A number of we NFNT staff were happy to attend the American Library Association Annual Conference in Anaheim this year, so we decided to do a group post to report back about our favorite sights, sounds, and swag.  I prompted the group with questions, and thanks to Snow, Whitney, Jack, and Caitlin for chiming in with their memories.

NFNT staff Snow Wildsmith, Robin Brenner, and Jack Baur all dressed up in Gothic Lolita and as Effie Trinkett and Peeta for our cosplay panel.

What was the highlight of your ALA trip this time around?

Robin: First, YAY!  A big highlight for me was getting to meet so many of you staff, and I hope you had a BLAST at the conference.  I felt a bit like I’d been punched in the face by the end of it, but it was a wonderful conference all around.

I was also given TWO excuses to dress up in costume — first at ALAPlay on Friday night, as a steampunk River Song, and then all day Sunday for our cosplay panel as Effie Trinkett from The Hunger Games.  As someone who loves to dress up, that was excellent.

I was pleased to meet so many of the folks in Artist’s Alley, from old friends like Mark Siegel (Sailor Twain), who got to exchange his editor duties for creator duties while hanging out in Artist’s Alley, to new faces like Christina Strain (The Fox Sister) and Faith Erin Hicks (Friends with Boys) who are not necessarily new to me, but new to ALA.  I was so happy to see all the librarians and comics folks hitting it off, and sharing their love of stories and art.

Snow: The child in me was thrilled to get to meet David McPhail and Susan Cooper. McPhail’s The Magical Drawings of Moony B. Finch and Cooper’s Dark is Rising series are favorite childhood books. It was especially neat to meet McPhail since I hadn’t realized that he was going to be there. I only found out when he walked past me at the Holiday House reception on Friday night.

Overall, though, the highlight of my trip was the same as always — getting to reunite with old friends and getting to make new ones.

Whitney: Getting to hang out with my old library school friends and meeting a lot of librarians I have only known online!

Caitlin: The panel on fandom and fan art was also a highlight for me. Robin did a fantastic job moderating – there was a great mix of people and perspectives, and the discussion zipped along and stayed lively. I scribbled down all sorts of inspired notes that I now can’t decipher, but the feeling of excitement remains!

The Will Eisner Library Prize: Moderator John Shableski, Jennifer Ruth (Brodart Co.) Carl & Nancy Gropper (Will & Ann Eisner Family Foundation), with prize winners Viola Dyas and Jack Baur.

Jack: I had a huge supply of excitement at ALA this year, and of course winning the Eisner Prize for Libraries was at the top of that excitement pile.  But there was lots of awesome stuff at ALA this year.  The whole Artist’s Alley was set up really well, the folks down there were awesome, and I frequently found myself just unable to leave.  I missed like 3 presentations on non-comics topics because I was talking to rad people in Artist’s Alley.  Congrats to everyone involved in planning that!!

Comics/GN related anecdote or meetup you’d like to relate?

Robin: I had an absolutely delightful time hosting the Animated Tales panel with the animators and comics creators Bob Boyle, James Burks, Dan Santat, and Tom Warburton.  Even though we were scheduled opposite Chris Colfer (too! many! awesome! panels!), we had a great crowd, and I loved hearing everyone discuss the ins and outs of creating animation and comics.  Panels work best when folks get along and are just as happy to chat with each other as they are to answer questions from the audience, and these guys were all excited to share their art.  Plus, we heard perhaps more than we wanted to know about Dan Santat’s eating and sleeping habits, but that’s what makes live events so much fun.

Snow: It was pretty interesting meeting Ron Martino, producer and director at deviantART. He was very nice and interesting to talk to. Hopefully I didn’t scare his coworker Josh Wattles too much when I fangirled all over him after discovering he’d worked with Gene Roddenberry.

Whitney: I thought the Artist’s Alley was a fun addition to the Exhibits and I enjoyed meeting one of my new favorite artists, Faith Erin Hicks. It was also fun talking to other comics-loving librarians and NFNT contributors at the Eisner Award party!

Caitlin: It was interesting to me that beyond the dedicated graphic novel area in the exhibit hall, I kept running into comics-related things all over the place – minicomics in the Zine pavilion, various geek paraphernalia, a random demo that I stumbled into about the history of graphic novels – comics everywhere.

Jack: Given that I almost never left Artist’s Alley, it should come as no surprise that my favorite random meet-ups happened there.  I got into a 30 minute conversation with Scott McCloud who just *happened* to be wandering down the aisles at one point, and had a delightful talk with Kazu Kibuishi about the need for more teacher’s materials to be published with comics.  I also ran into Daniel Handler and we ended up talking about the possibility of using barber tools from the 30’s as sex toys…  So yes, many possibilities at ALA.

I agreed to help ALA get video interviews with all the artists in Artist’s Alley and, though it was a little added dose of stress, it was also super fun and gave me something to talk about with the artists.  Those videos can be found here.  My favorites that I did were with Faith Erin Hicks (such a sweetheart!) and the massive one with Derek Kim, Gene Yang, and Thien Pham (see below).  Those guys are nuts.

Favorite object found and taken home (book, ARC, artwork, etc.)?

Robin: Comics-related, I was so delighted to get a signed copy of Christina Strain’s The Fox Sister (it’s even more gorgeous in print, I can tell you.)  I had a whole plan this year to get a sketchbook and gather excellent sketchs, but sadly I did not get it together in time.  I was able to get a few truly exciting ARCs (Raina Telgemeier’s Drama, Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Boys, Marissa Meyer’s Scarlet, and Neal Shusterman’s Unwholly are all now on the top of my to-read pile) and I screamed a little too excitedly when I saw they had ARCs for Passenger, Andrew Smith’s sequel to The Marbury Lens.  Sadly, the ARCs for Passenger were all gone after his signing, but I was able to request one from the publisher for later reading (thanks Victoria!).

Snow: I’m not certain I could nail it down to just one item, but if I had to I’d probably pick the Sailor Twain print I bought from Mark Siegel. It’s a present for my dad for his birthday.

Whitney: Signed copies of Superhero Girl and Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks!

Jack: SWAG!  I got ARCs of the new Raina Telgemeier Drama (wonderful!) and Hope Larson’s adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time.  Those were my two biggest scores, for sure.  I got signed copies of Night Circus and Ready Player One at the Alex Awards which was rad, and an ARC of a great-sounding time travel novel called The Man in the Empty Suit that I can’t wait to tear into.

Favorite overheard line (or just said directly to you) from the con?

Robin: My favorite quote, from author Scott Nash (The High Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate) at a relaxing dinner and before he had any idea that I was involved in helping to plan comics-related events: He thought the Artist’s Alley was the only place on the Exhibit Floor that had soul.  I was so pleased to hear an artist and creator outside the immediate comics family excited to see the Artist’s Alley set up during the conference.

Snow: I am still kinda amused that Gene Yang told Robin and I that we looked beat up on Monday morning. I’m not saying he was wrong (I got a sinus infection and laryngitis and Robin didn’t get enough sleep) and I know Gene meant it in a nice, concerned way, but it was still pretty funny.

Jack: There was a great line in Steven Abram’s talk about kids and technology.  He was talking about how people look at the kids these days with their texting and say things like, “They don’t know how to spell, they’re so stupid!”  His response is, “Yeah, a generation collaboratively creating a language without using a dictionary to overcome a problem is really stupid…”

Favorite panel/event attended?

Snow: Robin’s fandom panel was fascinating. A great line-up of smart, knowledgeable folks.

Our illustrious fandom panel, from left to right: Deborah Kaplan, Josh Wattles, Marissa Meyer, Liz Burns, Noelle Stevenson, Cecil Castellucci, Robin Brenner, and Faith Erin Hicks.

Whitney: Not comics-related, but the YA Author Coffee Klatch was really fun!

Jack: The YALSA Coffee Klatch was my favorite panel that I went to.  I got a little bit of face time with Ernest Cline and Kendare Blake, and heard about a bunch of cool books.

Robin: I had to miss te YALSA Coffee Klatch (meetings, of course), but I’m glad to hear it was excellent.

I think my favorite event attended was the Random House/DC Comics shindig at the Astor Classics Event Center — the Living Automative and Communication Museum.  Not only was the company grand and the artists and writers signing excellent, but the place itself was gorgeous.  I’m a sucker for antique cars, and what with the radios and photographs and Packards, I was in heaven.  And since I was already getting a bit tired of the Disney cheer everywhere, it was a nice break of scene.

I was running so many panels I admit I didn’t get to attend nearly as many events as I’d hoped.  I did love the strange serendipity of running into authors on the Exhibit floor — I was standing around chatting with Dan Santat and Tom Warburton after our Animation Panel, and within five minutes George R. R. Martin wandered around behind me and then Sherman Alexie went strolling by.  It’s enough to make any librarian squee a little bit, even if it’s silently.  Or not so silently.

Favorite unplanned event/program (i.e. something you hadn’t intended to go or were attending for the 1st time to but turned out to be awesome)?

Robin: Many folks I bet already know about the Daniel Handler & Maira Kalman serenade (with accordion) that attendees were treated to in their Printz Honor acceptance speech, but I wanted to be sure everyone know we got TWO songs that night from grateful award winners.

Kirby Heyborne, the narrator of the Odyssey Award winner Rotters (novel by Daniel Kraus) also composed we librarians a song, and it was pretty kickass:

Also, the Odyssey Awards in general were vastly entertaining, and unexpectedly hilarious all the way through, and happily with a full house of attendees.

Snow: Robin’s probably going to say this also, but definitely the Odyssey Awards. I’m not a huge audiobook person, but I had listened to several of the honors this time around, so I thought it would be neat to go. The award ceremony turned out to be tons of fun! The actors all read from their books, the chair of the Odyssey committee was funny, and there were lots of YALSA and ALSC folks on hand to have a good time. Definitely worth going to!

Jack: I gotta agree with Snow that my favorite thing that I didn’t plan on going to was the Odyssey Award ceremony.  Hearing the narrators talk about the process of recording a book and then performing a bit was great.  Very entertaining — and I hadn’t even *heard* of any of the books that won, so I have a bunch of catching up to do now.

  • Robin B.

    | She/Her Teen Librarian, Public Library of Brookline

    Editor in Chief

    Robin E. Brenner is Teen Librarian at the Brookline Public Library in Massachusetts. She has chaired the American Library Association Great Graphic Novels for Teens Selection List Committee, the Margaret A. Edwards Award Committee, and served on the Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She is currently the President of the Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table for ALA. She was a judge for the 2007 Eisner awards, helped judge the Boston Globe Horn Book Awards in 2011, and contributes to the Good Comics for Kids blog at School Library Journal. She regularly gives lectures and workshops on graphic novels, manga, and anime at comics conventions including New York and San Diego Comic-Con and at the American Library Association’s conferences. Her guide, Understanding Manga and Anime (Libraries Unlimited, 2007), was nominated for a 2008 Eisner Award.

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