Arkansas Reading Association Conference 2014

Last week was an interesting mix of writing retreat all on my own and face to face time with the public promoting my Cats in the Mirror series at the Arkansas Reading Association Conference 2014 in Little Rock, Arkansas.

We have a time share condo, so I was able to spend a week in the Hot Springs/Little Rock area for probably less than two nights at the Marriott for the conference. On Monday and Tuesday, I hunkered down and got 10,000 words added to my manuscript for “Max’s Wild Night.” Since I’m hoping to keep it at only around 24,000 words, that’s a pretty significant accomplishment! My goal is still to have a very solid rough draft going into the Christmas holidays so I can let it rest for a bit. January will be serious editing and revisions, and then it will be off to my editor in February and book cover design can get rolling. Dog lovers, Max’s book is really coming!

Wednesday through Friday, I focused on set up and sharing my books with 1,000 teachers and administrators from Arkansas at the Arkansas Reading Association Conference 2014. There were some issues with the vendor area of the conference that can hopefully be worked out for next year, but overall those attending were delightful and felt their end of the conference went really well.

Kimba and Hiro were thrilled to meet so many teachers at our booth in the exhibit hall!

Kimba and Hiro were thrilled to meet so many teachers at our booth in the exhibit hall!

Our exhibit table.

Our exhibit table.

With any conference, who you have staffing the booths around you is crucial. You will be rubbing elbows for many hours — a lot of which there will be no one walking by and you will have to amuse yourselves. I was thrilled to have great folks surrounding my booth and learned a lot from them about past conferences and other events in Arkansas and Missouri. We covered for each other, and all of that camaraderie made the no-traffic hours more bearable.

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Lynn Hawking from Quirkles had a wonderful conference. Two presentations and happy teachers. I’d never heard of Quirkles science units before, but the teachers who already use it just love it. You should check it out.

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Dustin Rhodes from Lego Education was very popular. Who doesn’t love Legos??

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Dustin gave me a Lego “story starter” set as a thank you for watching his booth for a while. Kimba was impressed that there were THREE white cats in the set. She now thinks Legos are very cool

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Kim Stilwell from the National Science Teachers Association was our conference expert and got attendees to stop and sign up for her free book giveaway. I caught them on the way out of her booth.

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Jennifer Blalock from the Rainbow Book Company kept us entertained with her different pricing options to lure teachers in. $5 a book or 75% off or Buy 1, Get 2 Free?

Andrew Clements was in the building signing his Charlie May Simon Honor Book “Troublemaker,” and I freely admit to having a bit of a fan girl moment when he accepted the award only 20 yards away from me. I’m also curious to check out “The Little Red Pen,” which won the Arkansas Diamond Primary Honor Book Award. If it is half as adorable as the authors, I’m sure to love it.

Overall, I’m not sure that expensive booth spaces at conferences like this are worth the investment for independent authors. Sales were decent and feedback was great, but financially covering costs is nearly impossible. Most of the attendees were more excited about the famous, national award-winning authors there — and rightly so. They’ve earned it. I can only hope to be like them when I grow up. A ¬†great many seeds were sown with teachers and administrators who may want to schedule an author visit with me. That will be the saving grace, if any actually happen. What events are worth attending may have to be two blog posts in my January series on what I’ve learned about self-publishing so far. There are no easy answers.

On the “what I’m reading” front, “A Snicker of Magic” was great from beginning to end. Highly recommend for middle grade. I also finished “I’ll Give You The Sun” by Jandy Nelson. It was superbly written. Much more appropriate for an older YA or NA audience because there is some sex, though it’s most innuendo. Anyone hoping to write for that age group should read this immediately. I’ve already requested Jandy’s first book “The Sky Is Everywhere” from my library. Right now, I am reading “Daughter of the Howling Moon,” an adult book by a local author friend, Ruth Burkett. Enjoying it so far. You had me at shape-shifting into a jaguar!

Sunday was Thanksgiving at our house to accommodate my daughter’s work schedule. I have certainly worked my own share of crazy hours over the holidays, and the dogs she cares for don’t care what day it is. They just want her love and to be fed. Thanksgiving Day here will probably be full of writing — and possibly a movie or two from the DVR.

I hope each of you is blessed to have family around you and weather that allows you to travel wherever you want this holiday weekend.

Happy Thanksgiving!

2 thoughts on “Arkansas Reading Association Conference 2014

  1. ceblain@tmlponline.net'Cynthia E. Blain

    Hi: I bet that was a fun conference, but where is your photo? Come on now.
    I see these writers and wish for every book for my grandkids for Christmas, but……. I cannot do them all.
    Thank you for showing us what you have been up to. Enjoyed it very much. Hope you were able to do a lot of promoting and that it was very successful. I am behind you!!!!

    Sincerely,
    Cynthia Blain

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