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Guest Post: A New Author’s Take on a New Con


NerdCon logoAs a writer, my very favorite thing is talking to teen readers. I find a lot of energy in hanging out with passionate people, especially when they’re passionate about books. NerdCon: Stories was 2,500 (mostly young) people inspired by stories; it was heaven.


Cons are like camp: you can form a genuine, lasting friendship in a matter of days. NerdCon: Stories felt different, as if we all were friends from the start. We all loved things, intensely, and were free to geek out about contemporary YA books, or tabletop games, or public education, or Sherlock. (I’m cheating here. Those are my passions.) This was our first time in a room together, but already we were a community.


NerdCon weekend coincided with World Mental Health Day and National Coming Out Day, two events that reinforced NerdCon’s mandate: Be You. Panelists shared their “Be You” breakthrough moments, and attendees repeated the sentiment in personal conversations.

We covered many topics—activism, diversity, the myriad ways we tell stories, writing outside your experience, why stories matter—and “Be You” popped up dozens of times. Every panel and serious mainstage event fell into one of two general themes:

We all are the same, and you are one of us.

On the surface, everyone at NerdCon had exactly one thing in common: we believed in the power of stories. But our commonalities were greater than that. We were nerds. We were passionate fans. Every one of us wished we could change something about ourselves. Regardless of color or culture or history or who we loved or how we dressed, everyone had something worth sharing. We received each other’s stories without criticism, because we also acknowledged:

We all are different, and we embrace that.

Yes, there were Night Vale nerds, Star Wars nerds, Game of Thrones nerds, Hamilton nerds, math nerds, and nerdfighters. We each embraced some fandoms and couldn’t connect with others. Some of us thought of our bodies as prisons. Some thought our brains were wired suboptimally. We all had histories, but our histories were different. We each were the culmination of life experiences that gave us each a unique perspective. Our life stories intersected but did not completely overlap with any other person on earth. We all were different, and our stories mattered.


To reinforce that, NerdCon held one storytelling circle and two open mic sessions where eager attendees shared their stories. Though the headliners and panels were top notch, my weekend’s highlight was the storytelling circle, where storytellers held the floor for six minutes each. I loved learning what was meaningful to everyone who spoke. Cathy reveled in the realization that bisexuality was a thing. Julia told us about her first kiss (just two days prior). James recounted the perils of urban exploring.

group discussion

Photo credit: Hussein Salama, NerdCon: Stories attendee


It was a meaningful, bonding experience, and the storytelling went on long after the circle opened.


Meeting new people and swapping stories is among my very favorite things. I love stories. I thrive on them. I would have loved multiple storytelling circles each day, but NerdCon was packed with other great sessions. It was an informative, inspiring, well-rounded Con, though it did feel too short. Activities packed our long days, so I left thinking there were hundreds more people I hadn’t yet met.

That’s what next year is for! I recommend NerdCon: Stories to storytellers, readers, writers, and story-finders. I’ll see you there in 2016.

Michele Bacon writes contemporary fiction for adults and young adults. Her first YA novel, Life Before, will be in bookstores in June 2016. She is available for author visits in person and online! You can find her at www.michelebacon.com and on Twitter @michelebacon


Viva Las Vegas: Christie’s Author Crawl ALA Vegas

Now, while I do go to conferences for sessions and learning, and comradere and advanced reading copies, I also go to further my collection habit. Not funko pop figures (although that’s getting pretty bad) but signed books. And conferences are one of the best places as librarians understand my addiction! While I think that the Texas Library Association has the best way of queuing author lines (they have a whole section of the exhibit floor sectioned off just for author signing sessions, and set schedules so that the exhibit floor doesn’t get crowded up and backlogged), you will still find me going around with copies of my favorite books. In fact, I have been working since 2010 to get my copy of Zombies vs Unicorns completely signed, and I will one day get it finished.

I’ve put my list of authors I’m hoping to see/hear/get signatures from below the break.

Note: the books/series listed after the authors are the ones that I like/know them for, not the ones that they are signing for; check the ALA Scheduler to see titles or their publisher’s website. 

Also, these are my crush authors- there are more out there attending ALA Annual that I would love to get signatures for to give to my “kids” and my heart family, but I have to be choosy; there’s only myself and That Guy, so we can only be in two lines, and we’re flying to Vegas- mailing back tons of books or trying to fly with bags of books does not do my budget any good.

I’ve shown you mine- who are you looking forward to seeing? Share in the comments!


Scott Westerfeld, Uglies series, Midnighters series, and a Zombie vs Unicorn author
(Simon & Schuster Author Event)


Neal Shusterman, Unwind Trilogy
 (Simon & Schuster Meet the Author event) 
Tim Federle 5,6,7, Nate!  and Hickory Daquiri Dock
 (speaking at the Rainbow List/Amelia Bloomer Panel & Simon & Schuster Author Event)
Sara Farizan If You Could Be Mine and Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel
 (speaking at the Rainbow List/Amelia Bloomer Panel & Workman/Algonquin Author Event)
Stan Lee 
(does anyone even know if you can get anything signed when he speaks?!??!!)
Jonathan Maberry Rot and Ruin Series
  (Simon & Schuster Author Event)
Alaya Dawn Johnson, The Summer Prince, Love Is The Drug, and Z vs U author (Scholastic Author Event)
Markus Zusak, The Book Thief and I am the Messenger (Scholastic Author Event) 

Ellen Hopkins, Tricks and Rumble
(Simon & Schuster Author Event)

Matt de la Pena, The Living and Mexican Whiteboy
(Random House Children’s Author Event)


Mo Willems, Don’t Let the Pigeon series (Disney-Hyperion Author Event)

Avi, Nothing But The Truth and Sophia’s War (Simon & Schuster Author Event)
Kirstin Cronn-Mills, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children (Lerner Publishing and I believe also the Stonewall Awards Brunch)

Lauren Myracle, ttfn and yolo
(Abrams Books Author Event)

Marie Lu, Legend Series and The Young Elites
(Penguin Young Readers Author Event)

Ally Condie, Matched Trilogy and Atlantia

Maggie Stiefvater, The Raven Cycle Series and Wolves of Mercy series (Scholastic Author Event)
Cassandra Clare & Holly Black, The Iron Trials and U vs Z author/editors (Scholastic Author Event)
Coe Booth, Bronxwood, Tyrell and Kendra (Scholastic Author Event)

Jay Asher, Th1rteen R3asons Why and The Future of Us
(Penguin Young Readers Author Event)

Judy Blume (really- do you not know who she is?!??!!)
(Simon & Schuster Author Event)

Leigh Bardugo, Grisha Trilogy (Macmillan Children’s Author Event)
Raina Telgemeier, Drama and Smile (Scholatic Author Event)

Stonewall Awards Brunch
Kevin Henkes, The Year of Billy Miller and Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse
(HarperCollins Children’s Books Author Event)

Luck be a Lady Tonight: Christie’s ALA 14 Highlights

Everyone has their own reasons for attending conferences- I love to go to different places, and take in all the librarianship-ness, and I get to meet up with my library family; those people whom I’ve connected with through committees along the way that have become part of my heart family that I don’t see save through conferences. This is the first year in 10 that I’m not on a book committee (having just finished my term as chair of the Rainbow Project), and while I’ll be assisting in a variety of events, I have my own top picks for this conference. The trick is going to be getting to them with things spread out across Vegas (investing in cab money and a monorail ticket is going to be key, along with a new pair of tennis shoes), and in at least one case, getting a seat!

My highlights for sessions/panels are below the break. What are you most interested in seeing? Share in the comments!


Rainbow List/ Amelia Bloomer Project Author Panel
Saturday, June 28: 8:30 am @ Neopolitan IV, Caesars Palace
I’m extremely excited about this one as I helped get the two committees together, and I’ve worked on both in the past. I love that they’re working together on an author panel, and I hope that this becomes a regular event at Annual. The line-up of authors is spectacular, as well!

William Klaber, author of The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell, and Rita Williams-Garcia, author of P.S. Be Eleven and One Crazy Summer, from the 2014 and 2011 lists respectively. The powerful way these authors treat social injustices stemming from racial and gender discrimination and gender non-conformity in their writing suggest they will be compelling speakers.
Tim Federle is the author of Better Late than Never, a Stonewall Honor book, and it’s sequel Five, Six, Seven Nate! Sara Farizan is the author of If You Could Be Mine, which recently won a Lambda Literary Award, as well as the upcoming Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel. Both authors were on the 2014 Rainbow List.

 Stan Lee: Auditorium Speakers Series
Saturday, June 28: Noon @ N249, Convention Center
OMG! This is the one where I’m worried about getting a seat- maybe I can get That Guy to get squatter rights and save one for me while I dash from Caesar’s over to the Convention Center. 

Treat yourself to magical superpowers, a sinister conspiracy, and an
unlikely hero with Stan Lee, known to millions as the man whose Super Heroes propelled Marvel to its preeminent position in the comic book industry and whose co-creations include Spider-Man™, The Avengers ™, X-Men™, Iron Man™, The Incredible Hulk™, The Fantastic Four™, and hundreds of others.
Lee will talk among other things about his forthcoming action-packed illustrated novel Zodiac, based on the Chinese Zodiac. Co-written with Stuart Moore and illustrated by Andie Tong, it follows Steven Lee, a young Chinese-American teen who is drawn into a mysterious conspiracy surrounding twelve mystical pools of energy and a power-hungry secret organization. (January 2015, Disney Publishing Worldwide.)


Space Planning Primer
Sunday, June 29: 8:30 am @ S222, Convention Center

I’m working on rearranging my library, but we have such little space to work with and have to deal with the existing furniture. Even though I’m going to conference completely on my own money, I want to see if this will have any ideas for my work situation.

This interactive workshop will provide a primer for assessing space needs and planning library space use. Attendees will be able to choose from an array of topic-based consultation stations, each focusing on building block basics, the most current application techniques, and emerging trends. For each topic, identification of the most important “how tos” and most helpful resources will enable attendees to define their vision for a new or renewed library environment.This interactive workshop will provide a primer for assessing space needs and planning library space use. Attendees will be able to choose from an array of topic-based consultation stations, each focusing on building block basics, the most current application techniques, and emerging trends. For each topic, identification of the most important “how tos” and most helpful resources will enable attendees to define their vision for a new or renewed library environment.

Getting a Bigger Piece of the Pie
Sunday, June 29: 1 pm @ N240, Convention Center
We always seem to be going through funding crises at the library, and it always seems to be an uphill battle with my library being at the bottom because we have the lowest circulation- yet we have the most programs and the highest number of youth and young adults coming in the door. With changes in the structures, i want to see what I can improve on.

Learn from the experts about how to get to know, communicate with, and influence those who approve your library’s budget. Even in tough times, there are strategies to get your more.

Change Does Not Suck
Sunday, June 29: 4 pm @ N239/241, Convention Center
We are going through a lot of change in my system, and I’m going through a lot of changes in my personal life. So I want to see what this can do to help me, and how I can use these strategies in my professional and personal life. I *like* change, the problem is when not everyone is on board, and that’s what I’m batting my head against.

Change is not only inevitable, it is necessary. In this session librarians from a variety of organizations will discuss strategies on coping with change on both a personal and institutional level; how to make hard choices and decide what must be prioritized; and how to get buy in for change from managers, staff, and other stakeholders. This lively session will include real-world examples and lessons learned. Participants will be encouraged to weigh in and share their own stories of making change happen. 

 Stonewall Book Awards Brunch
Monday, June 30: 10:30 am @ Champagne, Paris Hotel
This is a ticketed event, so be sure to have a ticket if you want food. If you want to come hear the speakers, you are welcome to come and listen in the back (this is also true of the speeches of the Newbery and Caldecott ticketed events- YMMV)
Celebrate the winners of the 2014 Stonewall Book Awards at the annual brunch. The Stonewall Book Awards are the oldest awards honoring the best in gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender writing. Join the GLBT Round Table as it recognizes the winners and honorees in fiction, non-fiction, and children’s and young adult categories. Winners can be found here: http://www.ala.org/news/press-releases/2014/01/2014-stonewall-book-awards-announced ; however, authors may not all appear.

Comic Bakery: Dave Roman, Raina Telgemeier, & Jerzy Drozd
Monday, June 30: Noon @ Graphic Novel/Gaming Stage, Convention Center Exhibit Hall
I love all of these author/creators, so I can’t wait to hear what they’re doing. If Karen’s tWeen is still in town, I’m betting I can take her with me to participate.

A live performance graphic novel theater involving lots of audience participation and silliness. Raina Telgemeier (Drama), Dave Roman (Astronaut Academy), and Jerzy Drozd (Cap’n Cat) will perform chapters from some of their latest comics. 

The Library Games
Monday, June 30: 5:30 pm @ Ballroom G, Las Vegas Hotel
This just sounds like an awesome mash-up, and I’m interested to see what the challenges are.

First there were the Olympic Games, then the Hunger Games became all the rage. Combine the two and you get The Library Games! Four brave teams of librarians competing in several fast-paced, cut-throat events to take home the trophy and be crowned the champions of libraryland. Audience participation and voting will be crucial to the outcome, so make sure you are there to witness history in the making. 

What happens at TLA stays at TLA. Well, until I write this blog post.

So, last weekend TLA happened. This was my second year attending TLA and it was incredible.  Here are 5 of my highlights and 5 of the titles I am looking forward to reading.


On Thursday, I had a couple of hours to kill and a bag full of stuffs, so I walked over to the parking garage to unload and figure out what my plan of action was. Suddenly, I got a cryptic text from my friend Stacy (from Girls in the Stacks): “Where are you?”  She then let me know that she was standing there talking to A. S. King (my hero).  So I texted her back, “I will be there in 5!”  I then proceeded to run down 9 flights of stairs, cross the street, and run through the exhibit hall to have the moment I have been waiting over a year to happen.  But there she stood – A. S. King.  I would like to say I totally kept my cool but the truth was, I was a dork.  She was very gracious about it.  And after she left, I broke down sobbing – although luckily it was in the Little, Brown booth.  Witnesses proclaimed that it was “cute”, but I think here they meant cute as a code word for “dorky”.  It does not matter because I MET A. S. KING.  Friends stood in line and got me a signed copy of her upcoming title (October) Reality Boy, which I have already finished reading.  That’s right, after being gone for 4 days I spent all day Saturday ignoring my children and not doing all the blog things I was supposed to do and read Reality Boy.  I am here to tell you that A. S. King has once again written an amazing, insightful book that I will gush about. This is also the story of how Stacy became my hero by making sure I got to meet A. S. King.

2. I Had Dinner with Mind Games author Kiersten White, Sweet Venom author Tera Lynn Childs, and Through Her Eyes author Jennifer Archer

Because of the superfab Naomi Bates at YA Books and More (we are going to start vlogging together about School/Public Library cooperation), I got invited to a Harper Collins dinner which involved a bunch of people from Harper Collins – and me apparently. I sat right next to Kiersten White (and this time managed not to cry thank you).  I really liked Mind Games and it was nice to get to talk to her about it. I also met Jennifer Archer, author of Through Her Eyes, and Tera Lynn Childs, author of Forgive My Fins and the Medusa Girls series. It was an amazing experience and I learned a lot about the publishing side of things.  We had a very interesting conversation about how there is a need for more books with MCs that are POC, but how they don’t tend to sell as well. It was enjoyable and informative. Also, yummy.

3.  A. S Howard reveals the cover to the sequel of Splintered, Unhinged.

Sometimes you have a moment of being in the right place at the right time.  That is what happened to me when I ended up being at the cover reveal of Unhinged, the sequel to Splintered.  I love the colors and the way the two covers work together.

4.  It’s Time for Tea in Texas

A special thanks to everyone who put together the Texas Tea, where I met a wide variety of my favorite authors and got to learn up their new or upcoming titles.  Pictures are Sharon Flake, who was a good sport and put on the mustache, John Corey Whaley, who is just adorable, Krissi Dallas, who always has a rockin’ presence, Tessa Gratton, who is very excited about her mythology inspired The Lost Sun coming out soon, and Lisa McMannon, who shared her inspiration for her book in the multi-author Infinity Ring series.  I also met Matt De La Pena who talked about growing up as a multi-racial young man and shared a short story he wrote for something called One Teen Story, a literary magazine for YA readers (which is new to me).

5. Writers are Readers!

Look, there’s Michael Buckely – author of the N.E.R.D.S series – reading Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson at TLA. It was so fun to run into authors who were gong to booths to try and get titles that they wanted to read.

And here are a few of the books that I heard about that I want to read

Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines: Described as “The Avengers meet The Walking Dead”.  This book is already out, but it is part of a 4 book series that hasn’t gotten enough publicity.  That tagline should make it easy to sell.

Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis: About a girl living in a post-apocalyptic world who must defend what little water she has.  Dystopian and environmental, a winning combination.

Counting by 7s by Holly Golberg Sloan: I ran into award winning author John Corey Whaley and THIS is the book that he was going to get an ARC for.  He says it is fabulous and should be a strong contender for the Newberry.

Winger by Andrew Smith: First, this book has the best cover ever. Seriously. Everyone who has read it raves. And A. S. King is a fan.

Infinityglass by Myra McEntire: Speaking of best covers ever. Is this not amazing?  I am a HUGE fan of the Hourglass series by Myra McEntire (as are my teens) and I can’t wait for the next installment.  If you haven’t read it yet, check it out.

How about you? What were your fave TLA highlights?  What upcoming titles are you looking forward to?

And did I mention – I met A. S. King!!!!!!

What I DIdn’t Learn In Library School: Making Conferences Successful: Christie’s Version

If you know anything by now, you know I don’t tend to run in normal circles, no matter what I look like.  So it stands to reason that I don’t do conferences as a normal, either. Maybe it’s the anxiety, maybe it’s my brain, who knows, but I just don’t seem to fit a typical conference go-er.  I like doing it my way, and it works- I come back energized  refreshed, and ready to tackle new things and ideas.  It’s completely the point of a conference to me. How do I do it?

Know Your Territory 

I always do research before I go to a new city for conferences, so I know one special touristy that I want to do: last time in Seattle it was EMP Museum by the Space Needle, and they’ve added so much that I think That Guy and I will go back.  But I also found where the nearest drug store to my hotel was (there’s always a chance I’ve forgotten something like Excedrin), where the nearest shopping mall was (for souvenirs for my staff), where the nearest shipping place was (to ship books and other things back, because I never make it to the Post Office spot on the exhibit floor, and sometimes it’s actually cheaper), how far it was to Pike’s Peak Market, how much a cab would take from places I wanted to go, where the nearest ATM for my bank is, and what places to eat were recommended by local newspapers.  And when I got to the hotel, I start asking the staff where they recommended to go to eat.  My budget never stretches as far as the ALA official dining guides, and the places around the convention center are always packed, so I make sure to talk to the locals to see what they eat when they’re working- and they’ve never steered me wrong yet.  I’ve had some of the best pizza, burgers, and Italian around.  
Find a library family 
I have a wonderful group of friends that unfortunately, I only see at conferences for the most part due to life.  So they are termed my library family.  I know that they’re going to be there every conference, and we catch up on what’s going on, share life, and have wonder times together.  SO GO FIND YOURS.  This isn’t as hard as you might think- find a group of people that you want to be around, and be around them every conference.  Patrick Sweeney talks about his Think Tank and how they rent a house every conference.  If a share house isn’t your thing (not mine), think about the people that you know and get along with that you’ve met along the way (via Twitter, committees, blogs, networking), and reach out and say HEY, ARE YOU GOING TO SEATTLE? Me, too?  Want to meet for dinner or something some night and talk, like, in person?   
Go to the socials
There is no time like a conference to find wonderful people who share your passion, no matter what it is.  And you’d be surprised who shares it.  Not sure where to start? 

ALSC is having Speed Dating.The New Membership Round Table is having a a social.  YALSA’s having a Happy Hour.  GLBT-RT is having a Social. Great places to meet people who share your passion, and at the most, you’re out a couple of hours of time at a great place!   
Know Your Limits
Everyone I knows goes to conference in the same mindset as they go to Disney World: I gotta do this, and I gotta do that, and I have to do this, and this and thisandthisandthisandthatandthisandthat…..  And then you’re frazzled and can’t breathe and can’t remember what you were doing or why you wanted to go to the conference in the first place.  Especially when a conference is in a different time zone/climate than you’re used to, and you have to get adjusted and thrown into everyone all in one day.  Use the tools available (the ALA Scheduler and the app, for example) to find out what you want to go to, and then find out WHERE it all is.  Because trust me, not everything is going to be in the convention center, and most will be scheduled on top of one another.  You’re going to have to pick and choose, and it may come down to whether to go to that workshop or stalk Jonathan Maberry…  (I know who wins, BTW)… 
Pack The Basics
You have your clothes.  You’ve searched the weather.  You’re all jazzed up about your tablet and your ultrabook and your smartphone, and you’re going to go PAPERLESS this conference!  Good for you! Just remember, you’re going to need your business cards and pens and paper.  Why? Because the vendors have give-aways that want your card, the booksellers are wanting you to fill out stuff, and if your laptop dies in the middle of a presentation, you’re going to have to take notes for back home (even if you didn’t get any of your way paid, you’re going to have to present to justify your time).  Don’t forget a good back back, because the freebie bags are crap and kill your shoulders. 

Everyone always says wear your normal work clothes- I wear what I’m comfortable in, which is my t-shirts and jeans, and no one seems to mind. I’ve also got spare batteries for my smart phone because I can never find a charger, and I pack a surge protector as That Guy and I have more gadgets than the hotel room has outlets, and running out the door at 6 a.m. for a session with this sign:  is a doomed day. 
Sit In On An Open Session
Midwinter is the “working” conference, where almost all of the book committees meet, and while there are a lot of closed sessions where you can’t come in, there are a number of open committee ones as well.  Search them out online, take a look at what they’re doing and do a little research before you go to conference, and then sit in on one of their sessions.  You’ll be surprised at what you find, and how hard these committees are working, and you might find a new thing to join.  Examples would be The Amelia Bloomer Project, The Rainbow Project, Amazing Audiobooks, Notable Children’s Recordings, SRRT Task Force meeting, and the YALSA Groups Work Session.

So those are mine.

What are your tips for making conferences successful for you?

A note from Karen: If you see Christie at Midwinter, please take a moment and say hi.  Also, remind her she is not allowed to come back home unless she has an ARC of Requiem by Lauren Oliver for Karen. Just saying.