Last weekend I attended the fourth annual conference of children's and young adult book bloggers: KidLitCon 2010 in Minneapolis. I'm very late in sharing my thoughts (tough to catch up after a weekend away, with a job and a baby, let me tell you).
Organizers Andrew Karre, Ben Barnhart, and Brian Farrey are collecting links to conference wrap-ups here and conference presentations here. Plus there's an excellent conference write-up by Liz Burns in School Library Journal, a roundup of the conference Twitter stream by Greg Pincus, and a categorized Twitter recap by Alice Pope. And there are lots of photos here. At this point, I feel like all of the important stuff has probably already been shared on other blogs.
But here are a few thoughts. This was the fourth conference that I've attended (along with, I believe, Pam Coughlan and Maureen Kearney as the only other attendees of all four). I couldn't have missed this year's. I had a streak going. Seriously, though, KidLitCon is one of my favorite weekends of the year. As Melissa Fox noted in her recap (from which I borrowed the great logo to the left), the best part of KidLitCon is the unstructured time spent sitting around a hotel lobby bar with other kidlit bloggers, talking about anything and everything.
Don't get me wrong. The sessions were great. Organizers Andrew, Ben, and Brian did a wonderful job. Maggie Stiefvater's keynote was excellent: witty and entertaining, and relevant for all bloggers, authors and reviewers. My only real regret from the conference is that I didn't get to talk with Maggie - she had to leave early on Saturday, and I missed the Friday night event). The other sessions were full of food for thought and validation for bloggers (I live-tweeted my favorite thoughts throughout the conference, and didn't take any other notes).
I especially enjoyed the Blogging the Backlist panel that I was on (with Melissa Wiley, Charlotte Taylor, and Carol Rasco), because we had some wonderful audience participation as we all discussed the joys of reviewing older books, not for the glory or the ARCs, but for the love. And I had fun talking about blogging for a larger entity (PBS, in my case) with Liz Burns and Andrew Karre, and about Kidlitosphere Central and the Cybils with Liz, Pam Coughlan, and Sarah Stevenson. I found the publicity panel, with representatives from three of the publishers, particularly interesting.
There was also a very nice catered lunch, courtesy of HarperCollins. And the venue, Open Book in Minneapolis, was perfect. Roomy enough for all of us, but with a cozy, eclectic, bookish feel. So, KidLitCon 2010 absolutely held its own as a conference. But that's still not why I went, or what I thought was the best part. For me, KidLitCon is about having the chance to see people face to face that I only otherwise interact with online. As @TobySpeed and @ThePoemFarm put it on Twitter, there's a Velveteen Rabbit feel to the thing - virtual friends becoming real.
I'll never forget how validating the first KidLitCon was: being in this room, surrounded by other people who cared as much as I did about children's books, and encouraging kids to love reading. Most of the people in my real life, while respecting my passion for these things, don't feel the same way about them. To be surrounded by people who do ... it's an incredible gift!
And now, four years in, KidLitCon is even better. This year, I had the joy of meeting people like Carol Rasco, Mary Ann Scheuer, and Melissa Wiley, who I've emailed with many times, face-to-face for the first time. I discovered that Alice Pope is a kindred spirit. I found new blogs, like The Diamond in the Window (LOVE the name!) and Alison Can Read. I met bloggers I'd followed like Kurtis Scaletta, Caryl from Leaning Tower of Books, and Mia from Pragmatic Mom. I met authors like Janet Fox and Jacqueline Jaeger Houtman. And I got to spend time with friends like Pam, Liz, Sarah, Mary Lee, Susan Taylor Brown, Laura Lutz, Maureen, Charlotte, and Melissa F., who have been "real" to me now for 1 to 5 years. Plus, added bonus, Cybils co-founder, and the first blog person I ever met in real-life, Kelly Herold made a surprise drop-in appearance.
I don't have detailed session notes, with insightful tips about blogging, or the blogger/publisher relationship (though I could have). I didn't bring home a single signed book (though they were available). But I spent two fabulous evenings sitting around the lounge, chatting with friends, and one great day talking with people at the conference. I feel very lucky!
Next year's KidLitCon will be held in Seattle. 2012 will be in New York. I very much hope not to miss either of them. I'll keep you posted just as soon as I have more details.