So, besides panels about new things, the other highlight of this conference was a return to the basic question of book blogging (e.g., why and how). Along with Melissa of Book Nut and Jen of Jen Robinson's Book Page, I had a panel discussion about blogging a mix of older books and newer books. For the purposes of our discussion, we said that "older" meant it was published more than six months ago. While that sounds massively silly, the topic came up at last year's KidLitCon that publishers have a window of three months before and three months after the publication date of a book that seems to be the golden time for the publicity blitz. After that, it's on to the next thing. So six months? Collecting Social Security.
Melissa, Jen, and I discussed how reading and reviewing both older and newer books had their own advantages and disadvantages. Since we were missing the delightful Terry Doherty of The Reading Tub, we invited the audience to jump in just as much as they liked, and they certainly did! We agreed that while it was exciting to get shiny new ARCs and review copies, often months before they hit the stores, there was a sense of obligation towards the publishers that's missing when you blog a book from ten years ago or even last year. And blogging older books could help you stand out when everyone seems to be talking about the same books. Obviously, there was a lot more nuance to this discussion, but these are some of the core points.
The most interesting thing to come out of that, for me, was some input from two publisher's reps in the audience. There's a feeling around some areas of the kidlitosphere that you can't blog older books because the publishers won't pay you any attention. They stated the opposite. For smaller to mid-size publishers, a fair amount of their stock is backlist. Even for bigger publishers, attention to an author's older book could ramp up excitement for newer titles. Yes, there's not the same publicity push for backlist titles, because they only have so many publicity dollars, but hey, publicity is publicity. Thanks to everyone who came and contributed. I was so nervous about doing my very first conference presentation ever, but I had a blast!
The other great panel I went to was presented by Kelly Jensen of Stacked, Abby Johnson of Abby the Librarian, Julia Riley of Spine Label, and Janssen Brandshaw of Everyday Reading, on critical reviews. Actually that's a topic that came up over and over throughout the conference, at multiple panels. Critical, by the way, does not equal negative. It simply means reading the book with a clear eye and being honest yet professional in your review. You can call out negative aspects of a book and still have an overall positive review. One of the premier reasons for this is because your readers trust you more if they see you're being honest, rather than posting shiny-happy reviews all the time. I personally only blog about a book when I really have something to say about it, which most often translates into the books I like best. I have to give some thought to how I review after this panel.
The biggest highlight, even more than the panels, was getting to meet people and hang out with old friends. I live-tweeted all the panels I attended, once I got Twitter to behave itself, and struck up conversations on there. I got to meet Roseanne Parry and geek out over the religious themes in Heart of a Shepherd, and in kidlit in general, a conversation that I continued with Anne Boles Levy. I got to chat with old friend Liz Burns and new pals Lisa Song and Sondra Eklund about Battlestar Galactica. I got to catch up with Pam Coughlan and astonish Colleen by bringing out my knitting during our lengthy lunch break. Thanks to Jackie and Colleen for building in lots and lots of hangin' out time to a fairly short conference, by the way. Definitely one of the planning highlights. I even got to even got the chance to buy Goliath two days before the laydown date, just so we could get it signed by our keynote speaker, Scott Westerfeld. Aren't you jealous! He chatted with us all very nicely, even while the fangirl vibes were practically peeling his hair back.
And remember that exchange of Tweets I mentioned in the first half of this post? After playing tourist on Sunday, and doing everything I could to support Seattle's economy, I left on Monday morning and ran into Scott in the airport on his way to his next tour stop. We chatted briefly and then I Tweeted thusly:
Ran into @ScottWesterfeld in the airport just now. Random. #Orwasit #amnotstalkerIswearScott's reply/retweet?
This really happened. *alerts security*Hee!
Check out the roundup of all the recaps, here at the Kidlitosphere site. If I met you at KidlitCon, I had a great time! If you didn't make and are reading this, green with envy, just know that next year is in New York City. Hope to see you there.