105 Ways to Give a Book

KidLitCon Seattle: Sessions and Stuff II

Sure, lots of people like to talk about the conferences that they attended while everyone still remembers that there was a conference. But while everyone is moving on to Cybils nominations, I’m still here throwing out updates. Let’s say it’s because I want to keep talking about it. You know, as opposed to me being lazy about writing this week.

Anyway, I left my updates after only the first session. I sat for the second session — The Future of Transmedia Storytelling — with no preconceptions about the subject. And boy, did that panel blow my mind! In case you are wondering about the topic, as I kinda was, I’ll give a definition. And since I can’t remember if this was their words or my notes, I’ll put it in quotes to be safe. “Transmedia refers to the delivery of story through a variety of media. Story lines are interwoven and connected, but not repetitive. Each story element is individual, but true transmedia brings things together as one concept.” The Angel Punk group described several types and versions of transmedia. I noted the following: Pottermore, 39 Clues, Inanimate Alice, iDrakula, Cathy’s Book, and Skeleton Creek. Being the creators of Angel Punk, they talked the most about that as a combination of film, comic book, novel, and interactive experience with blogs, Facebook pages, and Twitter feeds for the characters. I had no interest in this stuff before, but I am really curious now and can’t wait to investigate.

After that session, it was lucky that I went to one on blogging the backlist. Here I could settle in with the comfort of a cozy couch on a winter day, because I’m all about the backlist. Especially now that I realize that six months from publication is backlist! Seems surprising that that shiny new book isn’t all that new anymore in the publishing industry. Here I didn’t take notes so much as raise hands and shout Amen as Jen Robinson, Melissa Madsen Fox, and Maureen Kearney led the discussion on how both old and new books are important for librarians, for awards, for readers, for each other and for publishers. I say it again: AMEN!

With lots of activity and little sleep, I hit the wall before the next session and had to retire to my room. I was so tired that I missed the free wine in the lobby. Missed. The free. Wine. So I can say that I was completely sober as I attended the Meet-and-Greet that evening, and yet I remember almost nothing about it. I know I saw some friends and conversed with Melissa, Sondy, and Farida. I remember that the appetizers were far more like a buffet than I would have expected, meaning that I did not have to scout out a late dinner. I recall a conversation with Kevin Emerson, because he seemed pretty cool at the author introductions that were done prior to the eating part. Oh, and I got to say hello to Most Popular, Lee Wind. And that’s about all I can swear to.

Now I’m off to take my Girl Scouts camping, hoping for better weather than I am expecting. With any luck I’ll finish off with the actual first full day of the conference on my third write-up two weeks later.

KidLitCon Seattle: Sessions and Stuff I

It makes the most sense to start with the session I did, even it is the one that I’m having the hardest time writing up. In order to combat my own writer’s anxiety, I’ve decided to break it down into points, and you’ll simply have to assume and/or understand that we went into far more depth at the session itself.

Bloggers and Writers and Pubs! Oh My! was a panel discussion of the relationships among the players in the kidlitosphere. Liz Burns and I, with author Kirby Larson and Little, Brown representative Zoe Luderitz, opened up the questions with what we loved, didn’t like, and wanted to convey to each other. Some thoughts then:

Writers: Bloggers love when you are engaged with the community and contribute to conversations other than publicity for your book.

Bloggers: Publishers and writers love what you do to promote their books, and while they would love a review, even a title mention is nice.

Publishers: Bloggers love when you send out catalogs with checklists — either electronically or by snail mail — as it allows them to select the items to review according to their interests and expertise and...

Bloggers: Publishers don’t like when you check off everything on that list.

Publishers: Bloggers don’t like when you send things that are way off-base.

Writers: Bloggers don’t like when you argue with their review in the comments or by email.

Publishers: Bloggers want you to understand that they are generally not paid and are doing this for their love of reading, writing, and/or community — not to get free books.

Bloggers: Publishers want you to understand that they are trying to navigate this newer world of blogging with the techniques developed from a century of print reviewing, techniques that are still evolving.

Writers: Bloggers and publishers want you to understand that your website — kept up to date, with a blog that has your name and books clearly listed — is a valuable publicity resource.

Bloggers: Writers want you to understand that there are people behind the books, people with feelings, and they’d rather not receive the tweet about your one-star review of their books.

While I would say that these are majority viewpoints, a key factor of our presentation was that it was less about coming to a consensus of answers — in fifty minutes or less — than about starting the conversations with the questions. So, I give them to back to you to discuss:
Bloggers/Writers/Publishers: What do you love/dislike/want to convey to each other?

KidLitCon Seattle: The MotherReader Experience

At the Hotel Monaco in Seattle, you can request a goldfish for your room. Um, ours died the first night.

See, that’s the kind of lead-off you can use when you let everyone else write their KidLitCon Seattle wrap-ups before you. While they talk about the takeaway theme of “relationship,” the incredible, informative sessions, and the amazing keynote address of Scott Westerfeld, I can cover the subtle, personal experience. Which was better, the scones or the brownies? (Too close to call.) Were the pens provided by the hotel adequately “clicky”? (They were.) How many slices of carved turkey can one stack on a small slider bun? (Four.)

Then there’s the goldfish thing. I was so excited when my roommate, Liz, told me that we could get a goldfish for our room. How cool, right? She turned in before me on that first Thursday night because I was helping conference organizers extraordinaire Colleen Mondor and Jackie Parker-Robinson get presenter giftees ready. (See, Colleen? I told you envelope stuffing would be involved!) When I got back to the room, I realized that our fish was swimming in an odd sidestroke unusual to a fish. I knew that guy was a goner, but not knowing any fish rescue techniques I went to bed. Liz and I woke up to find him floating on top of his tank, and both of us had to pull back on a bit of... glee. Not because we hate pets, but because it was funnier that the fish died.

And this is why I go to KidLitCon. I mean, not to kill goldfish, but to be with my people. The friends I rarely see, but who look at life and humor and books with the same feeling. Not always the same opinions, but with a rare meeting of the minds that I find few other places in real life. In fact, as I was making my way to the hotel after a long, annoying, exhausting day of travel I was swearing to myself that I would NEVER cross-country again. I went straight to the KidLitCon Operation Center (otherwise known as Colleen and Jackie’s room), and that oath disappeared from my brain as I hugged Colleen, Jackie, Liz, Jen, and AnneKelly handed me a glass of wine. And I was home.

Well, except that at home, I don’t pay seventeen dollars for three scallops. (WTF?) But was very grateful to my dinner companions for sharing their extras in their more normally priced and generous meals. With team spirit, we headed downstairs to the conference room to set up for the next day. Which seemed like the same day in my mind, given my jet-lagged lack of sleep and the sameness of the morning where the same collective headed off to a hardy breakfast at a diner around the corner that I scoped out for the group. I’ve never appreciated a seven-dollar omelet more. After the meal, Jen, Anne, Liz and I walked around Pike’s Market while Liz and I fine-tuned our presentation. Meaning that Liz worried that we didn’t have enough to fill the time, while I laughed at the idea that Liz and I — either of whom talk for an hour about The Giving Tree — would have any chance of dead air in our presentation.

Small break back at the hotel, and then we were on with our panel Bloggers and Writers and Pubs! Oh My! with our very special guests, Kirby Larson (Newbery Honor winner) and Zoe Luderitz (Little, Brown marketer). I feel like I’ve blanked on much of what we talked about, but have decided to piece that together in a separate post anyway. I was pleased with my introduction to the topic, which went back to the early days of the kidlitosphere, when a group of us talked about this new dynamic of reviewers, librarians, authors, editors, parents, et al. talking about books and if this coziness made us less objective reviewers. We didn’t come to any consensus then, but in a way I did come to my own conviction: If the possibility of less objectivity comes with this vibrant, unique and special community we call the KidLitosphere... I’ll take it.

And you know what? Four years later, I was saying that to a roomful of people who were there because we embraced that risk. There we were — reviewers, librarians, authors, editors, parents, et al. — continuing that discussion of how we could all work together with understanding, respect, and integrity. Some of us had traveled thousands of miles to be part of that conversation, and online we keep talking, adapting, and refining those relationships.

Among our community, we find real friends. Later we may laugh with those friends about the goldfish that died in our care. And we get another goldfish. Her name is Natalie, and I believe that she is doing just fine.

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Cybils Judging Selections

In the next days, we’ll be releasing the names for this years Cybils panelists and judges. It is important to know that the selection process is not done lightly, and yet at the same time doesn’t make a definitive statement about you or your blog. Ann has written a bit about it at the Cybils blog, and she is right on target. The organizers work to create panels that are balanced, looking at literary experience and fresh voices and job titles and community participation and voracious reading and thoughtful writing and certainly a dozen more factors.

This is true for all categories, but I wanted to say something particularly to folks who made Fiction Picture Books their first choice. In terms of Cybils, you should know — well, I’m a giver. I do get a fair number of candidates and do share liberally with other related categories like Nonfiction Picture Books, Early Readers, and this year, Book Apps. The other organizers and I discuss best placement looking at your preferences and the skills you could bring to each category along with the needs of the panels. In the end, I can’t take all the potential volunteers in my category, but I thank you for your interest in this genre of books that holds my own heart.
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Bloggers, Authors and Publishers: Relationship Rescue Questions

I’m sitting in an airport in Kansas City waiting for the next leg of my journey to Seattle. I’ve managed to get a two-hour layover to change planes, where the next plane is coming back to the same gate I just left. Leaving this room means that I have to go through security again, so I’ve spent the two hours in a room the size of a high school gym reflecting on all the times I’ve hustled through a huge airport to make a forty-minute leeway of a connection. It doesn’t seem fair, somehow.

I am on my way to KidLitCon Seattle. I’d be more excited if I weren’t so tired. And a little overwhelmed by the Cybils judge selection process. And a bit anxious for flying cross-country. Let’s say that I am ready to be excited to hang out with my best blogging friends. The sessions lined up by Colleen and Jackie are so good that I can’t find a time to skip out and see the town! Darn you, ladies!

Liz and I will be starting the party off with our session on the relationships among book bloggers, authors, and publishers. (Oh, my!) We’ll be joined by an actual author — Kirby Larsen — and publisher from Little, Brown. (Hey, Zoe!) Next week, we’re sure to be back here with a complete plan of action to smooth the path, align the stars and all that jazz for all of us here in the kidlitopshere. And like, world peace, too. Want to play along at home? Finish these thoughts from your perspective as a book blogger, author, or publisher about one of the others in our cozy family.
  • I love it when bloggers/authors/publishers...
  • I wish that bloggers/authors/publishers wouldn’t...
  • If the others should know one thing about us, it’s...
If you’re fast, maybe we’ll use it tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll come back with all sorts of great ideas, thoughts, and advice from KidLitCon Seattle. Maybe even with a new burst of energy. It could happen.

Nonfiction Monday: September 11

My daughters are twelve and fifteen years old. On September 11, 2001, they were too young to understand what was going on. The teen remembers me watching TV and wondering why I was so sad. She was unaware of the scary phone calls of that day, as her father and I worried about him getting out of Washington, DC. They could see the smoke of the Pentagon from their building, and reports were circulating of bombs in embassies near his office.

In the years after, we or they might refer to the day as “when the two towers fell” or some such approximation. They had a basic idea of what had happened then, and certainly over time had picked up the implications of that day. People attacked us, we went to war to bring them down, and that war was not as easy as we thought. They know kids whose parents are or were deployed, as we live in a community with many military families. They watch The Daily Show and The Colbert Report with us, and can’t miss the continued discussion of the events that followed.

But the matter-of-fact tone they used about the towers falling has over time made me more uncomfortable that I was shielding them from the worst of that day. It is a part of their history, and more so because it wasn’t about one day but the weeks, the months, the decade that followed.

I know that I’ve brought home a few books before now, and maybe it is the wrong use of Nonfiction Monday that I didn’t find what I needed in their pages. Instead, last night we watched a documentary of that day in New York — which started with blue skies and ended in gray ash. We talked a bit throughout to clarify events. We sat together in constant contact — leaning on each other, holding a hand, wiping a tear.

It wasn’t easy to watch, and at times I doubted myself in my mission to educate. But in the end I felt that I had to bring them to that place, because they could speak of that day with respect, but not with understanding of the emotional content of that day that shaped their decade. However painful, they deserved that much.

Poetry Friday: Packing

Two years ago I was inspired to write a list poem in response to the weekly challenge of Miss Rumphius. Today I was planning to post something else, but then it hit me that I am leaving for KidLitCon Seattle in less than a week. Wow! As I thought about my packing, I realized that perhaps my fellow travelers could use some advice. So here goes:


Start with
A carry-on bag
With a noticeable tag.
Black pants to dress up
The essential black T-shirt.
A jacket adds color or slims in black.
A cotton dress cut just above the knee
Easily goes from daytime to evening with
Comfortable heels and versatile accessories.
(Colorful bangles for day, silver chains for evening.)
Shorts and shirt to sleep in provide emergency clothes.
One interesting shirt that can start a barstool conversation.
Undergarments, socks, belts, extra shirt, and toiletries.
(Liquids in a plastic bag on top, for airport security.)
Two books of different styles, and the guidebook.
Don’t pack pinchy shoes, no matter how cute
No organizers, calendars or work numbers.
Leave behind preconceived notions about
Sushi, planes, or talking to strangers.
Wear the really flattering jeans.
Slip on walking shoes.
(Black is best.)
And go.

Looking forward to seeing many of you at KidLitCon next weekend! Please don’t be shy, come and say hi! (See, another poem! I’m on a roll!) Poetry Friday round-up is hosted at Secrets and Soda.

Summer’s End

All right, so a post on summer’s end is a bit overdue, but I was desperate to hold onto those last days almost to the point of denial. With the girls in the second day of school and the temperature hovering around sixty-five degrees, I think I might have to accept the close of my favorite season.

We had a good run, summer and I. There’s no arguing that. Spent several days going to the beach and had my niece with us for a total of three weeks. Having a five year old around gave me and my big girls a chance to check out the new American Girl store, go to the zoo, splash in the pool, and basically visit all the things we used to do when they were little. We even dug out the Barbies. It was kinda magical. If a bit exhausting at times, because My God the boundless energy of a kindergartener was a shock to my lackadaisical system.

Of course, the New York City trip was amazing. Spending two weeks there very gave us a feel for the city and really, the city life as we negotiated the subway and carried our groceries up two flights of stairs. The tween had the most fantastic opportunity to learn Broadway skills from actual Broadway actors/singers/dancers, choreographers, and agents. It was thrilling in every way. The teen and I spent our time exploring the city and enjoying each other’s company. And there were shows, museums, and stores — oh my!

Here at home, we simply hung out. Sometimes there would be people in town to visit or a sleepover to attend, but we spent a lot of time just being around each other. Watching movies, reading books, playing video games, hitting the mall, and taking a swim. I really, really like being with my girls and feel extremely fortunate to be able to say that.

Which is why the end of summer and the beginning of school is so hard for me. I really miss them during the day. But I have to admit that I do better getting on a schedule in terms of housework and well, blogging. So I hope to be back here with more consistency and let’s say, effort as the KidLitosphere lights up with Cybils, KidLitCon, and fall season books. It’s go time!

Armando and the Blue Tarp School

Yesterday was the secondary school’s open house, and this morning the tween is going through middle school orientation. I’m not really ready for this, like, at all. But here is a quick nod to school as I get off the computer to enjoy the last days of summer. See you on the other side.

Armando and the Blue Tarp School
by Edith Hope Fine and Judith Pinkerton Josephson, illustrated by Hernan Sosa

Armando and the Blue Tarp SchoolThis book is based on the true story of a teacher who set up a school in Tijuana, Mexico with only a blue tarp. The poverty of the children is harsh, and their garbage-dump surroundings vile. But with hard work and hope, the children begin to go to school. This is a picture book, but due the theme and length is intended for school-age children. Interesting and inspirational, it manages to teach without being preachy. The real story is included at the end of the book, as well as a glossary of Spanish words.

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