I met bloggers whom I both knew (meeting many in person for the first time) and lots who were new to me, and had so many great conversations!
It was engaging and inspiring, and I thought I’d share with you all a few highlights from my KidLitCon 2011 experience:
I got there on Friday just in time for Chris Singer of Book Dads' talk about Building a Better World, and I loved two of the quotes he shared:
“Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. They are the engines of change, windows on the world, lighthouses erected in the sea of time.” – Barbara W. Tuchman
“A book is the most effective weapon against intolerance and ignorance.” – Lyndon B. Johnson
There was a really good discussion with the attendees of what to do with ARCs once we bloggers are done with them (ideas suggested included: shelters, emergency foster homes, migrant camps, and the arcs float on project.)
Chris also shared a list of wonderful non-profits bloggers might consider promoting/teaming up with, including RIF (Reading Is Fundamental) which was the non-profit beneficiary of KidLitCon (including 10% of the books purchased at the conference, donated by the lovely people at Seattle’s Secret Garden Books!)
I liked Chris’ call to use our position as bloggers to make a better world – it’s a passion I share!
Saturday morning started with Scott Westerfeld’s incredible keynote, and it was so interesting when he was speaking of the old Sears and Roebucks catalogs that were hand-drawn, and said:
“The Sears and Roebucks catalog was the internet”(It had all the things that were available at the time in one large book.)
Scott's books like "Uglies" and "Leviathan" are amazing, and it was fascinating to hear the story behind his bringing back illustrated novels in our age of the internet. His "Leviathan" trilogy is heavily (and beautifully) illustrated, with between 50-60 plates in each book.
And stay tuned, because I did two videos with Scott about the gender-non-conforming main character in that series, plus his lesbian main characters in the short story he did for the Zombies vs. Unicorns anthology!
As a writer, I was really wowed when Scott shared that because he was writing his "Leviathan" trilogy as illustrated books, he had to be aware of not having scenes in the same space again – thinking about what his illustrator would draw. So instead of having a particular dialog scene in a stateroom, he varied it up and had it in the gunner’s turret instead (and having detailed deck plans of his airship helped him with this!) Even though my current work in progress isn’t an illustrated novel, this idea has inspired me to map out the locations in my work in progress (not just a map of the town but also of the houses and the school), and aim to vary up where my scenes happen!
And the fan art on Scott's site is so cool – you have to check out his Fan Art Friday posts!
Next I went to Suzanne Young and Sara Gundell’s talk on “Teaming Up: How Authors and Bloggers Can Work Together For Successful Promotion”
Suzanne and Sara talked about the impact of unique content, and shared their joint projects that both promoted Suzanne’s books (like “Team Get Some” and “Random Acts of Kindness”) and Sara’s blog.
There was also a great discussion of how author interview book tours can be overwhelming on both sides – for an author, agreeing to 57 interviews (like Suzanne did at one point) can be too much, and for bloggers, the challenge becomes how is your author interview covering fresh ground?
These women are clearly masters of unique ideas and they had my mind spinning with possibilities. (You wanna see creative? Check out this wacky and hysterical trailer they did for the release of Suzanne's "So Many Boys!") There was even a chat about swag (like bookmarks and buttons) and the pros and cons of that for both authors and bloggers!
They were charming and enthusiastic, and Sara is such a booster of literacy. A quote I loved:
“I have nothing but good things to say about ‘Twilight’ because it got kids to read.”
The next session blew me away. And get the elegant segue: Holly Cupala and her husband Shiraz Cupala presented “Tears, Sweat and True Blood: DIY Marketing in a Post-Twilight World.”
Cautioning us that most books get $5,000 or less to promote them, they reviewed all the different things (so inspiring!) that they did for Holly’s debut novel, “Tell me a Secret” before it’s publication and then once the book launched. My favorite? The two chapter preview booklet with hand-written notes that Holly sent to over 250 independent bookstores! Wow!
Shiraz then gave us a marketing basics talk, explaining in more detail some of their strategies, like the trailer launch party (where they got 3,000 views in 48 hours!) and their decision to do a free audio book podcast of the novel!
They covered concepts like "loss leader," giving Amanda Hocking’s price structure for her e-book trilogy, where the first book is 99 cents, and then (once you’re hooked) the next two books in the series are priced at $2.99
Next I attended a wonderful session "Teaming Up with S in SCBWI" where my fellow SCBWI volunteers (Joni Sensel, Laurie Thompson, Kim Baker, and my Team Blog friends Alice Pope, Martha Brockenbrough and Jaime Temairik) were on a panel about how bloggers and SCBWI can help each other synergistically. Best brainstorm from the panel?
Contact your local SCBWI region's RAs and see if you can help them out by blogging their events!
Then I had the pleasure of attending author/illustrator Richard Jesse Watson's "Finessing Your Inner Zoo," where he challenged us with exercises and inspired us with his wisdom. Here are some of my favorites:
"The internet is about finding kindred spirits"
"Nourish your roots"
"Blogging is great practice "
"A wounded poet bleeds poetry."
Jen Robinson and Carol Rasco talked about "Moving Beyond Google Reader: Taking Your Blog To Where Your Readers Are" and their presentation sparked something pretty exciting that I'll be launching here in next few weeks... so stay tuned for that!
And then, it was time for the final panel of the conference... mine!
Called "Blogging Diversity: Prejudice and Pride" I led a rollicking and far-ranging discussion with Justina Chen, Brent Hartinger, Sara Ryan and Sarah Stevenson.
We covered so much ground with humor and insight, talking about:
Who has the right to tell a minority story?
What's the best way to review a book that has non-majority secondary content - include it and possibly turn off some readers who might be exposed to it and learn, or don't include it (since it's not the focus of the book) and risk losing the readers that inclusion of diversity might have attracted?
Sara Ryan's vectors of identification post and Chimamanda Adichie's idea of the danger of stereotypes is that they are a single story.
Paying attention to the choice of books you review - a blogger's choices are powerful, and if every teen book you read has a white straight female protagonist, that's sending a message to your readers.
The dual position of author/bloggers and the attendant challenge of being an advocate/watchdog of publishing mis-steps.
Whether as authors the panelists read their book reviews.
and of course, the evolving #YesGayYA story.
Here are some of the best quotes that I jotted down as I was moderating:
"What we're doing is art, not sociology" - Brent Hartinger
In response to my sharing the maxim I'd been taught, 'write what you know,'
"What do I know in my heart - that's what my story's about. Then I figure out what character could best tell that story." - Justina Chen
"I am a big proponent of rabble rousing" - Sara Ryan
And Sarah Stevenson was charming and brilliant when she shared how it was very intentional, having two mixed-race characters in her debut novel, "The Latte Rebellion" - in part to make sure there was more than 'one story' she was telling about being of mixed heritage. I didn't get the actual quote, but she made the whole room laugh at the idea that if she only told HER story, she wouldn't be able to write a second book.
Oh, and I saw that someone tweeted something I had said during the session, and I frankly think it's pretty good, so I'll share that here as well:
“You’re trying to write a character, not an archetype” - Lee Wind
There was lots of interaction, questions and comments from the attendees, and at the end of our panel, enthusiastic applause. (And check out Brent's wonderful post about our panel "Some Thoughts On Diversity: Wow, It's Complicated." Sara Ryan also posted links to the two books she referenced during the panel on her blog.)
And that was the official wrap of the conference's day - but there was still a lovely dinner (where I got to chat with the remarkable Elizabeth Burns (librarian and blogger for SLJ) and powerhouse for literacy Carol Rasco (from RIF) and we all cheered the amazing Colleen Mondor and Jackie Parker, the conference co-chairs, for pulling it off so wonderfully!
Thank you Colleen and Jackie!
KitLitCon 2011 was wonderful.
And they announced at the Saturday night dinner that next year, KidLitCon 2012 will be in New York City. And the organizer? The wonderful librarian and School Library Journal Fuse #8 blogger and author Betsy Bird!
A giant thanks to my Team Blog buddies Martha, Alice and Jaime for sharing a Sunday in Seattle and making the trip perfect!