TLA 2011- ARCs, Authors, and Awesomeness, Oh My!

Last week, I spent several days at The Texas Library Association conference in Austin, Texas. I sat in on sessions about science in kids’ books, picture books, and the like. I schmoozed with authors, illustrators, and some of the nicest librarians in the state. Then I opened more book covers than you can imagine.

Among the literary superstars under one roof, John R. Erickson was at the top of my list. Not because of any award he’s won. Not because he’s sold 7.5 million copies of his books. He’s not part of the “in” crowd and doesn’t claim any expertise about writing for children (ahem…7.5 million books sold.) My admiration is rooted in countless memories with my sons, curled up with the latest Hank the Cowdog book. We’ve even trudged through Boston book stores in search of new releases while on vacation. In person, he is the down-to-earth cowboy you’d imagine for the likes of Hank, head of ranch security, and his cohorts Drover and Slim.  He’s real people, as my father used to say.

John R. Erickson, author of the Hank the Cowdog series

One of the benefits to attending this conference is the sheer number of ARCs being giving away by publishers. The goal, of course, is to entice librarians to order the library-bound book once it officially hits the publisher’s catalog.

* For those who don’t know, ARC is the acronym for Advanced Reader Copy- an uncorrected proof of a brand-spanking-new book soon to be born to book shelves.

Folks gimped through the exhibit hall at a tilt, so weighed down with books, you could practically hear chiropractors dancing outside the convention center. I hope these book fiends were librarians. As an author, I felt very guilty about accepting an ARC. After all, I’m not responsible for the reading content of a library. I mentioned as much to a publisher who had just opened a new box of these freebies. “Nonsense,” she said. “Pick up the ones that interest you, then spread the word about it. Tell your librarians. Tell your friends about the book. Blog about the book.” So, I chose carefully. I purchased my fair share, too, as evidenced by my extinguished conference budget. You’ll recognize a few of these titles in future blog posts.

The greatest buzz among the 7,000 attendees involved the latest ongoing budget cuts. If you’ve been hiding under a rock lately, here’s the scoop. library services and jobs are on the potential chopping block. And, there’s that new neighbor, e-books, making quite a noise lately, too. In both cases, it’s a wait-and-see game.

My camera was surprisingly inactive during TLA. Shame on me. For what it’s worth, here are a few shots. (You’ll also find more pics and wrap ups at Cynthia Leitich Smith’s great blog, Carmen Oliver’s blog, and P.J. Hoover’s blog. )

Jamie Lee Curtis was the keynote speaker during Wednesday’s general session. Though she isn’t an author I would hold up as an example of professional fortitude or literary merit, she did offer a moving speech about the importance of libraries and librarians.
From left: authors Janet Fox, Jo Whittemore, me, Bethany Hegedus

From left: authors Carmen Oliver, me, Jo Whittemore

Picture book panel. From left: author/illustrator Dan Yaccarino, author Chris Barton,  author/illustrator Eric Rohmann, author/illustrator Kevin O’Malley

2 Responses to “TLA 2011- ARCs, Authors, and Awesomeness, Oh My!”

  1. Cynthia Leitich Smith

    Great post! You're a sweetheart to be concerned about ARCs as part of an author's (very limited) promotional budget.

    My feeling is that if they're going to noise-makers, folks active in the conversation of books (like you!), that's great.

    Where I fret is when they're seen purely as freebies per se and go no farther than that.

  2. Donna

    Thank you oodles, Cyn. Truly!

    I do plan to make my share of "noise" about my favorites among these titles. And I vow to pass them along to teachers, librarians, or readerly students when I'm finished.