Last week, I went to TLA in Austin. It was an AMAZING experience. And the weather was cooperating and acting like it should on a South Texas spring day--beautiful and balmy. I live only an hour-and-a-half south of Austin in San Antonio, and as my husband had a meeting just a mile away from the Austin Convention Center where TLA was being held (excellent timing), we drove up together.
When I entered the main exhibitor hall, I saw booths upon booths stocked with books and swag and surrounded by the best kind of people--librarians. It was thrilling. That feeling when you enter Six Flags or some kind of fair grounds, and everyone is happy and eating funnel cake and excited to be there? That's what it felt like.
I grabbed my name tag from Registration and found Simon and Schuster's booth where I intended to check in before heading over to the Van Show booth. And there was an awesome surprise there--my editor! I didn't expect to officially meet Justin in real life until ALA. What a great guy, and so much fun.
I had been asked ahead of time to do an interview with the Van Show. This is a show run by the Austin Public Library in which a Sesame-Street-like puppet interviews authors. It ended up being a lot of fun. Before the cameras ran, I spoke with the ladies at the booth and the soul of Van--just an ordinary guy, it turns out, with a good sense of humor and hair a little awry from being under a puppet so much. Van the Puppet asked me a few questions about being an author and made me laugh a few times. Afterwards, I was given a stash of T-shirts to take home to my kids. Swag is the best.
Right after this Sesame-Street experience, I went searching for my author friend, Brenda Maier, of LITTLE RED FORT fame. We both debuted last year and got to know each other through our debut group, Epic 18, but we had yet to meet in real life. There is just something so surreal about putting a real-live person to an internet-friend you've known for some time. I mean, it's like you've already met them and you kind of have that "haven't we met before?" feeling, but it's also like meeting them for the first time because they have mannerisms unique to them and voice that's all their own. Brenda Maier has this wonderful energy about her, and she's fun and peppy and everyone should know her in real life.
Before my signing, Brenda and I moved between booths, checking out books, talking to publishing people, and laughing together. It's moments like these that remind a mother of four that maybe she still can be kind of fun sometimes and not as boring as my kids may think. LOL. Brenda also helped me get ready for my signing. "Where do I find mints? I need mints." "The booths have free mints!" "Should I wear my hair up or down?" "Definitely down." (What would I have done without her?)
Simon and Schuster actually gave away three crates of THE REMEMBER BALLOONS. Which is amazing! And such a great way to get the word out to librarians about the book. I mean, if anyone is going to talk about your book, it's librarians! This means I signed over 80 copies of THE REMEMBER BALLOONS. That's more than I've signed at once before, but it seemed to go so quickly. I spoke with a number of them as they came through. Oh librarians. I wish I could have spoke with each one of you more than I did, especially those of you who mentioned you had a loved one with Alzheimer's.
A few came through the line with tears in their eyes, having read the book for the first time standing in line. And one librarian, she couldn't even speak the tears were threatening to spill. So she got her book signed and had to walk away. How I wish I could have spoken with her and found out her story--who of her loved ones has been touched by Alzheimer's. There was a world of unspoken words in those tears. Fortunately, she had a friend with her in line so she wasn't alone.
All-in-all a pretty incredible day. My husband picked me up not long after my signing ended, and we ventured out onto the streets of Austin and tried a restaurant I'd seen on the Food Network, Max's Wine Dive (it was good!) before heading back to San Antonio and real life. But real life tastes so much better after having experiences like this. Plus, immersing myself in the book world--even for a few hours--always motivates me to create more!