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June 26, 2007

ALA Recap

I spent my weekend in the Washington DC area at the ALA conference, which was actually a whole lot of fun. The first reason was that I'm a tremendous fan of librarians in a general sense, and the specific librarians I met over the weekend were fairly excellent as individuals, and basically a whole lot of fun to meet and spend time with. Honestly, the day I can't enjoy myself among people who spend their life dealing with books is the day I've probably fallen head first into a grave.

The second reason was that it allowed me to get to know a few of my fellow authors a bit better, specifically Jeff and Ann VanderMeer and Steve Erikson. Jeff and I have had that "we know each other online" thing going on for a couple of years now and have always been fairly friendly, so it was nice to seal the deal in the real world, and Ann (who incidentally is the new editor over at Weird Tales) was a delight to meet as well. Steve Erikson I had not met nor corresponded with before, but he's kick, especially when he's sharing stories about his past life as an archaeologist, which have to be heard to be believed. It was excellent to meet him.

Jeff, Steve and I were all on a panel titled "The Literature of Ideas," along with Charlotte Jones, who is the granddaughter of Madeleine L'Engle and an absolutely wonderful person in her own right. The panel was put together with the help of Tor's Kathleen Doherty, and I think she chose the participants well, because each of us came at the topic from entirely different angles, which is what you want to keep the audience from keeling over from boredom. Each of us talked individually about science fiction and fantasy for about fifteen minutes and then did a Q&A. Jeff gives some of the highlights of the talks on his new blog Ecstatic Days, which I recommend, both for the talk tidbits and in a general sense.

Aside from Jeff, Ann and Steve I managed to sneak in a little time with Sarah Beth Durst, who was down at ALA promoting her debut novel Into the Wild, and made the acquaintance of graphic novelist and Whatever reader Jane Irwin, who was nice enough to give me copies of her Vogelein comic series. I also saw YA author David Lubar, who used to write humor articles for me back when I was an editor at AOL; we've known each other for a decade but it was the first time we met in person.

But wait, there's more! I also very briefly saw Delia Sherman, Kelly Link and Gavin Grant, each appearing literally as we were heading out of the conference to catch a cab to the airport. I think they planned it that way. At the airport Jeff also very briefly introduced me to Peter Straub, who happened to be wandering about. It was one of those small world things. In short, lots of interesting people who do that writing thing were at the conference. Funny how that might be.

And of course one of the nice things about going to a library conference is that the publishers there give out all sorts of free free free books, and I'm a flat-out sucker for that. Really, that's why I love lit conferences and trade shows and will pretty much show up for any of them: Because afterwards I get to wander the aisles and graze. I ended up picking up a couple dozen books, even split between books for me and books for Athena, and then heaved myself down to the temporary post office at the conference to mail them all home. They'll be here in a couple of days. I'll have to figure out what to do with myself until then.

So there you have it: Librarians + Authors + Book swag = happy Scalzi. That said, it's good to be home and to have nowhere pressing to be for a while. I've got work and family to catch up on.

Posted by john at June 26, 2007 11:38 AM

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Norwegian Woodsman | June 26, 2007 12:09 PM

You met Steven Erikson? He's only like the best fantasy author out there for the moment. I think I'd kill for an opportunity meet and talk to him (okay, not kill but maybe seriously maim...)

You have a great life, John. Wanna trade?

John H | June 26, 2007 12:09 PM

Were there any freebies at the Scholastic booth? Say the final book in a particular series about a boy wizard?

Lawrence Schimel | June 26, 2007 12:15 PM

What swag did you get for Athena?

I had a lot of fun reading THEODOSIA AND THE SERPENTS OF CHAOS by R. L. LeFevers, which was part of my BEA-swag.

Steve Buchheit | June 26, 2007 12:28 PM

Librarians, cool authors, AND book swag. Just why did you leave?

John Scalzi | June 26, 2007 12:29 PM

I like all of that, but I like home more.

joelfinkle | June 26, 2007 12:32 PM

> Were there any freebies at the Scholastic booth? Say the final book in a particular series about a boy wizard?

On that note, Stephen King's semi-regular column in Entertainment Weekly noted that even he couldn't score a review copy of Deathly Hallows, and he plans to elbow 7-year-olds out of the way to get one on release.

I've got ARCs of the first two books, but after that, Scholastic stopped giving them out to booksellers. For that matter, Scholastic won't sell booksellers fewer than 10 copies to ensure that you don't have an open box, and opening those boxes (and getting caught at it) results in losing the ability to buy from Scholastic.

John H | June 26, 2007 12:40 PM

Scholastic Book Nazis: "No books for you!"

Cassie | June 26, 2007 12:41 PM

Temporary post office at the conference? That's brilliant.

Omaha Lisa | June 26, 2007 12:52 PM

Sounds like heaven to me!

Janiece | June 26, 2007 01:05 PM

Please pause while I gnash my teeth in utter, utter envy. gnash, gnash, gnash.

All right, I'm feeling much better, now.

PixelFish | June 26, 2007 01:14 PM

Ooooo...free books. I have the envy.

Kristy | June 26, 2007 03:12 PM

Ditto on the envy. I might be photosynthesizing, actually.

Also, color me surprised that the Scholastic booth wasn't entirely Harry Potter, visible from the distance at which the photo was taken...

John Scalzi | June 26, 2007 03:17 PM

Yes,apparently they have other books, too!

Anonymous Regular | June 26, 2007 03:19 PM

The envy is justly felt. My wife is general manager of a large book store (it has two names and an ampersand). They have their own national shindig every fall with authors and celebs and boxes of swag. For book geeks, such events truly are the happiest places on earth (my copy of Sandman: Endless Nights, autographed and sketched in by NG at the '03 meeting, is sitting right yonder; and I think we got our Crystal Rain there last year).

Regarding the idea of ARCs for HP & the Deathly Hallows: Hmm. Huffing Rustoleum on a weekday afternoon, are we, John H? How very sad.

John H | June 26, 2007 03:33 PM

AR: I knew they wouldn't be likely to have any ARCs, but seeing the big Scholastic banner in the photo made me wonder...

Diana | June 26, 2007 03:59 PM

And you went to dinner at my friend's restaurant. I heard the scallops were great.

Buck | June 26, 2007 04:03 PM

My greatest memory of a librarian goes back to about fifth grade or so. A bunch of boys were watching a looping filmstrip clip from "Fantasia." It was the dinosaur fight. This was the early 1970s. The librarian was a purse-faced woman with a beehive hairdo.

Anyway, I think we were getting loud, so she came over and whacked me on the top of the head several times with her pencil. I thought it was one of the other boys, and without looking, I turned around swinging, and cracked her one right in the jaw.

She frog-marched me to the principal's office and when I explained that she had hit me first, he just told me to keep it quiet in the library and dismissed me. Hell, today, there would have been a lawsuit.

CJ | June 26, 2007 04:18 PM

My favorite librarian still works in the local library. She has known me since I was six, and I used to read everything on the SF and Fantasy bookshelves. I still love to see her when I go to the library with my sons.

You're right. Librarians Rock!

Elaine | June 26, 2007 05:43 PM

I picked up an Exhibit Hall pass for the weekend, and it was well worth it, even if I didn't do well at the spot-the-big-name-authors game.

On the other hand, it seemed silly to haul my stash(es) down to the post office, when Metro was right there at the convention center. My arms, however, beg to differ -- today, at least, I had the sense to call somebody to come meet me and take about half of today's loot (to be conveyed home at some future date) so that I wouldn't pass out in the street somewhere between Clarendon metro and home.

The most amusing bit of the afternoon was probably some of the conversation going on as people kept walking by/through the big-long-line waiting to get into the Harper Collins booth for free books (The line for Tor's freebies beginning at 1pm was much shorter).

"What's this line for?" "Free books." "Ohhhhh ...".

Cathy | June 26, 2007 09:08 PM

We didn't get the big bus Scholastic had at Book Expo, where you could make a video to post to their web site if you went to their booth first to get a wristband. Why anyone would want to go to all that effort is beyond me.

And going to both ALA and Book Expo in the same month has given me far too many books to read.

And Kristy, Scholastic has to plan for the post HP world now.

Karen Funk Blocher | June 26, 2007 09:27 PM

Oh, wow, Charlotte Jones! I know she seems like an odd person to fix upon, but she's pretty much been the standard-bearer for her grandmother's work for some years now, and well, you know what a L'Engle geek I am. I'd love to hear what Ms. Jones had to say.

Ryan | June 26, 2007 10:01 PM

When you said you headed off to D.C. over the weekend, I figured ALA was what you meant. My wife (a rockin' school librarian) and I were there, enjoying the panels and the free books and the fun of being surrounded by tens of thousands of other library-lovin' folks.

We ended up coming home with easily forty or fifty books, many signed. We loved every minute of the conference, and we're definitely going to do it again at some point.

I briefly talked to Avi there, as well as Ellen Wittlinger and Perry Moore (the executive producer of the Narnia movies and now YA author), but I didn't see you around. Seems like a lot more authors actually showed up than they claimed would be there in their official author list.

Sarah Beth Durst | June 26, 2007 11:10 PM

Hi John,

Great hanging out with you at ALA! Hope to see you again soon.


Giggglius | June 27, 2007 12:12 AM

Oh it's so good to know that authors can be as awed by other authors (and as tempted by free books) as us librarians!

You did a great job speaking this weekend! It might be hard to compete with a story about peeing on a bear, but you held your own.

Giggglius | June 27, 2007 10:12 AM

Yes, the scallops were great. (It's amazing who you find on these boards!)

But really, how could we expect and ARC of HP? They aren't even producing ARCs of Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer because last time they did they were selling for $400 on Ebay!

JerolJ | June 27, 2007 04:05 PM

Count me in on the "kill to meet Erikson" group. And as entertaining as I'm sure his stories of his archaeological past are, I'd have about 250 questions about the goings on in the Malazan Empire. And for that matter, I need to track down George RR Martin as well.

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