Monday, August 25, 2008

Texas is the place

I've been meaning to write a little something ever since I got back from the US about Austin, Texas. To my great surprise on my recent trip I found myself agreeing to spend a few days in Austin after the ALA conference with Fiona. I had never been to Texas, and had never intended to go to Texas (apart from in my fantasy road trip of the American south, where a friend and I would travel through the south stopping at every two bit diner and eating peach pie. It would be the only time I would want to carry a gun). But Fiona was going, and I've spent enough time travelling by myself to know that I much prefer company. And so I found myself flying in to Austin.

Oh lordy. Austin is so cool. I know, it surprised the hell out of me too, but it's wonderful. I fell in love with our hotel within minutes (if you're ever in Austin I cannot recomend this place highly enough) and the area where we stayed was covered in vintage shops, shops full of mexican souveniers, and wonderful food places. Across the road from the hotel was a winnebago (I think? I'm not really up on my caravan brands) that was converted into a cupcake stand, that was open till 10:30 every night. Now THAT's cool.

We spent just four short days in Austin, and one of those was spent heading further south to San Antonio, where the Alamo failed to impress. We found ourselves in a Texan goth club of a Wednesday night, where the few girls on the dance floor were dancing with hola hoops, and it was beautiful. We watched 1.5 million bats fly out from beneath a bridge to go hunting. And we ate - oh lord how we ate. Oh, and drank. All these people had warned me about terrible food in America, but in Austin every meal was fantastic. I brought home some peach and habenero jam, which goes awfully well on bagels and on crackers with a sharp chedder.

So my tourist advice is: if you're in the area, do not miss Austin. The massive South by Southwest (SXSW) festival is held there every year, a festival where musos and film buffs and computer geeks all get together in the one place - really, how cool is that?! I'm currently trying to find a way to convince all my friends that it's worth saving up for a trip to Austin. Fingers crossed.

Oh, I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank the kind people of American Airlines for letting me fly their plane on the way back to LA. Who says airport security has been tightened?!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Way overdue post part 1: ALA Saturday

And so begins a series of posts relating to the ALA Annual in Anaheim (is that ALAAinA?) in June / July - apologies for the overdue-ness, but...y'know how it is. Most of these were at least written at the time.

I'm sure there were other things that happened on Saturday 28th June, but as far as I'm concerned there was only one thing - I presented a paper at ALA!

I think I've made it clear that it wasn't just me. Andrew and Fiona were my co-presenters, and if it weren't for Andrew making early overtures to NMRT, it wouldn't have happened. So when I say 'I' I don't mean to take credit, but rather to personalise the experience.

To be honest, the reality was quite prosaic. It's not like we were in a massive arena or anything - it was your usual nondescript hotel function room, and I'm a bit embarressed to admit that there were only about 30 people in the room. Kevin Dudeney and Jennefer Nicholson turned up to support the home team, which was great as the last time I'd seen Jennefer was in 2005 when she left ALIA, when I was working on NLS2006. I really appreciated the familiar faces.

The presentation went well. Loida warmed up the crows with a great overview of new grad movements around the world, giving the Aussies the credit we deserve for punching somewhat above our weight. Loida had obviously put a lot of work into her research, and it was great to hear about the range of activities occurring.

So we're up - Andrew, me, Fiona. I think we did well. I think I did well - certainly better than the last paper I presented which was quite wooden. I was more relaxed with this one, partly because I was more familiar with the content (last time I presented I was presenting on behalf of a writer who couldn't be there - while I was familiar with the topic I didn't write the words myself, and it showed, I think). And, really, I can talk about NLS for hours, so proud I am of the work we all did.

We had a couple of questions, which meant the audience was listening - always a plus! I'm sure they weren't offended that we snuck out before the NMRT membership meeting.

So - I've presented at ALA! Now it's time to update my resume...