Monday, September 3, 2018

Triple Play @ ALA!

Earlier this summer three of my friends attended the American Library Association's Annual Conference in New Orleans. I asked Jo Hackl, Rebecca Petruck, and Linda Phillips to share their perspective on presenting their books to thousands of librarians.

I found this picture on Facebook. A writer just happened to be
in New Orleans during the conference and shared this photo.
Isn't it terrific?

I asked them the following questions: 
1. What was the highlight of your experience? 
2. What did you learn? 
3. What would you pass on to other authors?

Jo Hackl

Librarians and educators are my favorite kinds of people and the highlight of my experience was connecting with school media specialists interested in exploring ways to engage students in reading. I also loved connecting with other authors. And seeing my book in the Random House booth was a thrill.  All in all, an amazing experience.

I learned more about the incredible array of resources the ALA offers. I thoroughly enjoyed each session and made some great connections with librarians and media specialists.

My top pieces of advice:
     * Wear comfortable shoes. You’ll do a LOT of walking. At one point my “voice to text” wrote “exhausted all” instead of “exhibit hall.”  I don’t think that was that far off. The convention center was over a mile long.
      * Bring business cards and small swag.
The ALA community is the best in the world. Where else can you connect with thousands of librarians passionate about getting books in the hands of readers?

You can read my review of Jo Hackl's debut novel, SMACK DAB IN THE MIDDLE OF MAYBEhere

Rebecca Petruck

The highlight of ALA is always the librarians. Not only because it's ALWAYS fun to meet librarians and geek out talking books, but also because I love to hear what kids are REALLY reading and why.

It's not so much what I learned as what I was reminded to remember and cherish: Librarians LOVE books, and they love SHARING books. They are classic "Connector" personality types, and that's a lucky thing for all us readers!

Because today's authors generally have to do a lot of self-promotion, we can get overwhelmed and start behaving like newsboys, shouting, "Read all about it! Read my book!" For me, this happens when I've worked myself into a panic state that I'm not doing "enough." Attending ALA reminded me to LISTEN. Connection is a two-way experience, and listening filled me with inspiration and renewed energy to write. 

ALA typically chooses "cold" locations for the winter conference and "hot" locations for the summer conference because they are less-expensive times for the convention center and hotels. Talking with an author at ALA, he was genuinely taken aback to learn this information and admitted he thought organizers were sadists. Ha! We all love librarians, but I think many of us have a memory of that ONE librarian who terrified us about being quiet and not damaging the books. :) 

You can read my review of Rebecca Petruck's book, BOY BITES BUG here.

Linda Phillips

Rebecca and Linda found each other
in the miles of books!

This was my first ALA experience, and you’re going to laugh, but I didn’t realize it was one huge giveaway (duh). Somehow I thought we would be selling books, and honestly, that put a huge pit in my stomach.  What if I was in the next booth over from Kwame?  My line would never compare!  First of all, my booth was a safe distance from Kwame as it turns out, and secondly, even I had a line.  Statistics aside, no bookstore experience will ever compare to the exhilaration of seeing your books evaporate in less than a half hour.  

Back to Kwame.  Four years ago, when my first book (Crazy) came out, verse novels were at best a hard sell.  But I was elated to hear from librarians and young folks who were excited and eager to read a novel in verse.  You know that feeling about being in the right place at the right time?  So as soon as my signings were done I hightailed it to Kwame’s line to personally shake his hand (and subtly drop one of my books on his table) and thank him for what he has done for verse novels.  I may be wrong, but I think his influence has made a big difference.  Even middle school boys, for heaven’s sake.  

I’m a small fish in a very big pond. The first half day I spent wandering around the maze of thousands of books and hundreds of publishers in a daze, wondering where to start and how to take it all in. At first, admittedly, I felt like I was swimming upstream against a swiftly moving current full of overwhelmingly big fish. But in between all the wandering, I got to hear some really big fish who, amazingly, made me feel so connected to the human stream and so proud to be in the pond at all.  Michelle Obama, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Salley Field, Gayle Donley—each shared her wisdom, told down-to-earth, heartwarming parts of her story, assured all of us that telling the story IS a big thing to be doing no matter who you are.  

Don’t worry about where you are in the scheme of things in this world, in this industry, in this line of authors and potential authors.  If you have a story that is burning inside of you, don’t hold it back, don’t hide it under a bushel, and don’t let the tide of others overwhelm you.  Your story is important, otherwise it wouldn’t be pushing to get out.  Take it one step at a time, and don’t try to do it alone.  Get into a critique group, go to conferences, read as much as time allows, and write every day.  I’m sure some of you have heard this before, but maybe you needed to hear it one more time?

You can read my review of Linda Phillips second novel in verse, BEHIND THESE HANDS, here


Joan Y. Edwards said...

What a wonderful experience for Jo, Linda, and Rebecca! I am very happy for them and proud of them! Thanks for sharing!

Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Jo. Maybe one day you and I will be there too! :)

Young Authors Program said...

This was a great ALA synopsis! I hope to get there one day.

Carol Baldwin said...

Glad you enjoyed the post, Dorothy. I hope to get there too!

sheri levy said...

Sounds like a great experience. Maybe next year for me!! Thanks for sharing, Carol.

Linda A. said...


What a terrific way to spotlight three special authors from the Carolinas. I enjoyed the interviews and just seeing these special ladies shine!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, LInda. Glad you liked the blog!

Constance L said...

Very fun post!! Linda mentioned worries about being near a famous author for book signings. I was at a librarian conference, and during the author signing, I was seated next to Matt de la Pena. It was slightly disheartening. Then again, it gives me something to hope for! (that day in the future when somebody says, 'oh, no, I'm right next to Constance Lombardo. Look at her line! :)

Carol Baldwin said...

YEs to both Sheri and Constance--I'm with you both!!

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