My publisher, Dan Vado, who never wears ties, at the SLG booth
          The day before I set off for a 2-day stint at ALA Midwinter I said to my husband, "Okay, I don't want you to think you're not welcome or that I don't want you there, but I think you would be really, REALLY bored.  This won't be like Comic-Con where there's something for everyone.  This will be LIBRARY in the butt and up the ass, LIBRARY wall-to-wall, no escape from LIBRARY," or something to that effect.
          He quickly decided to fore-go the trip.  I was relieved, because I knew I would want to stay until the bitter end both days, and would be unsympathetic to cries of, "I'm bored, I wanna go home!"
          I drove all the way to San Diego and back by myself both days like a big grownup boy.  I did not get lost, I did not cry.  I listened to the new Duran Duran album in my truck, then Courtney Love & Hole, then a Eugene Mirman comedy CD.

          At the convention I helped Dan, my publisher, work the SLG Publishing booth.  He explained that this was a "trade show," so we weren't really going to be selling anything, it was all about promoting new books, and giveaways to get Librarians excited about stuff.  (Nobody digs free shit like Librarians)  
           Speaking of free stuff, I am obviously a LIBRARY SUPERHERO because I returned home with 190 free books for the school library.
          It was a pretty small booth, but looked very nice, and we were right next to the Disney/Hyperion booth.  Because we're BFFs.  Anyway, at the SLG booth we ended up giving away 250 copies of "The Royal Historian of Oz" #1, and I signed most of them for lots of really nice, gracious people.  I used a green Sharpie a friend gave me, because that's appropriate in an Emerald City kind of way.

          I ran into a bunch of people I knew, such as two Librarians from my school district, some friends of friends who are big Oz fans, a bunch of people who work in the same public library where I had my first job as a Library Tech, and even a girl who saw a presentation I gave in Chapman University's Leatherby Library a few years ago.
          As well as signing my own comic book I was trying to be helpful by giving out SLG catalogs and hyping the other cool books they publish.  I made little tags for some of the books to catch the discerning eyes of Librarians.  Things like:

"Reviewed in BOOKLIST and Publisher's Weekly!" for Elmer by Gerry Alanguilan

"Listed in YALSA's Top Ten Great Graphic Novels For Teens!" for Pinocchio Vampire Slayer by Higgins and Jensen

"By Printz Award-winner Gene Yang!" (for some graphic novel I can't remember the name of now, but it's done by Gene and some other dude)  Gene won the Printz for American Born Chinese, which really is a great book, and deceptively simple until you get to the end and see how it all ties together so cleverly. 
This one is not published by SLG, but I GUESS that's okay...

"GIRL POWER! (Strong Female Protagonist)"  for Shadoweyes by Ross Campbell

"First graphic novel sold in Rock & Roll Hall of Fame!" for Punk Rock and Trailer Parks by Derf

          Gentle reader, wasn't that nice of me?  To help promote these other fine works of graphic novel goodness?  I think so.


*     John Shableski hung out at the SLG booth a lot.  He's the sales manager in charge of selling graphic novels to the book market for Diamond Previews, which is a really big deal if you know anything about comics, because they're THE distributor for the comics industry.  He was wearing a baseball cap that said, "LIBRARY" across the front of it, so I was nerdily jealous of that.  It came from the nice guys at "Unshelved," and although they didn't have any on hand, they said they'd send me one.  They did give me a little "Intellectual Freedom Fighter" ribbon to put on my convention badge.

*     I was signing comics for some people, and I noticed the guy who was next in line looked kind of familiar.  When he was asking me some very nice questions about Royal Historian and I was signing his copy, I noticed his name tag said "T. Jefferson Parker."  I was like, "Dude!  You're T. Jefferson Parker!  My mom and I went to one of your book signings, like, 15 years ago!"  In case you don't know, he's a very successful mystery writer.  Turns out he's really nice, too!

*     A serious-looking young man in professional attire got all excited when he noticed my name badge, and said, "You're Tommy Kovac!" in exactly the same way I had said, "You're T. Jefferson Parker!" earlier.  It was very flattering, and he was super nice.  He's read all of my comics, and even most of my zines!  I gladly signed a "Royal Historian" for him.  I really hadn't expected to run across anybody THAT familiar with my stuff.

          Since it was just the two of us running the SLG booth, Dan and I had plenty of time to talk about stuff.  He's trying to appeal to the Library/Education market as much as possible, and had this great idea to create study/discussion guides for some of SLG's graphic novels. He was talking about wanting to come up with a template, and I said excitedly, “Well, Dan, I’ve already DONE that for you!”  
          I grabbed a copy of my Skelebunnies graphic novel collection, which he had UNDER the table, because apparently it's so vile and naughty he was afraid it would spook the Librarians.  (It probably would)  I showed him the very last page, which is a “Teacher’s Guide To Using Skelebunnies In the Classroom.”  He seemed surprised, and admitted that he had somehow missed seeing that when we published the book.
          As he read it, he noticed that even though it's obviously a parody, I play it off very seriously.  
          By the next morning he had already started one for “Elmer,” using my Skelebunnies parody as a real template.  And you know I love that.

          We went to dinner Saturday evening after the convention hall closed down, at a funky little Chinese restaurant & bar.  Dan almost choked to death on this horrible Korean steak with kim chee. Violently coughed up a ball of it, and had to EXTRACT it from his throat with his fingers, the fermented cabbage (kim chee) making it look like he was giving birth to a Lovecraftian tentacle god through his mouth. Hideous. He was humiliated and kept apologizing, and I couldn't stop laughing. I told him that was the greatest gift he could have given me, to embarrass himself so in my presence.
(this is exactly what the coughed-up Korean beef looked like)

          In the lobby outside the convention hall they have kiosks set up at intervals where you can quickly grab something simple like a Diet Coke, a cookie, a cup of self-serve coffee or whatever.  The keyword is "quickly."  They're super stripped-down versions of Starbucks and Mrs. Fields, staffed by distracted teenagers and exhausted non-English speakers.  Little more than wheelbarrows with fancy umbrellas.
          My point is that you can't expect quality or service.
          I had scoped out a Mrs. Fields kiosk just outside the convention hall door from the SLG booth, so once in a while I would trot out there, ask for a Diet Coke or a cookie, and be on my merry way back to the convention.
          One time I ended up behind a birdlike, slow-moving librarian with frizzy hair. She was hovering in front of the kiosk with her awkward bags and purse, making it hard to tell if she had completed her transaction, or was just confused, or what.  What I did know was that she was in the fucking WAY, and I wanted to just get my Diet Coke and zip back into the convention.  
          Finally "Frizzy" began fumbling in her purse with some wadded up dollar bills and paid the poor kiosk worker, but not until after she had thoroughly questioned the total.
          Then Frizzy moved over to keep a keen eagle eye on the kiosk worker making a hot chocolate for her.  I was tapping my foot, checking the time, wondering how many free books I was missing out on.
          "Excuse me," Frizzy whimpered.  "Excuse me, is that my hot chocolate you're making?  Because it doesn't look very chocolatey..."
          The kiosk worker glared at her.  I glared at her.
          "Did...  Did you only put ONE packet of chocolate in?  Because it looks very light.  I like mine to be very chocolatey.  Do you think you could put another packet in?"
          The kiosk worker explained calmly that they only use one packet per cup.  That's just what they do.
          "Oh, really?  Only one?" Frizzy continued to whine.  "Because it just doesn't look very chocolatey..."
          Not really knowing what to say, the tired kiosk worker just handed the cup over, slowly, in silence.  Frizzy slumped away, and I was glad she didn't get more than her one allotted chocolate packet.


          Later in the conference, a creaky gray-haired man staggered over to the SLG booth and asked what we published.  We tried to explain "comics" and "graphic novels" to him, but he seemed slightly bemused, and mostly uninterested.  (Let me also mention that Dan has been in business with SLG for 25 years now.) The geezer turned his nose up at us as he began to lurch in the other direction, and quipped over his shoulder, "Well...  Hope ya make it."