This year, for the first time, I attended the TLA Conference. It was so much fun to be around a bunch of people who loved libraries and reading as much as I do. I was surprised by the wide variety offered in their classes. And the exhibit hall-- it's so big! Publishers, authors, storytellers, library software...it had so much!
My favorite seminars turned out to be ones that would interest writers as well as librarians. Book talks of great nonfiction paired with fiction, upcoming tween and teen books, Women in YA panel, panel of Other World authors, meaning speculative fiction. It was all wonderful, like trying to fill one plate from a giant buffet! There was so much I wanted to hear, but there were only so many sessions in a day.
My top moments:
- I met Deb Caletti and got a free, signed copy of her YA book The Secret Life of Prince Charming. I told her how much I loved The Six Rules of Maybe and she laughed and said, “I always know when someone loves that book, that they’re a certain kind of person.” I laughed, because she’s right. It’s called a (Reformed) Co-Dependent. Anyway, I tweeted later that I loved meeting her, and she tweeted back that it was nice to meet me. I felt like a total fangirl about it, but I tried to play it cool.
- Speaking of fangirl, I got to hear Laurie Halse Anderson speak on the YA Women Author panel. I swear every word she spoke was wise and humble. I love her! If you are unfamiliar with her work, you must read Speak and/or Chains immediately. Her blog address is madwomanintheforest.com and I love that.
- My third favorite moment was getting to hear Grace Lin speak on the panel about writing early readers. She’s so wonderful. Her book Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a beautiful tale for middle graders, and I have a review of it here. But she also has a series of early readers called Ling and Ping that are super cute, with little girls who are Asian in it. She said that as she grew up, she never read any books that had anyone in them who looked like her (she is Asian-American) and so she is now learning to celebrate her heritage through her writing and wants to share that stores with children that reflect the multiculturalism that is part of America. Did I mention that I think she is fabulous?
- I got to meet many of my TWU professors at the TWU booth, which was wonderful! I've worked with these people for nearly two years and have never met any of them face-to-face! They were all so delightful in person, just as they are online. And I got meet up with one of my favorite classmates who has been in the program with me from my first semester. We started at the same time and took one of our first classes together, so we've had several together as we've progressed through the program. It was so great to finally meet her in person, too! Along with librarian friends and professors, I got to stop by our local chapter of SCBWI at their booth and catch up with our chapter's president and a couple of other members, which was awesome and unexpected.
I heard about a hundred books I need to read immediately and generally was stuffed full of knowledge. I heard excellent book talks and slightly more boring book talks, so hopefully I’ll eventually learn the craft of a really good book talk. It makes a big difference.
The processing of this knowledge will take time. But it was an outstanding experience. I learned that even if you aren’t a librarian, you should attend TLA. This is especially true if you are a writer, a published author or anyone who really loves to read. I wish I had done this years ago!