ALA 2012: Day One

ALA has majorly kicked me in the pants (or skirt – I only own one pair of pants) to get my blog back on again.

I am extremely fortunate to be in Anaheim for ALA 2012 after winning the Kate McClelland and Kathy Krasniewicz Memorial Scholarship from Random House.  The scholarship covers airfare, conference registration, a ticket to the Newbery-Caldecott Banquet on Sunday (!!!) and my hotel where I am currently curled up in my jim jams after my first half day here.

Getting this scholarship means a lot to me and I would like to do a post more about this when I am fully awake and have recovered from Daniel Handler’s graphic sex scene reading (see below).  Suffice it to say for now that I am beyond grateful for this opportunity. Plus, my conference badge gives people the impression that I live in New York (and am therefore cool and important):

About three seconds after I checked in, I saw Betsy Bird.  She is a hero of mine and I ended up in the elevator with her.  Not sure what to do, I just reverently whispered “Betsy Bird” which got her attention and she was so kind and sweet as I said some incoherent things and jumped out of the elevator on the sixth floor.  ALA Celebrity Sighting #1!

Celebrity Sighting #2 came in the exhibits where I saw Daniel Handler.  Now, I knew I was going to see him later at the Booklist Guy Writers Talk Guy Readers panel but the thrill of seeing him in the wild was cool.  I spent my first round in the exhibits looking at furniture for our library’s new teen space.  There was some great stuff.  I know I was supposed to be focusing on teens, but some of the things for the chidlers were just so dang cool:

Although I was focused on furniture,  I managed to grab a signed copy of Wonder and an ARC of Rebecca Stead’s Liar & Spy which was my #1 most-desired ARC at ALA!  And while I am trying to avoid hoarding tote bags and useless crap, I couldn’t resist picking up A Wrinkle in Time tote.  And button.  And poster.  Sigh.

After the exhibits was the Booklist Youth Forum: Men At Work: Guy Writers Talk Guy Readers.  It featured Jon Scieszka, Daniel Handler/Lemony Snicket, Michael Grant and Andrew Smith.

Michael Grant is absolutely hilarious.  He talked about how kids read to escape, and that girls might read more than boys because girls have more that they need to escape.  In other words, girls might read more to escape boys.  Loved it.

Daniel Handler was last to speak.  He stepped up to the mic and, without any preamble, launched into a super graphic, explicit sex scene from one of his favourite books as a teen (The Mambo Kings).  The things was, no one in the audience knew where the scene was from or why he was reading it and all anyone could do was just sit completely motionless and silent and wonder “Holy Toledo, is this from his next book?” Eventually the scene came to an end; Handler explained that he wanted to open with a passage that exemplified what teen boys like to read.  Hearty and relieved laughter followed.  He went on to assert that teen boys are interested in sex, but  so many YA books don’t include sex scenes – or if they do, they aren’t particularly graphic.  He also pointed out that The Hunger Games would have never been published if it had been about a bunch of teenagers selected to go have sex on television. But slaughtering eachother on television?  That’s okay.  I wish I could do a better job of explaining Handler’s argument (he presented it much more brilliantly and subtly than I do here) but I thought it was a very fresh, very bold view on books for teen boys.  So often the focus is on violence or suspense when we talk about reading fare for that demographic.

Oh, and guess who was sitting behind me at this event looking all normal when he was really Celebrity Sighting #3…GARTH NIX!

As midnight approacheth I gotta hunker down and try to get unexcited enough to sleep.  On the books for tomorrow: sessions on circulating toys as literacy tools in the public library, the AASL President’s program about raising children in the digital age, the Nonfiction Book Blast, Chris Colfer, more exhibits, the USBBY/ALSC war writing panel with Ruta Sepetys (!) and the Random House Cocktail party.  And possibly a late-night trip to Disneyland with a colleague from North Vancouver if I am still standing by 8:00pm.

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