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ALA Annual Conference

I hope you’re in the mood for a long post, because this one about my ALA experience is a whopper!

The ALA was a total blast! A bit overwhelming at times and I still have blisters that haven’t healed yet, but it was a great experience, one that I learned many, many lessons from. Like . . .

LESSON #1: Do not attempt to straighten your curly hair the morning you’re to leave because a:) it takes too long, and b:) it never turns out great when you really need it to.

Because of hair issues, I started out late and frustrated. Then a major traffic jam made me another 45 minutes late. More frustration. Then traffic came to a standstill for a funeral procession. No frustration this time, however, not when it could have been me driving in that procession. So I arrived at Washington very late where I learn . . .

LESSON #2: Do not rely on your navigational system in DC.

Honestly. At one point, I was screaming at that stupid female voice because it wouldn’t tell me where to turn until it was too late. A few people waiting to cross as one street looked at me strangely, but I eventually made it to . . .

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The Hotel Sofitel. Oh my gosh, this place was gorgeous! I tried to act cool and sophisticated when the doorman helped me out of my baseball-bumper-stickered mini-van, but inside I was freaking. The lobby was so amazing, but when I went to check in I learned . . .

LESSON #3: Don’t count on having a room ready.

I had to change for my book signing in the bathroom and use a blowdryer to iron a few wrinkles out. But the gals at the desk were amazing. They were happy to find me some toothpaste (that I forgot,) and a safety pin, (for a split in my dress I didn’t realize was so high!)

LESSON #4: Do not wear a dress with a high slit to a book signing.

So, it was off to the Convention Center I went, feeling a bit calmer and less overwhelmed. That is, until I saw this . . .

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Is that a site or what?!? So many booths, so many people, so many BOOKS! After checking in with the awesome folks at Harcourt, (look below the two middle posters. That’s me! Woo-Hoo!) . . .

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I hit a few book signings, including Robin Friedman, who was signing THE GIRLFRIEND PROJECT, Tracie Vauhn Zimmer, REACHING FOR THE SUN, and then Tiffany Trent, IN THE SERPENT’S COILS. Afterwards, Tiffany and I booth-hopped for galleys and signed books, and had lunch at the snack bar, where there’s no tables and you have to sit on the floor.

LESSON #5: Do not wear a dress with a safety-pinned slit if you plan on sitting on the floor to eat. Need I say more?

My signing was at 3:00, so we headed to Harcourt once again, only to find a huge, HUGE line snaking down the aisle. For about two seconds, I allowed myself to fantasize the line was for me, but I knew better. It was for none other than Judy Blume herself, who was at the opposite aisle. It was a bit uncomfortable at first, but hey, you roll with it, and come on . . . it was Judy Blume! And a lot of folks did pop by to say hi or for a signed book. And I finally got to meet the wonderful Ellen Wittlinger, who stopped by as well, and it was so cool talking with the gang from Harcourt. They’re fantastic!

Then, I got a copy of DRAMARAMA and THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU-BANKS signed by E. Lockhart, and afterwards, I hustled down the six streets to my hotel, (in the heels I wore for my singing because the flats I brought hurt more–go figure, and with two bags of books digging in my shoulders,) did a quick change and headed back out for Harcourt’s cocktail reception and dinner that was held at the International Spy Museum and Zola Restaurant. In keeping with the spy theme, all authors wore a glowing star sticker, and guests were handed these assignment pamphlets . . .

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that listed portfolios for each of Harcourt’s spies . . . er, authors. Their assignment, should they accept it, was to get each of our signatures. Big hit! Several guests told me it was such a great ice breaker–and great reason to mingle. I went on the hunt for signatures as well, and got to chat with Andrew Auseon, FUNNY LITTLE MONKEY, Karen Beumont, MOVE OVER, ROVER, Gennifer Choldenko, IF A TREE FALLS AT LUNCH PERIOD, Thomas H. Cook, THE CLOUD OF UNKNOWING, Bruce Coville, THOR’S WEDDING DAY, Robin Cruise, ONLY YOU, Ysabeau S. Wilce, FLORA SEGUNDA, and many more, including the dear Deborah Wiles, THE AURORA COUNTY ALL-STARS, and my pal Erica Perl, who’s young adult novel, FOLLOWING THE NAIL, comes out in 2009.

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And yes, I signed mine, too. Go ahead and say it . . . I’m a nerd. 😉 Did I get any other pictures? No. Honestly, why do I bother hauling a camera around?

Later, I went with Erica Perl to meet several other young adult writers at a hotel near the convention center. Oh my gosh. There were SO MANY talented writers there that at one point, I just looked around the area and thought, “What the heck am I doing here?” So many writers . . . too many to list without forgetting someone or sounding like a total name dropper, but it was awesome meeting folks who speak your language.

One of the coolest things? Finally getting to meet so many other Class of 2k7 writers. Here I am with . . .

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Elizabeth Scott, author of BLOOM, moi–with the straight hair–, Sara Zarr, STORY OF A GIRL, Sarah Aronson, HEAD CASE, and Rebecca Stead, FIRST LIGHT . . .

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. . .and Sarah Beth Durst, INTO THE WILD, Tiffany Trent, IN THE SERPENT’S COILS, me and Sarah. I also got to meet Karen Day, who wrote TALL TALES and Melissa Marr, WICKED LOVELY, earlier that day, but dang–no photos!

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Me and Erica Perle, and yes–I held the camera up to take this picture!

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The amazingly sweet Liz Gallagher, who’s young adult novel, THE OPPOSITE OF INVISIBLE, comes out next spring.

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Me and Barry Lyga, THE ASTONISHING ADVENTURES OF FANBOY AND GOTH GIRL and upcoming BOY TOY. He’s a photogenic little bugger, isn’t he?

Later, when my feet about to fall off, I went back to my hotel and checked in. Again–oh my gosh. It was so awesome walking into a beautiful room where there’s no stack of dirty dishes waiting for me in the sink, or clutter spewed everywhere.

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And I had a little treat from the darlings at Harcourt waiting for me . . .

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Aw! I had no idea what kind of cheese I was eating, but it was great! I spent a good hour relaxing on a super-plush bed, nursing my sore feet from those ‘comfortable’ shoes and flipping through the many galleys I got that day.

LESSON #6: Unless you wear sneakers or bedroom slippers, there’s no such thing as a comfortable shoe to wear to either the ALA or BEA. But us book lovers are a tough breed. We deal with the blisters, the bruised shoulders and the pain if it means free galleys!

On Sunday, I went back to the ALA. After popping by Anastasia Suen’s signing for WIRED, I ran into Liz Burns and then Sarah Beth Durst and we spent some time hunting down cool galleys and author signings, like Sara Zarr’s for STORY OF A GIRL and Cecil Castellucci’s for BEIGE. But soon I felt too exhausted and brain-dead to function, as proved by my inability to spell “Windsor” at Sara’s signing.

LESSON #7: Use the provided Post-its to write down who you want a book signed for if you’re brain-dead. Good grief. Really, I can spell Windsor, see? I’ll do it again, W-I-N-D-S-O-R.

I left at around noon, after taking this shot with Liz . . .

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and then headed for a party in Georgetown, that has to be among the most charming places in DC. Those flowers lined both sides of the street and made mine at home look half dead in comparison.

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I really, REALLY wanted to pop in here . . .

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. . . but I resisted and went straight to the party instead. I had a great time, and chatted with some amazing writers, but after a while, I began to feel rotten. So after going to one last reception, it was off to home for me. That is, until a car started honking at me on a major highway. At first, I thought I accidentally cut someone off, or didn’t let him in, but come to find out it was my dear friend Jim Proimos, who was on his way home from the ALA as well. I was feeling better, so we stopped off for dinner to compare notes and chat, which was a good thing, considering there was absolutely no food at home.

I got home at around nine with my many, many books . . .

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. . . to hug my family and my pooch, Jamie . . .

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. . . and to find a sparkling clean sink and no clutter, since my guys spent the afternoon cleaning the house for me!

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What an awesome way to end a great weekend.

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Robin Friedman July 3, 2007, 9:43 am

    Laura,

    Wow! What a delightfully witty – and informative – report. I loved it! And you’re a great photographer too.

    All the best,
    Robin

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