Be forewarned.  This is my first time at ALA or any conference this size, and I am excited.  Therefore, I will be posting photos and blogging over the next few days at a rate that only my mother will likely appreciate. 

My family arrived in Chicago this morning and dropped luggage off at our bed & breakfast in Hyde Park.

It’s very close to the Obamas’ home and to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House, which is featured in Blue Balliett’s THE WRIGHT THREE.  We’re planning a walking tour some time over the next day or two, but today it waas lunchtime. We ate at Valois Cafeteria, a neighborhood institution that was apparently a favorite of President Obama when he lived in Hyde Park. And they serve breakfast all day – yay!

Then it was off to the convention center, McCormick Place, which is pretty much the most enormous, confusing place I have ever seen in my life.  Eventually, we made it to the right building and found the registration area for ALA.  The exhibit hall doesn’t open until tomorrow morning, but when I discovered that I had an exhibitor’s badge, I accidentally ended up at the Bloomsbury/Walker booth a little early.  Look who was there to greet me on the banner!

Surreal doesn’t even begin to explain the feeling of working on a book for two years, searching for an agent and editor, revising it for another year, sending it off, and then flying halfway across the country and seeing the cover of that book larger than life on a banner.  I jumped up and down for a bit.  And almost got run over by a little forklift man who was still setting up an exhibit nearby. We decided at that point it was probably time to leave & come back tomorrow.

Then it was off to the Shedd Aquarium.  A friend on Twitter suggested it was a can’t-miss part of the Chicago experience, and I’m so glad.  The coral reef exhibit was beautiful.  We saw dolphins, too.  And beluga whales!

They’re beautiful creatures, and the sounds they make are amazing and otherworldly.  I wondered if they were sharing secret codes or passing on ancient legends, but when I asked the aquarium working about their vocalizations, he said they were likely begging for food, since their trainer was standing where he often stands to feed them. It sure sounded cool.  If I were in charge of the fish bucket, they would have been all set.

After the aquarium, my husband and son headed to the waterfront for the Styx & REO Speedwagon concert, while E and I met a delightful group of author friends for deep-dish pizza.  Yay!  (Also yum!)

From left to right, that’s me, Marybeth Kelsey, Robin Graf Prehn , Lisa Schroeder, Cindy Pon, and Julia Karr.  (E ducked off to the side to avoid the paparazzi.)

Blueboarders! Books! Banners! Breakfast!  Beluga whales!  Day One, and I love Chicago already.