Last weekend was the American Library Association’s mid-winter conference. Since I’m here in San Diego now, it was no problem to shoot down to the convention center, where Penguin had three boxes of books waiting for me to sign. I even met a lady who had interviewed me for the Underground Literary Society.

I’d never been to such an event. It was pretty huge! About 13,000 people were there and I think most of them were in Neil Gaiman/Nancy Pearl’s talk, which I missed because I was, well, signing.

Even so, I am proud to say I had quite a long line at all times, in part due to the effort of the Penguin group people who flagged people down like carnival barkers. The pretty sign also brought in a lot of business.

Here’s the Penguin group people, the first time I have had actual physical contact with anyone from Penguin. Howard Wall is the Director of National Field Marketing; Dominique runs these events; and Alan Walker is Senior Director of Academic and Library Marketing & Sales. I hear Alan has quite the librarian following; I think he should sell T-shirts at his Book Buzz events and make some money on the side.

Here I am right after the signing, when I remembered to get my camera out for a pic, but all the books were gone:

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And here, here is the best part. Yes, signing books was great, meeting people was swell, but come on. If you’re a writer you’re a reader, and you like books. There were free books. Lots of free books, from all the publishers, mostly ARCs, though I did score some hardbacks. I had two big bags of books even though it was the third day of the conference. The only thing that stopped me from getting more was the fact I could not physically carry more. Next time I’m going to have to bring Cadillac to be my pack animal.

I met Deb Harkness, author of A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES which I just started reading and which I think is going to be HUGE. It’s already going to be in 32 different countries! Holy moly. Harkness is a professor of history and has an award-winning wine blog. She must never sleep. Her signing was right after mine, so I made sure to get her to sign a copy of her book.

I also got THE WEIRD SISTERS, the cover of which can be seen in the big banner picture. I’m also excited to start on YOU KNOW WHEN THE MEN ARE GONE, short stories about Army life, because Cadillac was an Army Ranger when I met him, so I actually have been an Army wife. Lower-enlisted Army wife. Tough, tough gig.

This next book is called MY DEAR I WANTED TO TELL YOU and although the cover is supposed to be not final, it really stood out. In fact, in the piles of ARCs it was the one several of us grabbed for. Not really. Librarians are civil. But several people did all lean in toward it at the same time.
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This next book is something the Penguin Young Readers’ group recommended for my son. He doesn’t really like to read (though he claims he wants to be a writer, like me, he actually does not seem to enjoy writing or reading much. When he does write he’s crazy creative; he just doesn’t often LIKE to do it). It’s about two couch potato kids who are addicted to reality TV. Their adventurer parents always want them to go do stuff, and they don’t until they have to go save their mom. I told this to Eldest and she made a terrible face like the writer had specifically written this about her and her brother and then given me the book. How dare he? Anyway, my son was excited to read a book that embarrassed/pissed off his sister so much, so he read it in two nights and then took it to school to show the class. He loved it, obviously; it was funny and it has a Yeti in it.

Then I wandered around and came across a signing by Andre Dubus III for his new memoir, TOWNIE. I am always watching authors for lessons on how to behave and speak to the public, and he was a good one to learn from. The signing was pretty low-key for a bestselling author/Oprah book club dude (House of Sand and Fog, The Garden of Last Days), so I got in line. Dubus was sooo nice and genuinely modest and talked in-depth with each person. You know how some people ask questions because they’re being polite or they think they’re supposed to for PR/PC purposes? Not him. I think Dubus would have been happy to go have coffee with anyone standing in line, just to hear their stories.

I began chatting with the guy ahead of me, for whom I’d signed a book. Turns out he’s from Iraq and runs a store out in Pine Valley, near Julian. He says it’s like a Wal-Mart or a general store. Then we got up to the front and he gave Dubus an asked-for language lesson.

When it was my turn, Dubus read my name tag, which said, “Margaret Dilloway, Penguin Books, NY” instead of my city. So I told him I was actually from San Diego and why I was there. Somehow I ended up telling him about my book instead telling him what I liked about HIS books, so he wrote me a really nice inscription.

It says, “May the muse be with you!”