Don Tate and I drove down to San Antonio early Saturday morning for the ALA Midwinter Meeting. Before we’d even made it inside the Gonzalez Center, I knew I was in the right place and in good company.

From sometime back, Don knows Colleen Salley, and we passed her on the way inside. He introduced me to her, and she introduced us to her editor at Harcourt, Jeannette Larson. Or, as I like to think of her, children’s literature’s other Jeannette Larson – the first being Jeanette (“One ‘N'”) Larson, youth services manager of the Austin Public Library, godmother of the local scene and beyond.

Inside, I almost immediately found and hugged Austin ex-pat Annette Simon at the Simply Read booth. I happily walked away with a signed copy of Mocking Birdies, which matches the birdhouse Annette designed with draft versions of her artwork for the book, and which I bought at an SCBWI auction over a year ago.

Then I went to work, getting my money’s worth for the $25 it cost to get onto the exhibit floor. Amid the children’s publishers’ booths – most of them so close together that it felt like the greatest small-town downtown on the planet – I began seeking out editors. Some of them I’d met at prior events, some I’d submitted to in the past, and some didn’t know me from the Elvis impersonator prowling the show floor.

While I was talking with Simon & Schuster’s Paula Wiseman (editor of Buddy by Austin’s Anne Bustard), we were approached by a redhead who I recognized only from a photo.

“Are you my agent?” I asked in my best picture-book-about-a-baby-bird-who’s-confused-about-which-animal-is-his-mother voice (which probably wasn’t all that good).

She was. I’d been awake since before 4 that morning, largely out of excitement about finally getting to meet Erin Murphy in person. And here she stood. I felt immediately comfortable with her.

We strolled amid the booths for a while and then sat and plotted upcoming submissions. We had lunch with a couple of Erin’s other Texas clients: sister nonfictioner Dani Sneed and the irrepressible novelist/puppeteer Diane Roberts. Diane would tell you that I picked up her napkin 27 times during our meal, but really, it was only four.

After lunch, it was more editors, more ARCs, more F&Gs. I haven’t counted, but I came away with roughly three dozen books and maybe a couple dozen new or strengthened editorial contacts. I also go to meet Liz from A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy, making a connection that wouldn’t have been open to us a year ago, in that dark time before either of us had a blog. Upon learning that this was her first-ever trip to Texas, I shot a cactus so as to impress her.

Having not gotten my fill of Diane during lunch, Don and I joined her and her self-published traveling companion Linda Ayers for dinner. I’m typically an introvert, but put me in the vicinity of others who love children’s literature, and it turns me inside out – or, perhaps, right side out. After dinner we called it a night, but my mind – spinning from all the contact and the conversation, powered by all the caffeine – kept me up a lot later than it should have.

Calling Sunday morning “more of the same” doesn’t really do it justice, but it’s accurate. The day’s big event was lunch with Charlesbridge editor Judy O’Malley. It was my third time to meet Judy, so I’m very at ease with her – too at ease, one could argue.

At the end of lunch my cell phone began to vibrate. Now, I’m a cell phone novice, with a crummy phone and a crummy plan that typically keeps my calls to a minimum. But not at ALA.

I glanced down to see who was calling. “Excuse me,” I said to Judy in a semi-smarmy Hollywood voice. “It’s my agent.”

Well, Judy – knowing Erin, and knowing that I had just signed with her, and having referred me to her in the first place – found this hilarious. But I immediately hated the way it felt and swore never to do such a thing ever again. It did, however, help set up the best possible conclusion to my ALA experience.

Erin met us back at the Charlesbridge booth, and while she and Judy caught up, I ventured down the aisle to the Chronicle booth, where my friend and encourager Dianna Aston signed me a copy of her beautiful new book An Egg Is Quiet. Moments later, here comes Don with Varian Johnson. I got to introduce Don and Varian to Judy and Erin, and while I was at it, I introduced Erin to Dianna.

Connection after connection after connection. When I first stumbled into children’s writing five-plus years ago, I was struck by the sense of community shared by nearly all of the folks involved, but I’d never sensed that more than at that moment Sunday afternoon. My heart felt full, and it was time to go home.