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1. There was the perfect grilled cheese sandwich, a killer hamburger, fabulous Vietnamese pineapple salad and Quesadillas served at the end of the longest walk in the world. Also lovely fruit (among other things) at the Little Brown breakfast.

2. As you can see, food was a reoccurring theme at ALA Midwinter.

3. Biggest Revelation: there is a ton of work that goes into being a librarian and the folks on those award/list committees are dedicated to an epic level.

4. Having said that, librarians also can put away a drink and apparently involve themselves in wild karaoke parties. (I was not there but I heard stories.)

5. Friday night, when the Exhibition Hall opens, was....insane. I was warned that it would be wild but nothing can prepare you for the sight of grown-ups plowing into each other to obtain a copy of Rick Yancey's latest. I can only figure it was some kind of crowd induced hysteria. Saturday, thankfully, was much much calmer.

6. On Saturday I commenced with my Master Plan to visit every publishing rep I knew via email and connect with them in person. Delightful chats commenced with Rachel and Mindy at DK, Lara at Chronicle, and lots of other folks (especially in small press land). I also discovered that DK is releasing a book on Lego Minifigs this summer which pretty much has made my son's year. (I called him immediately, of course.)

7. Cringe-Worthy Moment: Sighting four-inch high heels on the convention floor. (All I could hear in my head was "WHAT NOT TO WEAR!!!")

8. Best Literary Face-Off: The divine Liz Burns and divine Jackie Parker exchanging radically different opinions on Grave Mercy. Hysterical does not begin to describe it. (Kelly Jensen and I were eating french fries dipped in milkshake during this discussion.) (Don't mock us; it was tasty!)

9. Most Uncomfortable Moment #1: Introducing myself at the Algonquin booth and asking about their new YA imprint only to have the young rep respond "What exactly is a Bookslut?" I started to explain the site and then just...couldn't.

"You've never heard of the literary website Bookslut?"
"No. Are you new?"
[ARE WE NEW????] I had no words.
"Um, is there someone else here I can speak to?"
He turns, nudges lady behind him: "This lady is from something called Bookslut. She wanted to talk about the YA imprint."
Lady steps forward, hand outstretched. "BOOKSLUT! We love Bookslut!"
[Thank you, God.]

Rational, wonderful conversation followed.

10. Most Uncomfortable Moment #2: Five minutes in the Harper Collins Kids booth waiting to be noticed. Taking notes, tweeting, the only person in the booth with four reps who talked to each other and never spoke to me. After I walked out I received a tweet from a blogger friend who sent me to the HC Adult booth with the name of a rep to ask for. She was very nice, walked me to the kid side and introduced me to a rep (who had been standing there all along). I asked about Bennett Madison's upcoming September Girls and was quickly given an ARC. That's when I mentioned I had reviewed some of his other books, was a fan of his work, and..... she said nothing. "Have a nice day," she chirped, and walked away.

11. Nope, I didn't get her business card. (I consider myself damn lucky that I got the book.)

12. Every publisher (and agent and editor) should attend a Best Fiction for Young Adults Teen Feedback Session. Alternately shy and defiant, soft spoken and confident, these kids were amazing. They stood carefully in line, kept their comments under the 2 minutes allotted, gave their reasons for supporting or not supporting a title and more than once asserted themselves against the opinions of the adults around them. "No More Love Triangles!!" ("It's hard enough to find one person to love, let alone two!") "All Teenage Guys Are Not Jerks so please stop writing them that way!" "I was LIED TO by this cover!" and the mother of all shut downs for Amanda Hocking - including a damning quote from her nominated book - which prompted applause from the audience.

13. Adults don't know what it is like to be a teenager. We remember, but we don't know. Listening to some actual live feedback from teens is critical for anyone involved in the YA publishing industry.

14. And kudos to teen librarian Jackie Parker for wrangling this group of great kids together so they could share so much with all of us.

15. Did I mention Soho Press has a YA Mystery line now? More on this later but I spent several lovely moments with the crew there and am very much looking forward to seeing what they have to offer teen mystery fans.

16. Can someone explain to me when it became a thing for teen librarians to color their hair pink or purple or blue? (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

17. Most Disturbing Thing I Saw All Weekend: Three women packing no fewer than 500 books into several extra large suitcases next to the Coat Check after the Exhibition Hall closed Saturday evening. They had about twenty tote and shopping bags full of books they were transferring to the suitcases. We all stood in line transfixed by the sight. I was tempted to take a picture but they looked pretty surly and I didn't think it was worth a confrontation to record the fact that they were greedy jerks. But still, it was pretty damn unbelievable.

18. Also Unbelievable: Someone stole four lovely hardcover books from Firefly Books (which has some great stuff) on Friday night. (Really - they stole Fifty Plants That Changed the World. REALLY.) Also, someone apparently stole the display copy of Code Name Verity from the Hyperion booth. (Took all the stars along with it as well.)

19. What.The.Fuck.

20. Best Moment: A long bookish discussion with Barry, Sara and Kate over Mexican food on Saturday night when we realized that if anyone was listening to our conversation they would think we were insane. The forty-five minute wait for a cab was no fun, but as we know now it is all due to Kate's curse, we accept that it is the price to be paid for her company. Just be warned that a dinner out with her will involve nearly freezing to death on a street corner later. :)

21. Three Fan Girl Moments: Cara Black at Soho Press, Ellen Datlow at the Horror Writers Assoc and Nancy Pearl, who I thanked for choosing my book last year for her NPR Summer Reading List. (She thanked me for writing it - can you imagine?!) All were simply wonderful.

22. Lessons Learned: Meeting in person is always a good thing; bookish people are funny as hell; free books make some folks go a wee bit crazy and bacon should never be put on a vegetarian burger. (It wasn't my burger, but trust me on this. It was WRONG.)

comments

Well, now I want french fries dipped in milkshake. (Please pretend this comment is more substantive than it actually is.)

Kelly Ramsdell Fineman

"and Nancy Pearl, who I thanked for choosing my book last year for her NPR Summer Reading List. (She thanked me for writing it - can you imagine?!)"

Yes. Yes I can. Well-deserved, Colleen!

I was lucky enough to get to sit in on the BBYA Teen panel (back when it was the BBYA) right after I sold my first book and it was fascinating and enormously enlightening. (And I wish publishers would twig to the fact that teens don't like ambiguous endings. It was the most common comment of the session.)

I would send you fudge if you divulged the Hocking comment. Just out of curiosity.

After a mini rant on several aspects of the story (plot, characters, etc) that were just plain awful, she turned to the writing itself. I would love to know how in the hell this quote made it past an editor into a book. Here it is from twitter:

Teen doesn't care for Amanda Hocking's WAKE. "I don't know what a dying robot llama sounds like." #BFYA #alamw13

— Angela Frederick (@angelina41)

Wish I could have been there! I mean really, really wish I could have been there with you guys!

"No More Love Triangles!!" ("It's hard enough to find one person to love, let alone two!") "All Teenage Guys Are Not Jerks so please stop writing them that way!" "I was LIED TO by this cover!

Ohhhhh, yes, yes, yes.

I should have gone - for only this, it would have been worth it. SO glad you were there!

Well, gosh. Here I thought maybe the book grabbing was better this year as I had a lot of really pleasant and sane experiences. Sorry to hear otherwise.

Julie:

I think it was nutty on Friday night just because there was a bit of a frenzied atmosphere that kind of got everyone going. As to the women with the 500+ books on Saturday though - that was unreal. They came prepared with empty suitcases held in the coat check, etc. I would almost say they were professional about it (and I wonder if those ARCs are showing up on ebay this week.) Sat & Sun were so mellow in the aisles though - nice, orderly, pleasant folks. So maybe it was just more under the radar this year? Or perhaps there were only these few. It was pretty wild to see though!

Pam & T: Would have loved to have you both with us - esp at the Teen Feedback!!

I almost didn't attend the teen feedback session, thinking "I talk to teens every day," but I'm so glad I did. Their thoughtful enthusiasm was a delight, and hopefully very helpful to the committee. Two girls spoke about Ten by Gretchen McNeil, which I hadn't heard of and immediately put a hold on. It was great to hear comments from two boys and a girl about how much they liked Son by Lois Lowry (several people I know have said it appeals more to adults than teens, so great teen feedback).

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