To kick off my two week vacation/hiatus, I attended ALA Annual this year, hosted in San Francisco the last week of June. I heard about ALA at the beginning of the year when my lovely friend Kay @ It’s A Book Life posted about attending ALA Midwinter, and on a whim looked up where the next one would be (never expecting it to be near me because a majority of bookish events seem to not happen on the West Coast). To my surprise and delight, I learned that in June ALA’s annual conference would be held in San Francisco, driving distance away from me! I immediately bought an exhibit hall pass and waited anxiously for the weekend to arrive.
I was lucky enough to have my boyfriend agree to attend, and we prepared accordingly. We brought a suitcase to keep at coat check so that our arms wouldn’t get too tired, along with a few durable shoulder bags (including one from ALA Midwinter courtesy of his co-worker, as his work always sends people to ALA, so it was perfect that he was able to come with me!) I knew from reading other bloggers’ BEA posts that scheduling your time accordingly for galley drops and author signings was a must, but the schedule of author signings didn’t come out until just a few days before the event, and many of the galley drops were random and not posted in advance. We thus spent the evening before crafting a plan to maximize our time, see the authors and speakers we wanted to see, and fit in downtime, all plugged in neatly to an excel spreadsheet. Armed with a schedule, we were ready for our first ALA experience.
Since our passes were for the exhibit hall only, our first day attending was Saturday. We woke up at 4:30am (we didn’t get any sleep, just a glorified nap) in order to get ready and leave for San Francisco before 6am, which is an hour away from Max’s house with no traffic. (Can I just say driving into the city that early on a weekend morning is beautiful and quiet?) Our goal was to be at the Moscone convention center before 7:30am, when check in started. Unfortunately we arrived earlier than the Moscone center parking lot opened, and there were tons of street closures due to Pride Weekend. We eventually parked in the 5th and Mission garage where we often park when venturing in the city for other events, and walked about 2 blocks to the Moscone center. Luckily check in was efficient and quick, and we got our official badges in no time, and then headed to coat check and then to stand in line to wait for the exhibit hall doors to open. The exhibit hall was split between two giant rooms across the street from each other and connected by an underground concourse, so we had to decide what room we wanted to start in when they both opened at 9am. We opted to wait in line for the exhibit hall featuring HarperCollins and Penguin, and much to my surprise found some familiar faces in line! We ended up right behind Arlene and Crystal from WinterHaven Books, which was amazing since we had met Arlene in line the first morning of YALLWEST back in April. It was so fun to see fellow bloggers and we spent some time chatting about titles we were excited for and how they were liking San Francisco, and they were generous enough to give us some tips as they had attended ALA before.
The second the doors to the exhibit hall opened everyone flooded in, kicking off a crazy whirlwind weekend. My first priority was the Dumplin’ signing with Julie Murphy, and then I circled over to Random House and chatted with the sweetest representative who was seriously committed to giving me recommendations when I asked her for heavier YA contemporaries, suggesting the popular Everything, Everything but also the grittier Placebo Junkies. She was also kind enough to procure me a copy of These Shallow Graves, which I’m thrilled to read after being such a big fan of Jennifer Donnelly’s Revolution. The rest of the morning followed much of the same pattern, chatting with publicists and editors who were almost all SO incredibly kind and thrilled to chat with me about books and recommend their favorites. I was lucky enough to find copies of Soundless at Penguin and Firewalker at Macmillan (my most anticipated ARC!). Editors and publicists really stood out and went above in beyond in enthusiasm and kindness toward bloggers were Simon & Schuster and Entangled Teen, who were warm, welcoming, and both pitched wonderful titles to me that I may not have heard about otherwise, such as Violent Ends and Forget Tomorrow.
Toward the afternoon my energy started flagging due to only having had 3 hours of sleep and having already gone through all of my snacks (I refused to pay the ridiculous prices for the food there). I was starting to get lightheaded when I found a booth giving out FREE ICE CREAM. Fully revived after the sugar rush, I got in line for an author signing for The School for Good and Evil, a middle-grade series I’ve been dying to try for months now. After the signing I rallied and got in line for Six of Crows, easily the busiest line of the day! Leigh Bardugo was so funny and approachable and the book is amazing! We also saw our friend Christine from I Heart Big Books in line, another pleasant surprise as well also met her at YALLWEST!
Right after that signing we left, preparing ourselves for the hour-plus (because of traffic) drive home. We were totally and completely exhausted! I don’t have a pedometer but I can assure you we did A TON of walking (me in wedges, as usual, because FASHION).
Sunday found us slightly less sleep deprived and feeling as though we slept in (waking up at 6am as opposed to 4:30am) as we arrived at the exhibit hall around 8:30am, waiting for doors to open at 9am again. We were more relaxed Sunday, with a scheduled lunch break thanks to Max running to a local restaurant and getting food while I stood in line for my most anticipated signing of the day, Hotel Ruby by Suzanne Young. My other favorite finds of the day were First & Then thanks to Macmillan, and A Thousand Nights courtesy of Disney/Hyperion.
After lunch there were several signings I was super excited for, including meeting Jandy Nelson who wrote the Printz Award winning I’ll Give You the Sun. She was so so sweet and was excited to chat with us about the areas of California we were from, as her novel takes place in the Santa Cruz area. I rounded out the day with some finished copies of books I had been wanting to read desperately, and then it was off to drive to San Mateo where I was meeting my family to catch a flight to Washington DC the next morning. Sadly, this meant I couldn’t attend Day 3 of the exhibit, but Saturday and Sunday were quite an experience themselves! Also, it was particularly heart-wrenching to be ripped away from my precious books so soon after receiving them, and I literally didn’t see them again until over a week later after my vacation. It was truly a whilrwind 2 weeks of Home-Max’s-SF-DC-SF-Max’s-Home again. Stressful? Slightly. Worth it? Completely.
Attending ALA was SUCH an amazing experience, and I know it’s probably the only chance I’ll have until it cycles back to California again (which doesn’t look like anytime soon, since I heard Orlando and Chicago are the stops for the next two years). I do regret not taking more pictures. It was such an invaluable way to make connections, network, meet authors, and hear about books that I may not have otherwise.
Since I was so lucky to attend and acquire so many marvelous ARCs, I’m going to be doing a few giveaways over the next few months in order to pass along the titles I love! To celebrate ALA, I’m giving away a signed copy of Six of Crows to one lucky winner! (Must be 18 or older, US only, winner must respond within 48 hours or a new winner will be chosen. Also, please please please no cheating. I check EVERY entry).
Questions about the event? Planning on going next year? Let me know in the comments!