Orlando ALA 2016: Printz, tattoos, & more

ALA 2016 in Orlando brought the sweetness of connecting with fellow authors and amazing librarians as well as the career high of receiving a 2016 Printz Honor Award for Out of Darkness. But there was also the bitter fact of the Pulse shooting just weeks before the conference, reminding us again that racism, homophobia, hatred, and access to weapons of war render some bodies especially vulnerable in public spaces. Christopher Myer’s essay “Orlando” weaves connections between the Pulse shooting and the work of authors and librarians. Read it here.

Friday night I had dinner with the Printz committee that awarded Out of Darkness a Printz honor as well as Printz winner Laura Ruby and fellow honoree Marcus Sedgewick.  The gorgeous Printz tattoos were a definite highlight.


The Printz committee shows off their tattoos… I bask in their collective awesomeness.

Two tattoos incorporated elements from Out of Darkness, including Naomi’s braid and oak leaves to represent Wash and Naomi’s tree. I am still wrapping my head around the fact that features from the world of my novel exist on actual people’s bodies.

The Printz award ceremony included a smart speech by Laura Ruby and a panel conversation with all of us (hosted by Dan Kraus, whose curmudgeon act–“People keep trying to hug me”–only partly conceals his innate sweetness). At the reception afterwards I celebrated with Andrew Karre, my amazing editor, without whom there would have been no Out of Darkness. Can you see how proud we are of this collaboration?

Saturday was more quality time with Andrew and my hardworking agent, Steven Chudney, as well as a fun signing at the Lerner booth for Out of Darkness. I used up two Sharpies and gave out every Tomás Rivera medal I had packed in my bag.ALAsigning_1

One of the great things about Out of Darkness winning the 2016 Tomás Rivera Book Award and the 2016 Américas Book Award is that the Printz honor helps bring greater visibility to these awesome but less-well-known awards. Librarians and teachers, if you aren’t already using them for collection development, please go discover them. The winners and the commended titles are must-order titles if you want to include powerful literary engagements with Mexican-American, Latinx, and Latin-American experiences.

Saturday night, I had a lovely dinner with authors and editors from Lerner Publishing Group, which published my first three novels as part of the Carolrhoda Lab imprint. Fellow author Penny Spicer made everyone in the Lerner crew beautiful necklaces and keychains with book covers. Look how pretty Out of Darkness is under the glass!


Sunday was the crazy-but-fun YA author Coffee Klatch… This is where we author types run from table to table every 4 minutes and talk about our books. This would be hell for introverts (myself included) if it weren’t for the fact that librarians are such a nice lot. Just after the Coffee Klatch, I talked on a panel on Diversity, Race, Sex, and Gender in Kid Lit with Jason Low, Kelly Starling Lyons, Varian Johnson, Jamie Campbell Naidoo, Dan Santat, and my dear friend Pat Enciso. Edi Campbell was our moderator, and our hour together flew by.

Before I caught my flight, I went to the 20th Anniversary Pura Belpré Celebración, which honors Latinx creators (authors and illustrators) for their accomplishments in 2015. A live performance of dance, singing, and drumming cracked open our hearts and launched us into a new year of creation.  During the reception I got to meet Pura Belpré honoree Duncan Tonatiuh, who also won the Tomás Rivera, for a photo. I’m looking forward to seeing him at the Texas celebration of the Tomás Rivera in October.


I wish I could have stayed longer to hear Matt de la Peña’s speech accepting the Newbery on Sunday night. I am so proud of Matt, who is a wonderful writer, and big-hearted literacy advocate. Check out his speech here and read this powerful essay on why the Last Stop on Market Street Newbery win is so important.

That’s it for quick thoughts about ALA 2016. I remain the hugest of librarian groupies and send my love and thanks to everyone who took the time to connect with me during the conference. To finish, here are some more fun images from the weekend…

A memento from the dinner with the Printz crew. Sadly, I talked too much and didn't finish my food! The conversation was worth it, though.

A memento from the dinner with the Printz crew. The food was delicious, but I talked too much and didn’t finish. The conversation was worth it, though.


Printz authors at the pre-ceremony dinner. The waiters relentlessly filled our wine glasses. What could we do but smile?


And here we are trying to act smart on the stage. The wine helped.

My editor Andrew Karre kept track of his program and drink coupon...

My editor Andrew Karre kept track of his program and drink coupon…

I was reading Meredith Russo's fab debut novel, IF I WAS YOUR GIRL, when I met her at the Coffee Klatch.

I was reading Meredith Russo’s fab debut novel, IF I WAS YOUR GIRL, when I met her at the YALSA Coffee Klatch.

I loved meeting Sarah Park Dahlen, professor and advocate for diversity in children's literature.

I loved meeting Sarah Park Dahlen, professor and advocate for diversity in children’s literature.

This made me happy–as did hearing librarians talk about how they might promote gender-inclusive restrooms in their libraries.


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