Friday, April 8, 2016

Making the Rounds at MRA by Barbara Rebbeck

I park my car in the Washington lot at Cobo Hall and begin the trek, and I mean trek, across the first floor to register as a featured speaker for the MRA Conference in Detroit. I am a Reading All-Star, here to present the story of my journey from classroom teacher to author of my YA novel, NOLA Gals. My trek is interrupted constantly by teens also here for a cheerleading competition. They cavort and leap and shout in their skimpy costumes, waiting to be called to perform. I pray for that kind of energy as I trudge, loaded down with equipment and books.

I reach Room 140A, almost to the Detroit River and am warmly greeted and given instructions how to get back to the room I will present in. You guessed it. It is all the way back, almost to the parking lot. But determined, I cross through the cheering girls again, up two escalators and see my room at last. I set up my equipment and finish just as a techie arrives to help. All is well. The audience arrives and I begin. A very small audience as I have drawn the 4 p.m. crowd, the Happy-Hour yawners. But they are attentive, and one man is interested in having his community theater support a play adaptation of my novel. That could work.

The next morning I am back very early for a book-signing in the Grand Ballroom Book Exhibit. Four of us have drawn this too-early 8 a.m. slot so we amuse ourselves by swapping stories and travel tales as few signatures are needed.

Next up is the Author Breakfast. Early enthusiastic literary fans await. Besides myself, author Jan Cheripko sits at my table. We talk books over breakfast with our teachers and then stand as each author is introduced one by one. The most authors ever they say are here.  Each teacher receives a signed copy of our table books, and we pose for photos. It is fun to feel the excitement teachers have to be around so many authors. And they are even happier to learn I will visit their schools for free!

The General Session speaker is Matt De La Pena who recently won the Newbery Award for his picture book, Last Stop on Market Street. He speaks very movingly about the power of literacy and creativity in the lives of children and young adults, especially those “on the wrong side of the tracks.”

At 3 p.m. I’m up to speak again and once again I find my room, a different one, way across the center. This is a huge place. More cheerleaders, three teens who boom rap music, clearing the way around them, and two escalator rides later, I find the room and set up. I have revised for this presentation, mostly so I could cut the equipment for the long walk. I have twice as many people today and will be formally introduced by a board member. The book exhibit is now closed, and I have also toted copies of my book that failed to sell there. I have been told to sell them myself at this session. Again, I make my offer to work in schools and teachers take my card.

All in all, it was an honor to be a part of the celebration of the MRA’s 60th anniversary.

Barbara J. Rebbeck is the author of the YA novel, NOLA Gals which has been recognized as a finalist for the IAN Award, a semi-finalist for the Kindle Book Award, and is now shortlisted for the Drunken Druid Award. (Honest! It’s an Irish award.) She is writer-in-residence for both Waterford Schools and the Beverly Hills Academy. Learn more at

Mark your calendars! Barb will be at Nicola's Books in Ann Arbor on June 11th, 3:00pm.


  1. Glad you had a good experience at MRA, Barb. Hope some of the teachers contact you for school visits.

    1. Thanks for your response. It amazes me how many people have turned down my offers for free visits. Even libraries! I'm grateful that the MRA offered me this opportunity. And thanks to Nicola's Books, too!

  2. Thanks for sharing, Barb. Congratulations on your invitation to participate. I'd never heard of the MRA until you mentioned it in an email.

  3. Great recap--thanks for sharing! And best of luck with all your projects--I love the possibilities of a play adaptation!