The 8th Annual KidLitCon – Spending Time Face-to-Face with Kindred Spirits by Jen Robinson
When I was in college studying engineering, I would sneak off to the library whenever I could, and read children’s books. When I was drowning with work as the co-founder of a software firm, I would use children’s and young adult books to unwind. I have a distinct memory of being on a business trip to Japan, reading one of Diane Duane’s So You Want To Be A Wizard books in my tiny hotel room. Throughout my adult life I have sought out new children’s and YA books, and re-read my old favorites. I have bought children’s books for everyone I know (especially actual children), and felt proud of any small part that I was able to play in helping kids to grow up loving books.
But I must confess that until I started my blog, my passion for children’s books was a somewhat lonely thing. Oh sure, I introduced my husband to the Harry Potter books when they were new. I had fun talking about books with my nieces. I had one or two friends who also enjoyed reading YA, and we would trade recommendations. But I spent most of my time surrounded by engineers and doctors, and my love of children’s books seemed at times a rather quirky thing.
Then, in late 2005, I started blogging. More importantly, I discovered other blogs. There weren’t a lot of children’s book blogs being published back then, but the authors of each and every one of them felt immediately like a friend. This was before Twitter, and before the Nerdy Book Club existed as anything more than a gleam in Donalyn Miller’s eye. We children’s book bloggers would link to and comment upon one another’s blogs. We started our own book award (The Cybils). Melissa Wiley coined the term Kidlitosphere. I think that just about everyone who participated felt validated and grateful not to be alone in our adult reading of children’s books.
Author Robin Brande would do an open post on her blog every Friday. We would all go there and share good things that had happened to us during the week. One day, Robin said something about how she wished we could meet in person. She offered, tongue in cheek, to host a potluck in Chicago. A few of us said: “Ok. Let’s pick a date.” And thus the Kidlitosphere Conference (aka KidLitCon) was born. As long as we were getting together anyway, it made sense to throw in some talks in the afternoon. Then it became a full day event. Ultimately, 70 people made the trek to a hotel near the airport in Chicago, to spend a day, plus dinner, talking about children’s books. And it was amazing!
Here’s what Robin said about why the conference was so wonderful:
“It’s because people are getting to hang out with friends they’ve never met in person, we’ve all proven we aren’t actually prison inmates who are just posing as librarians or authors (although I still can’t vouch for those who weren’t able to come), and it’s just crazy-wonderful to talk nonstop with so many like-interested people.”
That’s the real key: finding like-interested people. Such a relief, for we adult fans of children’s and young adult literature. Here’s what Mary Lee from A Year of Reading said:
“It’s like being inside a story along with some of your favorite characters who have come to life from other books!”
Since that meeting in Chicago, six other KidLitCons have been held (in Portland, Washington, DC, Minneapolis, Seattle, New York, and Austin). These sessions have been attended by librarians, authors, teachers, parents, booksellers, publishers, and readers. Attendees share a love of children’s books, as well as a determination to get the right books into young readers’ hands. I have attended six of the seven so far, and I have enjoyed them all. I find it rejuvenating to spend time, face-to-face, with kindred spirits. I try very hard not to miss this annual chance to see people who started out as online friends, but who have become, like the Velveteen Rabbit, real.
This year, the 8th annual KidLitCon will be held in Sacramento, CA, on October 10th and 11th, and the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria, co-organized by Sarah Stevenson and Tanita Davis from Finding Wonderland, and myself. This year’s theme is: Blogging Diversity in Young Adult and Children’s Lit: What’s Next?
Our plan is to discuss what book bloggers can do to make a meaningful difference in increasing diversity in children’s and young adult literature. This year’s keynote speaker will be Mitali Perkins, an author whose focus has long been on “books between cultures for young readers.” Among other things, Mitali will talk about how bloggers can be agents of change in the conversation about diversity in children’s and young adult literature. Shannon Hale, who has written eloquently on the need for writing non-neutral characters, and who helped launch the Great Green Heist Challenge, is also expected to participate in the conference via Skype.
KidLitCon is a much smaller conference than ALA, BEA, NCTE, and the like. This makes it possible to meet and talk with pretty much everyone who attends (including speakers). KidLitCon is an introvert-friendly conference, too. There is plenty of downtime, and it’s easy to start conversations with people because you know you share a common interest. While not as ARC-filled as the big conferences, we do anticipate having a book swap, and receiving some books from publishers. Where there are children’s book bloggers, there will be books.
In short, Nerdy Book Club nation, KidLitCon is a place that you’ll feel at home. I’d love to see some of you attend, and be able to meet you in person. The call for session proposals is now available.
For more information, including our soon to be posted registration form, see http://www.kidlitosphere.org/kidlitcon/, or follow us on Twitter @KidLitCon or Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/KidLitCon.
I hope to see you all there!
Jen Robinson is always on the lookout for great books. Although she has a PhD in engineering, and co-owns a small software firm, her true passion lies in helping parents, teachers, and librarians to connect kids with books. She reviews books, ranging from picture books to YA, on her blog, Jen Robinson’s Book Page (http://www.GrowingBookworms.com), where she also shares tips for growing bookworms. She can also be found sharing literacy and reading-related links on her Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/GrowingBookworms and on Twitter @JensBookPage.