My husband channeled Mario Andretti as we raced to the venue. Soon, the McCormick Convention Center towered before us. Sun struck the glass building sending light cascading in all directions. We found the parking garage and continued driving until we reached floor five.
Stepping inside, we were amazed at how spacious the facility was. We raced up the escalator and made a mad dash for the registration table. Once we had obtained our badges, we were on the run once again to fin the Independent Book Publishers Association booth. Much to my dismay, we arrived at 9:40 a.m. and someone else was sitting in my seat happily signing copies of her book.
I was completely heartbroken. I introduced myself to Lee, one of the IBPA staff members. He immediately calmed my nerves by instructing me to take several deep breathes. I explained the situation and Lee was quick to re-schedule my book signing at 3:00 p.m. that same day. I was beyond grateful for his patience, understanding and most importantly, his help. After telling me to take a few more deep breathes, Lee told me to enjoy the conference and he would see me at 2:45 p.m.
My husband and I did not even know where to start. Booths lined the entire interior of the conference center. Fellow conference attendees raced from one side to the other, most carrying backpacks. I soon found out why.
Many of the booths were giving away advanced reader copies of books that will be released this fall. In a mere fifteen minutes, we already had five books in hand. Thankfully, several of the publishing companies were also giving away free tote bags.
I did my best to take it all in. My brain was definitely on overload. Big name publishing houses such as Disney, Scholastic, Penguin and Harper Collins had massive displays. Lines quickly formed wherever an author signing was being held.
In the back of the convention center was Artist's Row. Wizards of the Coast was present representing the importance of gaming via their Magic the Gathering card game. I was beyond honored to meet Andy Runton, the creator of Owly, an enchanting series of both picture and comic style books. He was so down to earth and we quickly bonded over our love of rescue animals.
We then dined at the convention center food court located upstairs. It was truly amazing to look out over the balcony and view the sea of people wandering throughout. I also enjoyed getting to listen to librarians from across the country discussing important issues regarding children's literacy initiatives.
Feeling re-energized after lunch, we jumped right back into the fray. We were about to pass a small booth on the left when something caught my eye. There was a copy of one of my favorite children's books of all time: Skippyjon Jones! That is when I noticed the sign stating that Judy Schachner was going to be signing books that day at 3:00 p.m.
Uh-oh. My book signing was at 3:00 p.m. What could I do? I did not want to miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. My wonderful, fabulous husband had a solution. He would wait in line and get her autograph while I attended my book signing.
Her publishing representatives could not have been nicer. Matt was going to be the first person in line. They asked us if we really thought Judy would attract that much attention and I answered with a resounding, "OH, YES!" These amazing ladies even offered us the option of leaving our cart (filled with copies of my children's book, Priceless Penny) at their booth as a place holder in line so that we did not have to keep lugging it around!
Matt refused to leave his post. He knew how important getting Judy's autograph was to me. I decided to poke around the conference a bit more before signing time. As luck would have it, I unknowingly joined the line for one of my favorite authors/illustrators, Ashley Spires! She is such a sweet and caring person. We talked about our fur babies and I discovered that she actually fosters kittens!
I could have talked to Ashley for hours, but the time of my book signing was rapidly approaching. I hurriedly dropped off my new books with Matt, grabbed the cart and trundled my way to the IBPA booth. Things went much smoother this time. While waiting for the author before me to finish, some children walked up and began talking to me about my book. I loved getting to share Penny's story with them.
The book signing experience was surreal! I looked up to see that a line of people had actually formed for my book. I met so many wonderful librarians and their children. It was truly one of the greatest moments of my life.
Little did I know, my husband was just a few feet away recording the event. I am so blessed to be married to such a wonderful man! He even took some photos so that I could share them on my social media sites.
When my signing time came to an end, we decided to make one more lap around the conference before heading home. I am so very glad that we did! We ended up getting in line to meet even more authors and also got to re-connect with Ashley Spires! This time she was giving away copies of her books Edie's Ensembles and Over-Scheduled Andrew. I cannot wait to read them!
Even though the conference officially ended today, the hubs and I had to head back home since we both had to be at work. We accumulated a total of 37 new books with over half being autographed. Attending the ALA Conference was such a wonderful experience that we will definitely be going back next year!
To learn more about the ALA Conference, please visit: www.ala.org.