Guest Post: Liz Garton Scanlon on the ALA Conference and the Caldecott

By Liz Garton Scanlon

In late January, soon after the American Library Association children’s-YA book awards were announced at the Midwinter Conference in Boston, I received my official invitation to attend the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.

I was fairly floating at the time, and all thoughts turned to dresses and shoes.

June, I thought, was right around the corner.

But then five months of life intervened, and on June 25, I found myself on an airplane, unsure of whether I had a layover, where my hotel was, and who knows what was in my suitcase.

Thank goodness I went straight from the airport to a restaurant with round tables laden with tapas and sangria.

And, thank goodness again, there were my poetry sisters, many of whom I’d only met online until then. But we’d been writing together for a couple of years and, over time, had grown into friends. Really good friends.

So we sat there – five of the seven of us (Tanita S. Davis and Andromeda Jazmon were still on their way), and the floaty feeling I’d had in January started coming back.

This was going to be fun.

(“Poetry Sisters” – top row: Kelly Fineman, Laura Purdie Salas, Sara Lewis Holmes; bottom row: Tricia Stohr-Hunt, Liz Garton Scanlon.)

We could have stayed right there with our glasses of fruity wine ‘til Sunday, but the social calendar called. Next up? Kidlit Drinks Night – where we ran into bloggers galore. It’s funny to meet in person people whom you feel you already know. Sometimes they are blond instead of brunette, or short instead of tall. They are invariably at least as nice. Also, I unexpectedly ran into my agent (Erin Murphy). Double-whammy bonus.

Saturday, I took a morning run around The White House and all the monuments because, believe it or not, this was my first time in D.C.

At The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, there was a man about my dad’s age, crying and crying, as his daughters each held one of his hands. I walked instead of ran back to the hotel.

Next, I made my way over to the ALA exhibit hall, which was rather overwhelmingly super-sized – until I remembered it was filled with people who loved books, making it just the right size. First up was a short, sweet interview with the kind and tireless Barb Langridge. It went well except for the fact that my voice dropped about two-and-a-half octaves as I spoke.

Afterward, I lunched with my All the World (Beach Lane, 2009) editor (Allyn Johnston) and illustrator (Marla Frazee), during which my voice returned to normal.

I trolled the exhibit hall after lunch and ran, pell-mell, into practically all the authors and illustrators and editors I’ve ever dreamed of meeting.

(Lois Ehlert and Marilyn Singer.)

(Jessica Lee Anderson, P.J. Hoover, Harold Underdown with Liz in the gray sweater [Jessica and P.J. are members of an Austin-based author group called the Texas Sweethearts].)

(Erin Dionne and Heidi R. Kling with Liz (center).)

And from there, I was off to an afternoon tea at the exquisite Georgetown home of Tami Lewis Brown (where I met everyone I hadn’t met at the convention center). And that includes the current National Ambassador of Children’s Literature Katherine Paterson.

I almost asked her to pinch me.

(Tea Photos: Katherine Patterson in the striped ribbon with some familiar faces.)

(Sara Lewis Holmes and Jama Rattigan.)

(Helen Hemphill and Liz)

That evening, we had a lovely, celebratory Beach Lane Books dinner at the most delicious Italian restaurant. Beach Lane, a Simon & Schuster imprint, brainchild of the inimitable Allyn Johnston, and publisher of All the World and my next few books, is less than two years old but they’ve already put together the most perfect little lists.

So, there was a lot to toast, and we did – Allyn and her editorial partner, Andrea Welch, Marla Frazee, Mem Fox, Lois Ehlert, Debra Frasier, M.T. Anderson, and the smart, funny, generous Powers That Be at Simon &Schuster.

I could not get over the fact that I got to sit smack-dab in the middle of this amazing group of people. Maybe writing books isn’t such a lonely endeavor after all.

(Editor Andrea Welch and M.T. Anderson.)

(Mem Fox, Simon & Schuster Children’s Field Sales Director Brian Kelleher, and Debra Frasier.)

(A peek at the table.)

Sunday morning felt remarkably nearby, but I entered it gently when my dear friend Sara Lewis Holmes showed up at my hotel room with her dear friend Suzie Celentano – for yoga with the furniture pushed aside. An hour-and-a-half later, signing books in the Scholastic Book Fair booth, my skin was still thrumming.

From Scholastic, we moved to Simon & Schuster and kept signing, Marla and I together. We had color-coordinated Sharpies and a good groove, except that I was apparently too chatty so the lines crept along.

Lunch that day was with my beloved agent, Erin Murphy and the lovely Michelle Nagler of Bloomsbury, the editor of my forthcoming picture book, Think Big (spring 2012). We talked about books and babies, and we ate quite a lot of good food. (Quickly becoming a theme of the weekend…)

There’s no time to elaborate, though, since The Newbery Caldecott banquet is right around the corner and there’s primping to be done. I was to meet Allyn and Marla in the lobby of our hotel.

They looked dynamite, and the whole affair was starting to feel like a cross between prom and something really fun.

(Liz with Marla Frazee and editor Allyn Johnston).

How to describe that night? I thought it might feel overwhelming or anticlimactic, but it wasn’t either one. It was just really special.

We met the librarians on the Caldecott Committee – the ones who’d chosen to recognize All the World as an honor book. We listened to the happy, happy speeches by Jerry Pinkney and Rebecca Stead. We hugged friends and strangers and shook a lot of hands.

And when Marla walked onto stage to receive the honor for All the World, I had to swallow very, very carefully to keep from spilling tears all over my dress.

(Editor Allyn Johnston with literary agent Erin Murphy.)

Liz and Marla pose with some of the Caldecott Committee librarians.

(Liz with 2010 Sibert Honor Author Chris Barton.)

There were other events over the next two days, not the least of which was lunch with the Caldecott Committee on Monday – I had no idea the work and passion put into that project each year – and The Coretta Scott King breakfast on Tuesday, where my friend Tanita was awarded an honor for her funny, moving book, Mare’s War (Knopf, 2009). And either each and every one of these events was perfect, or I must’ve been wearing magic shoes because things sure looked dreamy to me.

(Caldecott Award Committee.)

(Coretta Scott King Award Brunch: Andromeda Jazmon, Coretta Scott King Honor Author Tanita S. Davis, Liz, and Kelly Fineman.)

A little dose of reality? By the time I headed home, I had lost my voice in earnest and was nursing a case of pinkeye. Funny how, in the end, neither really mattered.

I mean, really, even Cinderella probably had sore feet….

(Liz and Marla’s feet at the banquet!)

Cynsational Notes

Top photo of Liz by

From Simon & Schuster: “Liz Garton Scanlon is the author of the critically acclaimed picture books All the World, illustrated by Marla Frazee, and A Sock is a Pocket for Your Toes by Robin Preiss Glasser (HarperCollins, 2004). She is an adjunct professor of creative writing at Austin Community College, and her poetry has been published widely in literary journals. She lives with her family in Austin, Texas.”

Read Liz’s LiveJournal, Liz In Ink. Don’t miss today’s post, The Calendar Year of a Caldecott Book.

All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee (Beach Lane, 2010) is a Caldecott Honor Book. It also earned the following recognition:

  • ALA Notable Children’s Books;
  • Bank Street Best Books of the Year – with Outstanding Merit;
  • New York Times best-seller;
  • Bulletin Blue Ribbon;
  • Capitol Choices List (DC);
  • CBC/NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book;
  • CCBC Choices (Cooperative Children’s Book Council);
  • Horn Book Fanfare;
  • IRA Children’s Book Award;
  • Kirkus Best Children’s Book;
  • New York Times Best Illustrated Books;
  • NYPL 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing;
  • Parents’ Choice Gold Award Winner;
  • Publishers Weekly Best Books;
  • School Library Journal Best Books of the Year;
  • Texas 2×2 Reading List.

Check out the book trailer for All the World from Circle of Seven Productions.