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Last week I attended ALA in Washington, DC. I attended the RDA 101 Pre-conference and several other cataloger-type sessions.  More on those later, but first-

Star struck. I totally geeked out on the exhibit floor.  Can you be star-struck meeting authors?

As you might note from this blog, I am fairly articulate. Generally I present well and speak even better. Apparently this is not true when I meet authors (exception being those I Knew Before Publishing such as the very wonderful Lucy A. Snyder and her husband Gary Braunbeck…although in fairness Gary was already Very Published and Award Winning when I met him but since I met him as the hubby-to-be of my friend, I guess it didn’t affect me as much).

Back to the exhibit hall. Philippe Cousteau (yes, the grandson of Jacques) was to do a signing in a booth. I thought I’d missed his signing and rushed up to the table to see if they had any leftover books.  As I blurted out my request to see if any books were available, the kind lady at the booth pointed out that I was standing next to Him and handed me the very last book they had. He turned to me as I stood mouth agape, took the book and signed it. I spluttered out “wow” and “thank you” and “wow” and “really?” and “wow” several times.  I then walked away in a daze, grasping my prize. I’m certain I will live on in his memory as “crazy librarian”. C’est la vie.

You’d think I would have calmed down after that. You’d be wrong. Soon after I discovered Sisters in Crime had a booth. Several quite wonderful mystery writers were there signing books. Again I went into OMG mode. Thankfully the very nice writers talked me down and I was eventually able to say more than “wow”. Hank Phillippi Ryan was key in this, I’m guessing as a news reporter she is used to getting people back on solid ground.

Turns out Sisters in Crime were doing several panels at a stage on the exhibit floor. I skipped out on a session (shhh, I didn’t leave RDA, just another potentially exciting metadata-as-used-in-your-catalog session). The hour or so I spent listening to the writers was possibly the highlight of my time at the convention. Listening to writers discuss their process, their methods, their characters, etc. was fantastic. I so admire the talent and skill and stick-to-it-ness of writing and publishing. I have no such skill. Yes, I can write a blog post. Yes, I can put together a presentation for a class. But a complete plot, characters, etc.? Nope.  

One of the questions asked of the panelists was how do you represent personal beliefs or causes in your writing. And should you?  Ellery Adams (aka JB Stanley) discussed how breast cancer had struck her friend and as it is such a part of her life, she does include a character with the same devastating disease.  Donna Andrews said she finds more animal rescue themes creeping into her books (the Meg Lanslow mysteries). I was still in fan-girl mode so I didn’t speak up but I wanted to point out that Ms. Andrews has several themes in her ‘comical traditional mysteries’.  She has the theme of tolerance and of understanding. One of the minor characters enjoys roaming about in a gorilla costume – this is not discussed or considered weird or wrong. It is just is.  This is something I very much enjoy about her books. She doesn’t hit you over the head with things but presents them as just part of the world.

The panel moderator (Rosemary Harris, a fine author in her own right) pointed out to the audience that the groupings we saw on stage should help us in making recommendations to patrons. She said “If your patron has finished all of the Paula Holliday [Ms. Harris’ main protagonist] you might recommend GM Malliet or Ellen Crosby or Shelia Connolly, etc.” Brilliant! As the panel went on, it became glaringly apparent the writers held the librarians in high esteem.

I feel quite grateful I happened on this wonderful booth and subsequent talks. It gave me a much needed break from the intense cataloging track I was following. The authors I met were gracious, kind, and generous. They took the time to bring me into their world, introduce me around, and remind me one of the reasons why I became a librarian (no, seriously, I love to read).

Now if I can only remember the name of the gentleman writing a biography of Pinkerton…

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