If you are a person who blogs about children's and/or young adult books, whether fiction or nonfiction, poetry, graphic novels, or even book-related apps, here are two great opportunities for you to get more involved in the larger community.
The Cybils Awards
Applications are now open for Cybils judges. The Cybils Awards, now in their 10th year, highlight children's and young adult books that are both well-written and kid-friendly. Anyone can nominate titles published in the past year in each of 10 categories. Following the nomination period, two rounds of judging are conducted by bloggers. The Round 1 judges winnow the (sometimes large) nomination lists down to a shortlist of 5-7 titles in each category (some with sub-categories by age). The Round 2 judges then take over, and select a winner in each category. The result is a set of blogger-approved titles, by category, that are of high quality, and that we believe will appeal to kids. You can view past shortlists and winners on the Cybils website (see the right-hand sidebar).
The Cybils-selected titles are a tremendous resource for parents, teachers, and librarians, or anyone who connects kids with books. The process couldn't be conducted, however, without extensive participation by the community of children's and young adult book bloggers. If you are someone who reviews children's or young adult books, or book-related apps, on a blog, you can apply to be a Cybils judge. A number of people have already shared their reasons why being a Cybils judge is worth doing (links here). Here are my top three reasons:
- You can get to know other people with like interests. Each Cybils panel consists of a small team of five to seven people who are passionate about their particular category. You'll have email (and sometimes Google Hangout of the like) interactions with your fellow category members. You'll debate and discuss books, and you'll likely start reading each other's blogs, and generally forming personal connections. Blogging can be an isolated pastime (particularly as commenting has declined over the years). But it doesn't have to be isolating, and participating in the Cybils can help.
- You can become well-versed in the titled published in your category over the past year, particularly if you are a Round 1 judge. I've judged in Round 1 for Fiction Picture Books twice, and I find myself with a broad knowledge of the books that were published in each of those years. I have a more varied appreciation for authors and illustrators than I did previously, particularly those who work with smaller, more diverse publishers.
- You get to know that you have made a real contribution in helping kids to grow up loving books. Many kids need to find the right book - the book that will hook them on reading. There are plenty of parents, teachers, and librarians working to help them find said right book. But with so many titles published each year, it can be difficult for caregivers to find the books with the highest kid appeal. This is where the Cybils awardees, particularly the shortlists in each category, come in. Know a seven-year-old new reader who wants funny chapter books? Want to make sure that the ones he reads are well-written? Check out the Cybils shortlists for Early Chapter Books. You, as a blogging reviewer of books can help to construct these lists.
Being a Cybils judge can be time-consuming (particularly for Round 1, particularly for the Fiction categories). But it's also highly rewarding. Apply here.
The Kidlitosphere Conference
Another opportunity to participate in the children's and young adult book blogging community is also available this fall. You can attend the Kidlitosphere Conference, an annual gathering of bloggers and authors and other interested parties. This year's KidLitCon will be held in Baltimore on October 9th and 10th. Program Chair Charlotte Taylor has assembled a fabulous collection of panels on topics ranging from Exploring STEM to working with teams to how graphic novels work. This year, KidLitCon will be celebrating the 10th birthday of the Cybils, with a special emphasis on awards, and celebrating young people's literature in general. This year's keynote speakers are Meet keynote speakers Tracey Baptiste (The Jumbies) and Carrie Mesrobian (Cuts Both Ways).
Attending KidLitCon is an amazing experience. It's a relatively small conference (usually 50-100 people), which means that you can easily meet people. Many of the attendees are introverts (as book bloggers tend to be), and you'll find that just about everyone would rather have some brief but substantive conversation about literature than make conventional small talk. In short, if you are a person who loved children's and young adult books, and cares about connecting kids with said books, attending KidLitCon will feel like going home. I can't recommend it highly enough.
I live in California, and dislike traveling. Most days, I don't even want to leave my house. And yet, I've attended all of the KidLitCons except one, and I am planning to be there in Baltimore. Here are three reasons for you to consider attending:
- You can meet people face-to-face with whom you've been interacting via your blog and social media accounts for years. You can turn virtual friends into real ones, which is a tremendously validating experience.
- You can recharge your interest in blogging, both through ideas from the formal sessions and through casual conversations with other bloggers. Conquering blog burnout has been a regular topic over the years.
- You can learn about new areas of blogging and/or young people's literature, from diverse books to visual storytelling.
Registration for KidLitCon is now open. This two-day conference is quite reasonably priced at $125, if you register by September 20th (and still only $150 after that). This includes two days of panels and presentations, Friday lunch, Friday dinner and bowling(!), Saturday lunch discounts. Single day options are also available, as is an optional Sunday guided tour of Baltimore.