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NCTE, ALAN, Thanksgiving

It was snowing when I left New York.

I found this enormously exciting, since it hardly ever snows in Ireland. Certainly not around Christmas - in Ireland, it rains. And it rains. So we go to the pub. And it rains some more. Maybe in March, there is a freak snowfall.

By then, though, we're kind of settled in the pub...

Walking through the snow with my friend the Poetess Doctor was a lovely way to end the trip, but there were many other lovely things about it. Of course, since it was me, there were also deeply embarrassing incidents.

While I was in New York NCTE week happened. What is NCTE, you may I ask? (I sure did, but then I am a lost lamb in the ways of America.) NCTE stands for National Council of Teachers of English, and it means that publishers and teachers and writers all convene together to jabber about books. What fun! No way for me to mess it up!

... Or so you might think.

On the night of the ALAN (Assembly on Literature for Adolescents) drinks, I went to the wrong bar. Could happen to anyone! No big deal!

SARAH: It's possible that I went to the wrong bar. I should call someone! Or...
GROUP OF RANDOM WOMEN: *catch Sarah's eye*
SARAH: Hey, ladies. Are you guys teachers?
RANDOM WOMEN: Why yes!
SARAH: Awesome. Let's hang out.
RANDOM WOMEN AND SARAH: *have drinks and pick up gentlemen*
SARAH'S PHONE: Where are you?
SARAH: Um, so...
TEACHERS: How cool are you, just to wander up to a group of strangers and guess their profession? We wish we were as brave as you.
SARAH: So I have a question, and the question is this. What do you teach?
TEACHERS: Chemistry!
SARAH: ... I see.

It was too late to make it to the other party, so I stayed with the chemistry ladies. I felt the most complete fool, but I did have fun.

I did wander around the NCTE booths where publishers display books and talk to teachers. Since I don't have a book out, I was not technically allowed to be there at all. But I and a loyal confederate (I will not reveal her name! I would never betray my comrades!) acquired me a badge that said 'Exhibit.'

FRIENDLY TEACHERS: Hey, what are you exhibiting?
SARAH: Oh no... I am an exhibit! I... do a dance.

And I did make several parties, where I talked happily about typhoons and rodeo clowns. And books. Sometimes.

I met my US publishers, who are as supremely wonderful as my UK publishers and who it was less nerve-wracking to meet, since (and I am eternally thankful for this) I had amazing friends who could support me and, um, warn them.

PUBLISHING DIRECTOR: Tell me about your lovely native land.
HOLLY: Don't ask her that! She lies! All she does is lie!
SARAH: In my native land, there is a five thousand year old passage tomb called Newgrange.
PD: That sounds-
SARAH:... It is made entirely of potatoes. Oh, I'll admit it looks like stone. Fossilised potatoes do.
EVERYONE: ...
SARAH: Courtship rituals in Ireland largely involve potatoes. What a man does is, he finds a likely wench and he hurls a potato at her head. If he renders her unconscious, they get married. If she sustains a concussion, they are soulmates.
PD: Does it matter what size the potato is?
SARAH: No. It is what you do with it that counts.

And of course, I was in New York for your strange ceremony of Thanksgiving. I still regard it as an odd but fantastic combination of Halloween and Christmas. Like a bridge between Halloween and Christmas. A bridge made entirely out of pie.

I went to the Thanksgiving dinner of some of my friends, whom I shall affectionately refer to as the Owners of New York's Best Dog. It was a wonderful time! I met many brilliant people! Do you know, the potatoes of America are sweet and they put marshmallows on them and it isn't even dessert!

Mysterious. Yet fantastic.

In the kitchen the gracious hostess displayed to me the wonders of another mysterious yet fantastic thing called chocolate mayonnaise. We admired. We took up a large quantity of cream.

... There was a terrible accident.

I cannot discuss the painful details, but it did result in our host delivering the immortal line: 'Everybody come quickly! The women are covered in whipped cream!'

America is not just a revelation at Thanksgiving. Anna, universally renowned for her superbness and her culinary skills, made me dinner. I did not know what it was.

She kindly explained to me that it was called a 'winter squash.'

Ah, America. Not only are your holidays and your food strange to me, but sometimes we speak a different language. One of the nicest things in America was going to cafes and writing with writer types. We could sit around all day writing, having hot beverages, occasionally engaging in the eternal zombie and unicorn debate. One day I took a well-deserved break for something momentous like finishing a paragraph.

SARAH: May I have a fairy bun, please?
CAFE GUY: *stunned look* What did you just ask for?
SARAH: Fairy bun...?
CAFE GUY: Look, I'm not sure this is the kind of-
SARAH: *desperately points*
CAFE GUY: Oh, a cupcake!
SARAH (meekly): May I have a cupcake?
SARAH (returning to table): Hey, you guys! I got extra marshmallows because the cafe guy thought I was pretty!
WRITERS: *collective look of disbelief*
SARAH: Okay, so he thought I was insane.
ROBIN: See now, that makes sense.
SARAH: *explains*
CASSIE (thoughtfully): You know, 'Fairy Buns' would be a great name for an elf strip club.

New York was superb, as it always is. I met some astonishingly cool people, saw my astonishingly cool friends and was so happy to be in my glittering city which has brunches and shoes with swan-shaped buckles and talk about books, books, books.

Next time I go, I totally won't do anything ridiculous at all.

You guys believe me, right?

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