I had a pretty amazing weekend at the end of January. It really felt like a culmination, a welcoming, a final initiation into a community that has truly changed my teaching and my life.
I don’t have a lot of extra cash for going to conferences and workshops. My district is usually quite willing to pay for admission to such events, but very rarely do they pay for things like hotel, airfare, etc. And I just can’t swing it. Maybe once the kids are out of daycare/preschool and into public school. Maybe. So, every time a conference comes around, NCTE, ALA, IRA, ETC, I get a severe case of Twitter jealousy. So much fun going on, so many great people hanging out, so many good books being shared (that’s the next post). It’s very hard for me.
You can imagine my excitement, then, to find that the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting was coming to my state, to Seattle, just an 80 minute drive down I-5. Finally, I could spread the jealousy myself.
I heard a quote a while back. I don’t remember where. It went “Twitter makes you like strangers. Facebook makes you hate your friends.” I don’t know about that second part (I’m not on Facebook), but I certainly agree with the first. I have a lot of people I consider friends, whose ideas and expertise I admire and value, whom I have never met face-to-face. Until now.
Finding #nerdybookclub just over a year ago was a life-changing experience for me. I fell right into a community of like-minded, and more importantly, like-motivated people. I found the professional learning community I’ve never had at my school. Perhaps I can still build my own local PLC, but until then, my appetite for passion and enthusiasm is well-sated with all my Twitter friends. And now, with ALA just down the road, I had a chance to actually meet some of them.
Since ALA Midwinter is mostly committee meetings and business, I purchased an “Exhibits Only” pass for a mere $35. It might be the best $35 I’ve ever spent.
I arrived at the exhibit hall on Saturday evening. I headed straight for the exhibit hall, hoping to meet up with some #nerdybookclub folk wandering the booths. I found some.
And we found Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s new book, Platypus Police Squad!
The first #nerdybookclub friends I ever met in person were Shannon, Lorna, and Cheryl. They are Washingtonians, too. Does that count, then? It does.
I am not a very social person. I take a long time to warm up, and I’m not much of a talker. So it was sort of amazing to be able to just slip right into comfortable conversation with people I’d never met. It was a new experience for me. Of course, we’ve had many conversations before. Just not in person. Of course Shannon might be the most outgoing person I’ve ever met, so maybe that helped, too.
Shannon was also the point person for a #nerdybookclub meet-up that night. I was looking forward to this so much. So many people who I admire and respect, finally in person. To talk and laugh and share and…eat.
Here you can see Aly, Sylvie, Cynthia obscured by her husband :^), Travis, many others, and my bald head waaay in the back.
Alyson Beecher was one of the first #nerdybookclub members I followed on Twitter. Cynthia Alaniz was one of the first #nerdybookclub members I spent much time conversing with on Twitter. Sylvie has the same last name as me (but pronounces it differently)! Getting to shake their hands, or give them a hug, was kind of mind-blowing.
I’ve met a few authors, but I’ve never had a chance to sit down to dinner with one. But I did that night, with Kim Baker, author of Pickle, and Kristen Kittscher, of the upcoming Wig in the Window. Sitting and talking with authors. Crazy. It was sort of like a dream.
But eventually, I had to go to bed. But it’s OK! I went back the next day!
On Sunday, I got up early and spent all day in the exhibit hall, picking up free books and finding friends. I found Mr. Schu (the first educator I followed on Twitter). I found Julie Hembree. I found Tom Angleberger! Actually, I didn’t just meet Tom Angleberger. We walked around the exhibits together for 20 minutes, talking Guys Read, books, and oh-my-gosh-Tom-Angleberger-oh-my-gosh. He was so nice.
My arms hurt a lot on Sunday. I dropped books and posters at my car three times. Lorna and Julie and I sat and rested for a while with a slice of free cake. The day was capped with an event put on by Walden Pond Press. Kellie Celia was nice enough to invite me and much of the #nerdybookclub. I’m am glad to call her my friend (next time we’ll get to talk more). It was great. Author Kevin Emerson was in attendance, but…I didn’t actually talk to him. I took the opportunity to sit and talk with all the #nerdybookclub folks who were at the other end of the table the night before. Sitting and just chatting with Cynthia, Aly, and Sylvie, Shannon, Julie, and Lorna, was amazing. We had a conversation I wish I could have with my colleagues at school. For now, I am content to continue these conversations virtually. I will work on my colleagues down the hall.
Thank you to everyone who made my weekend a great one! I still think about it every day. Thank you for being a part of my life.
Shannon, John, Lorna, Julie, Tom Kim, Kristen, Cheryl, Beth, Sylvie, Cynthia, Aly, Kellie, Valerie, Cathy, D, and probably more I don’t remember.
Coming next week: Part 2: Books.