Wednesday, July 3, 2013

ALA Conference -- a Baggott, Asher, Bode Recap

This is going to be fast and a little messy because I've stuff breathing down my neck, but here goes: I went to ALA's Annual Convention -- in Chicago. I won the Alex Award for PURE -- which is given to ten authors a year for adult novels that have teen crossover appeal. Alex is named for a library who worked at Enoch Pratt in Balto -- a library I'm weirdly in love with, which is neither here nor there.

Sometimes authors are thrown into speed-dating-like situations -- this one included a whistle blown (loudly) every 4 minutes, at which point authors rotate to the next table of, in this case, librarians. (Sometimes it's booksellers but one assumes it could also be mobsters or cellists or circus performers or bears... The format is wide open for possibilities)

So here's where I met some people myself.

Top Three People I Wasn't Supposed to Meet at ALA But Did. 

1. Cory Doctorow. He's this incredible thinker, just one of those big wide brains that cover vast territories. (Do I always agree with him? Nope. But I love that he brings things to the floor.) Boing Boing, yes, that's him there. And he's a brilliant, beloved sci-fi writer. I saw his name on the list and tried to call up his face from various bios and mix/match them to people in a crowded room ... I found him. He was very funny and seemingly, you know, a good guy. And he was sitting next to and introduced me to ...

2. Mark Siegel. Earlier this year, I wrote a short story for Daniel H. Wilson's upcoming antho on the robot apocalypse. And I loved the process. I wanted to expand the short story into a novel, but it simply doesn't work for many reasons -- mainly readership and a kind of cinematic push I want -- and so I tried to hunt down Mark Siegel who publishes some of the best graphic novels in this country. No one else. Just him. When my agent's asst. didn't get word back, I figured he wasn't interested in my concept (maybe it's a bad concept -- how would I know?) and so he kind of moved to my Great White Whale column -- an unattainable goal, and maybe one day I'd go after him, but I was, well, distracted and NOT AT ALL supposed to be working on a graphic novel about robots so ... I listened to the universe and let him go. But here he was. And maybe I called him my great white whale ... I blurt. I just do.

He told me that Danica Novgorodoff has a 500-page graphic novel coming out -- a whole new level of Novgorodoff. So if you're not a Novgorodoff fan yet, await ...  

3. Liz Burns. Now Liz is this brilliant librarian who tweets all this stuff that would otherwise float way outside of my radar. I always want to know what she's thinking about and what she's putting out into the tweetosphere. She showed up at a signing after the Alex Award panel and she's wonderful and I was a little all of a dither to meet her. She had a panel on New Adult -- which I had to fly out before it went on... So. Does New Adult exist? I sure hope so.

And now some summer reading ...

Cory Doctorow was there, presumably, to talk (in 4 minute increments) about HOMELAND, which came out this winter. Jacked to take a look. It follows up on LITTLE BROTHER. Though his take on copyright law and open access would make him of great interest to librarians regardless of books.

I was on a panel with Robin Sloan whose debut  MR. PENUMBRA'S 24 HOUR BOOKSTORE took the world by storm last year. He gave a talk on getting the big invite into Grollier's -- a bibliophile society in NYC. It was a bizarre delight and he's a brilliant mind, an eloquent speaker. An honor to be on the panel with him.

I was also on that panel with the author of the graphic novel MY FRIEND DAHMER. The author went to high school with the infamous serial killer and was friends with him.

It was a chilling talk and the novel, heavily researched and deeply personal, looks incredible.

I had dinner with three Hachette authors.

Thriller-writer Jeff Abbott - whose thrillers also include exotic bars around the world.  He was talking up his latest, DOWNFALL, in the Sam Capra series. Very funny speaker.


The author of THE OUTCASTS -- Kathleen Kent, made her name writing about her ancestor who was burned as a witch in New England, but she now turns her eye to another historical setting from the other side of her family in Texas. Very intrigued.

And Mary Simses debut, THE IRRESISTIBLE BLUEBERRY BAKE SHOP CAFE, which has been compared to THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL SOCIETY. Mary was much fun to hang out with -- and it was great to be with a debut novelist. There's no complaining around a debut novelist. It's just not acceptable and I like that.

I gave a talk in which I offered my definition of writing: the daily practice of empathy. I discussed how post-apocalyptic novels are actually psychological realism for teens -- who are trapped in a post apocalypse of adolescence -- and that those who seek out apocalyptic fiction aren't looking for doom; they're looking for examples of extreme resilience.

And I shouted to upcoming debut THE KEPT by James Scott, keep an eye out. 

I also talked to a cab driver about celestial issues and physics and inner ages and government conspiracy theories (his) -- and Mayans.

Chicago, by the way, had just hosted a huge Stanley Cup thing that was wild, as one would expect, and was gearing up for its Pride Parade. I'm kind of thankful for the genius who decided not to overlap those two events.


That's it.