Monday, 3 February 2014

And Suddenly I Was in Philadelphia

I've known ALA Midwinter was going to be happening in Philadelphia for probably a year, give or take some months. But I'd always been like "Nah, not gonna happen." Then as January started, I began thinking, you know, maybe. It's not expensive - $30 for bus tickets, $35 for entry - and doesn't really come this close to New York very often. And the trip was pretty short too. 

Thursday before ALA started, as I walked with some friends who were going, I declared that No, I wouldn't go. I had enough books and didn't need to spend the money.

Then I got home and decided if I got enough work done around the apartment and on a freelance project, I could go.

Then I got up Friday, realized pretty much none of that work was happening, and bought my bus ticket down, deciding I'd go for Saturday.
NYC at sunrise through a very dirty bus window

By time I went to bed, I had a ticket down, suitcase ready, and a change of clothes/pajamas/other necessities in case I decided to stay the night and go Sunday too.

After a long night of stressing, trying to buy my ticket to ALA online, then having my card rejected many times, and more anxiety, and then three hours of sleep, I got up at 5 am to eat, finish packing, and head to the Javitz, which was about where my bus was doing pick ups to leave at 7:15. Of course, my subway took 15 minutes to arrive, so I had no time to grab a little extra food and something to drink for the ride.

Book sorting!
Two very restless hours later, I'd read about 40 pages of a book and pulled into Philly. I kind of navigated the subway system and began switching from "I'm on a trip" mode to conference mode. This included sitting on a bench in the subway, emptying somethings out of my almost-entirely empty rolling suit case, and throwing in some things from my travel tote. I was finally able to get to a CVS near the convention center for a giant ass water bottle and some pretzels, found my way to the convention center, got myself registered, checked my bag, and was on the floor by 10:30.

My most exciting finds of day 1

I had like five different people I wanted to find, so of course the first person I accidentally found was a publicist I'm friends with. I eventually found my friends and then some more of my friends and then some more of my friends. I stayed until almost 5, so I basically spent 6.5 hours walking in circles and sometimes sitting.

But seriously. Amazing.
I crashed with some blogger friends and we sorted books and ate pizza (Gaby, Jen, Jeremy, Jeffrey...we are going back for more pizza, right?). It was basically the best pizza I've ever had. It was almost as fun as actually walking the floor itself, and it got bonus points for the lack of moving.

We were up bright and early the next morning to get to the floor. We only brought two rolling suitcases to enforce limits on ourselves, and got some breakfast. We were there early, but a lot of librarians were going straight in since they had Important Librarian Stuff to do. There were maybe 30 of us standing by the doors by time 9 o'clock came around. 

Did I mention it snowed Saturday?
And it was more of the same. We walked in circles, talking to publicists and other bloggers and librarians. I actually took a lunch break this day since it was a lot slower and went to the Reading Terminal Market. It basically has every food on the planet, so of course I got beef stew and salad. I also got to eat one of Jen's famous cupcakes and OMG guys they live up to the type. But really, why isn't there something like this near Javitz? Why isn't there ANY food that's not from a cart near Javitz? Step up your game, Javitz. Step. Up. Your. Game.

Anyway, I returned to the floor and circled a bit, then got my number for the Rainbow Rowell signing. They had finished copies of Eleanor and Park as well as Fangirl, so you could get one or the other signed as long as you had a number. You didn't even HAVE to stay in line, but many of us did because we got to sit for like 45 minutes. They ended up starting the signing early, which was nice, and I got a copy of Fangirl signed for myself to match my signed ARC. I also ended up getting a copy of Fangirl for Christmas from my parents, and since my roommate also loves Fangirl, I can give her that copy and now we don't have to continue randomly petting the ARC from time to time.
Philly through a dirty window. Equal opportunity, here.

We circled the floor a couple more times, but my bus was at 6 and I had to go back to the hotel, pack up, get a cab, and get to the bus station by like 5:45, so me, Jen, and Gaby left at 4:30. I didn't even get to say good bye to some people (I misssssss you and your awesome hair, Valerie!). 

I did a super quick repacking and was ready to go by 5, sat around for 10 minutes, then went downstairs for a cab, got to the bus station, and boarded my very, very crowded bus. I got back to New York around 8, hopped on a subway (which was kind of a terrible idea because I had to pull this rolling suitcase down two flights of stairs), and was home before 9. I went through the bag with my roommate and she has already put 5 on her desk to read.

I'm writing this on Thursday, and it's the first off day I've had. Since getting back, I started classes, which are now Mondays from 11-6 and Wednesdays from 11-9. I have gaps, in which I usually eat lunch, try to do some assistant-y stuff and try to do some editing stuff and sometimes try to watch Veronica Mars. Then, I don't remember if I've mentioned this, but I'm an intern at a publishing house this semester, and I do that on Tuesdays and sometimes Fridays. So, it's been constant work and being social and I spent a lot of today sleeping and not talking to people and eating food that's bad for me.

This is also basically all of the pictures I took while at ALA. There's one picture I took when consulting someone for directions, one other picture of the terminal, and a bunch of other NYC/Philly skyline photos I took in like 10 seconds. I was just too busy having fun to take any pictures or video inside of the convention center and I never take pictures with other people.

Honestly, I loved ALAMW more than BEA. There were less bloggers/authors for me to see, but it was so calm and laid back. There was a lot of room to walk without bumping into anyone and a couple of times we just sat at a column and made camp, even though said column was in the middle of the floor. I had a ton of time to just talk to people. On Sunday alone, I had at least 3 conversations that lasted 5 or more minutes, one with a favorite author, Jacklyn Dolamore, and some with publicists. 

That was the other thing, I could actually talk to publicists and see what they were excited about. At Random House, we even got to talk to an editor about their titles, which was especially nice since I feel like I never hear about most Random House titles. There was plenty of time to just chat with people and take it easy and I got to meet people and see old friends and it was all so lovely and calm and quiet, even if I was still exhausted after.

Another reason I think I preferred ALA is that there was a chance for title discovery. ALA was a day shorter than BEA, yet I actually took home a couple of more books at ALA than I did at BEA. There weren't specific drop times where you had to stand in a line/crowd for twenty minutes in advance to have a chance at grabbing a copy. They would put out books gradually, as space opened up. If they had just put down a bunch and there were a number of people around, people would help pass books to you if they were closer to the table. There wasn't pushing or shoving or wondering if you'd just wasted half an hour. And a lot of the times, instead of waiting for a drop, I could ask if they had a title and usually if they had it, they were happy to give it to me. And if I was with a friend and a friend asked for a book, they'd usually bring out copies for however many people were in our groupage, and in many of those cases, I hadn't heard of the book before, but my friend and the publicist's interest sparked mine. And since there were so many books on display and publicists had time to chat, I learned about SO many new titles. In that most excited list from day 1, I hadn't heard about two of them before, but saw them and had the chance to ask about them. 

That's one of my favorite things about conferences, discovering new books. And having so much time to actually do that made every bit of spending money and sleeping on a floor worth it.

I didn't get a picture of all the books I got since...I never saw them all together. Even when I packed to go home, three got in my tote bag in case I could read on the bus. I did compile a shelf on goodreads, though I feel like it might be missing one, and I have no idea what that one is. Maybe I passed it on to someone else before leaving? Maybe I miscounted? WHO KNOWS. And as a heads up, since so many of my NYC friends were at ALA and able to grab the same books, this could mean contests if I can't find a school/library to get them to. And probably on my twitter since I'm too lazy for full blog contests (link in the sidebar).

So, yeah, that was my ALAMW. I still love and will go to BEA, and I've been told this wasn't the norm (ALA Annual is apparently much bigger and someone else told me this ALAMW seemed quieter), but ALAMW, lemme know when you're back in the area, mmk? I'll be there.


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