First off, I got way busy, and slacked off in letting people know about the last few Comics Are Open Source columns -- so here's links to all of them:
We're back from ALA! It was a long, long trip, but really worth it. We had a ton of fun both at the conference and in DC, but we're glad to be back home again. Click on any thumbnail to view a larger picture -- you can advance through the whole slideshow at once or just view them one at a time.
We left early last Thursday morning, with the car loaded at least 250 lbs past her carrying capacity... but even with the AC running, Silverbean still managed an awesome 45mpg average. Go Biodiesel! Our route took us along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, where we saw lots of cool stuff like these windmills. We also passed through Irwin, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh, so I had to snap a picture.
Once inside DC, we checked in, unloaded, then ran out to meet up with my cousin Joan, who introduced us to the wonder of Kramerbooks, a 24-hour bookstore with a restaurant attached. The food was great, and since Joan was buying, I sent her home with a copy of George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones. I predict a new Westeros fan by year's end.
Friday we got in to the exhibitor's hall and got set up pretty quickly, so we headed out to get in a little sightseeing before the show. The Exhibition Center is right smack downtown, just a few blocks from the White House and the Mall, so we just walked on down to see what museums were open. Our first stop was the National Aquarium, which is kind of a dump, compared to the beauty of Shedd and New England -- it's in the basement of the Department of Commerce, for crying out loud. Half the exhibits were down for repair or renovation, but the ones that were open were pretty interesting; Paul got to see his very first real live octopus. Every time he'd been to an aquarium as a kid, the octopus was always out having babies, or in an isolation tank, or dead. Though we weren't allowed to take pictures of it for some reason, the pretty orange guy really put on a show for Paul, climbing all over the glass and showing off his arms. Gorgeous. Paul also liked the Nautili in the next tank.
After the Aquarium, we passed the Washington Monument and headed over to the Museum of Natural History to look at the dinosaur bones. I was all inspired after I'd recently re-read JimO's books on Paleontologists and dinosaur artist Charles Knight, so I was really excited to see such a wonderful, exhaustive exhibit. This really made up for the disappointment of the Aquarium. They also had some really wonderful gemstone exhibits, and we got to see the Hope Diamond, along with some really incredible examples of minerals from around the world.
Much to our sadness, the Bug Zoo was closed, but the Mammal exhibit provided some coolness. They had a huge glass case of stuffed bats, which I gleefully photographed for Duskie reference. I really wish I could find an hourlong PBS video of fruitbats... I've looked and can't find any. There were lemurs and pangolins and wildebeasts and all sorts of amazing taxidermy. On the way out of the exhibit, just below the vaulted ceiling, on the left, there's a tiger mounted in a ferocious leap, and on the right hang a manatee and a dolphin of some variety. Seen from below, it looks like the tiger's making a grab for a really big fish.
JimO's flight had been rescheduled, so we met up with him after the museum and ate dinner, then ran out to a YALSA party, where I nearly died. See, I got to meet and shake hands with Sherman Alexie. At the end of the audio version of his book, Indian Killer(which is awesome, by the way, and which he reads himself) there's a brief interview and Q & A Session in which he states his frustration with white authors who incorporate Native American characters into their books and then claim to be trying to benefit Native American culture. If you want to help Native American culture, he says, donate to a Native American scholarship fund. I took this challenge pretty seriously, and though my new book doesn't have Native Americans in it, it does have Romani characters -- so when I was talking with the scholar who gave me the specifics for my Romani characters, I made sure to get the name of an aid fund that he recommended, and made a donation before the book even saw publication. I hope to do the same for each reprint. So anyway -- I mentioned this to Mr. Alexie, and told him that his message was actually getting out. He was very gracious and kind, and we swapped business cards. And then I went into a corner and swooned. Swooned, I tell you. Sherman Alexie, you're so dreamy. And you're totally my hero.
Saturday was the first day of the convention, and what a day it was! ALA's website says that there were over 28,000 attendants, and I'd believe it. We got put next to the guys from Unshelved who were really nice and kind and great boothneighbors. They also gave us all sorts of awesome schwag, including copies of their books and Library Raid teeshirts. I love Unshelved (It's on my Livejournal feed) so this was a real treat. They were also such a big hit, and so well known, that it gave us an immediate locator when we were hobnobbing elsewhere: "Where's your booth?" "Oh, we're right next to the Unshelved guys."
The other really awesome thing was that we were like rockstars. The Graphic Novel pavilion was crazy busy the whole time, and we almost never had a lull of longer than a half-hour. People were constantly stopping by to talk or look, and I handed out something like 1300 free copies of the preview book, and 80 copies of the first two books ("You're the Graphic Novel Buyer for the entire San Francisco Library System? Here, have free books from everyone!"). Between handing out promos to reviewers and influential librarians, I figure I saved myself at least a few hundred bucks in postage alone. It was a terrific feeling to always be busy and to have such an accepting, excited audience. It was a very, very positive atmosphere, and each day I left exhausted, but pumped for the next day, which was a good thing because boy, were the days long.
I also got to meet some really awesome writers and illustrators -- James Gurney was signing free Dinotopia lithographs right across the aisle from us. Talk about luck! Jim and I immediately jumped in line for those, lemme tell ya. While I was speaking withJackie Urbanovic, a really kind and enthusiastic illustrator, JimO was leading this really good-looking, sharp-dressed guy into the booth. As the "guy" leaned forward to check out Jim's books, the name-tag turned sideways, and Holy Moses if Alison Bechdel wasn't standing in our booth. I gasped audibly and then had to apologise to Jackie, who laughed at my reaction and said "Oh, I know Alison from back in Minnesota! Isn't she the best?" I had to excuse myself then as Paul and I fell all over ourselves gushing at her and thrusting our books in her direction. Wow.
Let's see. I know I'm forgetting a bunch of cool stuff. Oh! Right! John Bintz came by to say hey and dropped off a copy of his new self-published book. Go John! Mark Smylie stopped over to deliver hugs and advice on printing in color. Cousin Joan showed up, and we sent her through the stacks hunting for freebies. She scored some good schwag from the DC booth, and then ran off looking for other cool stuff to see. Carla showed up late on Saturday, with a husband, two kids and a propellerhead (hey, Shawn!) in tow. We nattered a bit, then they walked around some, and then I absconded with her to go to Sherman Alexie's signing and we both ga-gaaed over him like a pair of schoolgirls, handing him copies of our books and telling him how much he rocks. 'Cause he does. I also found the Coolest. Purses. EVER. (Lisa Jonte, you are hereby ordered to look at this link, 'cause you will DIE WITH THE AWESOME. Yes, she had a Pride and Prejudice one), and though I couldn't afford one, I'm going to try my hand at making one.
On Sunday, John Scalzi was signing at the Tor Booth, and I dropped off my business card with our booth number on it -- and then he dropped by to say hi, which was really awesome. I had to confess that I hadn't actually read his books yet (though I do own Old Man's War and it's tops on my to-be-read list) but that I was a dedicated Whatever reader. We chatted a bit and then he had to run off to lunch. I was way geeked.
Sara Ryan was there, too -- she's a friend of Jim's, so we grabbed her on Monday night and headed out for really amazing Japanese/Mexican fusion food in Chinatown. We also saw the Chinatown Hooters, and a storefront that proclaimed itself a "Kung Fu Gift Shop". This was odd, but Sara showed us a photograph that she and Steve had taken of a shop's neon sign advertising "Martial Arts / Marital Aids / Stun Guns". Jim suggested adding "Restraining Order" to the list somewhere, but I thought "Notary Public" would make it a more well-rounded business.
Tuesday morning I actually got in to see Garrison Keillor give the closing address. His speech was really great, and the hundreds of librarians gathered there gave him a standing ovation when he finished. My family's been regular Prairie Home Companion listeners for literal decades now, so it was a really special added treat to an altogether awesome week.
There were a gajillion awesome librarians there, too -- not just authors. Tina Coleman and Stephen Raiteri and Shari Fesko and Dawn Rutherford and Kat Kan and Robin Brenner and Kalamazoo's own Kevin King and Laurel from New York (Mindy Fulk, check out the pix below for your secret message!) all stopped by to say hello. I know there are literally dozens of names I'm forgetting to add here, but it was all a whirl, so if I neglected you, email me and I'll add you to the list of shoutouts.
On Tuesday, the show finally closed in an orgy of book giveaways. We were not exempt from said giveaways, and I walked away with a whole bunch of cheap and/or free books! Awesome. Jim got on a plane for home, and Paul and I headed out for Carla and Mike's house, where we were very kindly put up and fed. We played with their two lovely kids, and Paul helped Carla set up her new book, and I got to read the whole rest of the first part of her current book, which I could hardly keep my hands off. It's wonderful, and y'all are gonna love it. We headed home first thing in the morning, to clear blue skies and an easy, traffic-free drive, thanks in large part to Mike McNeil's astute directions.
And now we're home, and now I'm done with my wrapup, because I've been at it for like three hours now. Here're some pix from before, during and after the show. They're kinda mixed together, so just page on through.