Two Girls from Iowa Cross the Border

So this past weekend, my friend kelcrocker and I traveled to Kidlitcon in Minneapolis. I left a day earlier than kelcrocker did so I could visit my dad, and my sister-in-law and my very sweet niece, then met up with kelcrocker mid-afternoon on Friday.

I’ve been to a lot of conferences…and I have to say there’s something really refreshing about going to a conference with a bunch of kidlit people who are NOT there to sell a manuscript to somebody. This wasn’t a writer’s conference; it was a blogger’s conference. Bloggers who are interested in children’s books.

Heh, so why did I go? It’s no secret I’ve got a pretty neglected blog. Here is why I went:

1) To either become inspired to do more with my blog or drop it altogether
2) To hang with children’s book people
3) Because it was in Minneapolis

And I’m so glad I did because:

1) I got to share a room with kelcrocker
BTW, here we are at the Spaghetti Factory on Friday night. We saw this Queen’s Chair and knew we had to have our picture taken there.

2) I got to meet susanwrites in person and we totally bonded! (In fact, we bonded so well that I can’t help but wonder if this is the real susanwrites or some imposter that my husband planted at Kidlitcon to try and make me okay with the idea of a POSSIBLE move to her area in a little over a year and a half.

3) I got to see laurasalas again, which is always fun (even when there aren’t belly dancers involved)

4) kelcrocker and I not only made friends with Minnesotans (what am I saying? Beneath the Iowa façade, I AM a Minnesotan!)…they liked us well enough that they were willing to be photographed with us:

5) In fact, we made friends with lots of people…and had lots of good conversation (and stayed up WAY too late both nights!!!!)

While the best moments of the conference happened outside the actual conference, there were some great sessions, too. Specifically:

1) Maggie Stiefvater and her critique buddies, Tessa Gratton and Brenna Yovanoff, talked about their critique relationship (and Maggie made me feel very old when she talked about how “unsatisfying” it was to read/critique a manuscript on the plane because she wasn’t able to give instant feedback to the author…the three of them do their critiquing via instant messaging as they read…sounds like a very interesting relationship that isn’t just built on trust, but also on mutual respect and admiration).

2) Maggie also gave a keynote on lessons she’s learned about blogging (the world doesn’t need another blog, boring people offline are often boring people online…and interesting people offline can be boring people online, blogging is a conversation, people will learn your cat’s name, people make a connection with you when you blog, people can find out everything about you when you blog, blog readers are real people, blog writers should be blog readers)

3) Ryan Bickett (Internet Marketing Manager at Lerner) gave a presentation on various blogging platforms (is it okay to say here on LiveJournal that I think I need to find another platform???), social media tools, and best blogging practices (know your goals/objectives, design matters, you are a brand, think like a “vertically integrated publisher,” focus on non-branded keyword contact, keep a regular schedule, find out what your readers want and give it to them)

4) Swati Avasthi (and can I just say I LOVED her book Split and could hardly believe I was in the same room with her???), Michele Corriel, Janet Fox and Jacqueline Houtman did a presentation on blog touring and talked about how anyone can turn an okay blog post into a great blog post, interview questions that work and don’t work, why you need to think about your audience, set a goal for your tour, how to set up a tour

5) Elissa Crus talked about middle grade blogging in a YA blogosphere. She talked about the From the Mixedupfiles group blog…and inspired me to try and set up something similar for children’s/YA mystery people. (It’s all about community!)

6) I did not catch the names of all the people who participated in the Poetry Friday panel, but my friend laurasalas was one of the panelists. I don’t normally have much interest in poetry, so obviously these people gave a fantastic presentation because they actually got ME thinking about participating. One of the panelists is a writing teacher…and she talked about how she uses Poetry Friday with her students…which got me thinking about trying to incorporate it into my therapy dog work…

7) There was also a session on school and library visits in a social media age. I was surprised to hear that these panelists advocated CHARGING for Skype visits. I started out charging for them, but then soon followed my friend, sarah_prineas‘s lead and simply asked that participants read at least one of my books first, then come armed with questions. I just do a 15-30 minute Q&A (I think it’s kind of hard to do an actual “presentation” via Skype…and I’m not sure many schools are interested in them anyway)…and I don’t charge for a Skype sesion. I do it for the publicity…and for the opportunity to offer something to schools that can’t afford to bring an author in. It’s 15-30 minutes out of my day. I don’t have to dress up…I don’t have to prepare…I really don’t even lose writing time. And in exchange, I make a connection with my audience. I’m afraid this panel didn’t convince me to do things any other way.

8) The last session was on the Cybils. I learned how the awards are chosen…basically, nominations run from Oct. 1 until Oct. 15. From Oct. 15 until the end of the year the first round of judges in each category narrow the list of nominations down to 5-7 finalists, which is announced on New Year’s Day. Then the second round of judging begins. A whole new group of judges comes in and discusses the finalists and chooses the winner. Winners are announced on Valentine’s Day. If you’re interested in serving as a judge, you need to be enthusiastic! Don’t just tell them you want to be a judge…tell them WHY you want to judge a particular category. Apparently they had more than twice as many people apply to be judges than they had spaces to fill.

And that’s about it! Next year’s Kidlitcon will be in Seattle…and in 2012 it will be in New York City!

23 thoughts on “Two Girls from Iowa Cross the Border

  1. That really sounds like a fun conference. I’ve only been to one really large writer’s conference (SCBWI Mid-Winter, some years ago), and the editors were not out to make eye contact with anyone. It would be fun to go to one where all you do is talk about books you love, all the day long.

    Are there problems with LJ? Or just better places to blog? I don’t know why, but I have an intense dislike of that word “platform.”

    When I post here–which I admit isn’t as often as I used to–I put a link on my facebook page. I get more readers that way, and comments are left here and there.

  2. Sounds like a great conference and I would definitely be interested in attending when it comes to NYC. I’ve also been contemplating switching my blog. I’m using Blogger at work and I like it (easy to add links and images), but I’ve also heard that WordPress is the way to go.

  3. I had such a great time with you, Dori! I also was struck by how different the vibe was when people aren’t trying to sell their manuscripts. Hilarious about what you said, Jennifer, about the editors at midwinter not wanting to make eye contact. Here, they even ate with us, and they were a lot of fun.

  4. I agree with you about the Skype visits (having heard the same thing from Sarah Prineas).

    I always thought anyone could read my LJ, especially if I put the link on FB, my website, and in my email signature. I pay for the ad-free version ($20/year), which I’m hoping will keep visitors from having to deal with ads. I really don’t want to start all over. There’s a way to post on multiple platforms, no?

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