Sunday, September 28, 2008

Kidlitosphere Conference '08 -- Part I

We did it! The Second Annual Kidlit Bloggers' Conference has come and gone, and a long, wonderful day (and couple of evenings) spent in the company of fellow children's book lovers has come to a close.
This conference couldn't have happened without the hard work of Jone MacCulloch, school librarian, blogger, and book lover. Thank you, Jone, for putting this all together. It was my pleasure to help out, and I enjoyed our coffee dates working out hotel issues and workshop topics. I think it all came together beautifully! Yay, Jone!

If you've written a post about the conference, make sure to put up a link to it at the kidlit08 page, HERE. Thanks!

By the way, it's official: next year the conference will be in D.C., the Saturday before the National Book Festival (I'm not sure of the exact date, but in September), and Pam Coughlan, aka MotherReader, has agreed to organize. Thanks, Pam!

So. What to say about the conference? First of all, what is the "Kidlitosphere"? Basically it's an online community of people who blog about children's books, promote literacy, review books, talk about writing and illustrating, interview authors, and lots more. We had a lot of new bloggers at the conference, and part of what we talked about his: how do you become part of this community? I would say that, over the course of the day, the consensus that emerged was:

-- you find/create you niche: first and foremost you focus on creating your blog and being consistent with it; creating content you are passionate about and that will be interesting and valuable to others. If you can find a way of making your niche unique, so much the better.

-- second, to "penetrate the skin of the community" (a term that got bandied about with a bit of a smirk), you visit other blogs, read them and comment, become a part of the dialogue, participate in blog events, and keep at it persistently until you begin to get to know the other bloggers.

Community, of course, is the key, and to be a good member of the community it is essential to COMMENT and LINK. Pam remarked that comments have gone way down as a result of the boom in # of blogs, and she said she thinks the energy of the community can suffer; even if your stats are good, it's really the comments that may you feel connected to readers. When Jim and I left the hotel last night, she and Lee Wind were half-jokingly cooking up a "comment challenge" and I wonder if they came up with any serious idea. I think it could be fun. As for linking, when you find something of interest on another blog, throw a link their way.

For writers, this all connects to the idea of how we use our blogs for that dreaded business of promotion. We had a lot of authors at this conference, particularly a lot whose first books are coming out in the next year or two -- they have to learn to use the blogosphere for promotional purposes without becoming an irritating "blatant self-promoter." So that was something we talked about a lot too. Really good stuff.

But I'll leave content for another post. For now, here are some pictures of our Friday night gathering, beginning at the hotel:
(clockwise from me: Suzanne Young, Jone, Alma Alexander, Jackie Parker, Collen Mondor, Pam, Maureen Kearney, Anastasia Suen, and Jim.)

From there we went to the wonderland of Powell's, which everyone has heard of, but some people do not realize is an entire city block and four stories of books. They had a political display:
Here are: Suzanne Young (aka "that girl who wrote nine books in one year," Lee Wind (about whom Jim and I have asked each other, "Do you think he could really be that nice, or is it a trick?" "No, I think he must really be that nice!"), Anastasia Suen, Jim Di Bartolo (aka husband), Kim Baker, and MotherReader:
Suzanne was the first person we found when we got to the hotel to meet everyone on Friday afternoon, and I immediately recognized her face from her blog, which I had found via the Disco Mermaids. Suzanne is a great blog success story, because her agent found her via her blog, liked her, and asked to read some manuscripts!!! She now has a two-book deal with Razorbill, and her first book, Smitten Kittens, is coming out in. . . '09 or '10. (I can't remember!) And, even though she writes fast and qualifies as a ROBOT, she is adorable and really fun and Jim and I had a great time hanging out with her this weekend and sending the Disco Mermaids taunting pictures by telephone, chiding them for not being with us. Here we are being very serious with mermaid Jay Asher's NYTimes bestselling book, Thirteen Reasons Why:
But why am I talking about the Mermaids? They didn't even come to the conference! (pthwtt!)

At dinner, Jim and I sat with Colleen Mondor and Jackie Parker (here with Mark Blevis who snuck in for the photo.)
Colleen blogs at Chasing Ray (as in Ray Bradbury; gotta love a Ray Bradbury lover!), and posts book reviews at Bookslut, Booklist, and Guys Lit Wire (helping teen guys find books), not to mention organizing the Blog Blast Tours, but more on that later. Jackie is a teen librarian who blogs at Interactive Reader and also does a ton of blog/book stuff, including Blog Blast Tours, Readergirlz, and being the head of the Cybils YA category. These two are both so involved in the book/blog worlds, and do so much to promote reading and authors. And they're funny.

Too. Many. Links. Must get a post up, so I'm just going to put up some pictures of the rest of the folk who were out and about on Friday night, and that will have to be Part I of the conference posts:
(l to r: Alice Pope's husband; Adrienne Furness, Bridget Zinn, Farida Dowler, Pam Coughlan, Mark Blevis, Jone MacCulloch)
(Kim Baker, Lee Wind, Suzanne Young, Dana Arnim, Laurie Thompson, Jolie Stekly, Jaime Temairik)
(Alma Alexander, Jen Robinson's husband Mheir & Jen, Maureen Kearney, Anastasia Suen, Clare Bell)

This is jumping ahead, but here's the group photo from last night, so people can pull it off for their own blogs:

And yet to come, the actual conference, more photos of awesome folks, some information, links, the many faces of Betsy Bird, the unexpected (and very welcome) arrival of Eric Kimmel, and. . . the terrifying attack of the Zombie Sock Puppets of Jaime Temairik:



Amber Lough said...

Aw maaaaan, I wish I could have gone!

Little Willow said...

Congratulations on the conference! Everyone's reports make it look and sound such like a blast - fun AND informative. Wish I could have been there.

Liz B said...

I am so so jealous of everyone's good time!

Sara said...

I knew you and Jone would pull off a great one, Laini! Thanks for the pix, and I'll be waiting for more!

Re: the comment thing. I wish there was a way to drop a cute calling card at a blog. You know, for those days when my brain cells won't allow me to stay long or speak much. Just a little reminder to a blogger that I did stop by and enjoy the post.

K. M. Walton said...

That sounds like an incredible experience. Thank you for sharing the play by play...I sorta felt like I was there. Maybe someday.

I particularly like how you said to make your blog unique. I need to work on that.

I'm figure out how to bring uniqueness to my blog.

Disco Mermaids said...

Wow, Laini! Looks like you guys had TONS of fun. Can NOT believe I missed it. Plan to be there next year.

Hope to see you soon! THIS week, in fact! :)


Anonymous said...

Laini, it was great to meet you. Glad that we're in the same city, and I'm looking forward to whenever that first Portland-area gathering happens!

Mary Lee said...

Looks like great fun! Good job to you and Jone!!!

Disco Mermaids said...

Geez! How many times do I have to say I'm sorry???

Well, I'm glad y'all had a blast. It looks like you put together a wonderful event.

- Jay

P.S. Thanks for the camera phone shot of you, Jim, and Suzanne. Right back atcha!!!

Jules at 7-Imp said...

WOOT! Thanks for the report, for those of us who couldn't be there!

I hope you and Jone are patting yourselves on the back for the great conference planning, too!

Jules at 7-Imp said...

P.S. I'm with Sara on the comments! I wish I could have heard that conversation at the conference.

Bottom line for me: Sometimes I may read something fascinating or interesting on a blog but still not feel moved to make a comment, for whatever reason. But I was there. Really, I was. Sometimes, I force myself to leave a comment to show I was there/show support, and then, to be frank, I just sound like a dumb-ass. :) And then, if I feel too much pressure about it, I just cease blog-reading for a while, which just makes me miss out big-time.

Ah well, I'm just rambling now. Interesting topic.

Suzanne Young said...

Thanks, Laini! I loved meeting you guys, too!

And in case I didn't say it enough, Bloggers are Dope!

Lisa Schroeder said...

You guys did such an awesome job! I have a few pics and thoughts to share, but probably not until Tuesday. :)

And now I can't wait for a PDX kidlit drink night!!!

Kim / POWER OF RUN said...

All these posts are making me jealous! I'll bet there's an even bigger turn out next year!

Anonymous said...

This was such a fun conference! I can't wait for Portland kidlit drink night. I had no idea there were so many kidlit people here!

Camille said...

What a splendid write-up! I almost feel like I was there. I will get to Powell's someday. With a name like that, it has to be good.

Even though I couldn't participate this year, I love my "GrownUps Read KidLit" t-shirt. I even bought one for a school principal I know who loves the books.

Congratulations for organizing a great conference.

Anonymous said...

Just as exciting as the conference itself is reading the follow-up posts and hearing what resonated with different people. While everyone seems to be posting about slightly different things, the common thread is the great vibe of the conference.

Thanks so much for organizing a great event. See you next year!

rathacat said...

My thanks to everyone, especially Jone, who went out of her way to help me attend the conference at the last minute. As a writer and beginning blogger, I gained great insight about how to enter the kidlit community with care and hopefully without making the common author mistakes. Thank you all for the insights, the friendships, and the great time.

Clare Bell

Andromeda Jazmon said...

Thanks so much for this recap! I can't believe how much goodness I missed. Thank God for the blogs to fill the rest of us in...

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Hi Laini,
first, THANK YOU and Jone for organizing such an amazing event - my head was spinning (in a good way) and I'm feeling energized and excited about the future of our community! Great photos and mini-recap - I agree with Mark that it's really fun to read everyone's wrap up and see what resonated for each of us.

As far as "THE OCTOBER COMMENT CHALLENGE", Pam (MotherReader) and I are serious, and keep an eye out for a big announcement on October 1st...
And it's easy to be "nice" when you're hanging out with the coolest of the cool people, and we all share the same passion for kid lit and storytelling and blogging and, well, chocolate.

Namaste and hugs all around,


Esme Raji Codell said...

Wow, I guess I had better comment, huh?! I was a-feared of reading your report because I knew it would be a great event that I wasn't able to attend and that you would describe it so deliciously, and sure enough, it sounds WONDERFUL! Well, I missed you and the gang and (sniff) glad it was (sniff, sniff) so terrific (waaaaahhhh)!!!

Christine Fletcher said...

Great post, Laini! Thank you and Jone SO much for putting this together...I went as an author blogger looking for ways to improve, and found not only tons of info but also community of fabulously rockin' kidlit folks. DC '09!

And I love Sara's idea of a blog comment "calling card"...very elegant and Edith Wharton-ish!

Deb Cushman said...

Just wanted to add my thanks for the great job you and Jone did in organizing the conference. The whole "feeling" of the conference was like a informational chat with friends. Thanks for posing for the picture with Freckles. (She also had a good time the conference.)
Deb Cushman

Jenny Schwartzberg said...

Wow. I'm jealous too. I was crazy busy this past week and it's been a fabulous week for me but I would have loved to come to the conference. Oh well, next year DC! When the date is decided let me know so I can block out that time on my calendar!

Terry Doherty said...

Two days later and still catching the energy ... sounds like it was a great conference. Looking forward to September 2009! Thanks for the great post.

Sarah Stevenson said...

I love this! I wish I'd gotten there in time to hang out with you guys on Friday--and I REALLY wish we'd gotten more of a chance to chat!

Great photos!!

Anonymous said...

I really wished I could have had Monday for down time. Not sure when I will get it. Great post.

MotherReader said...

Okay, so maybe the Comment Challenge won't be Oct 1st exactly, but Lee and I are totally doing something with it.

Thanks for all your hard work. It was a pleasure spending time with you again.

Heidi Rabinowitz said...

Well thank goodness it'll finally be on the east coast next year! I am totally there!

Glad to hear Eric Kimmel made it - I was eating my heart out about not being there and I knew he was in Portland, so I told him he should go so I could enjoy it vicariously.

My blog/podcast caters more to librarians and less to other bloggers, so I find that many people in my audience just don't understand the idea of commenting. It's frustrating but seems like nagging to try to educate them about that when I would rather just make sure they listen to the show at all....