Category: conferences

Texas Bound for the Texas Library Association

I’ll be heading off for Fort Worth the week after next, off to speak at the Texas Library Association’s annual conference. I’m excited for this for a number of reasons. First of all, there’s the obvious “getting a chance to talk to a bunch of librarians.” I might be a tad biased, but librarians are, on the whole, awesome. They’re well-read, open-minded, and fierce supporters of reading and learning. If the world were full of more librarians, it would be a better place.

But this is also going to be an in person conference, and that makes me happy for many other reasons. It’s a step back to how life “used to be.” (As an aside, I recognize that we’re never really going to go back to how things “used to be,” but the more I’ve thought about, the more I realize that’s always the case. The 80s were different than the 90s. The 2010s were different than the 2020s. There are some who long for the times when things were “better,” but so far, all I’ve seen is the selective memory of folks who focus on the things that were good and ignore the things that weren’t. When people say they want things to be how they “used to be,” they’re generally just expressing nostalgia. That said, the pandemic made things change drastically, quickly. And returning to at least some elements of how things were in 2019 and before is a welcome change.)

Where was I?

Oh yes. In person conferences. The Maine Library Association is having an in-person conference in May, and I’ll be going to that, as well. I’m considering going to ALA annual in DC. The thought of having all those book lovers in one place is pretty compelling.

For the TLA’s conference, I’m just going to be on one panel. It’s titled “Blast From the Past: YA Historical Fiction,” so it’s definitely right up my alley. If you’re in Texas April 25-28, and you’re near Fort Worth, and you’re a librarian, then come on down! I mean, technically you don’t have to be a librarian. It’ll be a fun booky conference any way you slice it, but a lot of the panels might not exactly be up your alley. “Partnering with Your Principal to Support the School Vision,” for example, or “Thinking of Changing Your Integrated Library System?”

See what you’re missing out on? Maybe you should enroll in a library studies program. Just sayin’ . . .


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Conferencing Once Again

I’m heading out to Sunday River this weekend again. Time for another Maine Library Association annual conference. This will be the largest one I’ve ever attended. I’m not sure how big they were back in the 80s and 90s (I’d always heard stories MLA was really booming back then), but we’re at 205 total attendees right now, and that’s well above where we’ve been lately. For reference, in 2014 (the first conference I had anything to do with planning), we just had 143, and that was held in conjunction with the Maine School Library Association.

So it’s great to see the conference doing so well.

I’m looking forward to it. I’ll be seeing people from across the state that I know. Going to panels about librarianship. Cory Doctorow is one of the keynote speakers, and I always enjoy hearing him talk.

Of course, this also means I’ll be away from the office for a few days, so I’m hoping my email stays fairly tame in my absence. (I swear. If I could somehow wave a magic wand and have the world stop emailing me for a few days, it would be lovely. But that never seems to happen.)

A side note: why is it life always seems to be either too fast or too slow? I don’t remember many times when I think to myself, “This is just right. I just want things to keep going like this for the next ever.” Instead, I’m constantly either desperately thrashing around, trying to keep my head above water, or I’m bemoaning how each day seems the same as the last, wanting something to mix things up a bit. Is that just me?

Just call me Goldilocks.

In any case, I’ll be out of commission for the next while. Not sure I’ll have time to blog on Monday or Tuesday. Try to get by in my absence, and I’ll see you on the flip side!

Maine Library Association Annual Conference

Another MLA annual conference is in the record books, and I for one am very glad to have emerged from the other side. I go to a fair number of conferences each year, but I only actually take part in running one. This one. And it’s made me appreciate how much work goes into a successful conference. There’s a ton of moving parts, and staying on top of all of them can be dizzying.

This year’s conference was a great success, I think. We had a record turnout (183, which was 60 more than we had last year). We were at a new location (Sunday River, a ski resort in western Maine), and everyone seemed to like the new digs a lot. (With the exception of temperature, which was kind of toasty the first day.) The keynotes were a great success, we had a large variety of programming, the food was great, and we had plenty of exhibitors on hand to show off their latest and greatest to attendees.

What all goes into a conference? Tons. Weekly meetings that stretch back to February. Discussions about what to have for a theme, what kind of programming tracks to have, who to invite as keynotes, when to have it, where to have it, what to eat, what to charge, how to promote it, how to lay out the program, what kind of freebies to offer.

Each and every decision needs to be weighed and deliberated and ultimately made. You’re going to make some good decisions and some bad decisions. Would I have changed anything about this year’s conference? Sure. I would have asked Sunday River to have a coat rack on hand, for one thing. That seems like a little thing, but when lots of people are asking the same thing, it all can add up.

There are other things I’d tweak as well, but overall, I’m really pleased with the whole thing. (And I’m *really* pleased that it’s over.) At this point, I’m looking forward to doing other things for a while and taking a break from all those decisions and plans.

A huge thanks to all who took part in the planning, but also to all who came. We can plan all we want, but if no one shows up, then what in the world was the use of it all? And thanks to all who presented. That can be tough to do, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience doing it. Really, from the beginning to the end, the conference was lovely. Here are a few highlights:

  • Playing a rousing game of Battlestar Galactica in the foyer of the conference wing. The humans (my side) lost, but we made a valiant effort. And we got to be poked fun at by the state librarian, who I really think was just jealous that he hadn’t thought of board gaming in the foyer first.
  • Dan Wells’ talk on dystopias will stay with me for a while, especially his observation that we live in a dystopia and have for years. We just don’t think of it all the time because we live in District One (to reference Hunger Games)
  • David Lankes’ talk on information vs. data. vs. knowledge was also thought provoking and challenging. Just what I want from a great librarian keynote.
  • Working throughout the weekend with some of my best work friends ever. I spend a lot of time with my presidency and MLA comrades in arms, and even though it’s stressful, I really don’t think I could be with a better group to help me get through it. We work hard, but we have fun.
  • Waking up at 4:45am to take Dan Wells to the airport was a reminder to me that humans aren’t supposed to wake up at 4:45. For anything. They’re certainly not supposed to function for an entire conference day the whole day after doing that. Apologies to anyone I said anything stupid to yesterday. I was not in my right mind.
  • Reminding myself just how much I don’t like eating too much sugar. It’s about all that got me through the conference, but I’m paying the price now. Just in time for Disney food coming up . . .

There’s a ton of things I could rattle off, but I’m behind at work and need to cut things off here. Thanks again to everyone, and I look forward to doing it all again(!) a year from now.

Salt Lake Comic Con Review

I’m back from my trip to Salt Lake Comic Con, and I’m here to give you all the juicy details. Well, not really. There’s nothing too juicy, but it was a very fun event. I’ve never been to a convention that big (100,000+ people), and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Now that I’ve attended, I’ve seen the main difference is the showroom floor, which was absolutely mobbed, both with vendors and with attendees. I’m not a personal huge fan of big crowds, so a few hours of that was all I could take, but it was interesting sitting up in the green room watching everyone mill around.

The paneling was much like paneling I’ve done elsewhere, however. Similar room sizes and similar crowds. (No, they didn’t hold my event in the basketball arena, even though I said that many people might show up.) What did I present on?

  • Writing for Children: Middle Grade and picture books were covered on this panel, with some solid questions from the audience. We talked about how to break into the field, and we gave some interesting anecdotes of experiences we’d had so far. (I discussed selling MEMORY THIEF twice.) It was a good panel.
  • Writing for Young Adults: This one focused a lot on the nuts and bolts of what makes YA different from other genres, as opposed to getting into how to actually write it. One idea that surprised me on the panel was that YA was under attack somehow. That the genre could be overtaken by outside forces. This is the first I’ve heard of the worry, and I have to admit to being skeptical. The justification given was that a lot of the people who read YA aren’t actually young adults, and so young adults might have their own interests trumped by adults who are YA fans. I hear this, and I fail really get worried about it, however. YA is YA because of an evolving set of expectations from the genre. If it morphs into something actual teens don’t read, then something new will come along to cater to that hole. The market will fix that. People are very good at making money. If there’s an audience, then I have complete faith that someone will find a way to shake them down for loose change.
  • Plotting a Story: This one took me by surprise. It ended up being more a caricature of plotting than anything really serious. The audience would shout out suggestions, and the panelists were expected to turn those suggestions into something like a plot. Far too goofy for me, and I worried a bit that some would walk away thinking that was actually how plotting happens. I don’t know. I just wasn’t feeling it. I tried my best to goof along with the rest, but . . . I don’t think I’ll be volunteering for another panel like that. It’s not who I am.
  • Signing: Adaptive had sent a box of ARCs for me to give away for free, and it was amusing seeing how many people were really skeptical about the “free” part. (I made a little sign to announce the fact, because so many people were just walking by without even looking at me.) I don’t blame them. That floor was jam packed with people who wanted to sell you anything and everything, and everyone had an angle. Lots of things were overpriced. So to have someone with an actual book and he was giving it away? But after I assured them that yes, it was free, and no, I wasn’t just talking about my autograph, they were overjoyed. I could easily have given away hundreds of ARCs. I was also surprised by how many people there had never had an author sign a book for them. They were confused when I’d ask if they wanted it personalized or not. Many just said “whatever,” in hopes this strange man would stop asking them strange questions. Funny.

In between all of that I had some great German food, visited with family, watched BYU beat Arizona in a last minute nail biter, and played some board games. The definition of a successful Utah trip. Best of all, the trip out and back was pretty much smooth sailing. No delays. No lost luggage. No nothing. Sure, it was a redeye flight, but I even managed to sleep on the plane! Bonus.

Now, alas, I have too much work at my job to do, so I’ll have to cut this short. Thanks to all of you who I got to see in Utah, and to the Con for inviting me out. Hopefully I can come again sometime.


Salt Lake Comic Con!


With all my vacations and running around, I realized yesterday that I still haven’t officially announced on the blog that I’ll be presenting at Salt Lake Comic Con. NEXT WEEK! That’s right, woodchuck-chuckers, next Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, you can come on out to hear me speak, and I’ll even have some copies of THE MEMORY THIEF to hand out. Free!

What am I going to be speaking about?

  • Thursday at 1pm in room 255F, I’ll be on a panel discussing Writing for Teens.
  • Friday at 2pm in room 150G, I’ll be on a panel discussing Writing for Children.
  • Friday at 5pm in booth 1807, I’ll be doing a signing, and I should have my copies of MEMORY THIEF with me then. I’ll try to bring some copies of VODNIK with me as well, if you’d like to pick some of those up.
  • Saturday at 1pm in room 253A, I’ll be part of the “Build a Story: Professional Authors Create a Story from Scratch” activity, which sounds fun.

Other than that, I’ll be wandering around aimlessly, checking out the cool sights and seeing if I can’t score some sweet swag for the fam. Want to hang and play a board game or three? Let me know on here, Facebook, or Twitter, and I’ll see what I can do.

Hoping to see some of you there!

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