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How I Broke A Chair At ALA, Giant Lady Hands, A Poem about My Biceps, And Penguin Prom

I was in Chicago this past weekend for the American Library Association’s annual conference. ALA.

Picture 25,000 librarians all in one spot. Do it. If all of them had reflected the light through their glasses at the same time, we could have created a beam that would have blasted a hole in the earth.

I was there for a signing and a panel, not for blasting holes in the earth.

Here are some things I saw, questions I asked myself, and observations I made while at ALA:

  • I lost track of how many people I saw who had tote bags…stuffed with tote bags. There’s a ton of free stuff at ALA. Like tote bags.
  • How many blinking lapel pins does a person need?
  • On Friday night I went to dinner with 11 people from Penguin. At the restaurant I sat by the most interesting person, a tall blonde woman who was impossibly smart. It took about 15 minutes for me to realize that it was Suzanne Rindell, one of my favorite authors.  Read The Other Typist.
  • The 12 of us took a stretch limo to the restaurant. I used to think they were cool, having never been in one. Kind of tacky. There were the dumbest LED lights in the ceiling, and the colors changed quickly. Look, we’re all blue, now red, now yellow. And we were crowded.  Happily, I got to sit next to Lyndsay Fay, another author I love. She and her husband were two of the funniest people I’ve ever met.
  • Oh, and she’s going to write a poem about my bicep, which is currently covered in bruises and scratches from an Atlas stone. She wrote a poem about Neil Gaiman’s hair once, so I’m happy to have a body part added to the canon.
  • I was asked to be at the signing booth from 1:30 to 2:30, and to show up 15 minutes early. My favorite part of the trip was probably seeing the line and having no idea that it was people waiting for me. Then I started signing and we sold out of books quickly. A lot of books! You all who were there in that insane line have no idea how good you made me feel


  • I was signing at the booth with Tracy Garvis-Graves, bestselling author and lovely person. About a month ago we started joking that we should coordinate our outfits. That turned into “we should be prom dates,” which somehow turned into me promising her a wrist corsage. I had to scramble Saturday morning to find one, but we got there. Tracy, you were a great sport.


  •  Finding a corsage was such a hassle that I thought, well, I’m going to be meeting Stephanie Bodeen, another author I (surprise) adore, so she got one too. I take it back. The expression on here face here was my favorite part of the trip: 



  • While I was signing, I was in a tall-backed director’s style chair. It broke after about 10 minutes. They brought me another one and apologized way too much. I guess I’m too intense to even sit without destroying everything. 
  • A woman came up in the line and said, “I’ve got to show you something!” She asked me to hold up a hand, which I did. Her hand was bigger than mine. She was delicate in every other way, and was so excited about her gigantic hands. Hand lady, if you read this, you made my day. I’m still smiling about it.
  • I met a lovely Jamaican woman who teaches chemistry in New York. She was not impressed at all by my Jamaican accent, but she did tell me I look good for a white boy
  • I tried to push the Penguin truck. It was too heavy
  • The author’s panel was called Quirky Books For Quirkier librarians. Barbara Hoffert moderated (Barbara, I love you). The panel included me, Stephen Kiernan, John Scalzi (one of my very favorite SF writers), and Abby Stokes (she was so funny I felt like a potato by comparison). It was a great crew. We each spoke for about 10 minutes and then signed. And again, everyone bought so many books that we ran out again. Thank you!
  • I was told that I made a bunch of people cry during my talk. I suppose this is to be my lot in life, making women cry everywhere I go. My tics were awful and I got a big laugh when I told everyone that I could pull their heads off. 
  • I don’t think I’ll ever get used to hearing someone say, “I’m so excited to meet you!” and realizing that they mean it. Humbling and wonderful.
  • Librarians, I love you all. Your work matters more than you’ll ever know.
  • I ate a Chicago hot dog that came very close to restoring my belief in God.
  • So there it is. Hundreds of books sold, lots of new friends made, and as I said at the end of my talk…”Isn’t it good to be us?” You’re included in that too, kind reader.



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jerry Morris July 1, 2013, 1:57 pm

    Great post!

    • Ruth Coe Chambers July 5, 2013, 3:05 pm

      Well now, aren’t you the fortunate one. Glad you had such a wonderful and joyous experience. I did too, on a much smaller scale, when I had my book launch at my home town on the 29th. My home town’s (Port St. Joe,FL) 100th birthday and my launch. It was a dream come true. A woman in one of the stores said she’d heard of me, that I was a celebrity. Then she added, “Of course it doesn’t take much to be a celebrity in a town this size.” Story of my life.

      • Josh Hanagarne July 5, 2013, 3:53 pm

        Congratulations Ruth! What’s the book? I work with people who still have no idea that I’ve written a book.

  • Christa July 1, 2013, 8:15 pm

    Loved meeting you at ALA and glad you pointed out how lucky people are that librarians are benevolent and did not blast a hole in the earth because we could do it at any one of these conferences.

  • Sue Garvey July 2, 2013, 7:58 am

    You made my morning with this post. I looked a little weird, hunkered over and cracking up behind my twin computer monitors. I’m glad you loved our Chicago hot dogs!

    • Josh Hanagarne July 2, 2013, 1:48 pm

      Love doesn’t even begin to cover it. This was a hot dog awakening. This was the breath of life coursing through me, in the form of a hot dog.

  • Jennifer July 2, 2013, 8:36 am

    You are so funny Josh! Has anyone ever told you that you should write a book? You totally should 😉

    • Josh Hanagarne July 2, 2013, 1:48 pm

      I only write the moping. A ghostwriter does the jokes.

  • Daisy July 2, 2013, 11:58 am

    Josh, my cousin was there. I hope she met you! Like the rest of our family, she is very well read and articulate. The two of you would have had a great conversation.

  • Chris July 2, 2013, 12:40 pm

    I loved your post! I really wish I had been able to meet you at ALA because I really enjoyed your book.

    • Josh Hanagarne July 2, 2013, 1:47 pm

      Thanks Chris. Hopefully we’ll get another chance.

  • Ann B July 2, 2013, 9:34 pm

    Meeting you at ALA was right up there with getting all the free books (and tote bags, always tote bags)!

  • Ara Bedrossian July 3, 2013, 8:50 am

    An adventure, I’d say. I prescribe to having one at least once a week!

  • Vanessa Lucas July 3, 2013, 8:55 pm

    Hi Josh,
    I am ‘Giant Lady Hands’ can not wait to read your book!
    It was so nice to meet you too.

  • Kate Radford July 5, 2013, 10:36 am

    AAAAaaaahhhh! I was SO sad to miss you at ALA–we were presenting when you were signing (blast the luck!). Fortunately, I already have a (signed!) copy because my lovely friend Liesl (from Utah Co.) got me one. Anyway–I’m sure you were fantastic! Best to you.

    • Josh Hanagarne July 5, 2013, 10:57 am

      Hi Kate! I’m sure we’ll get another chance. Keep your ear to the ground.

  • Alan Walker July 15, 2013, 9:28 am

    Josh, having you at ALA was the highlight of the show. It was great meeting you. And it wasn’t just the ladies who had a tear in the eye when you did your talk. Hope we can do it all again soon! 2014 Vegas; let’s bring you back for the paperback.

    • Josh Hanagarne July 15, 2013, 11:27 am

      Alan, I’d love that more than anything, and I think the timing will work out well. I will never forget the sight of you smashed into the corner of that limo.