I've learned over the past season that traveling throws me off schedule and if I'm anything, it's a creature of habit. I have to get into a groove and any disruption takes several days to shake itself out. It's the same thing with writing -- if I take a day or more off from the book I forget what I've been doing... threads get dropped, storylines forgotten, little ideas lost. I had HUGE plans to keep writing through all the traveling but if there's anything else I know about myself, it's hard to hole up in a room and write when there's fun to be had (and for the record, I did write most days I was gone!).
Most recently (well, before Thanksgiving rather), I had the chance to attend NCTE and ALAN. First of all, I owe a massive thanks to C. Lee McKenzie, who was the point person for putting together a panel for NCTE that I got to participate in (you can read more about it here). Also on the panel were Cheryl Herbsman, Erin Dionne, Cynthea Liu and Kurtis Scaletta. We talked about the use of language, specifically dialect and misspellings and accents, in writing and it was fascinating. Everyone had such fantastic points -- I loved Cheryl talking about how readers assume her character is dumb because she speaks (as written) with a Southern accent and Kurtis discussed how he made his Liberian characters sound Liberian. The entire panel was just fascinating and eye opening.
As I mentioned in my speech, I was one of those students who always scoffed at the idea that authors paid attention or put that much thought into such tiny details. Being walked through the thought processes of these authors and the decisions they made with language and why just proves that a HUGE amount of thought goes into those choices!
I discussed how I came up with the words for zombies in my books which essentially meant creating a slang passed down over more than a century past an imagined event. I'm actually going to blog about it soon!
A few times I got to walk the floor at NCTE (basically stroll through the booths all the publishers set up) and naturally I was too busy oogling all the books to take pictures. I love books. LOVE books! So it was with a massive amount of strength that I was able to walk out of the conference rooms with armfulls of them (I had to carry my luggage home and I refuse to add significantly to my book collection until I buy more bookcases!). Sigh... I could have spent HOURS in that room with all those books...
This year was also my first time at ALAN and I fell in love. Essentially, the set up of the ALAN conference was two days of authors speaking... basically a new author every 10 minutes. I looked at the list of attendees and about died -- so many amazing authors! I couldn't believe when I saw my name next to theirs!
And the attendees for both NCTE and ALAN -- all booklovers! It's almost impossible to describe the energy that comes from being surrounded by so many people who not only love books, but live books and share books and spread the book love.
Of course, another big highlight was being able to see friends again and meet new ones. It's always sort of mindboggling to me to meet an author and know that I have every one of their books sitting on my shelves and I've looked up to them for years. I've been asked before why I wanted to be a writer and part of my answer is that growing up, authors were my rock stars and movie stars. Finding myself talking to them, grabbing lunch or sliding down the Jaguar Slide or sitting at the bar with them, is a massively surreal experience. Seriously, I've actually pinched myself several times.
|view from lunch|
Also, there were giraffes. And zebras. Not at my hotel but Ally Carter's. I couldn't get enough.
I flew home from Orlando incredibly pumped up. There are so many smart and engaged and enthusiastic librarians and teachers and professors out there and I'm thrilled for the students who get to interact with them on a daily basis. I also got reminded, once again, how lucky I am.
Sometimes I just entrench into my daily life of habits: writing, despairing over my to-do list, etc., and then there are the moments when I raise my head and realize: I can't believe this is my life. I can't believe how lucky I am. I get to live my dream and it's because of the amazing people I met at NCTE/ALAN and because of such wonderful readers like y'all.
So thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you!