Weekend Trip to Chicago + ALA 2017

Posted July 28, 2017 by shooting in Travel / 28 Comments

I’ve been lucky to attend BEA (Book Expo America) a few times, but back in June, this was the first time I went to the ALA conference (ALA is American Library Association). Since it was in Chicago, that meant that my sister could drive us there and we didn’t have to worry about flights. For awhile there though we weren’t sure if we could find a hotel that wasn’t too outrageously pricey. Luckily, we found The Congress Plaza Hotel. We came in on a Friday afternoon and left late Sunday morning, so it was a pretty quick trip.

I had a couple food ideas for dinner Friday night, one of which was the Eleven City Diner. We decided on that because it happened to be really close to our hotel. We took a cab there but when we realized it was much closer than we’d originally thought, my sister and I just walked back. I highly recommend this restaurant! I love the feel of a diner and the turkey burger I got was amazing. I had a carrot cake for dessert, which wasn’t my most favorite, but my sister got the apple cobbler and I took some bites of hers – very yummy! After dinner, we decided to head down by Michigan Lake (picture above – the Navy Pier is in the background) because it was right across from our hotel. After sitting by the water for awhile, we headed up to where more people were hanging out by this really cool fountain that lit up a bunch of colors. It was relaxing! Nice way to settle into Chicago.

We woke up bright and early on Saturday morning to head to the convention center. BEA was in Chicago last year, so it was the same place – which I was happy about since I knew the general layout and where the shuttles brought you. My hotel didn’t have a shuttle route, but the Hilton a block or so down did so we just went there to get a ride to the convention. It was all really simple! The above photo is the ALA park, a little area in the middle of the convention that they made to look like a park so people could stop and rest. You can see the “clouds” on the “sky” wall, the green for the grass, the benches around the place, some plants, and even a fountain. My sister and I took turns waiting here as the day went on and we wanted to rest. One would wait with our bags/books and the other would explore. It worked well! At one point they were even giving away free soft pretzels in this area and mmm those were good!

When it came to actual books, I really wanted to be careful with what I picked up. It’s so easy to just grab anything and everything. One thing that is very different from BEA though is that publishers don’t have as many drops, where they put out a bunch of the same book for people to come by and grab. They did do this – and it’s how I got some of my books – but they also just had a lot of books on display that you could look over. If you wanted something in particular, you just ask one of the people working the booth. If they had copies to hand out – and weren’t saving for another day – they were usually really happy to hand them over. This was nice, because it meant I got a lot more titles that I really wanted to read. The one book I really wanted but could not get was They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera. I asked a few times, but they were either holding them for another day or were all out. Ah well, I did well. The photo above is all the books from July and August. You might remember some of the reviews for these already – more to come!

There were some author signings that I had written down, and I was happy that I made it to most of them. If I missed it, I was usually able to get the book later, so it worked out well. I had a great time at ALA and I wish I could go next year, but it’s in New Orleans – and while I want to visit NOLA at some point – I think I’d have a better chance of making it to NYC/BEA next year, but we’ll see.

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My sister and I took the shuttle back to our hotel so we could change and relax a bit.  (The photo above is my hotel from the outside, I took a straight up shot). While we were both on our respective hotel beds, we started hearing a knocking on the wall. And oh – did I mention our hotel is the most haunted in Chicago? Yeah, we found that out the night before! Not that it really bothered us – we kind of think it’s cool. But back to the knocking! My sister was laying down and after a moment, she goes, “that knocking really needs to stop”  so I say, “Okay, we hear you, we acknowledge you” (kind of joking it was a ghost) but as soon as I said it, the knocking stopped. So ghost? No ghost? Who is to know? 

Now, the above photo is taken right outside our hotel. They have a couple restaurants and we went to one Saturday night and decided to sit outside since it was so nice. I had a blogger dinner planned for later, but I had to eat something, and being in a weight loss program, I’m sort of limited on what I can eat (not that I didn’t cheat a little over the weekend). At any rate, we ate there and it was really good! It was nice to sit outside and just enjoy. Once we had finished eating, it was time to go meet the bloggers!

When I originally planned meeting up with bloggers, it was Nicole from Feed Your Fiction Addiction and then Michelle from Pink Polka Dot Books. I soon found out that Shannon from It Starts at Midnight was attending ALA too, and from there, they invited some other bloggers they were rooming/traveling with (including Nicole’s mom!) The above photo was taken courtesy of my sister and we are at Umami Burger. My sister and I got a couple of appetizer’s and a drink while everyone else got some dinner. It was a lot of fun just hanging out and chatting with bloggers I know, and meeting new ones like Cassi from My Thoughts…Literally! This is one of my favorite parts of attending these conferences. I love getting ARCs and meeting authors, but it’s so much fun to put faces to names (and in the case of Nicole and Michelle, meet people again) and just enjoy each other’s company.

I had only planned on attending ALA Saturday – I had a ticket for the exhibit floor and it was open Saturday-Monday – but after talking to all the bloggers, I realized that Sunday might be a good day to get some coveted YA ARCs (the above photo is all my September ARCs).  My sister was exhausted -and since I don’t drive, she had to be the chauffeur home – so I decided to go to ALA on Sunday morning by myself. I got there early, but soon Nicole and her mom appeared, so we hung out until they left us on the floor.

Right before they let us on the floor, Alicia my co-blogger (who was also at ALA) gave me a call because Maggie Stiefvater was doing a signing at Booklist. I had texted Alicia the night before to see if she’d gotten All the Crooked Saints. She had not, so I was glad she let me know about the signing. Getting in line for that was one of the first things I did, and I even saw Alicia – she had been ahead of me in line. I’ve met Maggie twice now, but it was great to get her upcoming book and have it signed! I also got to talk to Alicia a little bit while in line and we got our picture together (I’ve met Alicia twice before but it had been awhile so it was nice to see her!)

While walking around after, I ran into Michelle and we hung out, just walking around and checking in with publishers. It was fun! There wasn’t a mad rush to go anywhere and we were able to just talk! It was a lot of fun and relaxing. Like I said, hanging with bloggers is one of the best parts. Eventually, we separated and I checked out the floor for a bit longer before meeting up with Alicia one last time to say goodbye and then grabbing a shuttle back to meet up with my sister. I had packed the night before, so once there, we were ready to grab our car and head home.

All in all, it was a lot of fun visiting Chicago and attending ALA. I hope to do another ALA in the future, and I know I’ll be back to Chicago. Maybe I can tour a bit more next time I’m there. I will say that while my hotel had some nice history, it’s not somewhere I think I’ll stay again. My sister and I are one of those people that turn the AC on really high, and our room didn’t allow us to adjust the temperature. While I slept okay, my sister didn’t find the beds comfortable, and we both agreed that the water pressure in the shower wasn’t very strong. All in all, it was a good price and we liked the location, but it just wasn’t comfortable enough to want to stay there again.

And finally – the rest of the books that I brought home with me!

The above books are my October ARCs and there are some really great titles there, including my All the Crooked Saints ARC signed by Maggie. I’m really excited for all of these!

Pretty small pile here for November, but that’s good! I feel like September and October always has tons of new releases, so it will be nice to slow down a bit. No Saints in Kansas is actually a YA fictional version of In Cold Blood. I’m curious!

These are my 2018 ARCs! The House of Impossible Beauties is actually one that I got signed on Saturday morning – this was the first author I met. I’m so excited about this book!

And finally – these are my finished books! If Found…was one that I got signed (and illustrated) by the author. She was fun to meet! I got the Kit Donovan book autographed by the author too. And The Good Byline was one that I’d heard of before attending ALA and I was so excited to get a copy to read. It sounds great.

And there you have it – my short trip to Chicago and attending my first ALA. I know I’m about a month late in posting this, but now that it’s up, hopefully I can finally get started on recapping all the things I did in London last fall! Please let me know if you have any questions about Chicago, ALA, the books I received, etc.!


28 responses to “Weekend Trip to Chicago + ALA 2017

  1. Wow! It sounds like you had a great trip, so fun that you had a chance to meet up with a bunch of other bloggers and wow, you got a ton of books! That is awesome!

  2. Awwww what a great event and looks like you had a wonderful time! Also congrats on all the great swag/books–best part of these events, eh? Love that you planned this out so perfectly and that you didn’t have to pay a million $$$ on a room… I hate when hotels jack up there rates for these things!

    Also how cool you were in a haunted hotel!!

  3. This sounds like such an amazing experience, especially getting to meet and hang out with fellow bloggers. That’s a pretty impressive book haul too. I’ll be looking forward to your reviews on many of those titles.

  4. Sounds like a great trip! I love Chicago, and so cool about your hotel being haunted. That’s also really cool that you got to meet up with some other bloggers.

  5. You seem to have had a wonderful trip. Glad that you had an awesome time there. Oh and what awesome books you got. I hope you end up enjoying all of them.

    Have a wonderful weekend, my friend. Enjoy your books. Happy reading. ?

  6. RO

    My goodness, sounds like a fun time for all. Your lovely smile tells the whole story of the trip. It almost feels as if I was there with you guys! Hugs…

  7. danielle hammelef

    I really have to attend one of these events. This looks like so much fun. I saw the same picture over at FYFA blog because I love to read Nicole’s reviews. now I see even more faces I recognize and maybe someday will meet in person. I see you were able to get some books that are also on my TBR list and I can’t wait to read what you thought of them.

  8. Grace @ Rebel Mommy Book Blog

    Looks like so much fun!! I hope one day to make it to BEA or ALA or both!!! I am jealous of those ARCs but mostly you got to hang out with bloggers. Glad you had a great trip!

  9. That looks like such a fun expo to attend! I miss reading for fun! 😛 The ALA park sounds awesome! :] I’d love to visit Chicago someday!

  10. Jen

    This sounds like so much fun and now you have a whole bunch of new books to share with us! I would love to go to this someday.

  11. Aw YAY! This is quite the comprehensive recap, I love it! I am so glad I got to meet you too- I just wish we had more time to talk, and hadn’t been on opposite ends of the table 😉 Your hotel would have made me cry I think. Not because of the ghosts, but because of the AC, or lack thereof hahah. I am so glad that you had such a wonderful time! I really want to go to NOLA next year- but more for the city itself than the books, even!

    Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight recently posted: Review: In Some Other Life by Jessica Brody

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