This past weekend, I was at ALA annual conference in San Francisco. (Excuse my ugliness in that picture). It was absolutely wonderful, but the journey was not without speed bumps, most of them on the way up:
Traveling from San Diego to San Francisco
My grandmother and I were supposed to go up early on Saturday at 7:00 from Southwest, and then land in SFO an hour and a half later. When we arrived, our flight was cancelled. There was a very nice worker who helped us reschedule the flight at a time much sooner, a flight not SFO but Oakland across the bay. We booked it across the airport and made it just in time to board.
When we landed at the Oakland airport, we decided to take the Bart to San Fran. We got to the Bart station two minutes before the train we should take was going to arrive. Two. The next one would have been an hour later. Not that we realized that at first, we were too busy buying tickets and then my grandmother forgot her luggage and had to run back to get it. We pulled through the doors just as the Bart took off, and let me tell you, the Bart is actually wonderful. There is beautiful views and it’s very fast.
We almost missed our stop when it got to the closest street to our hotel, but we hopped out in the nick of time (because for this trip the only way we seemed to travel was in the nick of time). Then, carrying our four luggages (three were completely empty to carry pack books), we wheeled our way in circles as we struggled to find our way around the maze like city. We were three blocks away and it took us half an hour to find the Park Central hotel, using the Map app on my iPhone.
We dropped off our luggage, grabbed our backpacks, and made our way to Moscone north where ALA was – just two blocks away. Again, we were inadequate navigators and it took an inordinate amount of time to get there. But when we did, we purchased our $60 exhibit only passes and we entered the conference.
I was in shock as we first entered. It was absolutely huge and it was my first conference, and it was a book/sensory overload. I couldn’t close my jaw, I was so appalled, and every booth seemed to call to me to visit it. The posters! The decoration! The stairs, even!
The thing about ARCs at ALA is that they’ll usually have two to three different stacks of advanced copies out on the tables, but the rest you have to ask the attendants about, because they are hidden under the table or in a cabinet until the other stacks run out. The attendants were, for the most part, super friendly. They chatted about books they enjoyed and were content to dig under the table for a specific early release you would die without. They offered their publicity cards and recommended their favorite novels.
Looking at my schedule, I realized that Rae Carson was signing in a different exhibit building until 11, so we hurried on down to meet her. HarperCollins and Random House/Penguin had the biggest publisher’s booths there, so I took a second the soak in the splendor of books everywhere and got in line. I grabbed my ARC of Walk on Earth a Stranger and then waited for a couple minutes as her line moved surprisingly fast. I found that at ALA, the lines could range from no line to an hour and a half; it just depended on the author.
I walked around the exhibits for awhile more as our arms got more and more sore from the heavy book-filled tote bags we were, well, toting around. I knew there would be tons of books, but I didn’t realize so many of them were ones I was totally excited to read. The exhibits were all gorgeous.
I noticed some people in the exhibit hall carrying wagons for their books. I was a bit appalled by how many books they were pushing into it, there must have been at least a hundred for day two, and a little annoyed that you weren’t allowed to have wheeled things in the hall which was a rule they were so clearly breaking.
Eventually we went to eat lunch and drop off the books I had gotten so far at the hotel, then coming back to do the Book Buzz stage for Macmillan, Harper, and the other major publishers. They had iced tea and cookies and told us about their best new releases, which made me super excited to read Dumplin’. I grabbed an ARC after at the booth.
Then we waited in a super long line, probably the longest at the conference, to meet Leigh Bardugo and get a coveted ARC of Six of Crows. It took over an hour but we met her, and she was the friendliest, most down to Earth person ever.
On Sunday, after a ridiculously overpriced breakfast (that restaurant charged 20 dollars for slices of their “special sourdough”), we made our way back to ALA. It was my last day so I tried to make the most of it.
I met Jamie from Month9Books who I had originally known off Twitter, and she was super sweet. I also met about four other bloggers. It was amazing talking with people who know and understand your bookish obsession! The whole conference was full of people who loved books! It still amazes me!
I got Serpentine and The Scorpion Rules signed that day. I had absentmindedly shredded my post-it for the personalization, which I explained when I met Erin Bow. She shrugged, used my badge name to personalize, and said “now you can’t sell it on eBay”. She was funny. When I met Cindy Pon, we realized we had a mutual friend and that Pon lives in San Diego, so I’ll be going to her book launch party in September at the ever-amazing Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore.
At the conference, I also picked up books for friends. I know from experience that it can be frustrating seeing all the fun on Twitter and having to stay behind, so I tried to be generous, getting books for several friends and bloggers. I got Bridget from Dark Faerie Tales five that she had requested.
The day was over for me at around 1:00, because we had to catch our flight back. After packing the suitcases we took the hotel car to the airport where we learned that our flight was delayed until 8:15. I had left ALA early for nothing. There was a bunch of trouble because we had sent off our luggage minutes before we had realized, and the worker hadn’t told us about the delay, so they had to search to find the luggage before we could try to change the flight, which we did, and then we ended up leaving at 3:50 rather than 8:15- thank goodness.
I read Firewalker on the way home. It was amazing. It ended with a cliffhanger. I pulled all my hair out in anger.
Here are the books I am most excited about. Illuminae is a beast of a book. Not included in this stack are the books I almost missed but by some stroke of luck managed to find a couple minutes prior to leaving. The White Rose (The Jewel book 2!!) and Ice Like Fire (Snow Like Ashes book 2!!).
I think I must have smiled so wide my face split when I spotted Ten Thousand Pieces of You, so wide that I concerned the publishing rep when she removed the copy for me.
One thing I do wish about ALA was that I had stayed Monday when they gave out The Rose Society and all of the display books, including a copy of Splintered by A. G. Howard with Untamed‘s cover on it. On the other hand, I’ve heard it can be kind of a bloodbath as people fight for their most treasured copies, which a part of me thinks would be fun to watch.
ALA was an incredible experience that I will treasure for the rest of my life. I don’t think I’ll be able to go back for awhile, until it moves back to the West coast, so I’ll have to content myself with Comic Con in a couple weeks. Nevertheless, I would encourage anyone with the chance to go to take it, as it is something you do not want to miss.