So, I’m finally back from the Kidlitosphere Conference. After flying to Norfolk, Virginia, to pick up our kids, we still had to sleep (we arrived at 10:20 p.m.) and then visit a bit this morning (it was only polite) and then drive back to Northern Virginia.
I was tired, as evidenced not only by falling asleep on the flight in the most upright position ever (stupid last row airline seat), but also by the unthinkable act of leaving my handbag on the bathroom counter on the wrong side of the security checkpoint. I wish I could fully express the unique embarrassment of explaining to the male security guard that I needed my purse from the women’s restroom on the other side of that closed gate. But it did make up for my aggravation and near-tears to watch him walk down the hall with my cute little shoe purse. It did wonders for his uniform.
Tired though I was then, tired though I am now, I had an incredible time. Honestly, this trip would have to be one of my top experiences ever. Seeing all these people that I knew online but had never met, well, it was amazing.
Bill and I got to Chicago on Friday evening, and ran into Sara Lewis Holmes and Jone on our hotel floor. After a quick wash-up, we headed downstairs to join the people gathered for the pre-dinner drink in the hotel lobby. I met Adrienne right away and learned about her Chicago vacation so far (she came early to tour the city smart girl). Ellen Klages noticed that the group of us had something of the literature look about us, and knew that she was in the right place. I felt a little bad that I hadn’t read her book (I was planning to that week, and then I was sick), but mostly just enjoyed our conversation. As all of us began to wonder about our illustrious host Robin, she stepped into the lobby and knew me and Sara right away. Big hugs. As the group stayed and chatted, it got bigger and bigger until we were a party of twenty heading out to a pizza place for dinner.
At dinner, I loved catching up with Liz and Kelly. Halfway through the meal, we switched seats around and I had a great time chatting with Barry Lyga. It was something else to be meeting people whom I knew only from their comments like Robin’s wonderful friend and prolific commenter, Annette and people that I felt like I already knew from their blogs like Camille and people I was meeting for the first time like Susan, who started her blog after coming to my KidLit Drink Night in DC.
After dinner, a bunch of folks headed over to Cold Stone Creamery for ice cream and more social time. We had added Mary Lee and her husband to the group, along with crowd-pleaser (why not) Gregory K. Over yummy ice cream, I learned Laini and Jim’s cute meeting story, along with Robin’s story, which could be a movie plot.
Returning to the hotel, Robin sent us off to bed “with no messing around,” which Bill and I thought rather personal. But maybe she was thinking about how athletes swear off sex right before an important game.
The next day was packed with sessions and new faces that weren’t new friends. I was excited to meet Anne,
Jen, and Tricia for the first time. Tasha led the first session of KidLit Blogging. (Actually, Tasha is one of the people that I didn’t get to interact with, so hopefully next time.) Then Mark told us about the wonderful world of podcasting; he may have made a convert of me (we’ll see...). Afterward was the Cybils discussion led by Kelly and Ann, which was very productive and interesting. The talk there set the spark ready for Jen’s session on Promotion of the Kidlitosphere as a whole which was another great discussion.
I went to lunch with Jen, Anne, Liz, and Kelly (not pictured) at Chipotle. Love that place. We had a great talk taking off on the ideas from the morning sessions. Very useful and insightful stuff going on among the fresh salsa.
Back to the hotel for my session, which I based on my article “Be a B-List Blogger.” I emphasized that upping traffic to your blog does not have to be your own goal, but that the following were some of the strategies I had used. There was some discussion about the author blogs in this context, and other suggestions for boosting traffic. I’ll post more about my particular session later.
After me, Anne presented Building the Better Book Review. There was even classwork involved! I kept my head down. I was afraid I’d be called on. I think that I saw Mindy ducking as well.
Liz led the session covering ethics in reviewing, including the author/reviewer relationship and negative reviews. I spoke for the necessity of negative reviews at times to balance the positive reviews for the same book or to address issues that other reviewers may not have noted. Really, the topic could have taken a couple of hours, but we had to get ready for the Meet the Authors session.
Esme did a fantastic job of organizing this aspect of the conference. The authors sat behind tables around the room and the bloggers/librarians/hotel bartenders circulated to find out about their current projects. It seemed fun and unforced, and was very informative. I even won a prize package from Three Silly Chicks! Wahoo!
We had a quick break to freshen up, and were back downstairs to hit the bar. Here I finally got a chance to talk to Gregory K and somehow got both Annette and Jen’s husband Mheir to buy me a beer. It’s all in the smile.
The cocktail hour slipped nicely into the dinner hour(s) back in the conference room. I joined the table with Eisha and Jules, since I hadn’t been able to talk to them at all. As that table filled up quickly, I left my husband on his own at another table. Sorry, honey. He didn’t care. He had skipped the conference portion of the day and had bought himself an iPhone.
Dinner was tasty, conversation was lively, fun was had by all. There were even raffle prizes, which I did not win. No, not even the signed John Green books or the Pigeon paraphernalia. Not that I’m bitter. Robin announced the venue for next year completely at random, but it changed when Jone offered to organize it at Portland. So I guess Portland, Oregon, it is.
Oh, and we took a group photo:
(Wanna know who’s who? Go here.)
There were some people I got to meet but not to spend a lot of time with, and I’m fairly sure that there were a few people that I didn’t meet even. It was a big group. I didn’t have time to hang out with all of the authors, but I’m glad to know that they had fun too, as noted by Anna.
As we lingered in the large room, someone brought in wine from Target, of which I had a glass and wore a glass, when I came up on Betsy unexpectedly and she tossed her wine on me. Ah, I held no grudges, and was glad at the end of the evening to share Patton Oswalt routines with her and hear about her current projects. Meanwhile, Bill talked to his (and my) new-best-friend Barry Lyga (both comic book fans, film buffs, and new iPhone owners).
The next day, many of us headed to Esme’s bookroom for a scrumptious brunch and the feeling of living in a library. Stacy was particularly struck by the experience (she talks about the conference here). After the blintz and bagels, we said our last goodbyes and went our separate ways. But I did make Robin stop and pose.
For Bill and I, it was a trip to the Threadless store, which didn’t go as planned. While your new iPhone will look up an address in Chicago, apparently it won’t tell you that it is the corporate office, not the store. We ended up walking very far to the actual Threadless store, to find that it only stocked the last two weeks’ worth of designs. Total bust.
In need of rejuvenation, we went to the beach, where we put our feet in the very cold water, and I discovered sea glass by the shore. After I had a short rest in the sand, and a handful of green sea glass (as opposed to Ellen Klages’ The Green Glass Sea), we took a cab downtown. We walked around for an hour, and then went back to the airport. In a leap of faith, we asked the hotel manager to put our luggage on the shuttle so we could meet it without making the round trip. They did so, thankfully, giving us time to catch a quick dinner with Barry Lyga.
The flight back was uneventful, except for the horribly uncomfortable seat and the subsequent almost-purse-losing. Bill and I both had an excellent time, and are looking forward to doing it again next year.