Saturday, April 20, 2019

Texas Library Association Conference 2019

From 4/15-18/19, I was an honored guest and Featured Speaker at the legendary Texas Library Association Conference, this year held in Austin.

I was invited by the conference itself and not sent by one of my publishers, which means I was scheduled to speak but not scheduled to sign—and I didn’t realize this till a day after I got there. Therefore, it was too late to slot me in to sign books, which disappointed a number of attendees (not to mention myself). No matter—they can still get the books!

The night before the festivities began, I explored the neighborhood around my hotel, where I found three things that made me feel at home: a bar named for the chupacabra (a southern U.S./Central America thing), a bar named for bats (an Austin thing), and a donut shop—in particular, a grape-flavored donut. You rarely see grape desserts and never have I ever seen a grape donut.

Special points for naming the donut after a semi-forgotten Hanna-Barbera character.

On 4/15, strong winds stranded a number of guests in their respective airports/hometowns, one of whom was my pal Tom Angleberger. At 8:45 pm, I was recruited to pinch hit for Tom in an author vs. author game show starting at 9 p.m. hosted by a puppet. (You read that right. Again, this conference is legendary.) 

My team consisted of Chris Barton, Jo Whittemore, Andrew Smith, Stacy McAnulty, and myself. We competed against Jennifer Ziegler, Lesa Cline-Ransome, Carmen Oliver, Shelley Johannes, and Jeff Anderson. 

The three-part challenge started with Pictionary, for which I had to draw as many idioms as my team could guess in two minutes, followed by story-in-round, concluding with (hard!) literary trivia. Trivia is usually one of my things but almost all of these questions stumped me. (Who knew Neil Gaiman’s first book was about Duran Duran? Well, someone on the other team…)

We did win, but it was so close.

On 4/17 at 8:30 am (which seemed early to me but doesn’t faze librarians), I gave the first of my two featured talks, this one on Bill Finger. My second was scheduled for the next day, at 10:30 am, which was close to the end of the conference (and after the exhibit hall would be closed), so I feared few would show up. However, I had at least double the audience for a talk on Thirty Minutes Over Oregon; my angle to discuss the book was empathy, and that also described the crowd. They were very kind to me and my story.

At that talk, a woman who had attended my talk the day before gifted me a bat-themed thank you for an enjoyable presentation.

One night, with Tom Angleberger (who was able to fly in earlier that day), I visited one of the city’s bridges from which thousands of bats famously emerge nightly to the thrill of hundreds of onlookers.

Except that night, they didn’t. (Well, four did.)

I was under the impression that this happened without fail soon after sunset every evening, and the large crowd gathered there gave me no reason to think otherwise. 

Alas, now I have to try again, and I don’t know when I will be back. 

The other disappointment of TLA also had to do with something that flies. As I’ve been doing since Nerd Camp last summerI hid several fairies on site. (Rather they hid themselves.) Whoever found one and tweeted me a photo of it would win a copy of Fairy Spell

But no one did.

I may be disappointed but I am not surprised. 

Fairies are notoriously hide to find. And as Frances says in the book (i.e. in life), maybe it's too hot for them here...

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