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!

Two Girls from Iowa Cross the Border

23 thoughts on “Two Girls from Iowa Cross the Border

  • October 26, 2010 at 3:15 am
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    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.

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    • October 26, 2010 at 11:43 am
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      This wasn’t all that large…I don’t think there were 100 people there.

      It’s not that there are problems with Live Journal exactly…but I heard it described as “more of a gated community than a social community.” If you want to grow your readership, you probably need to be elsewhere.

      They discussed pros and cons of Blogger (not a whole lot better than Live Journal), WordPress.com, WordPress.org, Posterous, Tumblr, Typepad, Movable Type, Square Space, and Live Journal. What I took away was that WordPress.org was probably the way to go.

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      • October 26, 2010 at 2:17 pm
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        I had forgotten that you have to have a live journal account to read LJs (although maybe that isn’t true if you link to FB. It’s been so long since I’ve been here at LJ), so I think the feeling is that it’s more “open” just to use another type of blog so people can read and comment easily.

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        • October 26, 2010 at 7:33 pm
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          I don’t THINK you need a Live Journal account. My mother-in-law reads my blog and I’m pretty sure she doesn’t have a LJ account. Then again, I’ve also been told by people who follow my FB link that they have to click through ads before they get to my entry.

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        • October 27, 2010 at 3:04 pm
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          It may be that anyone can read the LJ, particularly if you link to it on facebook, but maybe to comment on the blog itself, you must have an account? So there is a hoop to jump through?

          I think some people get to my blog through my website. At least, I’ve had some librarians tell me they read it, and I don’t think that they are bloggers.

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          • October 27, 2010 at 7:09 pm
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            I know a lot of people get to my blog through my website, too. I’ve had kids read it (so be careful what you post). Not very often, but it’s happened.

            I always thought that if you don’t have an LJ account and you comment, the comment shows up as Anonymous?

          • October 27, 2010 at 11:38 pm
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            Probably. I know it shows up as anonymous if I forget to sign in.

            I do keep in mind my potential audience, although I think teens are much more likely to be on-line than my readers, who are younger.

  • October 26, 2010 at 12:04 pm
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    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.

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    • October 26, 2010 at 7:34 pm
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      I’d definitely go again!

      I used WordPress when I characters from my Tank Talbott books had blogs…it was pretty easy to use. But I liked the community here. It never occurred to me that the community could be limiting…

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  • October 26, 2010 at 2:18 pm
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    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.

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    • October 26, 2010 at 7:37 pm
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      Ditto, Kellye…and you can bunk with Katherine and me at SCBWI conferences anytime! (If she gives you any grief, tell her *I* said it was okay! )

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  • October 26, 2010 at 11:44 pm
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    And I was glad to meet you, Dori, and talk about mystery series. I’m curious to see what you come up with for your group blog! Good luck!

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      • October 28, 2010 at 6:11 pm
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        Keep me in the loop. I’m very curious (and excited) about it, since I love a good mystery!

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    • October 28, 2010 at 5:41 pm
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      waving at you, Elissa! 🙂 So great to meet you! (And fun to see Sarah’s post yesterday!)

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      • October 28, 2010 at 6:24 pm
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        *waves right back* I had so much fun talking with you and Dori and Susan! I learned so much, too!

        And wasn’t Sarah’s post so good! I’m so glad she’s joined us.

        BTW, I would have left this message on your blog, but I noticed you aren’t posting there anymore. Sorry to clutter up your comments instead, Dori!

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          • October 28, 2010 at 9:44 pm
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            I was just signing on to say that I didn’t think Dori would care (especially since I’m one of the two girls who crossed the border!) I like to be part of the conversation on twitter (and glad we’ve connected there) and facebook. Have been undecided about resuming blogging, which is part of the reason I went to the con. I think, for now at least, I’ll sit it out and just be a reader and commentator on other people’s blogs! I enjoyed talking with you, Dori and Susan, too. It was a great conversation! Glad we can continue here. *waves at Dori, too*

  • October 27, 2010 at 1:22 pm
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    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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    • October 27, 2010 at 2:38 pm
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      Yes, I’m pretty sure there’s a way to post on multiple platforms. And I’m hoping I can bring everything I’ve done on LJ over to the new platform.

      Are you planning to stick with LJ even after that panel? Or are you planning on using multiple platforms?

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      • October 28, 2010 at 6:22 pm
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        Not that you asked me, but I’ll butt in this conversation anyway. I use LJ (have for years), but I started cross-posting on Blogger about a year ago. Since I have a free LJ account (I’m too cheap to upgrade) the feed doesn’t post automatically, but I know you can if you have the paid LJ account. Even if it doesn’t work, it literally takes me about a minute to cut and paste to the second platform.

        I have also set up a WordPress account that’s linked with my website (which is still in development, so I haven’t officially moved over there yet). WordPress has a plugin that will automatically post anything you add there directly to your LJ blog, so it’s actually very painless.

        I’m still of the mindset that LJ is alive and well for the writing community, so I don’t want to abandon it completely. However, I have known for awhile now that I won’t reach my book’s readers (ha, I say that like I have any) if I’m ONLY on LJ. So I’m willing to do the little bit of extra work and post on multiple platforms.

        Okay, I’ll shut up now.

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        • October 28, 2010 at 6:43 pm
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          I appreciate your thoughts on this Elissa…I don’t pay for LJ, either. And I hadn’t decided whether to abandon LJ altogether or cross post. If it’s truly painless to cross post, I probably will. I think everything I post here ends up over at Jacketflap, too. And I don’t do anything to make that happen.

          Reply

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