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ALA Convention—Benefits of Attending as an Author

Authors, Karen Kulinski and Cynthea Liu with Peep (& Wobby), from WOBBY & PEEP
At the end of June I was excited to be able to attend the American Library Association (ALA) convention in Chicago. I was not a featured author, and I didn’t attend any of the ticketed events. But $35 will get you a one-day floor pass to the exhibits with 692 exhibitors, and 487 Meet the Author opportunities!

ALA is geared mostly to librarians and teachers, but if you’re in any way connected to children’s books, there are other perks to being there. So with ‘Author’ on our identification badges, my friend Karen and I walked the halls of McCormick’s Place on Saturday, June 29th. Here are some things that an author can get from the ALA experience, even if you’re not one of the many authors there signing books.

Connecting with your publishers. Top on my list was to stop at Candlewick’s booth, and Penguin and Dial Books for Young Readers. At Candlewick’s booth I enjoyed re-connecting and talking with Anne, who encouraged me to submit one of my manuscripts to my editor there. (It’s on its way, Anne!). Although I wasn’t able to find a familiar face at Dial this time, I stopped by to say hello.

Connecting with other publishers. I made stops at a number of other booths that publish different kinds of materials for children and picked up some flyers and websites to look at later. Some were children’s magazines, which had sample magazines to take home and read to see what types of material that they publish. Another was the name and e-mail of an editor at a publishing company that publishes non-fiction.

Free books and samplers. Some publishers have advanced reading copies (ARCs) or uncorrected proofs to hand out to visitors. Some are autographed by the authors. There are also audio and dvd samplers. I had to keep reminding myself to be selective, and not to take more than I could carry! Among the several that I did bring home were an uncorrected sampler of IF YOU WERE A CHOCOLATE MUSTACHE by J. Patrick Lewis, and a chapter sampler from the book, STUBBY THE WAR DOG, autographed by the author Ann Bausum. Publishers Weekly and Book Links also had free copies of their publications to hand out.

Books to purchase and have personally autographed by the authors. This is something that’s hard for me to pass up, and I did get a couple books for my collection—WOOBY & PEEP BY Cynthea Liu, and STEAM TRAIN, DREAM TRAIN by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld, a follow up to GOODNIGHT, GOODNIGHT, CONSTRUCTION SITE.

Connecting and re-connecting with other authors. Though I live in Missouri now, I keep the ties to good friends from Indiana and Illinois. Karen Kulinski and I have been writing buddies for many years, and it was great to spend the day together traveling through the aisles. We met up with another member of our Indiana skype critique group, Sharon Waller Biggs, and had lunch with two wonderful authors from Illinois, Esther Hershenhorn and Carmella Martino. I got a peek at Esther’s new book coming out soon, TXTNG MAMA, TXTNG BABY at the Sleeping Bear booth. I was sorry to have missed Rebecca Kai Dotlich’s book signing later in the day, but did see Tracy Richardson from Indiana and got a signed copy of the ARC for her new book, THE FIELD.

…and more. Getting a taste of what’s coming in children’s books by browsing the books showcased by different publishers. Making new friends by asking questions at the booths, and standing in lines to have books autographed. New ideas that come from being around children’s books. Drawings for books and more. And always, bookmarks, catalogs, and promotional items like train whistles, and stress balls that look like apples, available for taking. And books for sale.

And I learned that Book Expo America (BEA) is schedule to return to Chicago in 2016. See you then, Chicago!  Read More 
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