In Which I Change

ALA was a transformative experience.

How can I even explain it?
I went to dinner with seventeen lovely people, professionals in the children’s lit field, all of whom have read my book. As we ate, all around me, people were talking about the book. They were excited about the book. They loved the book. Is there any way to explain what this was like? How much do I love Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for throwing a dinner and inviting all the people who love my book and no one who hates it? I am so lucky to have had the experience of this dinner. I will never forget it. And I hope I’ll get the chance to meet everyone again and talk more — what an awesome, funny, interesting group of people (and no, I’m not just saying that because they like my dumb book)! Thank you, everyone who was there!
And then, next morning, the signing. Oh my goodness! I kept reminding myself of the examples of the Dalai Lama and my father (who reminds me a little of the Dalai Lama, except he doesn’t have a muppet voice or wear orange robes), to slow myself down and be more attentive and focus on the moment and not become overwhelmed. I mean, it’s not like there was a mile-long line, or anything, or even a twenty-foot line, but the fact is, as it turns out, any sort of line is a little overwhelming. A line of two is overwhelming, because one of the people is patiently waiting, and you feel some responsibility for their wait. My editor, Kathy, sat with me the whole time, collected people’s names for me, and kept my head from spinning off. We were both wearing Graceling tattoos, hee hee. Mine didn’t fare well on the plane, but it still shows a little.
I know I’m just telling you the stuff that happened, and the stuff might not sound all that interesting. I don’t know how to get across what this weekend was like for me. Maybe it’d help if I explained that there was one moment when the promised tears were shed. It was right after I checked into my hotel and before any of the events. I decided to go for a walk and enjoy the sights of palm tree-lined streets and roller coasters (Anaheim, in case you forgot ^_^). As I walked, I kept noticing people carrying big orange bags. I followed the big orange bag people, suspecting that they were ALA participants, and suddenly found myself standing outside the Anaheim Convention Center, which is this year’s ALA site. The building was gargantuan. Inside were rows and rows of booths, for every publisher you can imagine; piles and piles of books; and a gazillion excited people wandering around. I went to take a look at the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt booths. An enormous banner with pictures of all the HMH book covers hung above the booths; there was mine, right up there where everyone could see.
I went back outside and sat on a bench and stared at the conference center and all the people, just sat there staring, for a really long time, feeling what it felt like to know that I’ve been to many book conferences, but this time, for the first time, I’m here as one of the writers. I’m really here. I did it. I did it.
I’m proud. And I’m not so scared anymore.
That was my weekend. :o)
Confidential to the Delta Airlines lady who yelled at me: Yes, I acknowledge that a backpack, a purse, a collapsible rolly-cart, a neck pillow, a sandwich, and a poster of Alan Rickman reading The Catcher in the Rye technically add up to one carry-on and five personal items. But honesty, come on. All of it fit under the stupid seat in front of me and I know you were just looking for an excuse to confiscate my Alan Rickman poster. Didn’t work, though, did it? Yeah, just try to get between me and my poster of Colonel Brandon.