had the honor of attending ALA
convention (the American Library Association) last month in New
Orleans. It was amazing and overwhelming. And, yes, it was my first
major publishing convention. I really didn’t know what to expect. So,
let me start from the air.
I don’t like flying in
airplanes, so I was pretty proud of myself as I boarded the plane with
my rolling carry-on . . . until disaster struck. My bag broke. Right
there in the aisle, as everyone was scrambling to get their bags into
the overhead, I was stuck, holding up the line trying to get the handle
to go down. People were complaining. I was sweating and panicking. I
jammed the handle down, tossed my bag into the bin, and sat down in
shame. The unfortunate thing is that my bag is now totally broken. And
I lugged it through two airports.
But that was okay. I was in New
I arrived at my gorgeous hotel
in the French Quarter right on the Mississippi River, which, by the
way, is huge. But they couldn’t find my reservation that had been made
several weeks ago by my publisher. Yikes. Fortunately, that got
straightened out. They found me a room in their “full to capacity
hotel.” Man! What a room. What a view—of the Harrah’s Casino down
below. No, I’m serious. It was so pretty at night. Imagine the Greek
Parthenon in neon. That evening I enjoyed dinner and dessert and
wonderful fellowship with Zondervan authors and staff.
The next morning, after a
meeting with two other awesome Abingdon authors, Christa Allan and Judy
Christa, and our publicist, Julie, I made my way to the convention
center. Let me tell you, the New Orleans convention center is like an
aircraft carrier—huge, a city unto itself. It covers eleven blocks and
has 1.1 million square feet of exhibit space. I read they were
expecting 70,000 attendees that week. No, I didn’t sign 70,000 books.
But I got to sign quite a few. It was a pleasure to sign books for
librarians and teachers, and I got filled up inside when they told me
they wanted to place my book in their little hometown libraries or
school libraries. I gathered books and posters and bookmarks and pens.
I met with my editors and marketers and other writer friends. In short,
I had a blast at the convention that first day. Librarians rock!
Saturday night we went out to
find dinner. I had been told to get some beignets (whatever they are).
So, after walking several blocks we settled on a lovely place across
the street from the convention center. I ate a delicious shrimp po’boy.
I enjoyed conversation with my editor, marketer, and fellow Zondervan
author and buddy Jonathan Freisen. He’s a blast and an awesome kid’s
writer. Then it was back to the hotel. And no beignets. Just weariness.
Oh, and let me tell you, it’s
hot in New Orleans. Philadelphia is miserable in the summer, but I
think Louisiana was even worse. Even muggier with air you can wear. And
speaking of air, I think that’s why the smells around the city were so
intense. No kidding. You walk down the street in the French Quarter and
you can smell the luscious aromas of food cooking and then take two
more steps and get smacked in the face by the smell of fermenting
garbage. But you know, even that was charming.
I was in colorful New Orleans!
Unlike most cities I’ve visited, New Orleans’s buildings are playful
and colorful—just like her people. Pink buildings with green doors,
lots and lots of wrought iron and hanging baskets of trailing flowers
of some kind. I heard jazz on
saw the French Market and
the mighty Mississippi. The people were fun and happy and truly glad to
see us for the most part. I am told the ALA convention was the first to
back to the city after Katrina.
And speaking of which, it was
still possible to see remnants of the devastation as we traveled
around. Buildings remain tattooed with the poignant X symbol and
numbers indicating the number of dead and the number of survivors. I
saw buildings slated for demolition and others that had been rebuilt
and brought back to their original New Orleans glory.
Sunday morning it was back to
the convention center where I signed more books, my children’s book
this time. I loved that also. It was a rush every time a librarian
asked me to sign it to “An Amazing Reader,” because it was going to be
given as a prize. Wow!
By the time I got back to the
airport Sunday, I was pretty well drained and exhausted but ever so
full and honored to have been invited. Amazed to see all those
librarians and teachers and authors. It was a total blast. I’d do it
again. The only problem, besides the broken suitcase, was that I never
did get a beignet. Oh well, what I did get out of the trip was far
tastier. So thank you librarians, thank you publishers, and thank you
convention organizers for making my dreams a bit more real.