being at Harper Collins and hearing this guy talking. I looked up and realized, Hey that’s John Green! I always feel super nervous around him, so I didn’t say anything to interrupt his ARC-getting. (Plus, as many times as I’ve been running into him I’ve felt a little stalkerish). I also managed to snag pictures of the Eyes Like Stars, Prophecy of the Sisters, and Beautiful Creatures displays! I simply could not be at ALA without showing some love to my ninja-masters

So finally, it was time for Cindy Pon to sign! I was super excited about getting the chance to meet her. In fact, I think I was the very first person in line since she wasn’t really set up completely yet. She was super sweet and nice and she totally made my day when she knew who I was just off my twitter name. I also got one of her GORGEOUS bookmarks signed and she insisted we take a picture together. (I was still a little too shy to whip out my own camera!) I was basically all smiles anytime I mentioned the signing. After, we ran over to see how the Holly Black line was, which wasn’t bad at all. So we jumped in line and got a copy of Geektastic signed. I really wish I had remembered my hardcover of the book. I really hate keeping ARCs and haven’t quite decided what I’ll do with two copies now!

We spent a lot more time wandering around the different booths. I got a LOT of good MG & YA recommendations from the different reps, ARCs. (I’m really shaky on MG titles and am so glad there were a lot of available titles. I feel bad that I can’t recommend titles for 6-8 graders with ease). Along the way I ran into KB and Jess. I was so happy to see both of my girls. I know neither one posts on Book Blather anymore, but I am still so grateful for the times they did and adore them being in my life. Jess walked around with us for a bit, which was awesome! We even stopped and got a book signed by the amazing Simone Elkeles. I gushed a little about how great she was the day before and was very happy to learn that she’ll be doing a sequel to Perfect Chemistry. Since our bags were getting a bit heavy, Michelle and I decided to go unload some of our books and grab some lunch at Miller’s Pub. (Let me tell you, they have GOOD burgers!)

After lunch, we headed right back to the exhibits. I really wanted the sweet bag that Wizards of the Coast were giving away, so we headed there first. They had more available and were just giving them out again as we arrived. I also got to sign up for a starter kit for D&D and Magic the Gather for my teens! I didn’t even have to listen to the guy’s spiel to say yes! I’ve been wanting to start more tabletop games at my library since February, but lacked the $$ needed to get everything I would need to get it going. The kit should get me a good basic start and I should be able to request money to get any extras I may need. Now just to get my current DM to teach me how to run a campaign! We did manage to walk down all the exhibit rows. My afternoon favorites were Viz Media and Mango (good smoothies and free shirt!) By 3:00pm we were beat and decided to head back to the hotel to rest before the night’s activities.

Here are some of the books I’m really looking forward to that I’ve yet to mention:

– Bad Apple by Laura Ruby
– Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

– Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani

– Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan

– Forest Born by Shannon Hale

– Mirrorscape by Mike Wilks


After a quick rest, we took off to Naperville for the Laurie Halse Anderson/Sarah Dessen signing at Anderson’s. It was INSANE! There had to be at least 250 people and it was HOT. (It was sidewalk days so they couldn’t close the back door, which meant that the store couldn’t cool off) Despite the heat and no chairs, it was great to hear LHA/SD speak a little and answer questions. They didn’t talk long so that everyone would have a chance to get their book signed. Since I was #151 I had a while to wait. I talked to KB a bit and wandered around the store. I spotted Chelsea (The Page Flipper), Kristi (The Story Siren), and Sarah (GreenBeanTeenQueen). While I was pretty sure it was them, I wasn’t sure so it took me a while to go talk to them. I wish I had said something sooner because I would have loved to talk to them more. Luckily, I would run into all of them again over the next couple of days! Thankfully the line moved relatively quick and we were out of the inferno in less than an hour. After some Cold Stone ice cream, we headed home.

All in all, a super amazing day. I can’t believe how many books I was able to snag and the good recommendations I received. I know there has been some drama about bloggers being at ALA. Personally, I loved the chance to meet my fellow book bloggers. It was a nice connection to make and I hope that I’ll be able to form/continue a friendship with them all. I also understand the world of good that blogging can do! It’s thanks to bloggers that I’m able to keep up with the majority of new releases coming out. I can’t even count the number of books I’ve ordered for my collection thanks to them. However, I can understand the complaints. ARCs disappeared so fast due to limited amounts and it is very sad if a librarian was ignored for a non-librarian blogger. Often times, ALA is the only chance for librarians to make contact with reps. Honestly, I can’t complain on either front. Obviously I walked away with great books and got plenty of attention from the reps as well. (Although, I promise most of these will be going to my teens once I’m done with them.) I really wish librarians and bloggers could find a way to bridge the gap more since I think we can both benefit from each other. If any one has ideas, I am open and willing to discuss/try any suggestion.

Ok, this post is long enough now. Day three will be coming soon.

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!