Monday, July 3, 2017

My first ALA!

I was feeling major FOMO with BookExpo this year, especially since BEA 2016 was in Chicago. Luckily, ALA was literally weeks after BookExpo so I had something to look forward to!
I wasn't quite too sure what to expect from ALA since my only previous experience was BEA which was (previously) very welcoming to bloggers. I kept hearing stories about the librarian/blogger clashes at ALA which I think had me walking on eggshells. In the end, I think I preferred the atmosphere of ALA to BEA. 

So where do I start? I guess with the first full day, Saturday. Since I live in Chicago, I literally hopped a train (then another train, then a bus) to McCormick Place. I arrived around 9:15 (because I got lost, my fault for not following Google Maps) and the line for getting badges was wrapped around a few times. The people working the desks were quick and efficient though, I think I only spent around 15-20 minutes in line. 

Once inside, I walked around a bit to get a lay of the lands. I was expecting a set-up similar to BEA but it wasn't. The publisher side was smaller than expected and there was a large portion of the convention space dedicated to library technology and other services. I stopped at the PopTop stage for the panel on Strong Female Voices in Publishing for MG and YA. The panelists were Hena Khan, Christa Desir, Sandhya Menon, and Amy Reed. It was great to listen to even if the only author I was familiar with was Sandhya Menon. 

Later, I wandered around the publisher side of the convention center and picked up a few books. Harper and Penguin had decent-sized booths, but the other pubs were squished together which made a huge traffic jam. I was thinking about getting in the Watercross line but it was....intense. I really want not stressed to be in lines during ALA so I missed out on a lot of bigger drops. 

I hung out with Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight, Sabrina @ The Forest of Words and Pages, Holly @ The Fox's Hideaway, and Zoey @ Uncreatively Zoey and had a lot of fun. I then jetted back to the PopTop Stage to hear the YA Authors Dish about YA panel. It featured McCall Hoyle, Alison Gervais, author of In 27 Days, Amanda Foody,  Gregory Scott Katsoulis, Jen Lancaster, and Angie Thomas. It was an interesting panel, it focused a lot on current events which I wasn't really expecting. Angie Thomas kept dropping truth about the publishing industry and marginalized characters. There was a signing afterward to get each book. I'm really excited to hop into them all!

I had to leave ALA early on Saturday because it was my grandma-in-law's 95th birthday party so there was no way I was missing that. Before leaving, I was able to see Alyssa @ Purple Readers along with her husband, Andrew.

Day 1 haul

On Sunday, I brought along my best friend, Sandra, who is a current ESL instructor at a local college. Actually, we both met because we were in a 6-hour MA course together to get our Teaching English as a Second Language degree. She stuck with teaching, I bounced. 

I planned to get fewer books on Sunday, but I think I actually got more. There was definitely a lot more going on. I was able to get Hazelwood and meet Meridith Russo who is just the best human. 

I ran into Faith @ Cozy Sweater Reads multiple times that day as well. Thanks for being a great line buddy!

I also met Samira Ahmed and she was lovely and gracious. I didn't know that she was from Chicago or that Love, Hate, and Other Filters was set in Chicago. That book is going to be a heartbreaker, I already know. 

After that, Sandra and I ran into an Angie Thoams signing and go the last two books. I think that was my most exciting meet I had. I said a bunch of words to her and couldn't stop smiling the whole time. 

We wandered around a bit and I ran into Nicola Yoon doing another signing. Someone walked up to our line looking for her daughter. I happened to look at her badge, saw the words Julia Quinn and promptly freaked OUT. I devoured all of Julia's books when I was in high school, she seriously made me a reader because I had stopped reading at that point. I asked her for a selfie but then I realized our selfie didn't save. I will never not be bitter about that. 

Sandra and I also ran into Mia @ MPM the Writer at her booth while on the way to the Book Buzz theater. Publicists went through the Fall catalogue for their releases and it was great to hear more about these titles. 

Right after the panel, Sandra and I lined up for the Dhonielle Clayton signing. Dhonielle has the best fashion and was super sweet! 

Despite the fact that the publishers had a lot less space, I think they did a great job with crowd management. MacMillan, which I always equate with the Heartless stampede, managed to line 100 people up in space the size of a closet. The people at Scholastic were especially fantastic. We lined up about an hour beforehand for Shadowhouse Fall (because I low-key/high-key have a crush on Daniel Jose Older) and I had some fun conversations with the staff. Thanks for the amazing recs again, Team Scholastic!

Day 2 Haul

Monday was the final day of the Exhibit Hall and it was very chill. People were mostly milling about trying to get the giveaways that some publishers were having to clear out their stock. 

The only ARC that I'm a bit disappointed that I didn't get was the Cruel Prince but in the grand scheme of things, that's not bad at all! Penguin/Random House was giving away all of their stock and they had a line outside of the convention center. They had a lot of books surprisingly. We were near the end and Penguin/Random allowed people to take up to 3 books from each pub. I even managed to get an ARC of Watercross which was exciting, I thought my chances were up!

Day 3 Haul

I really enjoyed myself at ALA. It was a lot more relaxed although I kept feeling like an outsider since I wasn't a librarian. I'm planning to go to ALA in New Orleans and hope to see some of you there!


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