ALA Exposé: Meet Lori Ess, Senior Editor for Book Clubs

20 Jul

In case you missed it on our Facebook page, here is an amazing account of ALA from one of our Senior Editors in Book Clubs, Lori:

I was a pretty different person when I attended my first American Library Association Annual Conference back in 2005. I was about to finish my Masters in Library Science and had gone to Chicago to walk wide-eyed into a world where reading and the reader consumed everyone’s thoughts. I was also looking for a job. After five days of panel discussions, author events, conference sessions, and countless hours scouring the exhibit halls, I was fired up for my new profession. I also had found a job, and it brought me to Queens, New York, where I started my career as a Children’s Librarian. Five years later I was back at ALA, but this time as an editor for Scholastic Book Clubs. But no matter my job title, it was, as it had been five years ago, all about the books.

Each year, ALA holds an annual conference where people from all walks of librarianship, bookselling, publishing, education and technology can come together and discuss, network, and do business. As an editor with Scholastic Book Clubs, my mission was to meet publishers and seek out fabulous titles, most of which happened in the legendary Exhibit Halls. The Exhibit Halls are legendary for two reasons.

Reason #1: Swag. If you’re a book person, book swag is possibly better than Christmas. The most popular items of book swag are tote bags, pins, bookmarks, posters, and, for the very lucky, Advanced Reader’s Copies of not-yet published books. If you are keen of eye and strong of back, you can come home with a suitcase full of book-related booty.

Reason #2: Random (and not so random) Author Sightings. A surprising number and variety of authors regularly attend ALA conferences. Many take part in panel discussions or give talks about trends, genres, and issues in the book world. And lots of them spend time at their publisher’s booths signing copies of their books. These are both great ways to bask in the presence of literary greatness (or at least celebrity). To me, the most special star-struck moments are when you stumble across authors and illustrators wandering the exhibit halls on their own, seeking out fellow writers (or maybe just a snack and a change of scenery). My favorite author encounter this year actually happened to a librarian friend of mine, Laura, who found herself in line in front of the fantastic YA writer Libba Bray while waiting to get her copy of Bamboo People signed by Mitali Perkins. Ms. Bray complimented Laura’s sunglasses, and Laura told her that her 16 year old sister adored Going Bovine. Ms. Bray’s response? “Let’s call her and say hello!” That is some classy author behavior, if you ask me.

The highlight of my journey was attending the Newbery Caldecott Banquet, which celebrates the authors and illustrators who have won that year’s awards and honors. Ticket in hand and new heels on my feet, I walked into the Hilton Washington and found myself in some pretty spectacular company. I was lucky enough to meet (among too many to list here) writers David Levithan, Matthew Kirby, and Deborah Wiles, and the incomparable artists Art Spiegelman and David Small. Then the awards were presented and the winners delivered their much anticipated speeches. Both Jerry Pinkney (who won for The Lion and the Mouse) and Rebecca Stead (who won for When You Reach Me) fairly glowed with gratitude and joy. I felt like the luckiest girl at the ball, surrounded by so much talent (and not just authorial talent – magnificent editors, educators, librarians, and one brilliant fourth-grader who spent the last two years reading every Newbery winner). But I also felt at home, surrounded by people who, just like me, were all about the books.

One Response to “ALA Exposé: Meet Lori Ess, Senior Editor for Book Clubs”

  1. Maddz July 20, 2010 at 4:21 pm #

    I SOOO wanna go to ALA! And Libba Bray sounds SO COOL

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