Goodbye Chicago ALA 2013

I just finished my second ALA – this time in Chicago. The American Library Association annual conference is an extraordinary thing to visit – the vast scale of it alone makes it unlike anything we have in the UK.

Here’s the view across the exhibition hall:

Yes, it’s big. The other thing that strikes you immediately is how enthusiastic, knowledgable and passionate the delegates are. Whether they’re from school or public libraries, I lost count of the great conversations I had with people over the importance of libraries, their changing role, and the sheer joy of helping children become more confident readers. In this respect, that’s very like things are at home in the UK – we have passionate librarians too, but the sheer size of this conference  and therefore the combined ‘love in the room’ is delightfully overwhelming.

I did a few events over the weekend. Here’s a snapshot of the ‘Coffee Klatsch’ – which is basically like taking your book speed dating with 100 librarians. You have 4 minutes at a table of 6-10 delegates, then a whistle blows, and you move on to pitch your wares to the next table. Exhausting, intense and great fun.

I made lots of new friends over the weekend – here’s me with two fantastic graphic novelists: Gene Luen Yang and Faith Erin Hicks, both published by First Second Books.

I also did a bookshop panel event in cute Naperville: here’s the panel: (l-r) S A Bodeen, Sara Zarr, Annabel Pitcher (yay! a face from home 🙂 ) Tara Sullivan, and in the back is me with Matthew Quick of Silver Linings Playbook fame. He was a great speaker and said a couple of things that really resonated with me – that alone was worth the trip.

BTW, the dwarves behind in the background were nothing to do with us.

There was time for a few signings and dinners too, and the chance to talk books all day every day 🙂 All in all it was very good for the soul of the writer who spends so long in isolation to be immersed for a few days in such a wonderfully positive environment. Thanks to my US publishers, Roaring Brook, for giving me that chance.

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