I just got back from the annual NCTE conference in Las Vegas and it feels like my brain was put in a tornado of awesome; there were so many amazing people around me, but I was also a bit overwhelmed by the whole experience. I saw friends old and new, met with my editor and other wonderful people from my publishing house AND did my first panel and trade show signing—that’s a lot of human interaction for this introvert.
But SO MANY amazing things went on this weekend that I never would have experienced if I’d let my introverted side win out and keep me at home. And believe me, my introverted side really likes to stay home, especially when going out means crowds and lots of constant noise (read: Las Vegas is insane and so not tailored to introverts).
The first session I sat in on in at the conference was about building reading communities (featuring Nerdy Book Club friends) and it really kicked off my theme for the weekend, which is that books bring us together and create and cement relationships. Nowhere was that more evident than in the exhibit hall, where people met authors and had their cherished books signed. And that counts just as much for those who stood in line to see R.J. Palacio or Libba Bray or those who walked up to me and told me they enjoyed my book and would love to have my signature (which still blows me away). I saw people squee about a desperately wanted ARC (I’m also guilty of this) and watched as friends greeted each other with hugs and the excited passing of books. Booktalks were overheard at every booth and my heart grew a little every time I captured the enthusiasm of teachers, authors and publishers as they discussed their favorites and new finds.
Lovers of books really are a community. And I’m proud to be a part of not only the whole, but the little subset of communities that exist within it.
The Class of 2k12 is one such community. I was able to meet my 2k12 sister, Corrine Jackson, which was great, since the group is spread out over North America (and I’m the lone Canadian in the bunch), so connecting with even one person who has shared this journey was a highlight.*
KidLit Cares is another, new community that came together very quickly after Superstorm Sandy swept up the east coast, bringing devastation to communities in New York and New Jersey last month. Kate Messner quickly reacted by putting charity auctions together to raise money for the Red Cross and I am honored to have taken over the cause for Round 2 (auctions are still open through November 28 and contain many amazing items/services donated by authors, agents, editors and other publishing industry friends. Please spread the word!). I had the opportunity to meet Kate for the first time at NCTE and it was a big highlight of my weekend to sit beside her at dinner and just chat. About the auctions, books, publishing and the minutiae of everyday life—the kind of stuff friends talk about. And all this started because of books.
Writing is often a very solitary endeavor, but what comes of the work creates connections and communities and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of that. This past weekend truly was more than a sum of its parts and as my brain begins to really process all that I did and talked about and the people I met, I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. And this is just one of the things I’d never anticipated when I started writing many years ago, but is without question the absolute best part about it.
*I was supposed to meet up with Katherine Longshore, also, but the airline/scheduling gods were not working in our favor and we missed each other. This and the giant blister on my left heel were the only sad parts of my weekend. The blister will heal, but I’m super-bummed that I didn’t get to meet Katy.