It was an inspirational weekend in Atlanta for me and several thousand librarians, revealing the Youth Media Award winners and talking about the trends for 2017 at the midwinter conference of the American Library Association. Of course, I was particularly excited that Unbecoming, by Jenny Downham, received a Stonewall book award honor! We read this “exceptional” (to quote Kirkus) novel in our employee book club last year and we loved it. I have been recommending it and gifting it to friends consistently since then.
In between loading myself down with advanced reading copies of YA and adult titles (and pens from every vendor), I had the opportunity to cross paths with several authors that I revere at the moment, which is one of the incredible joys of going to ALA. Whether you go to one of their talks or stand on a line for an autograph and chat, it is incredibly powerful to connect with the creator of a book that touched you personally or opened a world of possible for a child in your life.
For me, this moment was meeting one of my favorite authors: Gordon Korman. Note my huge toothy grin!
If you read my book print, "The process of elimination", then you know that I Want to Go Home is one of my favorite books and that I used to get caught reading the MacDonald Hall Bruno & Boots stories under my desk in elementary school (it was the laughing out loud that got me in trouble). Decades later, I find myself quietly chuckling on the train while reading his newer titles such as Slacker and Ungifted, and I continue to be impressed with Gordon Korman’s mastery of humor and action – he never disappoints!
I also had the chance to connect with Newbery winner and Page-to-Stage Writing Workshop author Kwame Alexander. It's cool when an author remembers you and they are gracious about your excitement for their work. I try to be chill, but I am a bookworm - so the ALA conference is a BIG DEAL for me!
Aside from fangirl-ing, I enjoyed a session on “Changing Landscapes in YA Fantasy and Sci-Fi”, another titled “Towards a Less Normative Future in Library Services to Children/Teens”, a town hall discussion led by the ALA’s Office for Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach Services, and my first meeting as a member of the Black Caucus of the ALA. However, at the ALA conventions I often gain the most value from the conversations that I have on the bus to and from the convention center, on the floors of the vendor hall, and in the hallways outside of workshop sessions. You meet another librarian, begin the conversation with ‘what kind of library do you work in?’ and end the interaction with the exchange of business cards. I get to spend face-time with virtual colleagues/friends who work in places such as Florida, Oregon, DC, and New Mexico. Arriving home *inspired* I basically skip to work the next day, share my cache of pens with the #ALALeftBehind, and wait patiently all week for dozens of advanced readers to show up in the mail.
Now the countdown starts until Annual – I hope to see you, my fellow librarians, favorite authors and virtual coworkers, in Chicago this June!