This year's annual gathering of Kidlit (including YA) bloggers, professionals, and enthusiasts took place October 14-15 in Wichita, KS. It was organized by the always amazing Melissa Fox, who blogs at Book Nut. Melissa did a terrific job, and the conference was fantastic.
Kidlitcon started for me at BWI airport, where I met up with my friend and co-planner from last year's Kidlitcon, Paula Willey. Paula and I were able to secure seats together on the Southwest Airlines flight, where we spent an enjoyable flight talking and reading. We changed planes in St. Louis, where we charged our phones, got a snack, and met up with Pam Margolis, who would be my roomie for the conference.
In Wichita, we checked in at the hotel, then headed to Bite Me BBQ for lunch:
Bite Me was fantastic! As I write this, my mouth is watering thinking about the delicious BBQ sandwich I had. Paula had a Bloody Mary for lunch - that's right, a Bloody Mary, but it was a meal in a glass, complete with all four food groups! Check it out here:
After lunch, we headed back to the hotel to meet up with Melissa, Sarah Stevenson,, Charlotte, and Katy Manck to set up for the conference. Here's the serious organizer picture, where we're all trying to look like professionals:
But, you know, this is what we really look like:
(Photo by Paula Willey)
After setting up, some of us went out to Georges French Bistro for dinner and wine:
Unfortunately, I woke up Friday with a migraine that quickly went downhill, so I spent most of the first day of the conference in bed. I'm so grateful to my wonderful friends who looked out for me, especially my roomie Pam, who came up to check on me and bring me a Sprite, and Paula who offered to take me to critical care. I'm so blessed to have such good friends.
By mid-afternoon I was feeling better, and managed to make it downstairs for a piece of the delicious cake and the last session of the day, The Disinvitation Epidemic. Authors A.S. King, Phil Bildner, Jonah Winter, and C. Alexander London, about their experiences being banned from schools for visits, because of controversy. It was a really interesting session, and highlighted the impact not only on authors, but on the children, librarians, teachers, and booksellers as well. "Dis-invitations deprive kids of life saving books" -Phil Bildner. In some cases the disinvitation was due to a complaint from one parent!
After that was the author mix and mingle, where I got to meet two authors that I've long been a fan of, A.S. King and Rachel Neumeier. I also had a delightful conversation with Alex London, who had described his book Proxy as a "gay dystopian critique of capitalism." That sold me, and I bought both Proxy and its sequel Guardian.
Dinner was at the Monarch Restaurant, a few blocks from the hotel. I had a Brisket Salad Sandwich and some yummy sweet potato tots, but more importantly, great conversation. After dinner I walked along the river with Jen Swann Downey, author of The Ninja Librarians series. We really connected, and had a great discussion on everything from homeschooling to philosophy and politics.
Day 2 started off better for me, with breakfast at the hotel followed by Clare Vanderpool's excellent keynote speech. Clare gave a fascinating, funny, and powerful story of her journey as a writer.
Clare comparing learning to write with learning to water ski. "Most importantly, I learned it doesn't hurt to fall." #kidlitcon16— SheilaRuth (@SheilaRuth) October 15, 2016
Next, I attended the Big Issues in YA panel. Pam Margolis and Rita Arens led us in a group discussion of the big issues, which we made a list of. At some point we agreed to change it from "big issues" to "big topics" to avoid negative connotations of calling things like gender and sexuality "issues." After we had a significant list of topics, we then started compiling a list of YA books that deal with those topics.
Next up was Paula Willey's presentation, "Writing About Art for Non-Artists." This is literally a panel I've been waiting years for - I keep suggesting it every year, and I'm so grateful to Paula for developing and presenting it.
Look at color, expression, movement of the line to sense the mood of the picture. #kidlitcon16— Melissa Fox (@book_nut) October 15, 2016
Series fiction panel is so much fun! If you aren't here, you're missing a good time! #kidlitcon16— SheilaRuth (@SheilaRuth) October 15, 2016
Series are comforting to MG readers: they're already familiar with the world, and they look forward to revisiting it. #kidlitcon16— Melissa Fox (@book_nut) October 15, 2016
The amount of laughter coming from both rooms of #kidlitcon16 speaks to how frickin FUNNY kidlit people are— unadulterated paula (@pwbalto) October 15, 2016
Next, I presented with Sarah Stevenson on "Leveraging Social Media to Support Your Blog."
The final session of the day was a group discussion, "Bloggers as Gatekeepers" led by Charlotte Taylor.
Bloggers can be honorable gatekeepers when reviewing books by being up front about not having inside perspective on a group #kidlitcon16— Sarah J. Stevenson (@aquafortis) October 15, 2016
When we review we have to give ourselves permission to grow, change, adapt over time, as long as we make effort to be honorable #kidlitcon16— Sarah J. Stevenson (@aquafortis) October 15, 2016
Saturday night, I went out to dinner with Paula Willey, Pam Margolis, Katy Kramp, Charlotte Taylor, and Sarah Stevenson. After dinner we enjoyed the wide variety of art in Wichita on our stroll back to the hotel.
All in all, it was a fantastic conference, and I look forward to Kidlitcon 2017 in Philadelphia!