I'm still digging my way out after my trip to Seattle for KidLitCon 2011 (which was followed by a quick cross-country trip for a family event). I've been reading the wrap-up posts that other people have shared on the Kidlitosphere Central website, and continuing to following the #KidLitCon hashtag on Twitter. Much as I would love to, I don't have the bandwidth to do a detailed wrap-up, talking about all of the sessions, and all of the people I met, and friends I reconnected with. Only so many hours of babysitting time are available to me, and most of those need to be spent on work. But here are a few comments:
- Colleen Mondor and Jackie Parker-Robinson are marvels. KidLItCon 2011 was highly successful, thanks to their tireless efforts. The hotel was beautiful, the service was excellent, and the meals were delicious. The number one food hit was definitely pudding cups. The only miss, logistics-wise, was on the hotel's part, in not providing a cash bar downstairs during the reception (one could go upstairs and into the hotel restaurant, but this was time-consuming). But that was a tiny issue - overall everything was great.
- The conference booklet, prepared by Colleen and Jackie with the help of Sarah Stevenson, was both beautiful and useful. (My one tiny suggestion for next year would be to include the presenters' Twitter handles right there with the session titles - that would have saved a step in the live-tweeting).
- The sessions were all excellent. I didn't find any that I attended to be a waste of time. I spent much of the conference live-tweeting, and could barely keep up with the witty sound-bytes and useful suggestions. If you have time, do check out the #KidLitCon hashtag on Twitter, from Friday afternoon until Saturday night. There is a ton of great stuff there. (Perhaps someone could archive that portion of the chat stream?)
- Scott Westerfeld, the keynote speaker, was brilliant. Smart and funny and completely accessible. He was able to attend a big chunk of conference events, and I think that he now finds himself with a host of new and newly invigorated fans.
- We together raised more than $1700 for RIF, between donations prior to the event and 10% of book purchases during the conference. Isn't it great when you can do good while enjoying yourself? Many thanks to everyone who donated and/or bought books.
- As usual, the best part of KidLitCon was spending time with old and new friends. Hanging out with Colleen, Jackie, Pam Coughlan, Liz Burns, Anne Levy, and Kelly Jensen on Thursday night, doing a bit of last-minute setup. Planning our conference session over lunch on Friday with Maureen Kearney and Melissa Fox (and missing Terry Doherty, who wanted to be there). Being able to present on Moving Beyond Google Reader with Carol Rasco (and missing Melissa Wiley and Greg Pincus, who wanted to be part of the panel). Meeting Els Kushner and Chris Singer for the first time. Talking over lunch Saturday about the impact of school librarian layoffs on state booklists with Roseanne Parry and Sarah Stevenson. Talking Cybils with Anne, Jackie, Sarah, Mary Ann Scheuer and Sheila Ruth. And seeing so many other friends, and meeting new ones - I could keep going on and on, but you get the idea.
And here are a few take-home messages from the panels that stuck with me:
- Although publishers prefer for bloggers to write full reviews, they also appreciate the mentions on Twitter and Facebook about books, anything that gets conversation started (from Bloggers and Writers and Pubs! Oh My!, by Pam Coughlan, Liz Burns, Zoe Luderitz, and Kirby Larson)
- In some cases, publishers are interested in reviews for backlist titles, outside of the standard six-month time window in which press is emphasized for new books. (From comments during my session with Maureen Kearney and Melissa Fox on blogging both newer and older titles).
- Thoughtful critical reviews (not mean reviews) are valuable for teachers and librarians, lend credibility to your blog, and (if professionally done) will not hurt your relationship with publishers. (From Going Deep: The Hows and Whys of Blogging Critically by Kelly Jensen, Abby Johnson, Julia Riley, and Janssen Brandshaw, though this topic was also discussed elsewhere)
- We have the power to use our blogs to help causes that we care about. (From Chris Singer's wonderful talk on Building a Better World With Your Book Blog)
- There was a LOT more, but you'll have to dip into the Twitter stream, or go and read other people's wrap-up posts to find it, I'm afraid. Because I have to get back to work.
Bottom line: as with the other KidLitCons, KidLitCon 2011 for me was well worth the time and money. It was rejuvenating to spend time with so many people who feel the same way that I do about children's books and literacy. The sessions made me eager to get back to my blogging, and make it better, more diverse, and more thoughtful. And best of all, I was able to spend time with people who have become, over these six years of blogging, close friends. KidLitCon 2012 will be in New York City (details to be announced as soon as possible). You may be sure that I will do everything in my power to be there.