ALA 2018 and Launch Day!

What a week this has been.

I spent last weekend meeting booksellers and librarians from all over the U.S., who had joined together in New Orleans to attend the American Library Association’s Annual convention. I’ve been going to the Texas Library Association convention for years and am always amazed at how huge it is. But ALA is even bigger!

New Orleans!

New Orleans!

My ALA Annual began Friday evening at the Napoleon House in the French Quarter, where Simon & Schuster was hosting its Night of Novels. I was one of nine featured authors and completely in awe of the others on the lineup. With me were Andrew Smith, with his upcoming young adult book ROBOT & RABBIT, Deb Caletti with her new young adult novel A HEART IN A BODY IN THE WORLD, Alison McGhee with her young adult WHAT I LEAVE BEHIND, Sharon Draper with her middle-grade novel BLENDED, Neal Shusterman and his son Jarrod Shusterman with their co-written young adult DRY, and Patti Kim with her middle-grade novel I’M OK. (Before the event, I was sent the opening chapters of each book and after reading them, I’m so excited to get the final versions.)

The event began with me walking into the Napoleon House’s Pietro Room and seeing stacks of the hardcovers of my book, THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST, on a table waiting for me to sign. I had never seen so many copies of my novel as a hardcover, and I’ll fully admit it brought tears to my eyes in the best way. I wish I could’ve taken a picture, but the librarians were on their way and we wanted to be ready to greet them in style.

After I signed all the books, including my “Make your own courage!” tag line, they were put into bags along with the signed books of the other authors. Then we got to eat, drink and be merry with librarians until it was time to for our panel.

Simon & Schuster marketing guru Michelle Leo led us authors in some great Q&A, asking why we wrote for kids, what inspired us, and whether we preferred candy or ice cream. (My answer was chocolate, or course.) Then the authors were able to chat with the librarians more intimately, as we went from table to table answering their questions. I also gave out bookmarks, comfort squares and told them about the 2018 MG Scavenger Hunt, which could even yield a prize for their own library. They all seemed to like that idea. Simon & Schuster’s Night of Novels was a blast, and a favorite of Lisa Krok of American Libraries Magazine too.

The Night of Novels was over too quickly, but after that, I was whisked back to the Hilton Riverside, where I got to hear the incredibly touching and inspiring speeches of Printz Medal winner Nina LaCour, WE ARE OKAY, and the Honor recipients, Jason Reynolds for LONG WAY DOWN, Angie Thomas for THE HATE U GIVE, Laini Taylor for STRANGE THE DREAMER, and Deborah Heiligman for VINCENT AND THEO: THE VAN GOGH BROTHERS. They had me in tears.

Our author panel at Mid City Library New Orleans with (l. to r.) Kim Chance, M.K. England, Taryn Bashford, Don Zolidis, Tiffany Brownlee and me.

Our author panel at Mid City Library New Orleans with (l. to r.) Kim Chance, M.K. England, Taryn Bashford, Don Zolidis, Tiffany Brownlee and me. Photo courtesy Taryn Bashford

Saturday began with a signing of THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST at the Simon & Schuster booth in the morning. There was a huge line of waiting readers and we gave away all the copies except a couple S&S had reserved for their display.

That afternoon, I moderated a panel of Stopping the Summer Slide at the gorgeous Mid City Branch Library, along with young adult authors Taryn Bashford (THE HARPER EFFECT), Don Zolidis (THE SEVEN TORMENTS OF AMY AND CRAIG), Tiffany Brownlee (WRONG IN ALL THE RIGHT WAYS), M.K. England (THE DISASTERS), and Kim Chance (KEEPER).

After the panel, we sneaked off for gelato at Brocato and visited the amazing independent bookstore Tubby & Coo’s. Next time you’re in New Orleans, I highly recommend visiting them both. The gelato was so good, and as well as a great selection of books, Tubby & Coo’s has a painting of Wilbur and Charlotte with her web on their wall, flying keys hanging from the ceiling, and even a “No Muggles Allowed” cupboard under the stairs. (Check out the pictures below.) I also visited Octavia Books and the Garden District Bookstore while I was in New Orleans, although my phone died shortly after and I lost those photos. Still, these were wonderful stores as well.

Saturday night ended with Simon & Schuster’s Dessert get together for authors and librarians, then Sunday I met up with some author friends for lunch, then beignets at Cafe du Monde, then got dressed up and celebrated the Newbery and Caldecott winners at the awards banquet. Listening to Caldecott winner Matthew Cordell (WOLF IN THE SNOW), Newbery winner Erin Entrada Kelly (HELLO, UNIVERSE) and Children’s Literature Legacy Award recipient Jaqueline Woodson was an experience I will never forget.

Monday I flew back home and got ready for the most special day of all: Release day for THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST on Tuesday!

THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST in the Simon & Schuster lobby display case.

THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST in the Simon & Schuster lobby display case.

It’s hard to believe that this story, which I first wrote back in 2010, is now out from Simon & Schuster, but it is! And the day was amazing. First I found out my book had been chosen to be showcased in the children’s book display case in the lobby of the Simon & Schuster office in New York. Amazing! Next I met wonderful author Nikki Loftin and she surprised me with am incredible gift—a so so so soft blanket decorated with my book’s gorgeous cover illustration by Justin Hernandez! I love it. I’m going to keep it wrapped around me whenever I write from now on. (Check out the picture in the gallery below.)

Next I met author Bethany Hegedus at my local independent bookstore BookPeople so I could sign the pre-ordered copies so they could be mailed off, and Bethany took me out for a great lunch.

After that I met my husband at the Barnes & Noble Arboretum, where we spied copies of the book on the shelves and I signed them for the store’s manager.

This weekend, I’m ending an incredible week by speaking at the Writers League of Texas annual Agents & Editors Conference.

Two conferences, two cities, one book release and lots of bookstores. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend this week.

Here are some more pics…


What do you think?