There is so much to tell about the conference, and I have so many photos, but I don't want these posts to become completely overwhelming, so I thought I'd begin with the "many faces of Betsy Bird" which I promised in my last post. Above you see Betsy with Ratha (star of Clare Bell's Ratha books; here, made out of pipe cleaners). Below you see Betsy with a sock of puppet Edward Cullen, or a zombie. I'm not sure which:
Betsy eating her chicken, captured on film by Suzanne Young:
And here is Betsy apparently caught in a moment of admiring her ring:
(With her are Lisa Nowak and Christine Fletcher -- Christine is a veterinarian/YA writer, which means she is living my childhood dream! And Lisa writes YA and used to build and race cars!!! So cool!)
And here, bribed into someone's room with chocolate:
Okay, so, Betsy Bird. She seems like a good place to start, because she was my own introduction into the "Kidlitosphere" back when Blackbringer was an ARC (advance review copy). Jim and I were in New York at the winter SCBWI conference, when Jolie Stekly and Sara Easterly told me, excitely, that while they'd been eating cupcakes with Betsy Bird that afternoon, she had pulled my book out of her bag and raved about it!!! This was very, very exciting. . . except for one little thing. I was deeply ignorant, and did not know who Betsy Bird was. Ulp! (Luckily for me, my editor was not ignorant, and had gotten Betsy my book!) I soon found out that she is a New York City librarian and the Queen Goddess of Children's Book Blogs, reads more picture books and middle grade than any other human alive, and writes many, many reviews for her wildly well-trafficked blog -- which at the time was Fuse #8, and is now hosted at School Library Journal. So, this really was very very exciting. I got to meet both Betsy and MotherReader Pam Coughlan that night, and from there, I went on to discover the Kidlitosphere and many other awesome blogs. And a few weeks after that meeting, Betsy posted the first ever review of my book, and it was the best possible beginning to my publishing journey, starting out: "If you read only one fantasy book this year, read this one." Thank you forever, Betsy! No matter what happens for the rest of my writing career, that will always be my first review.
As you can see in the photos above, Betsy is also very much fun at conferences! And from there, we shall segue into the actual conference. It's a good segue, because Betsy was on our opening panel, along with Readergirlz divas Dia Calhoun and Lorie Ann Grover, Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market (CWIM) editor Alice Pope, and podcasting wizard Mark Blevis of Just One More Book, who came all the way from Ottowa!
Jone and I invited these five to comprise the panel because they give a good idea of the diversity of the "Kidlitosphere." Dia and Lorie Ann are both YA writers, but beyond that, Readergirlz is an amazing community in which they (and other divas) use Myspace to reach teen girl readers. They select a monthly book and host live chats with the author, as well as suggesting community service projects that girls might get involved in, inspired by the subjects they're reading about. And more. Check out their site; they really have a mission to help build strong, confident young women, and they use the many facets of the internet to this purpose. Then there's Betsy, who reads and reviews voraciously, as well as passing on news to readers about the publishing industry and all manner of related tidbits; Alice Pope, whose particular niche is the "CWIM" known and loved by all who are trying to break into children's publishing, and who connects with people via her blog; and Mark Blevis, who is foremost a parent of young children and who, with his wife Andrea, creates a thrice-weekly podcast about the books they and their daughters love. So: writers, librarians, publishing industry folk, parents. That's a taste of our community. Pretty cool, no?
The day was a whirlwind of panels, and since Jone and I were swirling around from one conference room to the other, I took nary a single note! But I did get to listen to almost everything, and learned a lot, and got inspired to be more active in the community, something I always mean to do, but fall short of. Be more active how? Oh, from the basics of leaving more comments and links, to doing more interviewing and giving more book recommendations. So, we'll see if I can do better!
The second discussion was Colleen Mondor and Jackie Parker talking about the Blog Blast Tours (there's a Summer one and a Winter one) which they are part of, along with a number of other bloggers. They each conduct interviews with authors of particular interest to them, covering a wide spectrum of books, and link to each other's posts to help readers find new sites. It's a good example of the kind of thing that newer bloggers and authors might do as they come to this community: set up their own group events and cross-promote each other's sites, all while they're spreading the word about books and writers.
We broke up into two sessions: Anastasia Suen got into the basics of beginning a blog, and Pam Coughlan talked about bumping your blog up to a new level. I only caught Pam's talk, and as I mentioned yesterday, part of what she talked about was the importance of connection: comments, links. She's a big proponent of posting daily, and thinks that group blogs are a good way to go if you don't have the time for that on your own. She also suggested having your comment "name" be something memorable, either your blog identity, or if you're a writer your full name, the idea being that if you have a common name, just leaving "Deb" or "Susan," it will take people a lot longer to click with who you are.
One other thing she mentioned that I hadn't thought much about is how active book bloggers like her have Amazon accounts whereby they get a % of any click-throughs from their blogs that result in sales -- and get this: not only do they get a commision on the actual linked item, but on everything purchased as a result of that click-through! So, if you blog frequently about books, you might want to get that set up. (Can't remember what it's called, but I'm sure it's easy to find.) Also, at the holidays, tell everyone to click through your blog before they shop Amazon; you can make some $$.
Sarah Stevenson (Finding Wonderland), Jackie Parker (Interactive Reader), and Jen Robinson (Jen Robinson's Book Page) talked about the CYBILS -- the Children's and Young adult Bloggers' Literary Awards -- which are just about to begin their 3rd award season. The reason this award was created was because its founders thought the Newbery awards were rewarding literary merit but not really choosing the most child-friendly books, whereas the Quill awards were going for popular books that maybe lacked literary merit; they wanted an award for all the wonderful books in the middle of the spectrum: loved by critics and children alike. Nominations in nine categories will open soon; anyone can nominate a single title per category.
At the same time, Mark was teaching the rest of the group how to podcast:
Jen Robinson and I presented a session together on the subject of "the meeting of authors and book reviewers." I think I may write a specific post about this in a few days, because there's a lot of information for writers. You know, as writers, we are sort of sent forth into the world by our publishers and told to promote, and most of us don't even know where to begin. Well, this community is a natural starting point, but there are ways to self-promote online and ways not to. We spoke about soliciting reviews, querying reviewers re: sending ARCs, how to respond to reviews afterward, and other protocol issues, etc. This was all stuff I truly wanted to know, and I figured other authors would want to know too. It was really helpful to me -- thank you, Jen, for helping me convey this information! More details in a later post.
Greg Pincus (aka Gregory K.) of Gottabook did a terrific presentation on using social networking for promotion. He is a self-proclaimed "geek" and has a geek's interest in the minutiae of viral web marketing, but his message was, again, not to be a shameless self-promoter. That is, don't send someone an email or leave them a comment that says, "Hello. I have written a book you are sure to adore. It's called Blah Blah." Rather, if there is someone you want to connect with, offer them information they will value, to show that you know and care who they are and what they do. For example, when Pam Coughlan was attending an Obama rally, a woman in the crowd asked Obama a question about reading, and he talked about reading with his daughters in the evening. Pam then was able to send an FYI email to Galleycat, a hugely well-read publishing industry site, passing that first-hand info along. I believe it was picked up, with a credit link, driving a swell of new traffic to her blog; on the other hand, if Pam had sent an email like "Hey, check out my awesome blog," it never would have been picked up. So: provide something of value. Your name will be attached, and that is way more effective self-promotion than the blatant kind. Yeah? By the way, Greg has an awesome voice. He should be in broadcasting.
HERE is a great wiki he created on Book Promotion on the Web -- must-read for all authors.
The last session of the day was split between Sara Zarr (pictured), talking about "the personal and the professional on author blogs" and a Group Blogging presentation by three authors in the Class of 2K8 and 2K9: Lisa Schroeder, Roseanne Parry, and Zu Vincent. Those group blogs represent authors whose first books are coming out in those years, and are a great way for writers to maximize marketing by banding together. I didn't get to see their workshop, but Jone said it was fabulous. Sara's presentation was excellent too. She talked about how she'd been blogging in a fairly personal way for a number of years before her first book ever came out, and how that changed everything, leading to a panicked deletion of her entire blog when it really sank in that lots of strangers would be reading her journals. One thing she said that made me think was this: if you choose to post about sensitive subjects like religion and politics, those posts should be "composed." That is, they should be essays, carefully written and revised, not quick gut-reaction posts. It's good advice -- we may want to share our views on important issues, but it's a good idea to be as thoughtful about it as you can. Sara recently posted an article on faith at YA for Obama, and it's clear she followed her own advice; it's an excellent piece.
Whew. This is taking a long time! I'm going to wrap up this segment of the conference here, and when I come back, it will be all fun and drinks and food! There are many photos yet to come; for now, I'll post this one:
Jone and I were both thrilled when Eric Kimmel showed up in the morning and said, "I just heard about this last night. Is it too late to register?" No! It's not! Eric Kimmel has written a crazy lot of books, and is known for his folklore adaptations and Judaic stories. When I first fell in love with picture books as an adult (in college, when I worked at a great independent bookstore), Trina Schart Hyman quickly became one of my favorite illustrators, and it was through her that I discovered Eric Kimmel, because she illustrated Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, a wonderful story with fabulous illustrations. I knew he lived in Portland, and it was great to have him at our conference!
Okay. More later. And remember: if you've posted about the conference, go to Kidlit08 and put in your link to the list!