More IRA Photos: Author friends, a school visit, and the airport museum

I am home after a whirlwind trip to the International Reading Association Convention in Chicago, and I have a few last photos to share.

After a crazy-busy day of presenting and signing on Monday, I met up with the other Walker/Bloomsbury folks in the lobby to head to dinner. It’s always so much fun to chat with other writers & illustrators, some of whom I’d never met or only met online until this week.  Danette Haworth, the author of VIOLET RAINES ALMOST GOT STRUCK BY LIGHTNING and the forthcoming (and awesome!) SUMMER OF MOONLIGHT SECRETS, is someone I’ve "known" online since before either of us were Walker authors, and I got to meet her for the first time at IRA.

And here’s the whole gang at dinner…

At dinner, I sat across from the very cool Amy Krouse Rosenthal (She’s the one sitting down on the far right. You probably know her as the author of DUCK, RABBIT and LITTLE HOOT).  Amy told me about her "Beckoning of Lovely" film, which is…well…lovely.  It’s hard to explain, so here…just watch.

Cool, huh?

After a full day of running around and that big dinner, I was sleepy enough that I spent several minutes trying to open my hotel room door with my credit card. It didn’t work, but eventually I caught on, found the room key. and got to sleep so I’d be ready for a first-thing-in-the-morning visit with almost 400 students at Westmont Junior High School. 

The 6th, 7th, and 8th graders here were terrific to talk with and had great questions about both the process and the business of writing books.  After each presentation, their principal held a drawing for signed copies of THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. 

Thanks, Westmont students and staff, for a fantastic welcome and a terrific morning at your school!  And remember what I said about that "secret writing."  It’s important.

After the last presentation, we took a quick photo with the book winners, and I quite literally went running out the door with my suitcase to my taxi so I could make my flight home.  This was such a quick and busy trip that I didn’t have any non-work time to spend in Chicago’s great museums.  However, I did manage to get a taste of culture at the airport as I was rushing to my gate.  I was delighed to spot a Brachiosaurus, a plant-eating dinosaur that lived 150 million years ago.

This replica is based on bones held at the Field Museum of Chicago, which I did visit on a different trip, and it’s spectacular. 

There was a quick dose of modern art along the people-mover, too.

I have a thing for these airport tunnels with the soothing lights (Isn’t there one in Detroit, too?).  They make me want to stop rushing and do yoga or something.  But it was time to head home.  Tomorrow, I’m back in my own classroom, where I’ll be greeted with the inevitable post-conference questions:

"Who was there?"
"Did you meet anybody cool?"
"Did you bring us books?!"

The answers?

-Lots of great teachers, librarians, publishing folks, authors, and illustrators.
-They were all cool.  Really cool.

IRA Day Two: Skyping Authors, Signing Authors, and Book-Spotting

This morning started early, with a really great tomato-mushroom-spinach omelet and a cab ride to a convention center that was already swarming with excited teacher-librarian-reader-author-publisher types. My presentation on Skype author visits was part of the Teachers’ Choice Symposium; here’s our whole crew.

From left to right: Kate Klimo, Shannon Hale, me, Kathy Erskine, Marjorie Podzielinski and Suzanne Jenson from the Teachers’ Choice Committee.

Kate started us off with a great talk about websites and how they’re great for interacting with young readers.  Then Kathryn shared some thoughts on blogs, social networking, newsletters (she is a busy lady!), and virtual visits, and I wrapped up with a presentation on my experiences with Skype Author Visits as both a teacher and an author.  Then, the funny and wonderful Shannon Hale Skyped live with 4th and 5th graders in Texas and Kansas to show everyone how it works.

Shannon is always a delightful speaker; she shared one of her elementary school stories and unfurled a long, long scroll of rejection letters from her early writing days.  And the kids were terrific; their nervousness at facing a room full of educators faded quickly, and it was fun to watch them enjoying the visit.

I also got to meet Katherine Sokolowski, another teacher whose class I’ve met via Skype! (A special shout-out to Mrs. Sokolowski’s class!  She told me you asked her to bring you along to the conference on a field trip – I would have loved to meet every one of you in person!)

Then it was off to the Walker/Bloomsbury booth to sign books.  Look who came to visit us!

That’s Shannon, Mitali Perkins, and me…

LJ buddy   stopped by, too, along with  , who was signing his new SMART ALECK’S GUIDE TO AMERICAN HISTORY later on.

All that talking and signing left about an hour for me to roam the exhibit hall and ogle beautiful new books.  I spotted a few famliar covers!

Look,  !

Tara Kelly’s  HARMONIC FEEDBACK was there, too!

And  ‘s CHAINS, which I’m reading with my 7th graders right now.  See the bound manuscripts next to it? That’s the sequel, FORGE, which I drooled over, to no avail.  (If you got one, please don’t tell me because I’ll have to take you off my friends list in a fit of jealousy.)

I’m looking forward to tonight’s publisher dinner with the Walker/Bloomsbury folks, then morning school visit (*waves to kids at Westmont Junior High*) before my flight home.  I am going to just pretend I did not hear that weather forecast for 6-12 inches of snow in Northern NY.

IRA Day One: Rain, Dinner, & Big Plans

Technically, the International Reading Association Convention in Chicago starts today, so today should be Day One, but since I arrived in town yesterday, I’m taking liberties.  Getting here itself was a bit of a trick, since Chicago was so rainy and foggy yesterday that the tops of the skyscrapers were swallowed up in clouds. My flight was delayed about an hour and a half, and from what I’ve seen on Twitter, I was one of the lucky ones. So many tweets from authors & teachers stuck in airports! I hope everyone trying to get to IRA makes it today!

Last night, I attended a publisher dinner with the awesome Walker/Bloomsbury folks, some amazing teachers & librarians, and author/illustrators Matt McElligott and Kevin O’Malley, all of whom were delightful.  Two of the educators who joined us, Suzanne Jensen and Marjorie Podzielinski, were familiar faces because I Skyped with their students earlier this year.  It was so much fun to meet them in person, and today, we’re presenting together, talking about Skype author visits as part of the IRA Teachers’ Choice Symposium. After my part of the presentation, Shannon Hale will be doing a live Skype visit with kids in Kansas and Texas. And authors Kate Klimo and Kathy Erskine will be presenting, too – I can’t wait!  (A couple LJ friends who know Kathy in person have told me that I must hug her for them when I see her. I am hoping she is the kind of person who will not be troubled by hugs from a stranger. Fair warning, Kathy, if you are reading this!)

So today, our symposium is from 11-1:45.  Shannon Hale and I will be signing in the Bloomsbury/Walker booth from 2-3.  I plan to spend a couple hours ogling new books on the exhibit hall floor after that and will try to take some photos to share later on.  Tonight, there’s another publisher dinner, where I’ll finally get to meet fellow Walker author Danette Haworth, whom I’ve known online since before either of us were Walker authors. I love that about the children’s book community; even when you are far away from home and don’t "know" anyone, you still find friends.

More to come (with pictures!) later on!