Event Recap: ALA Midwinter 2017

This past weekend, I flew over to Atlanta for the annual ALA Midwinter meeting. I've been to a few TLAs, one BEA, and lots of festivals and individual signings, but this was my first ALA conference. My plan was threefold: see two of my closest friends, spend time with my family, and find some amazing books! I am happy to report that I was successful on all three counts!

It is ironic that Neil Patrick Harris, who was the ending keynote speaker at ALAmw, currently plays Count Olaf in the new A Series of Unfortunate Events series because my trip TO Atlanta was a series of unfortunate events that almost had me missing my plane. But I DID get to see my good friend Jenny Martin (Tracked, Marked) at the airport, and that helped. Pro-tip for flying: if your flight hits chop or turbulence, turn on Hamilton. My plane hit the WORST turbulence ever. I honestly felt like I was on a roller coaster, and we were all thrown around like rag dolls. But listening to "Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down" made me feel like I was headbanging on purpose.

I spent Thursday night and Friday morning with my family, playing rounds of bridge (my mom is still not over the mistake I made playing a double trump, which made us lose one round. Oops! I haven't played in ages!) and talking politics (BIG mistake). We also went to a darling if unfortunately named and located used bookstore.

                  Humpus Bumpus in Cumming, GA                           HB's YA section
                        ARE YOU KIDDING ME

HB's kids' section

Friday afternoon I hopped on the MARTA and rode into ALA with style. It's always an amazing feeling, walking into an exhibit hall full of book nerds, and the Georgia World Congress Center is more dramatic than most, with escalators depositing you at the front entrance to the exhibit hall. Sadly, I never take a ton of pictures in the exhibit halls (I am too busy and my arms are usually full of books and my battery is always dying), but trust me: it was a glorious sight to see. Friday night I went to dinner with Tonya of Lily Bloom Books, who is one of my favorite people.

Saturday I got up at the buttcrack of dawn to make it in for an early breakfast with National Geographic and Kwame Alexander. Again, I wish I'd gotten some pictures because heavy morning fog in a city as lit up as Atlanta is gorgeous, but alas, I did not. I can tell you Kwame's picture + poetry with NatGeo, Animal Ark, is extraordinary and that Kwame is a dynamic speaker. He was telling us a heartbreaking but hilarious and heartwarming story about a school here in Texas where the kids were stealing copies of his book The Crossover after he visited. The teacher had to put the remaining books under lock and key, but the stolen copies were raffled off after each student read it. Kwame told us how fantastic it was—but wrong. Fantastic! But WRONG. He and his publisher donated 150 copies so the students could each have one, and he said the most marvelous thing: "I gave those kids a book, and it was like they had been given gold. And they HAD been given gold. Between the pages of a book are treasures waiting for us to discover." *gets chills*

Bestie best frans

The rest of Saturday was mostly spent in the exhibits with Tonya and our lovely friend Ellice of Paper Riot. We bummed around, talked books, picked up books, and met Jeff Zentner and Nic Stone.

Sorry for the bad quality, but me, Tonya & Ellice with Jeff

I also attended a luncheon hosted by Simon & Schuster and Baker & Taylor where Hena Khan introduced her upcoming book Amina's Voice and its inspiration. Hena is a WONDERFUL speaker, and I wish I'd written more of her talk down. S&S then introduced some of their most anticipated spring titles in everything from picture books and easy readers to middle grade and YA. I definitely got a good idea of which books to purchase for my library and which to request the children's librarians pick up.

It's not pictured, but one book I am especially excited about is Sandhya Menon's When Dimple Met Rishi, which just sounds like the cutest thing I've read since To All the Boys I've Loved Before. And speaking of Jenny Han, I saw the cover mock-up of Always & Forever Lara Jean, and I need that book asap! Dimple isn't pictured because I have lent it to a friend, but that book will be in my hands asap!

Later that afternoon, I hung out with Nicole Castroman (Blackhearts), and we met Laura Silverman, who was present to sign her debut novel Girl Out of Water.

A photo posted by Laura Silverman (@ljsilverman1) on

And I want to give a shout out to all the women in Atlanta who went to the women's march. I did not go since I really wanted to concentrate my time that weekend on the conference, but I spent time among many of the marchers on the train, and it was great to see everyone united and sharing both love and anger. It was truly inspiring.

Sunday was another day of exhibits, talking book, finding new titles to be excited about. But the coolest part of Sunday was leaving the conference center and immediately being swept up in a tide of football fevered fans. The GWCC is right next door to the Georgia Dome, home to the Atlanta Falcons, and the NFC championship starring the Falcons and the Green Bay Packers was in full swing!
RIP Georgia Dome. It was fun being there at your last big hurrah! GO FALCONS!
This picture is super deceptive because I managed to find one single spot that was
clear. This whole area was swarmed with both Falcons & Packers fans!

Tonya, Ellice, and I are so close because we are in an all-lady bookish fantasy football league (S/O to Lauren, Andi, Isa, Sarah, Danielle, Jess, Lindsay, Morgan, and Wendy!). Our three teams—Seahawks, Giants, and Texans—had already been booted from the playoffs, but we still love football so we hit a bar right down the road and settled in to watch some ball. We watched Atlanta SOUNDLY kick the Packers' butts (sorry, Sarah!), and called it a day.

The last day of a conference is always a fun experience. Sometimes publishers only bring a couple copies of a book or they already gave out all the copies except a display so on the last day, they dismantle the displays and let attendees take the last few copies. Cleaning out the displays is fun because you can grab your MOST WANTED titles or find new ones, but it can also be upsetting (I was THISCLOSE to getting Seekers by Veronica Rossi). But the big part of Monday was actually the closing keynote by Neil Patrick Harris which I attended with Ellice.

Yes, yes we are wearing the same shirt in different colors!

You may remember Neil from such roles as Doogie Howser or Barney on How I Met Your Mother or Hedwig and the Angry Itch or Dr. Horrible in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog or Count Olaf in the Netflix Series of Unfortunate Events. But Neil is currently writing a middle grade series called Magic Misfits about a group of kids who do magic. Not like fantasy magic, but magic trick magic. Neil gave a wonderful speech about his own experience with reading and showed a short film with his two children where he interviewed them about reading and books. In a word, it was delightful. Here are some of my favorite quotes:

"Books allowed me to experience worlds that were only limited by my imagination."

"I love immersing my brain in unknown territories."

"You don't start reading a complex, nuanced book like Gone Girl without reading Dr. Seuss first.

"So many books speak down to young readers. Kids are always smarter than we give them credit for."


Then we had the opportunity to MEET NEIL and talk to him for approximately 20 seconds, and that was also magical.

^actually me during & after meeting Neil

Sadly, this is where I parted ways with Ellice, but our group is making plans to reunite (with everyone) next year at ALA annual *fingers crossed*.

I stayed an extra day on Tuesday to spend more time with my Nana and my uncle, and I spent a veritable fortune on shipping (WORTH IT). Then, I hopped on a plane and read a non-ALA arc (After the Fall. Read my review here!) on the flight home.

I am super grateful for the opportunity I had to attend ALA mw because I got to spend time with dear friends and family AND I got some good tips on upcoming MG/YA titles, which is good for both my blog and my job.

I know you're probably dying to see a haul pic, which I'm not going to do in its entirety, but here are a few of the titles that I am most excited about. My thanks to the American Library Association and the library and school marketing teams for Bloomsbury, Disney, Harper Collins/Harlequin, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Listening Library, Little Brown/Hachette, Macmillan/Tor/St. Martin's, Penguin Random House, Running Press, Simon & Schuster, Soho, Sourcebooks, and Workman/Algonquin for their patience and enthusiasm for teens, books, and teen books.

A photo posted by Mary H (@knoxdiver) on

Are you looking forward to any of the books mentioned in this post? Which should I start with? 


  1. I think I will be going to my first ALA event this June since it'll be in Chicago. I'm super excited to be surrounded by booknerds once again.

    Amina's voice looks darling and I ADORE your penguin tote!

    1. I hope you have fun! I wish I could go to Chicago for ALA annual, but I usually stick to one major book event per year.

  2. Eeeek so so jealous! I love your wrap-up. Thanks for the shoutout ;) <3

    1. *blows kiss* I wish you could have been there!

  3. All I can say is WOW! Okay, I'll write more than that...you had an incredible experience that someday I'd love to duplicate. Neil Patrick Harris is so amazingly talented and I love him in his new series. I will read his books too. So many authors and bloggers that I don't personally know, but "know" them. Thanks for such a detailed account of your time.

    1. It was such a great weekend! I can't believe I got to meet Neil. I had no idea he'd be there until I arrived, and I definitely scheduled my last day around seeing his keynote and his signing. I LOVE going to these events and finally meeting friends IRL.