Ashley: Last year in September while laying on a hotel bed in Las Vegas, I was on my phone and I looked at Tina and yelled “TINA! ALA IS IN CHICAGO NEXT YEAR WE SHOULD GO.” And Tina, being Tina and knowing me is like “okay.” And that is how 9 floormonths later we ended up at ALA in Chicago.

Tina and I, first, embraced the plan. I mean, we embraced the plan. We had charts and schedules and we were ready to go, then after day one (Friday) we regrouped and made our plans even smaller. We figured out exactly what we wanted to do and every day at lunch we readjusted what we really wanted to do.

You think all day at exhibits how exhausting can that be? Here’s a hint: very. At us1one point I was all Tina! Lets take a photo. And this is what we looked like. She’s all happy and normal and I look like death. (Tina: I think this was right after my legs gave out from exhaustion.) I wasn’t even trying to look like death. It just happened. Because walking up and down aisles with tons of people get exhausting. Tina and I were snipping at each other at the end of the first night not cause we were mad at each other, but because the first night was like Black Friday at a Walmart at midnight. I didn’t know librarians could act that way. It was crazy! (Tina: It was a fire hazard in there! McCormick Center is HUGE, but the aisles were too small for two-way traffic, and at some booths, you had to literally push your way through a throng of people. It was stressful!)

It was also crazy to go there as a librarian and blogger. Many publishers didn’t care which I was, but a few did.  It was also interesting to over hear certain bloggers get upset that there were so many librarians there…at a librarian conference. That one threw Tina and me for a tinaloop. But back to the beginning. Friday. Oh how it was a clusterfuck. Thankfully we went early to get our badges. We expected the line to be crazy. It wasn’t. ALA has that down extremely well. Then, after eating lunch and killing some time we noticed a line was forming for the exhibits. Thankfully one of the people in line was my friend, Bailey, so we stopped and talked to her while charging our phones on my portable charger. That charger FYI was the best purchase ever. Highly recommend it.

Even though we were crazy early the lines only got worse and worse. Then they let us in and the running of the bulls happened. (Tina: People actually ran! Like it was some contest or something. When they took off, I said, “oh, is that how we do this?”) The first day prepared us though for the rest of the conference. Of course after Friday the conference slowed down and we were able to breathe. We daily made our giantfloordream list of authors we wanted to meet or galleys we wanted to get and every day at lunch we readjusted because by noon we were dead and wanted to take the train back to her house and pass out in front of Netflix staring at the ARCs we were lucky enough to find.

Overall the conference was worth it, and I feel that Tina agrees with me. (Tina: I do.) It was an awesome, yet exhausting time. We got to meet a lot of people who love books. No matter what booth we were at people wanted to discuss books. We asked a woman about one book and she was upset because she didn’t have the book on her but she then went out of her way to recommend us two other books because they were of the same genre. It’s refreshing to see people love books as much as we at this blog do. We got to go on a random road that became our favorite thing ever. We met a lot of awesome authors, we hung out a lot together in lines because Tina is a good friend and understands when I go “TINA I WANT TO SEE THIS AUTHOR/GET THIS GALLEY OR I’LL DIE” that I’m not being that dramatic. She also let me nerd out about librarian things while eating massive amounts of pizza and pop soda. (Tina: Pop.)

Do I recommend ALA? Yes. Do I recommending going without a plan? (Tina: No.) That’s up to you, but I do recommend that whatever your plan is, understand it will change because it’s more exhausting than you think it is. But I also recommend picking the right person to go with you because again, it’s a lot to take in at once. Also, if you’re going to go and bad mouth librarians: don’t.

Tina: I’m not a conference noob, but this one was filled with some of the most polite people I have ever met. I got to meet Stephanie Kuehn and get my copy of Charm & Strange signed, and we shared our love of unreliable narrators. So that was awesome. We also met Holly Black, and I fangirl gushed about how she got me into YA with her Modern Faerie Tales series. Her hair was BLUE. I love her. Another author we met was Lauren Myracle, and we discovered the first name of the protag in her new book is my last name. So she drew me a bird, a terrible, terrible hanger with feathers. That was a lot of fun, despite the long line. And finally, meeting Elizabeth Wein was great, partially due to Ashley and I heading the line, and partly due to how much I am enjoying Code Name Verity right now. I also want to give some props to the incredibly nice people at the Disney booth, who went out of their way to find the ARCs you asked for or told you when the signing would be for you to get it. Macmillan was also super great and informative. I enjoyed talking to the women at that booth. I also saw Frank Beddor and Jim C. Hines from afar, and I fangirled a little, just silently to myself. As Ashley said, it was great to meet and talk to people who love YA and reading as much as we do here. Connecting with those people is pretty rare for me (not a single friend I have IRL reads), so this experience was so much fun and really enlightening. I’d totally go again.