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24 January 2012 @ 12:27 pm
ALA Midwinter...a VERY SPECIAL celebration  
I'm just back from ALA Midwinter in Dallas. Authors don't usually go to Midwinter; it's a working meeting for the various ALA committees. Very few (if any) signings or author events. So although I've been to the ALA Annual conference many times (in June every year), I've never been to a Midwinter before.

It was very cool to be at the Awards announcement press conference, and even more fun to walk around the convention center and the hotel afterwards, hearing all the impassioned discussion. I was feeling quite smug, having tweeted about the Newbery winner DEAD END IN NORVELT, by Jack Gantos, just last week. I'm thrilled and delighted for all the winners!

It was even cooler to have lunch Sunday with a group of terrific librarians and teachers, arranged by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's Lisa DiSarro. Lisa worked her usual magic; it was a lovely private room at The Pyramid restaurant with great brunch/lunch food (and real lemonade!). I got to chat with Shari Conradson, Cindy Dobrez, Holly Jin, Karen Kessel, Joan Kindig, Lynn Rutan, Pat Scales, Tim Wadham, and Bina Williams. My idea of heaven: great food and great book talk with a bunch of passionate readers! (I'm waiting on photos of this event and the one below, will post them soon.)

I've saved the best for last. This Midwinter marked the 10th anniversary of the selection of A SINGLE SHARD as the Newbery Medal winner, in 2002. Ten years--I can hardly believe it! For a while now, the 2002 Newbery committee has been planning a reunion to mark the 10th anniversary. They let me know that fourteen out of the fifteen committee members would be attending, and wondered if I would be able to join them?

Would I ever!!!

Every year, the award committees work so hard and have so many intimate discussions about the books, it's not surprising that considerable bonding takes place over the span of their deliberations. I've heard from many committee members about what a great experience their award service was. But the 2002 Newbery committee is kind of over the top that way... They are the *tightest* committee I know of, and while many (even most) of them have served on other award panels, they freely concur that the SHARD committee is indeed an aberration in its closeness.

How to celebrate such an awesome committee?! The answer: I took them all out to dinner! RJ's Mexican Cuisine in the West End neighborhood in Dallas provided a perfect private room for us--everyone at one long table, and we could HEAR each other without shouting. Big jugs of agua fresca greeted the esteemed guests (melon, orchata, hibiscus flower), and then the food kept coming all evening long--starting with ceviche and guacamole, accompanied by margaritas and mojitos, of course!

Committee chair Kathy Odean gave a lovely toast. Vaunda Nelson, who lives in New Mexico, gave another toast, and also gave each of us a beautiful deerskin bag containing a tiny exquisite bear fetish. Elizabeth Overmyer passed around a box of chocolates to die for. I finished up the trio of toasts and gave each committee member a miniature celadon vase from Korea and a silver bracelet with a circle-and-crane charm (read the book...). And my editor Dinah Stevenson (Clarion Books / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) was able to join us a little later. We caught up, reminisced (especially about the Award Banquet in June of 2002), talked about books, laughed a lot, and even cried a little.

It was a *magical* evening, and I never wanted it to end. As it was, we closed down the place, the servers patiently waiting for us to finish our carousing.

As part of my toast, I told the group that they could not possibly begin to imagine how much they had changed my life with their selection of SHARD ten years ago. Leaving the restaurant, every one of them expressed their appreciation and delight for dinner and the small gifts I had given them.

But the gift they gave me will last more than a lifetime.

Their names, each of which is etched forever on my writing heart:

Kathleen Odean, Chair
Patty Carleton
Lisa Falk
Roxanne Feldman
Joann Jonas
Jeri Kladder
Vaunda Nelson
Gail Nordstrom
Elizabeth Overmyer
Ken Setterington
Louise Sherman
Vicky Smith
Junko Yokota

Deb Taylor (at the conference, but unable to join us for dinner) and Sharon Harvey, both of whom were sorely missed.

I'm looking forward to the 20th anniversary--but I don't think I can wait that long, so maybe we'll celebrate the 15th as well!


With THE committee and my parents, June 2002 at ALA Annual in Atlanta.

...and now:

ALA Midwinter 2012, Dallas

At the table:

Party favors:

(With thanks to Junko Yokota for the last three photos)
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous) on February 5th, 2012 03:07 pm (UTC)
Newbery dinner
Thanks for the moving account, Linda. I hope our committee celebrates its 10th also. A Single Shard still stands as one of my favorite books. All the best, Marilyn Hollinshead
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )