Thursday, June 30, 2011

New Orleans, ALA & Let Me Tell You About My Mother

How do I begin to blog my first ALA?
How do I begin to explain what it’s like spending time with people who love books as much as I do? And—weirder still—who love my books, and who aren’t afraid to tell me about it?
Well, I’ll start here: Librarians rock.

In these days of shrinking budgets in the library and education arenas, I’ve had many opportunities to think about why these budget makers seem to be so shortsighted. My theories have gone from the idea that they have simply forgotten how they got to where they are (education) to the idea that they have begun to underestimate what librarians do (maybe they think they are simply alphabetizers and book putter-awayers.) Or, of course, the theory closest to what’s probably true. . . they are spending the money on other things that aren’t nearly as important when it comes to the future of our country, our communities and our people and just don't have enough left over. [translation: their priorities have shifted for one reason or another, which makes those first two theories a lot easier to use as excuses.]

And so, allow me to selfishly say that I am glad I get to spend time with librarians. I’m glad because I know what librarians do, and I understand and respect how important they are to a society and to every individual in every community they serve. Because I am an author, I understand how they turn children on to reading and  information early and keep them engaged with hand-picked selections for a lifetime. Because I am a library trustee, I understand how they do this on very small budgets on very small salaries.

Yes—I know it’s hard to believe, but librarians are not paid gobs of money.

Which means that they must love service to their communities more than, well. . . more than those people we elect who get paid a lot more who then cut library budgets. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that life these days is very like a science fiction novel, and SHIP BREAKER isn’t too far away.

Which is exactly what Paolo Bacigalupi’s speech was about when he accepted the Michael L. Printz Award on Monday night. As he spoke, I fell in love with his brain—even more than I already was—because like him, I grew up on science fiction and like him, I am seeing all those scary motifs in sci-fi come to life and it’s scaring the hell out of me because the pigs are walking on two legs, wearing pants, sleeping in beds and have changed the rules on the wall right in front of us.
Shoot. Where was I?
ALA. Librarians.
It’s hard for me to think about libraries these days without drifting into Orwell.
Sorry about that.

ALA Annual 2011 in New Orleans reminded me that even though the budget makers are doing their hacking, librarians still exist, and they still care about our families and our minds and our society and our communities.

So I'll end here: Librarians rock.

My schedule was so crazy I didn’t even get to Bourbon Street once. I know! I suck! I also didn't get many pictures, so a huge thank you to those who sent some to me, and I hope to be back later in the week and show you some others from the official press set.

  • All the awesome librarians. (I know—a given, but still.)
  • Walter calling me vixen on Saturday night (by accident, but who cares? Walter rocks.)
  • Beignets, the stifling heat, the scenery in the few parts of New Orleans I saw.
Beignets = why can't we have these everywhere?

  • Meeting my first editor, Andrew Karre, in person for the first time ever.
  • Meeting Blythe Woolston, author of THE FREAK OBSERVER who gave me maybe the coolest t-shirt I have ever owned.
  • Spending time with fellow authors and meeting a lot of new ones.
  • Signing ARCs of EVERYBODY SEES THE ANTS for a huge line of people who were so kind to wait so long! Welcome to the world Lucky Linderman! We're going to have an interesting autumn!
The Little, Brown booth!
  • Seeing my old friend Heather Baker, who is a youth librarian in CT now, but who I went to summer camp and high school with when I was a kid. This was a huge highlight, actually. Heather has been so supportive and I'm not sure she knows how much that means.
  • All the awesome librarians.
  • Signing copies of PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ in the Random House booth.
  • Printz Day. All of it. 
  • Breakfast with Andrew Karre.
  • Printz Day—the lunch where I got to meet the Printz committee and thank them in person for such a great honor and tell them what it means to me.
  • Printz Day—the lunch where I got to meet Lucy and Janne and gush. I haven’t finished STOLEN yet, but I have read NOTHING, and I highly recommend it.
  • Printz Day—the reception where I got to talk to REVOLVER's Marcus a bit and everyone gave wonderful speeches.
Photo Credit: Heather Baker
  • All the awesome librarians.
  • Printz Day—the reception where I spoke to a really wonderful crowd which held all four of my editors, hundreds of awesome librarians, many friends (especially Heather!) and many authors, editors, and publishing professionals whom I admire greatly.
  • Meeting Paolo and telling him how awesome he is. 
  • Printz Day—where so many people came to me after the reception and said wonderful things about PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ and my speech. Thank you!
  • Printz Day—after the reception where I had a relaxing drink with awesome librarians and authors.
  • All the awesome librarians.
Me giving librarian love to Angie! (Photo credit to Angie)
  • Printz Day—when I got back to my hotel and couldn’t sleep because I was so completely stoked about it being Printz Day. So I packed at 2:30AM and enjoyed the last of the Printz buzz.
  • Meeting Snow-the-awesome-librarian in the airport on my way home and letting her guide me though my conference-brained departure for Philly airport (this included letting me know that I needed a real live boarding pass, waiting while the security people found a bottle of water which I stupidly forgot to take out of my bag as if I don’t fly several times a month these days, and then helping me pick out gifts for my kids.) (Snow, Dude—the flamingo ROCKED.)
  • Meeting Sophie from the Printz committee on my plane! And then librarian Erika at baggage claim.
  • Buying a Burger King kids meal from the drive thru from the back of a limo. (It was the NICEST bacon cheeseburger I ever ate AND there was a Transformer inside. Winning.)
  • Hugging my kids when I got home and showing off my Printz Honor.
I think this post is now too long. So I will leave you with this link to the School Library Journal article which has a link to their slideshow of the night. . . and a video of my Printz speech. HUGE thanks to Torrey Meeks, video genius, who made this video so much better than it was and to Alex from Random House for taking it! I will be back with more pictures once they trickle in. I have other tidbits of news, but will save them for the next post. Now. . . let me tell you about my mother:

If you had trouble with the slightly echoey audio on that video, you can always try this video from further back in the audience, which sounds clearer!


Maya said...

Congrats on the Printz Honor!! I told you the book was going to become a classic. :) You totally deserve it. Sorry I couldn't make it to ALA, I really wanted to. Glad you enjoyed yourself, and I can't wait to read EVERYBODY SEES THE ANTS!!

Liviania said...

Congratulations! It sounds amazing. I'm sad I haven't been able to read SHIPBREAKER yet.

Mickie said...

Such a wonderful speech! I cried a bit with you and then dried my tears in the potato chip bar afterward!! hee hee

Mary Cashman said...

Congratulations!!! What a wonderful, amazing speech!

To think, this Printz Honor is the way I "found" you! Looking forward to following your successes for years to come!

Gemma Cooper said...

Congrats!!! Such an awesome speech. And great post, I heart librarians as well:)

EJ said...


Great speech to go with a great reward for a greater than great book. You rock BIG TIME, girl.


Snow said...

YAY for the flamingo! I have no other useful skills, but I can pick me some toys. :-) It was so so great getting to hang out with you at the airport! Congrats again on the honor!! I'll see you at the next ALA!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations from me too, on your totally deserved award. Loved Vera Dietz, am going to read Ants on the plane (just now leaving N.O.). So wonderful to meet you briefly at Coffee Klatch and thank you for signing books for us. Wonderful speech, I laughed, I cried, I wa so glad to be a librarian for teens at that moment.

A.S. King said...

Thank you so much for all the kind words! I have to admit it--still seems unreal. Especially as I beat my head against the next book rather roughly. :)

You all ROCK.

Angie said...

Words cannot even begin to express both how amazing it was to finally meet you and hear your amazing Printz speech. It was a call to arms about why we do what we do and a reminder about how the best teen literature, like Vera, reaches out and leads teens through bad times, dark times, and lets them know they are not alone. It was invigorating and inspiring and AH, WOMAN, YOU'RE SO FANTASTIC.

Next picture I'll be kissing YOUR head. I can't wait to start Everybody Sees the Ants!

A.S. King said...

Angie, you rock!

Elana Johnson said...

What an amazing recap! It was so fun meeting you, and listening to your Printz speech.