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>ALA aftermath

>At a birthday party in the Catskills this past Saturday night, not only did the conversation–among civilians, no less–turn to the pleasures of The Graveyard Book, the waitress chimed in as well: “that book is so awesome.” So I was proud to be able to brag about my interview with Neil Himself at ALA last week. I was a little taken aback when I saw him, black-clad and sunglassed, coming down the aisle accompanied by a bevy of slender young women also dressed in black–jeez, a freaking entourage, I thought, but the conversation was good. The highlight, I thought, was Neil’s response to my favorite question: “have you ever seen a ghost?” While Naomi Shihab Nye, hands down, had the best response I ever got to this one, Neil had a good story too, involving a dark country night, solitary streetlight, and a gypsy. His storytelling skills are as impressive off the cuff as they are on the page. [Update: Naomi’s ghost story is posted in the comments.]

Although we had a little trouble perfecting the sound system (but kudos to my roadies Andrew and Randy for keeping at it) the five interviews I did were all swell. (Six were scheduled but Laurie Halse Anderson had a family emergency and had to go home.) Highlights from the others:

–I asked Candy Fleming if she had ever had to give up on a biography because she got bored with her subject. She said no, but that in her work on a forthcoming book about Amelia Earhart, she had definitely found her admiration for the aviator tempered. I hope the book will tell us why.

–Brian Selznick said that becoming an artist means accepting the fact that you will live in a state of terror. (I think he’s been hanging out with Sendak too much.) He also said that he’s working on a book that, at this point, is twice as long as Hugo Cabret.

–Ashley Bryan gave us a preview of his call-and-response Caldecott speech, getting us to roar along with Eloise Greenfield’s “Things.” The crowd also serenaded him with “Happy birthday,” whereupon he invited us all to his party the next night. I wish I could have gone but, honestly, at eighty-six that man wears me out.

–We had a triple threat Monday morning with Caldecott medalist Beth Krommes (pictured), her author Susan Marie Swanson, and their editor, Ann Rider. Beth explained scratchboard technique and knowing when to stop; Susan read their book aloud; Ann talked about how an editor envisions a picture book with only a brief manuscript in hand. They all got bemusingly embarrassed when I asked Beth an innocent question about what reading antique furniture magazines at bedtime did to her dreams.

I hope we can do it again next year–hey, Midwinter is in Boston, maybe I can get some of my favorite homies to submit to interrogation.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. Anonymous says:

    >I can't remember when, but someone at some put up a blog post that made some very cutting comments about The Incredibly Frumpifying Effect in the ALA's "READ" posters. Kathryn Heigl? Orlando Bloom? Keira Knightly? How can the ALA make these people look so bad?

    Check out Neil Gaiman's READ poster and you will see what I mean.

  2. Roger Sutton says:

    >Oh dear, that IS unfortunate.

  3. Elizabeth says:

    >I know, even Tim Gunn looks bad in my READ poster.

    Roger, where can we hear the Naomi Nye ghost answer?

  4. >Thanks, Elizabeth, I was just going to ask about Naomi Nye's ghost answer too.

  5. Anonymous says:

    >Credit where credit is due . . .

    I read it You Neighborhood Librarian.

  6. Anonymous says:

    >Wow, can I not type. That should have been, "I read it at Your Neighborhood Librarian."

    If you go there, type "Fug" in the search box.

  7. melanie hope greenberg says:

    >Thanks for the wrap up. I enjoyed seeing ALA photos and reports on Facebook. Helped me to feel part of it all.

  8. Roger Sutton says:

    >I asked Naomi to send me her story. Here it is:

    "My mom and I were indeed riding in the back seat of a taxi on a narrow mountain road late at night in Guatemala. (How brave we were when we were young.) Suddenly we both saw a woman in a white gauzy/filmy dress lunge up from the side of the road, her hands out-stretched, her face tormented. We yelled in unison. The driver, who had swerved a bit when she materialized, said calmly, 'No worry, ladies, this is a ghost mother, we see her all the time — she pushed her children off mountain, then jumped. Everybody sees her. No worry.'
    We looked back out the rear window and she was gone.


    I think my mom and I held hands after that."–Naomi Shihab Nye

  9. Jennifer Schultz says:

    >That's an interesting remark from Candace Fleming. When I was a child, I read every Earhart biography I could find. Can't wait to read her Earhart biography (and am really curious as to what she discovered).

  10. Elizabeth says:

    >Roger, I could kill you. It's 10:35 PM and I just read Naomi's ghost story, above. I was hoping to get to work early tomorrow, but now I'm just going to be scared to death all night and will probably only get to sleep with the dawn.

    THAT STORY FREAKS ME OUT! I did ask you to tell it, though.

  11. Anonymous says:

    >Please tell me that Neil Gaiman wasn't wearing sunglasses indoors.

    I thought only Jack Nicholson and Anthony Bourdain were allowed to do that.

  12. >Are you sure it was Mr. Gaiman you saw? Your description lends me to believe it was actually a Robert Palmer impersonator.

  13. Anonymous says:

    >glad to see that your sponsor/owner got a headline in the photo

  14. Beth Kephart says:

    >I have been thoroughly entertained. And I thank you. Naomi's ghost mother shares a striking resemblance to the ghosts of my Salvadoran husband's childhood. I wonder if you could get them on a panel next year.

  15. a. fortis says:

    >Excellent ghost story from Naomi, and thanks for the ALA notes and teasers.

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