So last weekend I was at the American Library Association Annual Conference in Washington, DC. It was a very busy weekend. Let me br-br-break it down for y’all.
Authors I heard speak, in no particular order: Judy Blume (Forever), Lois Lowry (The Giver), Jack Gantos (The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs), John Green (Looking for Alaska), Nancy Werlin (The Rules of Survival), Cecily Von Ziegesar (Gossip Girl), Gail Giles (What Happened to Cass McBride?), Barry Lyga (The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl), Nancy Garden (Annie on My Mind), Frank Warren (PostSecret), Annette Curtis Klause (Blood and Chocolate), Virginia Euwer Wolff (Make Lemonade), Tim Wynne-Jones (Rex Zero and the End of the World), Elizabeth Partridge (John Lennon: All I Want is the Truth), Bruce Coville (The Unicorn Chronicles), Perry Moore (Hero), Malin Alegria (Sofi Mendoza’s Guide to Getting Lost in Mexico)… I may be missing some.
Authors I ate lunch with: Jack Gantos, Alan Gratz (Samurai Shortstop)
Authors I had dinner with in a swank restaurant: Barry Lyga
Sins of YA Literature Pre-conference: Great precon featuring some amazing authors. Each author focused on one of the seven deadly sins. Hilarity ensued.
Cecily Von Ziegesar dressed as Paris Hilton and affecting an heiress air. Turns out she isn’t really a Gossip Girl. Instead, she’s quite down-to-earth.
The number of times speakers dropped the F-bomb.
Anette Curtis Klause listing ways writers can be “slothful” and get out of writing series fiction. Unfortunately, all of the ways actually cause a lot more work.
Jack Gantos discussing Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and accidentally remarking how the spirit Bob Marley went to visit Scrooge. I’m not sure if it qualifies as a Freudian slip, but based on Gantos’ history (read his autobiography Hole in My Life!), the singer so often associated with drugs is probably a better character for Gantos to talk about!
The amazingly funny wrap-up mash-up of the day’s events and presentations by organizers Ty Burns (who I later had dinner with and was one of the nice people to let me tag along at the YALSA cocktail reception) and Walter Mayes.
During the pre-conference’s lunch I had the wonderful fortune of having Jack Gantos sit at my table. While having a great conversation on a variety of topics, such as the Boston Athenaeum, with this great author and fascinatingly interesting individual, I had to force myself not to think aloud: “Wow, that Love Curse of the Rumbaughs was a strange book.”
After the pre-conference, I went to an awesome restaurant called Zola (attached to the International Spy Museum) for an author dinner sponsored by Houghton Mifflin. Thank you to both Houghton Mifflin for the dinner and to Kimberly Paone, the Supervisor of Adult/Teen Services at Elizabeth Public Library, for giving me the ticket to attend! The author featured at the dinner was Barry Lyga. His first novel, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, is amazing. And, just so you know, Barry actually has never met Brian Michael Bendis. Anyway, Barry was great to meet and talk with. He’s a wicked cool guy, and I’d love to get him to come speak at the library. If you get a chance to meet him, do so! Plus, definitely check out his new book, Boy Toy, which is set in the same town as Fanboy, when it comes out. I just started reading it, and I’m hooked. It’s heavier and darker than Fanboy and is the deeply intense story of a teen that had an affair with his sexy teacher when he was 12. Let me say this much. I feel dirty at times while reading it. When I snap back to the realization that Josh (Ha! As Barry signed my copy: “A book about a Josh for a Josh.”) is only 12 during the relationship, I feel like I need to go confess or something. Powerful and extraordinarily well-written. Get this as soon as it is available.
Other dinner conversation of note: close brushes with celebrity. Someone there actually shared a hot tub with Lou Reed. How cool is that?
Following dinner, our small group of librarians attended the YALSA reception at the Renaissance Marriott. Thank you to those who let me, the new guy, follow them around. I was introduced to many movers and shakers, given tips about surviving both librarianship and membership in ALA/YALSA, and drank a good deal of wine with some cool people.
Saturday and Sunday:
Saturday and Sunday were primarily going to a variety of sessions and checking out the expo. The expo, by the way, was HUGE.
Some cool things from Saturday and Sunday:
Tamora Pierce is releasing her new Magic Circle book as an audiobook FIRST, with the print release A YEAR LATER. It is being produced by Full Cast Audio, and as far as anyone knows, it is the first major book release to be done in this manner. It allowed Pierce to edit during the creation process, so the novel grew through the making of the audiobook. Plus, she was writing specifically for the voices she’s worked with at Full Cast Audio for the past five years. So, this should be pretty cool to check out.
I took some time Saturday afternoon to walk around DC, having never been there before. I saw the major sights (American historical monuments/places are so very disappointing sometimes). In front of the Lincoln Memorial I saw a great display of ethnic pride by Americans, however, in the form of a group of Polish American dancers performing traditional Polish dances in celebration of a holiday I won’t even try to pronounce. Unfortunately, near by I also so a disgusting display of American prejudice (pictures soon to be posted). Also on this excursion I saw one of the most American things I’ve ever seen (pictures soon to be posted) as Pennsylvania Avenue was taken over by a gigantic BBQ festival. The scene of the Capitol Building and the the giant inflatable pig screams America like nothing else.
I got to listen to Perry Moore, author of Hero, during a session entitled Trendsetters in YA Literature. This was wicked cool. I started reading an advance copy of Hero on the train to DC. An aside, when I first say Perry, I couldn’t help but think, “Wow, he looks exactly the way I pictured that Golden Boy [a character in Hero] looks.” In a nutshell, Hero is the story of a gay teen superhero, but really it is so much more than that. Perry explained that it grew out of the relationship he had with his father, a Vietnam vet; his love of comics; and his desire to write a story where being gay wasn’t an “issue” as it is in many teen novels (note, this is the same reason Nancy Garden wrote Annie on My Mind). I was strongly pulled into the story of Thom Creed on the train. I was so hooked I found myself annoyed with all of the sessions and hubbub surrounding the conference because I WANTED TO FINISH THE BOOK! Well, I did finish the book, finally, on the train back to NJ. It’s a great book. Being gay isn’t the focus. Having superpowers isn’t the focus. It’s a novel about fathers and sons; about differences; about prejudice; about finding your own way in the world; and standing up for what is right. I look forward to more books, as Perry promised there would be, in the world of Hero.
And now finally, some great quotes from my time at the ALA Annual Conference (as closely approximated to the actual words as possible):
“I learned to tell the world my books are about loyalty. Which is true, but they are also about sexually active youth who party like librarians.” -Cecily Von Ziegesar
“Do you remember that time I spoke after Judy Blume? That was cool. I’m just gonna soak this in for a minute.” -John Green, on following Judy Blume at the mic
“Those two days I’m in the studio…it’s the hardest thing I do. [weighing with hands] Hitler’s bunker? Record a book?” -Jack Gantos, on recording audiobooks
“I don’t care about old bigots. They aren’t going to be around much longer. But I do care about young bigots. They terrify me. But they are also the ones you can change.” -Perry Moore, on why he writes teen literature
“I suck at it. I genuinely suck.” -John Green, on why he won’t record his own audiobooks
“What’s the difference between a Democrat and a Republican? If there were two starving people and only one piece of meat, the Democrat would divide it and feed them. The Republican would kill you.” -Jack Gantos, a comment made once by his Republican father