In case you missed it, yesterday I wrote about our travels down to Orlando and my first day of ALA.
I got a pretty good night’s sleep Friday night. I got up around 8:00 on Saturday and drove to the conference center around 9:00. Kate Messner was signing in the exhibit hall, and I wanted to meet her. I did much better in the exhibit hall that second day. I ran into my friend Mr. Schu. (both of them) at the Scholastic booths.
We me in person, for the first time, last summer at a Scholastic Reading Summit. He is a super-kind guy and a champion for kid’s lit, and it was great to see him.
At 10:30 we had a procedural meeting with the Notable Children’s Book Committee. I walked in and was directed to my “spot” at the table where I could deposit my overflowing tote bags. I found my name, and was amazed by how official everything looked.
I mean, it’d been a while since I’d seen my middle name printed out.
We sat in a circle, and I got to meet my fellow committee members for the first time. Guys, I don’t know what to tell you about this committee. They are all so brilliant, and funny, and kind. I was very honored and humbled to be a part of the group, and I wondered more than once how I got included. We all have our own areas of expertise (right now, I’m the only school librarian, but there will be two of us at Midwinter because of a job change.) and we each have our own likes and dislikes, which makes the book discussions great.
I found all three days of discussion to be simulating and fun. There were some books that I wasn’t sure about that I now have a greater appreciation for, and there were some books in which I only saw positives, that I now have some concerns about. I guess that’s the beauty of committee work. Despite disagreeing every now and then, everyone on the committee was cordial, and I always felt comfortable sharing my opinion. I hope I made them feel the same way. I know that I am developing friendships that will last long after we are finished with Notables. I knew as soon as I showed up for the first round of discussions and heard the Hamilton soundtrack blasting from the meeting room, that we were going to get along just fine.
In between the procedural meeting and our first round of discussions, we had a little break, so I hung out in the exhibit hall for a few minutes, where I had the pleasure of meeting Jennifer Holm. I was amazed that there was hardly any line at all. After that, I went and grabbed some pizza and a cookie, and looked over my notes for our first discussion meeting.
Over the three discussion meetings we had at ALA, we discussed 75 titles. They were picture books, fiction novels, nonfiction books and books of poetry. As I said, the discussion was fantastic. I’m really looking forward to even more at Midwinter in Atlanta.
I ended my day at the conference center after the discussion meeting. I had signed up for a few things on Saturday evening, but I knew that Sunday was going to be a very long day, and that I probably wouldn’t get to see my family much, if at all, so I went home a little early. That night, my aunt Tiffany took us all out for ice cream, and we found a nice place to watch the nighty Disney fireworks from a distance.
When I think back on ALA Annual 2016, I think Sunday is the day that I’m going to remember best. A lot of really cool stuff happened that day. Raina Telgemeier was signing at 9:00 that morning, so I made sure I got to the conference center by 9:30 at the latest. I got in line, got a book signed, and told her what an inspiration she is to my students and to me. I spent the rest of the morning wondering the exhibit hall.
I had a Pizza party lunch scheduled with the publisher Abrams, but it was going to be cutting it really close to my Notables discussion meeting that day. Really close. It started at 12:00, and it wasn’t in the convention center. It was in a restaurant called Lafayette’s (cue the Hamilton soundtrack) and my GPS told me that it was 15 minutes away, walking. That meant I would need to leave by 12:30, at the latest, to get back to the convention center and situated for our 1:00 discussion meeting.
I decided that I probably wasn’t going to go. I could just get something to eat in the convention center, and get some quiet reading time by myself in. (something that was very rare that week) But I still wasn’t sure. Who knows how many ALAs I’ll be able to attend? I wanted to milk every day for all it was worth. I decided to step outside and look around to see if I could locate the area where the restaurant was supposed to be located. That’s what I told myself, at least. I was really just pacing around with indecision.
Then I saw a lady in a black hat asking a convention center worker for directions. She had an English accent, and I knew immediately that it was Frances Hardinge. She was one of the authors that was supposed to be at the Abrams lunch. I stepped in.
“Excuse me.” I said. “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 random people. While walking, we talked about Brexit mostly, 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. Frances was ushered away to sign her books, and I found some other authors to talk to.
I couldn’t resist taking a selfie in the middle of our adventure. I feel a little like Dennis Creevey after he fell in the Hogwarts lake, when he’s giving his brother a big thumbs up at the sorting ceremony.
I talked to Tom Angleberger about the Force Awakens for a little while, and then I found myself seated across from Amy Ignatow and Jonathan Auxier, who are both so easy to talk to and just genuinely nice people. Travis Jonker surprised me by sitting down beside me. I had never met him in person before, so I said hello and goodbye because it was time for me to go.
It was past time for me to go. I found myself actually running towards the convention center. I immediately took an escalator to the third floor because that’s where our discussions were taking place, but unfortunately, I was on the wrong side of the building, and the third floor doesn’t go all the way across to where I was supposed to be. I had to go down a few times and back up a few times, and got to the room out of breath and disheveled just as discussion were about to start. To be honest, I’m not sure I would have changed anything. I had just had an experience I will never forget, and I’m glad I took the chance.
Three hours later, after our discussions, I found some coffee and sat down for a minute. It was just about time for me to get ready for the Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet. I hadn’t planned on attending. I didn’t have a ticket, and the 90 dollar ticket price was a little out of my range, but a very kind friend emailed me a few days before the trip asking if I was interested in going, and offered me a ticket sitting at a Little, Brown table. Of course, I accepted gratefully. I spent some time before our trip looking for a Winnie the Pooh tie since Finding Winnie had won the Caldecott, and is, in fact, an LB book, but I was unsuccessful. (Someone at our table did have a Winnie tie on, though. I was a little jealous.)
So after a few minutes, I got up to walk to the van to get out my banquet clothes and change in the bathroom, but I looked out of the window and saw that it was pouring. That was no good. I and my clothes would be soaked. I decided to spend a few minutes in the exhibit hall waiting for the shower to end. While I was walking around, I was handed a scholastic tote. Unlike all of the other totes I had been given this week, this one wasn’t canvas. It was hard plastic. Perfect for carrying dress clothes through a torrent of rain. I walked to the back lobby, which was facing the parking lot, and saw that the rain wasn’t going to let up any time soon, so I just bit the bullet and walked to the van, getting soaked. I loaded the banquet clothes into the plastic bag, closed it up and walked back to the conference center to change in the bathroom.
Now I had another problem. I couldn’t very well carry my wet clothes and shoes around all night at the banquet, could I? And if I walked back outside to put them in the van, my dress clothes would be soaked. I wasn’t sure what to do, but I stopped for a minute to think, and that’s when I heard it. Silence. There wasn’t any rain pounding on the roof like there had been. I hurried to the parking lot in case it was a brief lull, but it wasn’t. The rain was finished for the day. It was one of those daily pop-up Florida showers that lasts for 30-45 minutes. I rejoiced at my luck, put my wet clothes in the van, and headed to the Hyatt Regency for the pre-banquet party.
The pre-banquet party was awesome. I got to meet so many people including Betsy Bird, Grace Lin, Roger Sutton, (Editor in Chief of Horn Book) and Sergio Ruzzier, (who is a very hilarious man. If you ever see him around, stop and talk. It will be worth it. I promise.) The chair of our notables committee, Paige was there which was lovely (it’s great to have someone you know at these things) as was Colby Sharp and Mr. Schu. It was a great time.
We then moved to the banquet room, where I found myself seated beside Trenton Lee Stewart, author of The Mysterious Benedict Society and Jenny Choy, the senior manager of school and library marketing at LB. (the school library marketing person sitting next to the school librarian. Hmmmm) They were both extremely pleasant, funny people, and very fun to talk to. Paige was also seated nearby, and like I said before, it’s great to have someone you know with you at these things.
If you can’t tell, I was thrilled to be there.
I’ve heard that some people *cough Betsy Bird cough* didn’t like the food, but our table got the vegetarian meal, and I thought it was good. It also helped that I didn’t eat much lunch at the Abrams party, so they could have served me cardboard and I would have scarfed it down.
The speeches were amazing. If you haven’t read them yet, you should. This was my first time attending this thing, but I like to think that it was special because ALL THREE speakers hit home runs. Seriously. They were amazing. I think we all cried before Matt De la Pena’s speech even began, when he hopped off of the stage and gave his Newbery award (his historic Newbery award for a picture book, I will add) to his mom. It was great.
Anyways, my night ended at about midnight when I got back to my uncle’s house, and even though I was physical exhausted, I couldn’t sleep because I kept replaying all of the events of the day back in my mind. It was definitely a day to remember.
The last few days of the conference were a blur. I never really caught back up on my sleep. (I still haven’t, I think.) We finished up our Notables discussions, and they packed up the exhibit hall, (both of those things kind of depressed me) After the conference, my family and I drove back to Alabama, and lost a serpentine belt on the way. We hope the van will be fixed today.
I’m a little bit sad now. I’m glad to be home with my wife and kids, but I’ve had this urge this last day or so to visit Books-a-Million (our only local bookstore) and talk to someone about kid’s books. (not 2016 books of course!) This urge will pass next Wednesday when I’ll be back in the library for our summer hours. I’ll be reconnecting with my students, and there’s no one I like talking about kid books with more than them. For now, I’ll just catch up on my many lost hours of reading.
I hope everyone is having a fantastic summer! I know I am!