Monday, November 23, 2015

NCTE Conference Post 2: Authors and Signings

There were an astounding number of great authors at this thing.  Some I was totally fan-girling about, some I'd never heard of, and some became far more appealing to me after hearing them speak on various topics.  

This group was amazing.  Left to right we have Pat Zietlow Miller, Matt de la Pena (hidden), A. S. King, Ellen Hopkins, Meg Medina, and E. E. Charlton-Trujillo.  That's some wow right there.  They were talking about reaching at-risk teens.  Charlton-Trujillo put all her stuff in storage and hit the road on a book tour to places most book tours wouldn't go to--breaking away from the big bookstores and going into small towns and detention centers and anywhere else she could think of where kids who might need books that reflect their reality would be more likely to be.  There is a documentary about this project (which I had to miss) that the other authors appeared in.  We saw snippets, and man, they are all such smart and compassionate people.  

Also, Charlton-Trujillo apparantly takes selfies all the time.  She took one with the author panel and another with the crowd, so I felt comfortable asking her for a picture too.  She is super funny and gregarious--I can see how kids would quickly trust her.  She was talking about how kids who are jerks are usually that way because of what's gone on with their lives.  "There's a story behind the story," she told us.  "Unless, you know, the kid is just evil."  Cracked me up.  Also, she pointed out that all kids want to be heard.  "Even the kid in the back with his hoodie up wants to be heard."   

 A. S. King also impressed the hell out of me.  I mean, her books have already done that, but she was great in person too.  In one of the film clips, she said something about how all schools have big "Bully-Free Zone" posters up when you come in.  "Bullshit!" she exclaimed.  Because of course there is bullying in schools, and putting up a poster saying there's not is a really pathetic way to counter it.  That one line doesn't make her sound spectacularly articulate, but she is.  And like Charlton-Trujillo it's easy to see that her characters have strong and believable teen voices because the authors have strong voices and a hip way with words themselves.  I told her afterwards that I had just started Glory O'Brien's History of the Future and was enjoying it, and she said that it made her feel more grounded to hear that, that at an event like this conference it was easy to forget who she was.

Sadly, I did not make it to either of their book signings.  I made it to many others, though!  Some were random--"Here, this author has written this book, take this free ARC and get it autographed!"  Others were somewhat more intentional, in that I at least knew whose line I was standing in.

Here are the books I got autographed the first day:

Not bad, right?



I was really pleased to meet Leila Sales.  Like A. S. King, she's a recent discovery for me, and after being impressed by the first two books I read, I moved her to my "must-read" list.  I told her as much, which she seemed to like, and when she found out I'd read her earlier work, Mostly Good Girls, she was a little surprised, and even happier.  She wanted to know where I'd found it (library).  It must be nice for authors when people read their non-buzzy books too.  I had her sign her new book for my class but This Song Will Save Your Life for me, because I loved it so.

Some authors seemed a little shy, which makes sense to me.  I'd almost expect even more of them to be shy, but there are plenty of introverts like me, who really do like people and talking, just...not all the time, and not with very many strangers and acquaintances.  Only one seemed unfriendly though, talking to her agent or publicist or whoever it was while she signed, not even making eye contact with us.  I won't name names because what the hell, she's just a person.

Sharon Draper was LOVELY.  Like taking time to talk to each person and make a little personal connection with them.  Like trying to draw our attention to her tablemate's books, which nobody was lining up for.  When I asked her to sign Out of my Mind (again for me, as my class already has two copies), she pointed out that the book is dedicated to her daughter Wendy, so now my name would be there twice.  So cute.

I have to say, my favorites were Matt de la Pena and Patrick Hess.  I bought copies of The Living and The Hunted for Matt to sign (I saw him on two panels as well, so I'm feeling the first name thing), and again, he was being SO KIND to each person in line.  I told him that Mexican Whiteboy pretty much sells itself to my students, and he told me that he finds that We Were Here is the one that kids really connect to.  So the next day I got a copy of that and brought it to him to sign.  He took note of my "first time" ribbon on my badge and talked with me about the conference, and told me that I should go to the ALAN conference sometime; that it's his favorite of the year.

He had some wise things to say at the panel discussions as well.  He told about being a group home supervisor, and how he could usually make a connection with kids, but every once in a while, there'd be a kid who was just an asshole, entirely unlikeable.  Then he'd read that kid's file, and go, "Oh--I can't believe they're even still alive."  I seriously JUST HAD that experience last week at school.  He's so right.  Unlike Crutcher, he is of the age I'd expect someone with such a great feel for how teens talk.  He comes across as somewhat diffident and gentle, but his writing is fearless, and he was clearly willing to take on hard topics.  So cool.

I knew I had to find Margaret Haddix for my students, and I knew I had to find Patrick Ness for myself.  He was signing at 9 am Saturday, so I got into line early to wait for the exhibit hall to open, and I was the first person to the booth he was signing at.  He and his person (I really don't know who that is that hangs out with the authors, but I assume it's a publicist or agent) were being friendly about my obvious enthusiasm, as nobody else had even made it there yet.  Books were all five dollars, so I scooped up the new editions of the Chaos Walking series plus two copies of Monster Calls.  I danced over to where he was sitting and...they didn't take credit cards.

They were both so worried about my obvious dismay that I probably could have gotten a free book out of them, if I were into scamming people for free books.  Instead, I headed off to the ATM, two flights up at with a $3.75 surcharge, the bastards.  There was a line by the time I got back, but I was recognized and welcomed in.  The line was nothing compared to what it should have been for one of the greatest living authors, dammit, so it was okay to talk with him a bit, tell him how much I loved Chaos Walking, how one of my students last year shared my enthusiasm and when I got More Than This, grabbed it off my desk and sat on my stool and read it steadily all class while I taught around her.  He saw I am from Oregon and told me he's from Puyallup, WA.  (Until a few weeks ago, I'd assumed he's British.)  He signed every single one of my books--the series is for me, and he wrote something different on each.

New camera issues.  I don't know where to look for photos.  Also, I thought it was distorting the pictures for some reason, then I realized that no, my face is just that wide now.  Sigh.  I AM EQUALLY WORTH OF SELF-RESPECT AND LOVE AT ANY SIZE.  Must keep reminding myself of that.

It was such a joy to meet these people, even briefly.  There are more I haven't even mentioned--Meg Medina was great, Jesse Andrews is freakin' hilarious, Jack Gantos looks nothing like what I would have imagined--and I got more books signed the next day that I don't have pictures of.

I will try to go in later and add links to the titles I've listed, but I want to get stuff posted while it's still fresh.


  1. OMG I lovelovelove Patrick Ness (as an author, and everything I know about him as a human being). Is he still living in Puyallup?! That's 20 minutes south of me!
    So happy you had a great time. That photo of you with Mr. Ness, you look like you're being mischievous with a sly look to the side. So it worked out.

    I love how all these authors have a real connection to teens and kids, in a way that I'd expect from teachers more so than from authors. How wonderful to have that authenticity!

  2. So glad you had such a great time! I haven't read Ness yet, but he's always so highly recommended - I know I need to!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction


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