If you had told me last year that I would be signing my book for a line of readers, I would have thought you were crazy. But that’s exactly what happened this weekend at ALA’s (American Library Association) conference in New Orleans. It was the wildest, most wonderful experience of my writing career so far, so I’m writing down all the details to remember every awesome moment.
So, a few weeks ago, I was asked by my publisher to sign books at ALA. I have to tell you—I LOVE LIBRARIES SO MUCH. So being in a room with a bunch of librarians was basically a dream come true in itself. Authors are great, yeah, but librarians are the real MVPs. Plus, New Orleans is one of my favorite cities ever, so I was so excited to go back.
My husband came with me to witness my first book signing, and I’m so happy he did. For moral support, yes, but also to hold all the free books I managed to score. ALA is a book lover’s dream, ya’ll. Even if you aren’t a librarian, I recommend going to an ALA conference if you love books. I spent most of my days just walking up and down the rows of books, feeling like I was in paradise.
But yes, back to details. We flew in on Friday from Buffalo to New Orleans. There’s one thing I hate to admit, but it’s true—I hate to fly. I don’t know if anyone actually likes it, but I’m not one of those people who can turn my brain off about being 30,000 feet above ground in a steel tube hurtling through the sky. Luckily, I brought Deb Caletti’s Essential Maps for the Lost and also watched most of Love, Simon on the plane. All planes should have movies. ALL OF THEM. (For people who hate flying, like me.)
We arrived in New Orleans (I practically kissed the ground), and I noticed two things right away. 1) There was a brass band playing in baggage claim (nice touch, ALA!) and 2) it was HOT. Being Irish, and from Buffalo, my ideal day is 65 degrees with a slight drizzle. New Orleans was 97 with a “real feel” of 105 and the air was like soup. Every breath was an effort, and I spent most of three days in that state just before “passing out” when your head feels floaty and the only part of your legs you can feel are the bug bites (heyyy, tropics!).
We ate gator, greens, and crab for dinner. If you haven’t tried gator, go to Cochon in NOLA and get their fried “gator tots” (that’s just my name for them. Inventive, eh?). We stopped by ALA to register and see the booth I’d be signing at. And that’s when I saw it—my hardcover book! It was more beautiful than I could ever imagine, and felt so real in my hands. So smooth. The colors were so vibrant. It was one of those moments when you just have to take a long breath and look around, and think, okay, this is all right. This is more than all right.
The next morning, the husband and I decided to trek to Café Dumond at 7am because it would “still be cool out.” This is NOT TRUE. It was so hot at 7am that I nearly fainted into my chair at the outdoor café, and was only revived by the grace of beignets and café au lait.
Then it was almost time for the signing! All morning, people stopped by to look at my books and I promised them a free signed copy if they came back at 11. Please come back! my eyes said.
Sure enough, as 11 came around, we had a line of people who wanted a signed copy. Of my book. And yeah, I know they were taking a bit of a gamble on me, a new author they’d never heard of. And yeah, I know they may have been there for the allure of a free book. But still. I was signing my name across glossy pages, and chatting with people, and it just felt amazing. Like I’d made it. We had given away all copies less than a half hour later! What a rush.
That afternoon, as I walked around and met some of my favorite YA authors—Kwame Alexander and Courtney Summers—and some debut authors I can’t wait to check out, I realized that I was part of the same team. We just want to create great books for kids and teens. And these librarians just wanted to give the kids and teens in their own lives amazing books. It was a beautiful thing to behold.
There was also a really creepy talking robot who somehow got me to open up about my childhood. And lots of people stopped to ask me about my dress, which had watercolor portraits of 96 female icons on it (bookofdeer.com). Pro tip for introverts like me: always wear something that starts a discussion for you.
That night, high on the writing life, the husband and I went to K. Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen and had a seafood dish so beautiful and tasty that I teared up. Literally. Though it may have been the awesomeness of the day, too. We sat by the river with about a hundred other people hoping to catch some kind of breeze and saw some music on Frenchman…and then called it a night. Living out your author fantasies is exhausting. I was in bed by ten. I’m crazy like that. My Uber driver didn’t want to take me back to the hotel so soon, saying I should go out and get crazy, but peer pressure is for suckers. And so I slept.
The next day, I got an advanced copy of A Room Away from the Wolves signed by Nova Ren Suma, and she’s just so nice. And so cool. And I just kinda want to be her. That was the PERFECT end to ALA for me!
My part in the conference had come to an end. The husband and I met up with a college friend and ate some West African food at Bennachin in the French Quarter. Too soon, it was time to head to the airport.
So, the short of it is, I had an amazing, life-changing time at ALA signing my debut novel, EVERY LITTLE BAD IDEA. And now I’m so excited for it to come out in August. I’m already planning my launch and can’t wait to share the book with everyone. Thanks for reading, ya’ll!