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Monday, September 2, 2013

Why go to ALA?

thoughts from Hazel Mitchell

If you're not a librarian or a publisher, why would you go to an ALA event? (And for those of you who don't know, ALA stands for American Library Association).

My question is, why would you not?

Twice yearly ALA holds a national conference in Mid Winter and in Summer. Venues rotate each year, so they could be in Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, DC etc. At some point there'll be one near you! And if you're an author or an illustrator (pubbed or unpubbed) take some time and go see what it's all about. If it's within traveling distance, you could just go for the day, otherwise, obviously, there's the cost of travel and hotel, which may be tax deductible. The cost of registering for the exhibition floor is minimal, some of the panels or events will cost extra. Personally, I could spend all day on the exhibition floor and not see everything. Even better -  get your crit group/friends/booklovers together and have a road trip!

Aside from bagging goodies, seeing amazing authors and illustrators, witnessing librarians en masse, browsing the stands of publishers large and small, you'll see a whole other side to the publishing industry and what makes it tick.

Of course, one of the best ways to get there is if you are invited by your publisher, all expenses paid. In fact, a couple of years ago I thought that was the only way you COULD go!

But not so .. anyone can attend the exhibition or register for events that happen all through the week. And if you're published and your publisher has a booth, ask them if they'd like you to do a signing while you're there and if they are willing to get you a pass. Good publicity for you and your publisher. That's my opinion - the world has changed and so has publishing. TIP - you have to invest in yourself and your career.

Signing at Charlesbridge Booth
As I said, you can spend a long time just walking the exhibition floor. If you've a pass go an hour early before everyone arrives, grab a coffee and spend quiet time browsing the stands and looking at next season's books - in peace.

When the doors open, be prepared for a stampede! Librarians in large quantities are a little scary! It IS wonderful to witness the enthusiasm and sheer love of books pouring forth. Many of the publishers give away free copies (or at reduced cost) and arcs/f&g's and they're highly sought after. It's wonderful to have a copy of the book before it hits the shelves! Especially if you can get it signed by the author or illustrator. (Something to treasure on the dark days of winter).

Mo Willems!
Brian Selznick managed to get a photo with me ;-)
Yes, it's a chance to mingle with the great and the good! Maybe you'll only ever see so much children's writing and illustrating talent in one place. The publishers bring out the stars and the signing lines can be very, VERY long. Just the chance to say hello to a literary hero or have a photo with them is inspiring!

You never know who you will bump into round each corner...


Erin and Phillip Stead with Neal Porter watching over.

Editors and art directors are sometimes on the stands along with the hard-working marketing personnel. But this is NOT the place to pitch your idea or go for a hard hitting sell! People are here to talk to librarians and sell books. Not saying that occasionally there's time for a chat or to fall into conversation, and who knows where it could lead? In any situation be professional. If the meeting suggests it, leave your promo card and ask for theirs. TIP - be interested in what's new on their list and you'll always find something to talk about.

With Ellen Hopkins
During the day there are events happening on the floor. Different stages have authors and illustrators talking and demo-ing throughout the day - check out the schedule and mark who you want to listen to. This year I got to hear Ellen Hopkins reading from her new book. Then I got a hug too!

Artist's Alley always has an interesting display of art and artists to talk to.

Jon Klassen receives his Caldecott!
There may be panels you can attend free of charge, so again check the schedule. You may need to register for some of these before the conference.

Aside from publishers, all kinds of book related businesses exhibit at ALA and there are lots of things to browse.

Summer ALA is home to the Newbery/Caldecott awards (among other ceremonies). Treat yourself and buy a ticket for the banquet. TIP - go along to the venue and wait until after the eating has finished. Then interested listeners can sit on chairs placed at the back of the banquet hall to listen and see the awards presented. While the banquet is happening you can hang at the bar! The awards are magnificent, it's great to be in the atmosphere.
Coretta Scott King Breakfast

See your heroes. And talk to librarians!

Beautiful dessert at the Caldecott Banquet
The Coretta Scott King Breakfast is a wonderful event I'd highly recommend.Again, a fantastic atmosphere and will bring you to tears.

S&S Dessert Party

Outside of the exhibition itself you'll find peripheral events going on - a pre-Caldecott talk for example, or other events featuring YA authors. Often local Kidlit groups will organize get togethers. Best of all if you can swing an invite to one of the big publishing houses 'dessert' evenings GO!

Candace Fleming, Anastasia Suen and Eric Rohmann.
One of the nicest things is meeting up with friends you might not have seen for a while. Often people in the book industry are far flung, and events like this are the only time they get together.

With Kirsten Cappy of Curious City
All in all it feels like coming home.

See you at Las Vegas summer ALA 2014!

Find out more about ALA here:

And for a look at Summer 2013 Chicago ... http://ala13.ala.org/

Thanks for visiting Turbo Monkeys!

Find out more about me at www.hazelmitchell.com

See my latest book trailer for 'One Word Pearl' from Charlesbridge/Mackinac Island Press.

Come meet me at:
Princeton Book Festival, NJ Sept 21st 
NERA Reading Event, Portland Maine
Sept 19th

NESCBWI Illustrator's Symposium,
Nov 2 Manchester, NH.