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ALA Annual 2010: A Day in the Life

What with all the real life interactions and events going on during the American Library Association Annual Conference, it is remarkably easy to not blog. But that changes here and now, as I present a day in the life at ALA 2010. This is the just-words recap – if you’re looking for colorful moving images, check out my ALA 2010 video.

*Note* All times are wildly approximate. Pretty much all I know is that this stuff happened on the same day.

Sunday, June 26th, 2010

5:00am – Wake up. Dang, that’s early. I did this with the now-laughable goal of fine-tuning my portion of the Children’s and YA Literature Blogs session I would be presenting at 8:00am. Advice to readers – “fine-tuning” doesn’t occur at 5:00am.

7:00am – Hop on the shuttle to the convention center. Plenty of tote bags to be seen. I am among my people.

7:45am – I meet my co-presenters, Pam Coughlin (MotherReader) and Liz Burns (A Chair, a Fireplace & a Tea Cozy). Nice to meet them in 3D (or is real life 4D? I can never remember).

8:00am – Session begins. Pam and Liz are as advertised, folks. Witty, knowledgeable, passionate about books. I just hope I don’t spoil things.

8:50am – I’m on. My prepared jokes get some laughs and I’m feeling good. Yes, that’s right, I straight up delivered a few pre-written jokes to start things off. Should I be worried that it was the only truly rehearsed part of my talk? I’ll answer for you: yes. Click here to check out our presentation on Slideshare.

10:00am – Session over. Meet and greets commence. Some really nice folks in attendance, including librarian and Reading Rants! blogger Jen Hubert Swan and author Katie Davis. Great to meet them both. Jen’s got great hair. I also had the pleasure of chatting with The Strange Case of Origami Yoda author Tom Angleberger. He handed me what is, I am convinced, the world’s best business card – a hand-made origami Yoda with his contact info on the back. You can see it in the video I posted yesterday.

11:00am – I hit the exhibits. This is where all the library-related companies set up booths to show their wares. I make a beeline for the publisher area to check out the new and upcoming books. This is fun – authors and illustrators abound.

11:10am – I walk past a booth and see Mo Willems signing, so I join the line to get his latest Time to Sleep, Sheep the Sheep for my 7 month old daughter. Never talked to the man before, so I let him know that Cat the Cat, Who is That? has magical laugh-inducing powers over my daughter.

11:30am – Wait, is that Children’s Lit Ambassador Katherine Paterson strolling around? Yes it is. Cool to see.

11:40am – Mo Willems is checking out the exhibits, cracking jokes, messing with authors doing signings – he’s having a good time.

12:10pm – I run into author Mitali Perkins, at the Charlesbridge booth. She was posting pictures of attendees holding books they were excited about. Click here to take a look.

12:30am – Since I hear that bran muffins are best consumed while sitting on the floor in an unoccupied section of convention center carpet, I give it a shot. That muffin would not have been as good standing up.

12:50pm – Back to exhibits.

1:05pm – Jon Scieszka is signing, I get in line. Should I tell him that he once commented on my blog after I created a cartoon featuring him? My “that would make you seem weird” sensor begins wailing. Instead we discuss how kids are getting into books that combine online elements with text, as his latest book, Spaceheadz does.

1:40pm – I head to the ALSC Notable Books discussion. Besides the fact that this group discusses the best books of the year for all to hear, fellow Michigander and former Caldecott committee member Ed Spicer is taking part.

2:20pm – Man, I really don’t want to leave. This is great stuff. Listening to a group of children’s lit connoisseurs discuss the best books of 2010 is something I would highly recommend.

2:40pm – I head back to my hotel to get prepped for the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet. This is a complicated process involving blasting the hotel A/C and watching a few minutes of World Cup soccer.

5:30pm – Time to hit the Hilton. This being my first Newbery/Caldecott Banquet, what follows is the “pretending to know what I’m doing” phase of the day.

6:15pm – Mingling time. It’s cool to see how everyone just kinda hangs out and chats: authors, editors, librarians, publishing folks.

6:30pm – Folks start finding their seats. I’m soon discover that I’m sitting next to Adrienne of the wonderful blog What Adrienne Thinks About That. She’s a great gal and we get along swimmingly.

6:32pm – At each place setting is the banquet program and a CD containing the Newbery and Caldecott winner speeches. The program is a thing of beauty based on Caldecott winner The Lion & the Mouse. Beautiful.

7:15pm – Dinner is served. I recommend the flan.

7:45pm – Mingling continues. I stop by the Random House table to say hi to school librarian and one half of Bookends blog (along with Lynn Rutan). She introduces me to Caldecott-winning illustrator Paul O. Zelinsky, who created his own bow-tie out of cedar and had the fabric of his vest printed with artwork he created. This is a guy who attends the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet in style.

7:50pm – I meet school librarian and Welcome to My Tweendom blogger Stacy Dillon. We talk book spine poetry, a project which she did with her 4th grade students.

8:00pm – The theme of the day? Mo Willems is everywhere. Not only is he in attendance, but he’s mentioned during Jerry Pinkney’s introduction. ALSC president Thom Barthelmess relays that Mo told Mr. Pinkney that since The Lion & the Mouse was wordless, he should give a wordless acceptance speech. This gets one of the biggest laughs of the night.

8:25pm – Aww, yeah. Jerry Pinkney takes the podium.

8:28pm – I shall never tire of listening the stories authors and illustrators tell about getting “The Call” (when they are informed that they won a Newbery/Caldecott). Mr. Pinkney’s story get a lot of laughs as he talks about waiting for the person on the phone to say the word “honor”, since he has won a number of Caldecott honors, but never the big award before this year.

8:40pm – Thanks given, inspiration delivered, a winner of a speech from Jerry Pinkney.

8:50pm – Newbery is up next. When You Reach Me author Rebecca Stead hits the mic.

9:00pm – Stead explains her discomfort at having the Happy Birthday Song sung to her. That is an awkward moment, isn’t it?

9:06pm – As writers are prone to do, Ms. Stead gets creative. She decides to deliver 4 small speeches as opposed to one big one. I’m guessing that, like her book, these will all tie together nicely at the end.

9:17pm – Indeed they do. And with some emotion.

9:20pm – As Ms. Stead finishes her speech, someone in the crowd starts singing Happy Birthday. Another big laugh.

9:35pm – Adding fuel to my “Mo Willems is everywhere” observation, the video of his book, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus is shown as the receiving line is organized. Jon Scieszka is the voice of the bus driver. Well done.

10:05pm – Time to head out. Since my flight leaves at 7:00am the next day, I decide the receiving line is for another year and jump on the bus. A great day.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Travis,

    I have a video of the receiving line.

    You should have stayed for the Printz reception. Awesome.

    OH! OH! You should have stayed for the CSK Breakfast. Perhaps the best celebration of them all.

    Thanks for the kind words about Notables.

    I am heading to Holland for BBYA with Lynn and Cindy on Wednesday. Join us?

    • In 2011 I’ll have to hit everything you mentioned. I think I’ll be able to meet up on Wed. – we can do some ALA debriefing.