In late June I had the extreme pleasure of attending the American Library Association's annual meeting, aka ALA. And I say pleasure because in addition to hanging out with some of my favorite Harper colleauges (you can see why at their Library Lovefest blog) and meeting up with Betsy-Tacy friends from the Maud L listserv, I got to see and meet some of my favorite authors. (forgive these photos, took them with my phone which was fine for tweeting, but clearly, they are not good enough for the blog).
The weekend started off with dinner on Friday night with Katrina Kittle, who I simply adore. She was one of my first guests on Book Club Girl on Air - to discuss her wonderful novel The Kindness of Strangers. Her new novel, The Blessings of the Animals, about which Booklist just wrote, "with subtle yet shimmering insight, Kittle explores the resilience of human nature and the indelible role animals play in healing shattered emotions," goes on sale on August 3rd. I had recently finished Blessings and found so much to discuss in her story of a woman who is recovering from an unexpected divorce and dealing with her teenage daughter while tending to sick and injured animals in her veteranarian practice. We talked about the novel, how it was born and shaped, as well as her extensive garden (and I've been thinking of her tomatoes ever since). On Saturday Katrina signed galleys of Blessings for an impressive lineup of librarians. At some point during the day, Lizz, one of my fellow Betsy-Tacy fan friends from cyberspace, popped in to say hello. It was great to meet her in person, especially when I later read this post over on her blog about how to tell librarians and vendors (read: publishers) apart at ALA. She nailed it.
Also signing on Saturday was Emily Gray Tedrowe, author of the debut novel Commuters. I finished the novel on Saturday night, but already knew that I loved it when I met Emily. She tells the story of a family matriarch who remarries a wealthy many late in life and the effect that this union has on their children, their grandchildren and the small commuter town in which they live. The story is told from the perspectives of the grandmother as well as her daughter, who is dealing with immense changes in her life as the result of a mysterious fall her husband has taken; and through the wealthy man's grandson, a recovering drug addict struggling to find himself in New York City. I can't say enough good things about this book, I read it in about two days time. Here Emily is with book blogger Rachel from A Home Between the Pages.
After a quick lunch with children's book specialist Kathy Baxter (fellow lover of the tomes, who actually MET Maud and the real Carney!) it was back to the booth for Jessica Anya Blau's signing. She signed her great debut The Summer of Naked Swim Parties - which is a wonderful story about a teenage girl's coming of age in the 70s with parents who embrace an alternative lifestyle. Jessica's new novel, Drinking Closer to Home (possibly the best book title ever, imo) is coming in Winter 2011. She also wears really great shoes.
Sunday morning brought us the lovely Adriana Trigiani, and as if by magic coincidence, Julie of Booking Mama, along with her friend from Aaron's Books in Lititz, PA. I will forever, I think, associate Julie and Adriana after our BEA tea. I slipped Julie Katrina's last galley which was hidden away just for her, and helped Adriana with the virtual hordes of people who came to her signing. It was crazy and I had to "Katie bar the door" at the end just to give her a 10 minute break before she had to go over to the Live Stage to read. But she bore it all, as she always does, with flair and charm (and a well positioned face powdering brush). Her new book of nonfiction, Don't Sing at the Table: Life Lessons from My Grandmothers, is coming this fall, along with the paperback of Brava, Valentine (both on sale 11/9). It was also so nice to meet Daphne Kalotay, who was signing the gorgeous AREs of her forthcoming novel Russian Winter (on sale 9/7). Janet Mullaney was also on hand to sign galleys of her Jane Austen-as-a-vampire tale, Jane and the Damned, along with magnets and a t-shirt to match!
In the early afternoon I headed over to the Charlesbridge booth where Mitali Perkins was signing copies of her PW Starred Review new novel Bamboo People which is now on sale! Mitali has written the foreword to this fall's reissue of Maud Hart Lovelace's Emily of Deep Valley, and is such a fantastic promoter that she wore a t-shirt with the book cover for Emily on it! I am forever in her debt, and also love the Charlesbridge team, they couldn't be more supportive and helpful. Look for more on Bamboo People here soon.
Back in the Harper booth author M.L. Malcolm was signing, in one of her signature fashionable hats (this woman rocks the hat) and she was giving away mints (a very good idea for people who've been locked in a conference center all day). Librarians were gobbling up her Heart of Lies, a smart, exciting historical suspense novel set in Europe, Shanghai and New York before WWII that has been compared to Jeffrey Archer and Susan Howatch. Heart of Lies is the first novel in a trilogy that will continue in Winter 11 with Heart of Deception.
We rounded out the day with Roy Blount, Jr. signing copies of his forthcoming study of the Marx Brothers Hail, Hail Euphoria (on sale 9/28) which I've just started and am really enjoying. After some feverish unpacking of boxes of galleys for the final day of signings, it was time for a night off!
Monday am brought Dennis Lehane and the longest line in history to our booth to get a copy of his forthcoming novel, Moonlight Mile, on sale November 2nd. I first realized just how long the line was when I snuck out 30 minutes before his signing was set to start to get a copy of the Evolution of Calpurnia Tate signed by Jacqueline Kelly. I was two whole aisles away when I suddenly realized that the chain of people that was growing next to me was in fact emanating from our booth. After a quick hello to Jacqueline, I high tailed it back to the booth help out.
That pretty much wrapped up ALA for me, though there was still a day of activities left, but I had my reprieve and headed back to DC's beautiful Union Station to catch a train back home. I love spending time with librarians and I had such a good time talking with and learning from them. Throw in our great authors and my colleagues, and it was a pretty amazing way to spend a few days. For those who missed it, you can still catch the Harper library team's book buzz presentation.
In celebration of librarians and libraries, I have two Banned Books bracelets to give away. Simply post a comment about your favorite library or librarian, or any great story about a library and I'll pick 2 random winners from all those comments received by midnight ET Wednesday, July 28th. (US and Canada only please).