Thursday, October 15, 2015

Kidlitcon 2015

Last month, I was asked to moderate the "Exploring STEM Through Gripping Stories" at the 2015 Kidlitcon conference in Baltimore. Although I've heard of the Kidlitcon conference (going strong since 2010!), I've never had a chance to attend. I was super thrilled (and quite a bit nervous) that I was asked, so I booked my train ticket to Baltimore and prepared like mad!

Kidlitcon is a grass-roots conference for children's literature bloggers; although a small conference due to its niche audience, everything was arranged professionally, smoothly, and perfectly. I wish I had time to stay for the entire conference to meet more bloggers (I did have a chance to say hello to Ms. Yingling after her excellent panel on horror books for middle school horror books and spotted Liz Burns - I think I saw Ms. Burns there! - at the fun panel on nonfiction books moderated by Cybils judges).

The authors on my panel were very approachable and encouraging in our emails prior to the panel (we discussed several questions that I would ask them, which everyone made feel much more at ease!). We discussed their backgrounds in science and writing, talked about the highs and lows of writing for children/teens (mostly highs!), and much more in our 50 minute panel. One of the things that I found most interesting is that they all confessed to reading their reviews (both in print and online)!

I had not read Dr. Ellen Prager's Tristan series, but now that I have, I am definitely adding them to the collection! This series about a young summer camper who can communicate with fish was hailed as a "splashy startup with a promising premise" by the notoriously sharp Kirkus Reviews, and is a fun read for marine life enthusiasts (Dr. Prager is a marine scientist). Dr. Prager is the only panelist who came to writing as a second career, and her joyful enthusiasm when talking about writing for children/tweens and  receiving feedback (both positive and direct, as only children can critique books!) was absolutely delightful.

Mark Alpert's  The Six is a thrilling read ideal for teen gamers, and has received very strong reviews, including one from School Library Journal ("a well-researched, hardcore science-fiction joyride"). Although he has written many books for adults, The Six is his first YA novel (a sequel is currently in the works), and his views on the differences between writing for adults and teens were insightful. I had the chance to chat with Mr. Alpert about visiting New Orleans while I was waiting for my shuttle back to the train station; I am looking forward to his further YA novels!

Erin Hagar's Julia Child: An Extraordinary Life ("Full of Julia's trademark gusto" according to School Library Journal) is a remarkable read about the famed chef (we will receive a copy soon!). Ms. Hagar's discussion of how Julia Child's method of cooking was scientific and precise was a highlight of the panel. I am eagerly awaiting her forthcoming nonfiction titles on the LEGO creators and on the women's land army during World War II.

Elissa Brent Weissman's Nerd Camp ("a humorous story that will help [kids] understand that it is okay to be who you really are, even if that means being different" praised Library Media Connection) has been a popular title in our libraries; learning about her background and how she feels about reviews was very intriguing! I look forward to adding Nerd Camp 2.0 and The Short Seller to our collection.

Finally, major thanks to Sheila Ruth and Paula Willey for organizing such a fun and worthwhile conference! Everything from establishing contacts with my panelists, sending me review copies of their books, offering encouragement, choosing our hotel location, and more was brilliantly arranged. I was honored and delighted to be a participant.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

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