Getting lost with Frances Hardinge

There are only three weeks of school left! It is coming super fast, and I am counting down with some of my favorite stories from my time here at Saint James School. I will be leaving at the end of the school year to head back to my hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and I want to reminisce about the great times I have had here.

This story doesn’t actually take place on the STJ campus, but in the middle of downtown Orlando. I was there for ALA Annual 2016. I was serving on my very first ALSC committee as a member of the notable children’s book committee, and it was my very first ALA conference.

I was having such a great time. I had already been to several of the local independent schools to check out their libraries. I had been so fortunate to receive an invitation to the Newbery/ Caldecott/Wilder presentation dinner (the Wilder award name was later changed), and I had been discussing the books I had been reading all year twice a day all week with my fellow committee members. ALA had been way more awesome than I ever hoped it would be.

I had one more fun event planned, a pizza party with a publisher, and I had an hour and half to get to the restaurant and back for another discussion with my committee. I typed in the directions to the restaurant, and saw that it was about a fifteen minute walk away, so I was pretty sure I could make it work.

Right after I stepped out of the conference center, a lady in a black hat approached a convention worker and asked for directions to Lafayette’s. That was the same restaurant I was looking for. I recognized her as Frances Hardinge, one of the authors that would be at the pizza party. It was kind of funny because I was supposed to be presenting The Lie Tree, one of her books, for discussion that afternoon, and just that morning I had been looking up how to pronounce her last name. (It sounds like Harding. Just ignore the “e.”)

I approached her and said, “Excuse me. I think you’re going to the Abrams pizza lunch? I am going there too. We can find it together.”

So we did. Eventually. I don’t know if you’ve ever used the GPS on your phone for walking directions, but for me, at least, it’s a lot harder and much more confusing than using it for driving directions. We got turned around several times, and eventually I turned off my GPS and we just resorted to asking nearby people.

While walking, we talked about Brexit, which had been voted on by the people of Great Britain the night before and the impact it would have on the UK. We did find Lafayette’s and we were only about 5 minutes late. Overheated and sweaty, we walked into the restaurant, and found the room reserved for Abrams.

It was a great lunch. I couldn’t stay long, but I got to have some nice conversation with a few of my favorite authors. My friend Travis Jonker was there. I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was there as a recently signed author and not as a reviewer/librarian.

Getting lost in downtown Orlando with Frances Hardinge is just one of those things I don’t think I’m ever going to forget. Let this be a warning to all of you if I approach you and offer to help you find a place, especially in a city I don’t spend a lot of time in. You’re probably better off going alone, or at least leading the way.

Published by Benji

I am an elementary school librarian in Montgomery, AL.

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