Posts Tagged ‘Maureen Johnson’

Conference Corner – KidLitCon 2012

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

KidLitCon in New York City! At the New York Public Library! KidLitCon is a conference for bloggers who blog about children’s books. I went to KidLitCon09 close to home in DC, to KidLitCon11 in Seattle, and just had to go when it was so close by and free to boot.

I’m way behind on my Conference Corner posts. So, for fear I’ll never get to KidLitCon, I decided to post the same night I got back, when everything’s fresh. Instead of giving you all my notes, I’m just going to give you the high points. Here are the things I took home from KidLitCon12, in chronological order.

1. Publisher Previews are Dangerous.

I only was able to go to one preview, since I flew in to New York at noon, and that was probably a good thing. It was at the offices of HarperCollins going over books they’re publishing soon.

Why are previews dangerous? First, I had packed lightly. They gave us a full bag of advance reader copies, as well as three hardbound published books and a blank book. Did I tell them, no, I couldn’t possibly carry the bag home on the plane or fit it in my suitcase? No, I did not. Did I even tell them my neurologist said, since my vertebral artery dissection, that it’s not a good idea for me to walk around carrying more than 15 pounds? No, I did not.

Now, don’t worry, as I walked 20 blocks up 5th Avenue to our dinner (which I actually enjoyed. Definitely gave me the feel of New York City.), I found a FedEx and stuck the bag on their counter, and had them ship the whole bag home to me. But the other reason the preview was dangerous is after hearing them talk about the upcoming books, I want to read every single book! Was I hurting for ideas of books to read? No, I was not. Did I need to know about more books I’d like to read? No, I did not. Does that make me want to read them any less? No, it does not.

Now, later in the conference, I did end up with two more hardbound and two more paperback books. My suitcase ended up being hard to close, but I managed it. But to show how dangerous I find publisher previews, and how impossible I find it to resist free books — this morning I woke up from a dream where I was in a line to get advance reader copies of some adult books I didn’t even find very interesting, and which I knew I wouldn’t be able to fit in my suitcase, and when I knew it was Sunday and I wouldn’t be able to ship them — but I took them anyway! I was so relieved when I woke up! I had not taken more books than I could carry after all.

Yeah, I have a problem.

2. KidLit Bloggers are My People.

Okay, I knew this already. But it was a lovely to spend a weekend with other people who are a little nuts about children’s books. My resolution: Read more of their blogs! More regularly! These are my people, and it was wonderful to see the ones I already knew and meet some I hadn’t met before.

And I got to be roommates again with Lisa Song, who blogs at Reads for Keeps. She helped me navigate the subways, and having some quieter time with her between busy days was definitely a highlight of the conference.

3. Grace Lin shines with niceness and has a Really Cute Baby.

4. Sushi tastes good.

Who would have thought?

5. You should be creating something you want to share with the world, not something to show how clever or talented you are.

This was from Grace Lin’s talk. Just an inspiring reminder why I blog: To share special books with other people.

6. Although they are My People, not all Children’s Book Lovers are introverts like me. The extroverted ones are really fun to be around, though.

Here’s Pam Coughlan, Mother Reader, “auctioning” off ARCs from the Publisher Previews the day before. (I managed not to take any, I’m proud to say.) That’s Charlotte, middle grade science fiction and fantasy specialist, on the right. (Who is in the middle?)

7. Make your blog easy to share.

Resolution: Add more sharing buttons, besides the Tweet button. Must get around to this….

8. “If you talk like you’re alone in a room, you will be.” — Marsha Lerner

This point brought a small epiphany for me. Since I began Sonderbooks as an e-mail newsletter consisting of book reviews, I think of it as my thoughts I’m sharing with people. I’m talking like I did when I was the instructor lecturing the classroom.

9. Ask questions you want answers to.

All these last three points are from Marsha’s talk. And, mulling them over, I had an idea this morning. I think I am going to start using comments to discuss the books I review with other people who have read them. So I will put Spoilers in the comments. So far, I don’t get a lot of comments on book reviews. I mean, what do you say if you haven’t read the book? You can say, I’m looking forward to reading that. But wouldn’t it be nice to be able to talk about that annoying or brilliant thing at the end of the book and find out what other people think? I could use the comments for deeper discussion.

What do you think? I am honestly curious. Do you think spoilers in the comments is a good idea, if I put lots of warnings? My main blog doesn’t show comments, and on my website, you’d have to click over to the blog to see them, and I’d make sure to put warnings. Do you think it will work?

10. Winnie-the-Pooh!!!!! The Original!!!!

Okay, this was NOT something I took home with me, but this WAS a big huge enormous thrill. I got to see the original animals that Christopher Robin played with! Don’t they look so much like the Ernest Shepard illustrations? Especially Tigger:

And you can clearly see why Piglet is truly a Very Small Animal:

Eeyore actually looks patched, which easily explains the story of him losing his tail. All the animals, including dear Pooh, were clearly much loved.

But wait. You may be asking, like me, “What is that OTHER stuffed animal doing in the case?” That, dear reader, is a Travesty. You see, not only was a sequel to Winnie-the-Pooh and The House of Pooh Corner “authorized,” a new character was created. A stuffed animal of this new character was created, and someone had the Very Bad Idea of putting the new stuffed animal in the case with the original toys with whom Christopher Robin once played. Here is a picture Leaving It Out:

I took these pictures on my lunch break, and was so glad I’d made the pilgrimage. Wow.

11. Keep my inner fangirl in check. Maybe?

There was quite a lot of talk about the relationship between writers and bloggers. Do we get too nice because we don’t want to hurt the authors’ feelings? Is our professionalism hurt when we “know” the writer online or have met them in person?

I began writing Sonderbooks when I was working in a library, but was not yet a librarian. Now I’m a librarian, and I’ve been to the William Morris Seminar, and I closely follow the Heavy Medal blog — and I would so love to be on the Newbery committee some day. If I don’t want my reviews to be merely cheerleading, I should practice thinking critically. Yes, I feel I can continue with my policy of only reviewing books I like, but why do I like them? And, come on, it’s more professional if I try not to Squee too hard when I meet an author. Maybe less pictures with them? (And you’ll notice at least I posted Grace only with her baby.) Hmm. I’ll have to work on this one.

12. If you’re doing a PowerPoint presentation, make sure you are not scheduled after Brian Selznick.

This point is courtesy of Maureen Johnson; it seems very wise.

13. Always feel free to bring a friend.

Maureen roped her friend Robin Wasserman into sharing the keynote, and that added lots of fun to the talk.

14. Keep in mind every day why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Another one from Maureen Johnson.

15. Central Park is lovely.

Who knew?

I had a late afternoon flight, so I went into Central Park, and when I walked a little way in, I heard and saw an actual waterfall. So lovely.

I liked the juxtaposition of the trees with the skyscrapers.

Then later I came upon a large lake. Walking through Central Park was simply a lovely way to spend a couple hours after an inspiring weekend.

How about you, other KidLit Bloggers? What did you take away from KidLitCon?

Programs and Authors and Bookmobiles, Oh My! – ALA Annual Conference Day Three

Friday, July 8th, 2011

After the YA Author Coffee Klatch, I headed back to the convention center. By this time, the very thought of the exhibits was starting to wear me out. However, there were some authors signing that day whom I really wanted to meet. I mostly restrained myself to those books on Day 3. Below are some authors I met before and after and between the programs I attended:

I was super excited to get an advance copy of Catherine Gilbert Murdock’s new book, Wisdom’s Kiss. She wrote Princess Ben and the contemporary Dairy Queen trilogy, all outstanding, and I’m excited that she wrote another fantasy.

Then, wandering the stacks, I saw the genius Mo Willems with his family. (I tried to make it to his signing, but I was too late.) Since he’s the one author several librarians had asked me to be sure to meet, and since I was wearing a t-shirt with his characters on it, I was so bold as to ask for a picture with him:

After those encounters, I wanted to hit some programs. I wanted to attend a program called “Newbies and Newberys” featuring people who had won a Newbery Honor with their very first book. However, the crowd for that program was overflowing the room, so I looked for my next choice: “Learning from Elmo, Blue, and Dora: Applying the Science of Educational Television to Storytime.”

This program had some fun clips and some good, solid ideas. It didn’t feel like anything I didn’t already know, but it didn’t hurt to review the basics of a good storytime.

I liked the circle the leaders talked about: Participation encourages Comprehension, which encourages Repetition (Kids like to “Do it again!”), which builds Motivation (Kids enjoy what they know), which encourages Participation again.

They also encouraged us to see Storytime as Family Time and include brief information for the parents. You can pass out an informational flyer with songs used or a list of books and include concepts you’ve used.

Another good word of encouragement was to learn from others. Visit other storytimes, look into online resources, read the literature — and don’t forget educational TV!

After the program and lunch, I went back to the exhibits. I had tried to snag an advance copy of The Name of the Star, Maureen Johnson’s new book, but the line looked to be about an hour long. I came back after lunch, and was able to get a copy of her already published book, The Last Little Blue Envelope.

After that, I got books signed from two Newbery Honor-winning authors:

Ingrid Law won her Newbery Honor with Savvy, which I can’t believe I still haven’t read, because I love it when fantasy books get Newbery attention. Anyway, I now have signed copies of Savvy and its new companion, Scumble, so I have no more excuse for not getting them read.

Kirby Larson’s Newbery Honor was four years ago for Hattie Big Sky. I met her at that ALA Annual Conference when she saw my SCBWI tote bag and said hello. She has a new book out, The Friendship Doll, and it was fun to say hello again.

At 1:30, I had planned to attend a meeting of the Best Fiction for Young Adults committee, where they have teens talk about books they’ve read. However, I ended up deciding I needed to mail another shipment to save my arms, and spent a little too much time in the post office. When I did get to the program, it didn’t go as long as the program guide said, and I only heard a few teens speak about a few books. One interesting thing was that two of the books talked about were Okay for Now, by Gary Schmidt, and Between Shades of Gray, by Ruta Septetys, books I’d heard discussed by ALSC’s Notable Books committee. The teens had similar praise of those books to what the Notable Books committee members had said.

To me, it goes to show that those books are excellent for both children and teens. I hope the committees see it that way and decide they should be honored by both committees.

After that, it was back to my hotel to get ready for the Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet, which I’ll blog about tomorrow.

I promised Bookmobiles, so here are some pictures of the striking vehicles parked on one end of the Exhibit Hall:

This truck has a Library of Congress mobile exhibit, which they take all around the country for people to enjoy who can’t get to the actual building. They’re also promoting the National Book Festival, which I’m very much looking forward to.

And here are some local Bookmobiles from Louisiana. Aren’t they beautiful?

Notable Books and Library of the Early Mind – ALA Annual Conference Finishing Up Day Two

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

After attending the program on Readers’ Advisory Research and Trends, I stopped in at the end of a meeting of the Notable Books for Young Readers Committee. These meetings are open, so you can come and listen. I heard them discuss a few books I’ve read: Okay for Now, by Gary Schmidt, and The Great Wall of Lucy Wu, by Wendy Wan Long Shang. They also discussed a book I have checked out, The Emerald Atlas, by John Stephens, and made me aware of a book I hadn’t heard much about: Between Shades of Gray, by Ruta Sepetys.

The format of the discussion was interesting. First, people talk about the strengths of the books, and then any “concerns.” For some of the books, there was no question that the books were very good, more a question of whether they are “notable.” For Okay for Now and Between Shades of Gray, one “concern” was that they are edging toward Young Adult, not children’s books. Indeed, later when I attended a Best Fiction for Teens committee meeting, exactly those two books were mentioned.

However, that concern worries me. I haven’t read Between Shades of Gray yet, but it sounds like an outstanding book. And Okay for Now is absolutely brilliant. Will these books get overlooked by award committees because they will be enjoyed by both children and teens? It will be interesting to see what they decide.

After that meeting concluded, I was fading fast and went back to my hotel for a nap. Then I went to dinner with my roommates, April and Katie. They had gotten a recommendation from a waiter, and we ate at the Cafe Desire, which was indeed excellent. I love this picture of them:

I was lucky with my roommates. I “met” April from the DC KidLit Book Club e-mail list, but we had never met in person. She’s a new teen librarian at the brand-new Rust Library in nearby Loudoun County, working with some of my former co-workers. I loved her enthusiasm and initiative getting involved with YALSA. She’s been friends with Katie for a long time, and Katie is a high school English teacher who is finishing up a Library Science Master’s. She had a good perspective on what teens like.

After dinner, I’d been looking forward to a screening of the film, “The Library of the Early Mind.” I posted the trailer when anticipating ALA.

The movie was outstanding. It was a documentary about picture books and picture book creators and how much they affect kids. There were lots of great quotes I wished I could write down (but it was dark!). Afterward, they had a panel of people in the film:

Pictured are Roger Sutton from The Horn Book Magazine, the director of the movie, Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket), Grace Lin, and Jack Gantos. I liked what Jack Gantos said when asked what he thought of seeing himself in the film. His answer was what you’d expect from a writer: He said he wished he could edit it.

Afterward was a reception. With the small crowd, I was able to tell the director how excellent I thought the movie was. He said to Like it on Facebook, and I’d be able to get updates as to when the DVD comes out and when they post some additional interview footage from the authors they interviewed.

And I saw Grace Lin, and she remembered me! From our reading The Wizard of Oz together last year. I asked if I could get a picture with her again, and she said we can make it a yearly tradition. 🙂

And finally, I met Travis Jonker, of 100 Scope Notes, and got to talk with him. As it happens, he’s already been a year on the ALSC Committee which I am just beginning to serve on, Children and Technology. So he answered some questions I had about the committee and I enjoyed meeting him.

Then, to top off an exciting day, I took the shuttle back to the Mariott, a couple blocks from my hotel. As I was walking down the sidewalk, talking with Sharon from Unshelved, we saw several Librarian/Publishing types coming out of a restaurant.

Lo and behold, one was Maureen Johnson! I asked her if she was Maureen, and she said Yes, and I asked if I could get my picture with her. Here it is:

When I got back to my room, I was telling my roommates about the encounter and how nice all the authors we’d met are. We were discussing if the authors mind being accosted like that. I tweeted: “I bet @maureenjohnson was surprised when she was accosted on the street. But that’s what happens when celebrity authors come to a city full of librarians.”

Imagine my delight when she tweeted right back, “I liked it!” 🙂

Maureen Johnson is my favorite person to follow on Twitter. I don’t know how she manages to be so funny in only 140 characters, but she does. And she tweeted to me! (Not to mention she writes excellent books! Here are my reviews of Suite Scarlett and her stories in Let It Snow! and Zombies vs. Unicorns.)

The next day was a big one, finishing off with the Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder Banquet! I’ll blog more about ALA Annual Conference 2011 tomorrow.