KidLitCon Providence 2019 –
Thank you very much to my library for sending me to KidLitCon in Providence on March 22 and 23, 2019. KidLitCon is a tiny conference organized by book bloggers, which does a great job of connecting gatekeepers like librarians and bloggers with authors and illustrators to talk about the big issues that concern all of us. This was my third KidLitCon, and I would not have been able to attend without the support of the Library. Thank you also to Charlotte of Charlotte’s Library and her team for organizing the conference and letting me be part of it.
It turns out that I like to take lots of notes, so I’m splitting my thoughts up into two posts.
Here are some pictures of beautiful Providence:
Friday’s session opened with a speech from award-winning illustrator extraordinaire LeUyen Pham, illustrated with her drawings of herself growing up as well as pictures from her many books (we have 55 of her books in our collection.) She talked about the difficulty staying positive as a creator for children in the current political climate. LeUyen came to the US from Vietnam as a toddler, and spoke of the challenges of growing up as an immigrant, and how she bonded with books because they helped her understand the culture risk-free. She bonded with Amelia Bedelia, who could explained tricky words with double meanings, and turned to illustrating in part to help explain concepts to kids with no language barriers. Her librarian gave her the Witch of Blackbird Pond, telling her that she, too, was a tropical flower in a world of daisies – and that’s a good thing.
LeUyen has always drawn diverse groups of children in her illustrations, just to reflect her world. But she feels that all divisions end if the story rings true and we can see to the person inside. The new culture of regulating the diversity is difficult even if the diversity push is needed. She asks, Can we still tell good stories and help create positive change within the new guidelines.
Overcoming Adversity in Middle Grade Fiction
With authors Kimberly Newton Fusco, Leslie Connor, Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Padma Venkatraman, Rebecca Caprara, and moderated by Laurie Smith Murphy.
This panel looked at what it takes to write books in which kids overcome adversity. They talked about the tough characters in their books (I’ve read books by Connor, Hunt, and Caprara.) There were some interesting ideas here, but it was also frustrating. I actually didn’t like two of the books I read – Leslie Connor’s award-winning book, for example, is about a boy who’s labeled as having dyslexia and dysgraphia, but also described as really slow but with a heart of gold. The author says that she has some (different) issues herself, so she didn’t feel a need to do research into the specific ones she was writing about. But neither dyslexia nor dysgraphia makes people stupid, nor do any of those three things make people as saintly as Mason is described in her book, and I don’t think it’s helpful to anyone to describe them this way. The authors also seemed to think that gatekeeper worries about “issue books” were aimed at censoring the content – not the cardboard characters and contrived plots that the gatekeepers worry about, so there was some disconnect there. I am curious to read Padma Venkatraman’s new book, though, The Bridge Home, about some homeless kids in India, based on her own experience working and being friends with children in a similar situation when she was growing up in India.
How to Take Great Photos of Books and Grow Instagram Followers
With Charnaie Gordon @hereweeread and Lauren Neil @picturebookplaydate
Two successful Bookstagramers (with 41.8K and 7.4K followers respectively) talked about Instagram strategies for book people. I took lots of notes, as my own Instagram skills are pretty pathetic, but I’m going to skip them here… comment if you want me to pass them on! It was a really informative session, and I think Charnaie is now my #BookFace hero.
Not Just the Newbery – All about Awards and Best Book Lists
With Shoshana Flax, Anamaria Anderson, and Charlotte Taylor
Panelists talked about awards they’ve worked on that aren’t the major ALA awards. Shoshana works at Horn Book and is familiar with their lists, as well as serving on the committee for the Sydney Taylor Award. Anamaria has worked on the Batchelder Award, as well as the U.S. Board on Books for Young People, both focusing on international books available in the U.S. Charlotte has been involved in the Cybils Awards for a long time. All of these awards can help raise awareness of worthy books outside the mainstream.
Those were the session I went to, but lunch and dinner with fellow bloggers and authors – both old friends and new – is always the best part of KidLitCon!