Category: conferences

Boston Bound: ALA Midwinter

I’m heading out on a bus today to Boston, where I’ll be attending the American Library Association’s Midwinter meeting. I’m going to try and have some posts go up while I’m there, but no promises, as I’m going to be fairly busy. There’s an all-day meeting tomorrow, several appointments, receptions, etc. I’ve been to ALA Annual twice before, but this will be my first midwinter. I’ve heard they’re sort of a different beast than the annual meetings, but we’ll see.

On my list? I’d love to attend the Newbery Award announcement in person. That would be a fun something to do, though I have no idea how many other people are going to be there. If it’s a huge, elbow to elbow affair, I’m not sure how much I’ll enjoy it. Anyone know?

In any case, if you’re going to be around Boston between now and Monday, and you’d like to get together, drop me a line. There are still a few holes in my schedule. When I’m not busy at panels or meetings, I’m going to be roaming the exhibitor space, looking for books for my kids.

Hope to see you there!

A Report Back on MLA

Another annual MLA conference is in the record books, and I wanted to take a moment to step back and take a look at how it went. This year was different than last year, primarily because MLA was flying solo this time around. (Last year’s conference was held jointly with the Maine Association of School Libraries.) While that meant a smaller turnout, it also streamlined the process of conference planning, letting us really get a handle on how it could be done most effectively. It was a ton of work, but I was very pleased with the outcome. Why? Let me elaborate:

  • Keynotes: I thought all three of our keynotes did a tremendous job. Jamie Ritter, State Librarian, started things off with some big concepts, challenging how libraries define themselves and what role we should play in our communities. Big picture stuff. Aspirational. Always good to have that in a conference: a chance to take a look at the whole forest instead of staying focused on those individual trees. From there, Andrew Medlar (President of the Association for Library Services for Children) discussed how important children are to the future, and what an important role libraries can play in their lives. Finally, Sari Feldman (President of the American Library Association) introduced the Libraries Transform campaign, a new initiative to help spread the word about what libraries really look like today. All three of them fit very nicely together.
  • Presentations: I went to a slew of very well run presentations. I’m not sure if people who don’t go to conferences outside of Maine realize just how strong these were. I’ve gone to plenty of national-level conferences, and I learned just as much at this local conference as I did at those. Sometimes more. There was a variety of topics, including using data to tell a story, starting an RPG group in your library, reorganizing district consultants, and getting free galleys. All of it packed with useful information that can impact your library tomorrow. Great stuff!
  • Attendees: So much of the success of MLA Annual rests on the people who show up. It’s a chance for librarians of all types to mix together, and I was really encouraged to see that happen this time. Quite a few academics came out this year, and that’s a trend I really hope continues. Academic and Public librarians have different skill sets to offer, and different perspectives to provide. Together, I think that can accomplish so much more than they can independently.
  • Food: Once again, I ate far too much food. This might have something to do with my stress levels during the conference. It might also have something to do with the fact that they had killer strudel AND make-your-own-trailmix. (In other news, I personally think I have a bright future in the world of trailmix design. Is that an up and coming job market?) I also had the chance to try out new restaurants. Timber (in the lobby of the Marriott) had a great burger, and The Fiddlehead made me wish I hadn’t eaten so much the whole weekend, so that I could have properly appreciated a divine pork tenderloing. Mmm . . . Pork . ..
  • Hotel: Can I just say that the Residence Inn in Bangor was pretty much awesome? I was super impressed. The rooms were spacious, the bed guaranteed a good night sleep (or maybe that’s just how exhausted I was), and the free breakfast was spot on. A big upgrade from the Hollywood Slots where I stayed ┬álast time.
  • Media coverage: We got on TV! Better yet, it wasn’t just about the conference, it was about how important libraries are, and how they need support. MLA exists to do just that: bring attention to libraries and help them succeed. Getting that message out to as many eyeballs as possible is important. Television helps do that.

Then again, I’m no doubt biased. But I have to end this post by taking a minute to publicly thank my three partners-in-crime for the conference: Nissa Flanagan, Alisia Revitt, and Jenna Davis. Doing something like this takes a lot of work, and I can’t imagine a better team to work with through it all. It’s not often you have a group where everyone’s willing and ready to pitch in, but somehow we have one right now. Each of us has different strengths and weaknesses. (My personal one is the dreaded “Calling People on the Phone,” something no one else in the group seems to suffer from, thankfully.)

Working with them made the conference seem more like an extended party than real “work.” (Though don’t get me wrong: there was plenty of work involved in this too.)

In any case, time to give a big exhale of relief. Thanks again to everyone who came and everyone who pitched in to make it awesome.

Maine Library Association Annual Conference

Hello, Bangor! I’ve been here for the past two days as the Maine Library Association holds its annual conference. Astute fans will note that I did the same thing last year at the same time. Last year a lot of stuff was happening throughout that year with my full time job, which made it hard to really devote as much attention to organizing the conference as I needed.

Not this year!

So this year has been much more hectic and crazy, and I will be one happy Bryce by the time I’m looking at Bangor in my rearview mirror. Helping to organize and run a conference like this helps me appreciate all the work and effort that goes into making a larger scale event successful. There’s just a ton of behind-the-scenes work that has to happen, and almost all of it is done by volunteers. I can’t imagine the work that has to go into a Comic Con or a World Con. My hats go off to all those fine people.

Still, I’ve been sort of running around all over the place for the past few days. The ALA President came to town, there’s been dinners to attend, presentations to work on. Crazy crazy.

Wish me luck. If anyone wants to see me or say hi, you’ll know where to find me. I’m the one with the beard long enough that people are starting to comment on its length. (“When are you going to trim that?” they ask. “When I have time,” I answer. It might not be until December folks. But at least birds will have a place to keep warm in the meantime.) And sorry I don’t have more time to blog at the moment . . .

Adventures in Manchester

I go to these conferences all over the country, and I typically like to get out of the hotel for at least a little bit. Go and see the city a tad. Get a feel for the place. That’s how I’ve seen things like the Mark Twain home and Wrigley Field. Manchester, NH isn’t exactly Chicago, but I wanted to get out of the hotel for an evening, anyway.

But what to do?

I wanted to eat someplace fun, so I found a Hungarian restaurant that had good reviews. It was supposed to close at 5, and it wasn’t far from the hotel at all, so I headed over at 4:30 yesterday. Got there at 4:40 to discover they’d already shut for the day. (When I asked why, the older gentleman behind the counter said, “People don’t come here after 4:30.” I debated arguing that point with him, but decided it wasn’t worth the effort. I went back this morning to pick up some goodies for Denisa.)

Since I’d struck out on that effort, I decided to try something a bit more geeky. I had the evening, and I was actually feeling like a walk, so I went to explore a comics/game store about a half hour away. The weather was lovely. The walk? A little sketchier than I had anticipated. While the area around the hotel was just fine, I picked a route without contemplating the idea that there might be areas of Manchester where a guy in a suit jacket might stand out.

I’m not saying I was walking through any active crime scenes. But I’m not saying I wasn’t. Thankfully, my height and beard managed to dissuade any would-be muggers, and I emerged unscathed at my destination. Of course, then I was distracted by shiny games and a slew of MTG cards. I blinked, and I swear I lost an hour and a half somewhere.

When I came to and was making my purchase, I realized it was dark outside. “What’s the safest way to walk back to the Radisson?” I asked, expecting the guys there to laugh at my question and reassure me that nothing ever bad happens in Manchester.

Instead, I got: “Oh! That’s a really good question. I’m glad you asked.”

Apparently the exact worst way to walk back was the way I’d come. I got a better route and made it home in one piece. So maybe my spidey senses weren’t too off about my safety as I was headed to the store. Go figure.

In any case, a fun time was had by all, and it was great to be able to get a bit of exercise again. Yay for feeling better!

A Report on LTUE 2015

As you know, I just got back from another sci-fi/fantasy conference, this time to sunny Utah for LTUE (Life, the Universe and Everything). One question that kept coming up time and time again was “Why did you come all the way from Maine for this?” It’s a valid question. LTUE happens the same weekend as Boskone, a convention in Boston. Why am I flying all the way across the country when I could just drive down to Boston and go to a con there? They’re about the same size, on similar topics . . . and I hate flying. Seems like a no brainer, right?

Except there are a couple of outside elements that factor into the equation. Number one, I lived in Utah for 9 years, and I have a slew of family and friends out there I like to see and get together with. True, Boskone usually attracts a few of my writer friends (and my agent), and that’s cool, but nowhere near the number of contacts I have in Utah. So being able to travel for business and see all those cool people is definitely a perk. Not only that, my writerly connections in Utah are way more robust than they are in Boskone. (Of course, this is in large part due to the fact that I spent a lot of time in writerly circles in Utah, and I haven’t taken the time to do the same in New England. Time constraints are a bummer.)

Second up is the fact that since I have so many friends and family in Utah, I have free places to stay and people who will give me rides. This means that although I have to pay for a plane ticket out to Utah, everything else is just about free. For Boskone, I’d have to foot the bill for a hotel for 2-3 nights, which is about the cost of an airplane ticket. All told, I break even when comparing the two conferences. Next year, I hear one of my writer friends is coming out from Utah to Boston for Boskone, which means I’ll probably do Boskone instead–assuming I can get on some paneling, which should be in the cards. Then again, I was on 9 panels out at LTUE. One of the main reasons I do these things is so I can introduce myself to readers and let them know I exist. Just by eyeballing the room each time and making estimates, I presented to over 600 people at LTUE. That makes the trip very worthwhile, from that perspective. Not sure if Boskone could compete in that area, but then again, I also don’t have to worry about flying with Boskone . . .

So what did I present on?

  • Blogging for self-promotion–Nicely attended. This one was an area where I felt like I had plenty to say, mainly coming down to three essentials: only blog if it’s something you’re interested in doing, be yourself when you blog, and be consistent–it gets better and easier with practice.
  • How to create a language–I was moderating on this one, which was a relief. I have my linguistics undergrad to fall back on, but seeing as how one of the panelists was a linguistics professor at BYU, that undergrad gets trumped very quickly. Still, it was an interesting panel, and I think I kept things moving nicely as the moderator. I don’t personally do much from the language creation side of things, though I did have a chance to talk about how I used language in Vodnik, which was fun.
  • Collectible card games–I play Magic, and I play board games, but I don’t do much from the CCG side of things other than that. I had a bit to say on this one, but my main contribution was probably strong arming Dan Wells to come appear on the panel with me. He has way more experience, and said much more interesting things.
  • How to revise–Probably the best attended panel I did, with 150 or so people in the audience. Lucky for me, it was also one of the ones I had the most to say about. Revising can be a real pain, but it’s also very rewarding. Great audience questions, great panelists. I was really happy with this one.
  • When and how to query–This panel didn’t fire on all cylinders for me, possibly because I never queried as much as I probably should have. But I also never got the chance to give my best piece of advice when it comes to querying: approach it like you’d approach getting a job. Becoming an author and being an author is very much a business. If someone told me they were trying to get a job and were discouraged, but then also admitted they’d only applied to 10 places or so, I would question their approach. Spend time researching. Yes, it’s difficult, but it also pays off.
  • Board games–A very fun panel that I worried about ahead of time but which I really had a blast doing once we were in it. Lots of interesting discussion. Good times.
  • Movie adaptations–I moderated this one, and I feel like it went well. It pays to know a fair bit about what you’re moderating, and all those years of studying film adaptations certainly helped. Nice to be on another panel with Dave Wolverton, too. Got to catch up with him briefly before and after.
  • YA protagonists–fun to be on a panel with Janci Patterson, especially when it’s on a topic we both have plenty of opinions about.
  • Hard magic vs. soft magic–Another one I moderated, thankfully. My magic systems are about as squishy as they get.

In addition to that, I played plenty of board games, went out to lunch with interesting people, squeezed in an 11pm IHOP run, signed some bo0ks, played some Magic–all while seeing a slew of family members. When you consider the fact that all of my planes ran more or less on time, and I somehow avoided the major snowstorms that have been hitting New England time and time again, then there’s no other way to look at the trip as anything other than a huge success.

Thanks to everyone who came out to see me. I had a blast, and I hope to get out to Utah again in the not-too-distant future.

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