Monday, April 26, 2010

When the zombie apocalypse comes, I'll be in my pajamas. Or in that shirt I've been wearing for three days.

It had rained for so long, it seemed the sun would never shine again. Weary, beaten-down mobs clamored to grab the last of the goods. There would be no other chance. Either they'd fight their way to the front of the line, or walk away empty-handed. Maybe they already held an armful of supplies, but how long would that last? A few weeks? Months? Besides, what was being handed out this day was different. If they passed them by, who knows when they'd see them again?

You might have guessed by now who I'm talking about. You've seen them, yes, but perhaps not like this. Not in the wild. And not so many in one place.

That's right. Librarians.

At least I heard it was like that on the last day of the Texas Library Association Conference in San Antonio. I was in bed at the time. (What? It was raining.) I did go on Friday, so I can write more accurately about the time I was really there.

If you go to TLA or a similar conference, it's best to arrive on the first day if you can--the cool tote bags I saw and some books I was hoping to nab were gone by the end of day one. But, since I was working Thursday evening, I drove in to San Antonio after work that night. Friday morning, after having a Texas-shaped waffle at La Quinta (are there any other waffle irons in the shape of a state? Any Delaware-shaped waffles?) I headed over to the convention center wearing this shirt I bought after seeing it on Jamie Harrington's blog:

It's a Storysaurus shirt. It's a picture of how Jamie outlines. Adorable, isn't it? And somehow that's about all I packed. I knew I set aside other clothes to wear for the weekend, but they didn't make it into my bag. Oh, and the shoes I was wearing were cute too, and comfortable enough for normal walking around, but not for walking the miles and miles around the exhibit hall to see all the publishers and other exhibitors and to look for a new shirt.

TLA is a great place for author sightings, since tons of authors have book signings for an hour or two. I did spot Suzanne Collins, but people had started lining up at 7:30 AM for her 10 AM signing. The first 250 people were given wristbands--yes, like they're lining up for concert tickets--so they could get in line to get their copies of The Hunger Games and Catching Fire signed. Many disappointed people were turned away, but I'm sure we all want Collins to save her hands so she can keep writing.

I knew where I wanted to go first: the Albert Whitman booth to see a galley of fellow Caker Miriam King's first book--the picture book biography Librarian on the Roof!: A True Story. It was so cool to see the layout of this story I remembered from the first time Miram said at a critique meeting "I know this librarian who lived on a roof...". I love how the book turned out, with awesome illustrations by Stephen Gilpin.

Next I had to hit the other publishers' booths to see their upcoming books and to pick up any ARCs (advance reader copies) they were handing out. Some of the publishers set out display copies only, and you can ask if you may have an ARC of something you see. For others, when a stack of ARCs thunks onto the table, people descend upon the booth like a pack of semi-feral cats hearing a can opener. Here's a picture showing most of what I got:

Missing from the stack is Linger, the sequel to Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, because daughter's friend has been dying to read it, so I let her take that one to her (after I read it, of course). How cool am I that it'll be released in July but I have it NOW?

Also missing is Jessica Warman's novel Where The Truth Lies, companion to last year's Breathless. That one is at my mom's house now--she got sucked into the book after flipping through it and reading a bit.

With the ARCs and the books that I purchased, like Grace Lin's Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Sarah Ockler's Twenty Boy Summer, my tote bag was getting heavy. The Baker & Taylor booth had some really cute bags to give away, and in an act of bravery and heroism, buddy Brian grabbed the last bag for me by tackling an elderly woman who was stuffing about seven of them into a bag. Or he might have just walked behind her to pick up the last one before she could take it. Something like that. So then I had these little guys to help divide the bookload:

I was hoping to get an ARC of agent-sister Kody Keplinger's novel THE DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend). The nice people at the Little, Brown booth didn't have any copies to hand out, sadly, but they let me hold the display copy. I didn't even think of running away with it. Maybe just for a minute, but that's all.

By early afternoon I was dragging, but there was more to see. I couldn't give up. I walked by the Simon & Schuster booth just in time to see Chris and Miriam waving frantically and exclaiming, "Get in line! Get in line!" So I got in line. Liz Garton Scanlon was there signing her gorgeous book, All The World, a Caldecott Honor book illustrated by Marla Frazee, and the S & S representative handed a book to each person in line. I got mine signed for my nephew Dylan, but I'll read it many, many times before I hand it over.

From there I rushed over to the Hyperion booth to meet Patricia McCormick. We started corresponding a couple of years ago about her novel, Sold, and about my own writing. She's an awesome writer and a really nice person, so I'm happy I was at TLA the day she was there so I could meet her in person. We hadn't communicated much lately, since someone hacked into her email account. I knew all those emails about um, "toys" weren't really from her.

After leaving the exhibit hall, I sat down on bench outside before making the trek to the parking garage. I know I looked like a bag lady. A bag lady who really, really liked to read. Of course after making it to the garage I still had about twenty minutes of wandering around exclaiming, "Where's my car? Dear God, just help me find my car! Where did I park?"

I collapsed soon after arriving at my mom's house, about an hour out of town, where I stayed for the rest of the weekend. I did plan on going back to TLA the next morning, but like I mentioned before, it was really rainy when I woke up. And the bed was so comfy. And there was no way I was going to walk around in those shoes again. I still had the nothing-to-wear problem; I'd bought a cute Where The Wild Things Are shirt, but it didn't occur to me that I'd be wearing the new white shirt over a navy blue bra. Not so cute.

So I wimped out. Didn't go anywhere, didn't wear shoes the rest of the weekend. Just sat around Mom's house in my Storysaurus shirt and read my new books. I started and finished Charles Benoit's You on Saturday. Amazing book, so hard to put down. The rep at the HarperCollins booth had said that reading it was like "watching the Titanic sink and hoping it'll work out okay this time." You know from the beginning of the book that things are not going to turn out well, but you have to keep reading to see how things unfold.

I asked some of my braver and not-so-sleepy friends about the last day of TLA, and it sounded pretty wild. The exhibitors don't want to pack up their display copies and leftover ARCs, so many of them hand out everything they can before leaving. There is clamoring. And shouting. Some throwing. Sounds kind of like Mardi Gras, except no one is flashing the publishers. At least I don't think so. Some of those books looked really good.

Next year's TLA will be in Austin, and I'd like to go for all three days. Before leaving home I'll check to make sure I've packed more than one shirt and some comfortable shoes. Maybe some ninja gear. And one of those orange bicycle flags for my car.

But if the apocalypse hits before then, I'm hanging out with librarians. They know how to survive. Plus, they'll have all the good books.


  1. I will admit to being a part of this mob on more than one occassion. I LOVE TLA! First time I went, I was blown away by all the New! Free! Shiny! books. My second year, I took a backpack. MUCH easier to carry goodies in than a bag over the shoulder. :-)

    Are you a librarian? I miss working. I have my eyes open for a part-time job. My city is building a new, BIG library, so maybe positions will open soon!

  2. Too funny, Lynne -- can I get in line to borrow You? (Not you you, but You the book :)
    It was a lot of fun ... can't wait til next year!!

  3. Wow, that sounds like a smorgasbord of great books and fabulous authors. What a fun time. Oh, and love the shirt. :)

  4. STORYSAURUS WENT TO TLA??!? Did he have fun? Did he get his picture taken with anyone famous?!?


  5. Vonna, yes, I was lucky to be able to go, if only for a day. Try to make it to the Austin one next year if you can!

    Sandy, I'm not a librarian, just heard about TLA from librarians or others who'd been, and went last year for the first time when it was here in Houston. I should add "backpack" to the list for next year. How cool that you're getting a big new library near you! Our critique group met at a shiny brand new one today. So encouraging to see new libraries coming up.

    Hope you enjoy reading YOU, Chris-- it's a fast read. And I bet people will be grabbing ARCs of The Icing On The Cake at next year's TLA.

    Karen, it was overwhelming how many great books and authors were there. Even spending the whole day there, I know I didn't see everything. We did have a fun time, though.

    And yes, Jamie, Storysaurus had fun too! Lucky he's so cute, since he was sort of my uniform for the entire weekend. Sadly my author-stalking skills were lacking, so no pictures!

  6. Lynne, I wanted a copy of the ARC for THE DUFF, too. I was so disappointed they only had a display copy. But my shoulder really didn't need another book crammed in my bag. I'm happy I was able to get so many great books. I love working my way through them. Sorry we weren't there on the same day. Hope to see ya in Austin next year.

  7. Yeah, I was wondering how I missed you, Shelli. Glad you came away with a lot of great books, though.
    Hope to see you there next year too, and I'm sure I'll see you in Austin or Houston at some conference or workshop before then.