Sunday, February 1, 2015

So, I'm in Chicago...

...attending ALA Midwinter. As usual, I've been running and running and not particularly organized. I'm not great about blogging while sitting in a session. I need to listen and watch. I'm going to try and reconstruct the highlights coherently.

I arrived Friday evening, couldn't find the shuttle service and opted for a taxi. My driver was a chatty guy and I didn't mind listening to him talk about his seven (!) kids - even when we came to nearly a complete stop in Friday night rush hour traffic INTO the city. That is, until he asked me what I do on Sundays. What? He wanted to know my relationship with God. Oh dear. I remained non-committal and listened to him expound with half an ear. Luckily, the traffic eased and I was soon at my hotel, the Hyatt McCormack. 

I figured I would stay at the convention center to save waiting for the shuttle in the Chicago cold. (Midwinter in Chicago?) Check-in went pretty quickly and I was able to register and zip over to the exhibits for a bit. I nabbed the last arc of the next Penderwicks book and procured Cynthia Lord's next novel, A Handful of Stars (Yay!).

I had two evening events that were happening at hotels uptown so I waited on the extremely long cab line with folks waiting to cab uptown for all their events. I thought the two parties were walking distance from each other but the cabbie said to take a cab and when the security guards at the first event couldn't really tell me with any certainty how to get there, I took a cab. Well. It was six blocks away. Sigh.

I had written the name of the hotel down but not the name of the room - just lobby level. When I asked the concierge where the party was, he said there was no such event and asked me if I was sure I had the right day. I was sure of the day because I had originally planned to work all day and take an evening flight but changed my mind when these invitations came and opted for an earlier flight. 

This is when I wish I had a Smartphone. I asked if he had a computer available for me to check my email. He did not. He let me try his, but email was blocked. I returned to my hotel. Sure enough, I was right but it was too late (and too expensive) to grab a cab and head back uptown. I really need to get a Smartphone.

I slept like a log for four hours, then woke hourly until 7:30. I tried to read the conference schedule in print and online. I find neither terribly user-friendly. I made a plan. I had an invitation to a Scholastic reception but couldn't find the email with the place and time, so the Scholastic booth was my first stop when the exhibits opened.

Sarah Weeks happened to be there and it was so lovely to meet her in person. 
Honey is one of my favorite mg novels of 2015 even though I read and reviewed it in December. Sarah kinda liked what I had to say about Honey and her newest picture book, Glamourpuss and blurbed me on her website along with heaps of praise from other review journals for these two swell books. I can't tell you what a thrill it was to see my words there. So, of course, this meeting was a fangirl moment. 

After selecting a few more arcs, I headed uptown to listen in during the Notable Recordings for a couple of hours. I have learned so much about listening from sitting in on these and the Amazing Audiobooks sessions over the last few years. I enjoy listening to the thoughtful comments on the committee members. I had read one or two of the books in the segment they were discussing. I wish I had the time to listen to them discuss the entire list.

Then I met Barb Langridge from She and I have been conference pals ever since we met at NCTE when it was in Boston. A few weeks ago, she had this brilliant idea to get a few of her reviewers together for lunch. It was fun to attach a face to names of reviewers who contribute to her site.

If you've never explored her website, please take a few moments and do so. It is truly a labor of love for her and something she funds herself. She is so articulate and warm and totally adores literature for children and those who read it as well as those who write it.

I ate entirely too much. I did not realize that it was restaurant week here in Chicago and opted for the three course lunch. I started with a delicious chopped (not really chopped) salad. And got full. This was followed by a yummy pulled pork sandwich, which I ate most of without the soft and delicious roll. Then there was the maple cheesecake topped with homemade whipped cream and caramelized pears to contend with. 

It's a good thing I walked to lunch and from lunch to the Hilton Chicago. The afternoon was devoted to listening in at the Amazing Audio discussion. 

I then walked back up to the Hyatt for the Scholastic art reception. I just love it when I get the chance to view original art from picture books. There was art from Glamourpuss (David Small) and Chasing Freedom (Michele Wood) and Ice Cream Summer (Peter Sis) and The Case for Loving (Sean Qualls). There were tasty finger foods to enjoy, people to meet and chat with. I finally got to meet Mr. Ed Spicer in person! The evening ended in an adjoining room to hear six authors perform reader's theaters of their upcoming novels. Then, of course, there was "the bag." That coveted, red Scholastic bag stuffed with goodies. Seven hard-covered books! I had already ordered copies of most of the titles, but that's okay. They will be popular enough in my library that the second copies will come in handy. Plus, I will have them for the dreaded "partnership reads." Honestly, my kids think I know which books I have doubles of and/ or think I have doubles of every book in the library!

I tried to recap the trip while sitting at the bar eating a salmon burger but got too sleepy. I hit the hay just before ten last night. I woke to find a text from United telling me that my flight out tomorrow is cancelled. This was sent at eleven last night. My only option for getting home tomorrow is to get on a flight to Omaha, lay over for a bunch of hours and fly into Newark at nine. Should be interesting. I have classes to teach on Tuesday morning.

It's snowing right now. Chicago is expecting 5 - 10" today. I'm glad I'm staying at the convention center today though I may venture out to the path by Lake Michigan for a look-see. Visibility out my hotel window is not great. 

Notable Books and BFYA (Best Fiction for Young Adults) discussions are on tap today. Oh, and a stop at the Post Office to mail my goodies home is on the agenda. I'd better keep a book or two out for the long layover. What are the odds I'll be spending Monday night in Omaha?

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