This year, I had the pleasure of attending ALA Annual in Chicago, IL with my writing critique group. There are 15/16 of us total in the CP group, 12 of us you might be familiar with on Writer’s Block Party. Anyway, of the 14/15 (minus me since I’m not counting myself here), I met 7 of them in person for the first time at ALA. That’s HALF of my critique partner group… so to say that this experience was surreal is a huge understatement.
We were there to support our CPs, Axie Oh (Rebel Seoul releases September 15, 2017 from Tu Books – Goodreads) and Amanda Foody (Daughter of the Burning City releases July 25, 2017 from Harlequin Teen – Goodreads). Axie had her first signing at ALA while Amanda had her first panel. Both were super exciting and I cannot wait for their books to be on shelves at a bookstore near you because you will want to pick both up and read them asap! Below are some photos from Axie’s signing and check out Kat’s ALA video diary for footage of Amanda’s panel! Also, we ran into a reader of Writer’s Block Party! Hey, Alex! Thanks for reading our blog!
Yay! I am so proud of Axie and Amanda and this is just the beginning for my wonderful CP group. Now let’s take a look at some awesome photos of us, including that time we ran into Gerard Way from My Chemical Romance promoting his graphic novel, Doom Patrol, Volume 1: Brick by Brick. Also, special appearance by the wonderful, Claribel Ortega. Thanks, Claribel for making my ALA rock! (I did attend a really amazing writers meetup before ALA officially kicked off but the photos aren’t great, so I’m passing on posting those.) I’m also throwing in photos of myself at The Bean! I’ve got family in Chicago (my mother was born in Chicago), so I met up with a cousin and she took me to The Bean! Thanks, Shelli! <3
Back to ALA happenings. While at ALA, it was so great to be able to see my friend, Katherine Locke whose novel, The Girl With the Red Ballon is absolutely phenomenal. I read an early draft of this book and I cannot wait to read a finished copy this fall and add it to my library. I also met Renée Watson, author of Piecing Me Together. I fangirled over her and her dedication to preserving the legacy of Langston Hughes. It was a moment I’ll never forget.
I was also able to snag some books while at ALA! The highlights? Of course, Axie’s book! Then, while I already own the audiobook for Scythe, Neal Shusterman was at ALA signing physical copies so I made sure to get on that as he’s one of my favorite authors. Eric Smith has an amazing anthology, Welcome Home, about adoption releasing soon so I also made sure to get an ARC of that beauty. Speaking of beauty… The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton was the only ARC that I went out of my way to get and words can’t describe how I feel having this book in my possession. Yes, it’s a privilege to have ARCs and all of that but it’s not even about that here. It’s so much more than that.
Can I just say that as a black female writer, as a POC writer, this year is the first year in going to conferences and conventions and whatnot that the majority of books – including books by the Big 5 – I’ve picked up have been by POC authors. I’ve been going to these kinds of events all of my life and this is the first year that I’ve seen such a HUGE push for books by people who look like me. I can’t describe what this validation feels like but to hold it in my hands…I needed this. And for me, the weight of all of that was felt with this ARC in particular. So, yeah, The Belles was the ARC that I just had to get and and my, will I ever cherish this.
Finally, a wonderful surprise, I managed to snag Here We Are Now by an under the radar gem of an author, Jasmine Warga. Definitely check her work out if you have yet to! Here’s the rundown to add these books to your TBR!
The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (Add it to Goodreads)
Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson (Add it to Goodreads)
Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga (Add it to Goodreads)
Welcome Home Edited by Eric Smith (Add it to Goodreads)
Scythe by Neal Shusterman (Add it to Goodreads)
During ALA, my group was able to conduct a few writing sessions, at which point I hammered out a synopsis for a new WIP which was intended for Camp NaNoWriMo – shout out to the Storytellers Cabin and 88 Cups of Tea – but as July began, I started rewriting a different manuscript…so I’m not quite sure when I’ll get to my new WIP but it’s coming along. Anyway, here are writers at work/play.
ALA ended with a very special appearance by the one and only Hillary Rodham Clinton. The room was packed, as one is when Hillary Rodham Clinton is scheduled to speak anywhere. I still cannot believe I was in the same room as her. And to be in this room with her full of women, it was such a great feeling. On so many levels, this was so, so special and I am so grateful to have had this experience.
My group chose to close out ALA with a final dinner and a viewing of Hamilton. As one does. I feel like I keep saying this, but I can’t stress enough how special these moments are and sharing them with my CP group. There’s nothing like it. I’ve seen a lot of shows but this show with these women, it makes for one of my top five theatre moments.
So that’s how ALA went down for me! I am so lucky to have been able to go to support my writers and with that, I cannot stress enough how important it is to find your tribe in this community. Now go head on over to Writer’s Block Party and see what else we’ve got for. : )