Trying to sum up the best of Kidlitcon is like being asked to describe the tastiest part of a cookie, because everything about the conference—the panels, the hotel/food, and especially the company—was excellent. Other (non-procrastinating) bloggers have posted detailed conference roundups, so here’s an abbreviated version of the highlights:
Most memorable quotes
–Karen Kincy, on writing critical book reviews
A book review that is “four paragraphs description, followed by ‘I like it, it was fun, he was hot’ isn’t helpful.”
–Colleen Mondor of Chasing Ray, on the importance of substative book reviews
“You can tell it’s manga because it’s windy.”
–Scott Westerfeld, describing a piece of fan art he’s received
“Has anybody ever written a headless teen?”
–Sara Ryan, on publishers who avoid cover controversy by designing covers that don’t feature any faces or people
Most persistent topic: negative versus critical reviews
So here’s the dilemna: you read a book that’s no fun, or just ho-hum, and now you need to review it. It’s easy to be snarky or brutally honest, but what if you know the author personally? And if you’re an aspiring writer, you might be afraid of alienating a publisher by mad-mouthing one of their titles. Some bloggers deal with it by only reviewing the books they like, thus flooding the internet with a disproportionate number of glowing reviews.
There’s no easy answer. The final consensus, if you can call it that, was to distinguish between “negative” and “critical” reviews. Negative reviews simply aren’t helpful. Something that reads “this was boring, the author can’t write” does nothing but create bad feelings. On the other hand, critical reviews point out the reasons for your disappointment. You can’t argue with someone who says “the book didn’t work for me because I don’t like paranormal romance/Westerns/talking animals/insert genre here.” So it’s okay to be opinionated, and doing it in a responsible way is what generates meaningful discussion.
Best off-topic discussion
Raving on the awesomeness of Doctor Who and Battlestar Galactica with Liz Burns (A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy), Sondy Eklund (Sonderbooks), Melissa Fox (BookNut) and Maureen Kearney (Confessions of a Bibliovore).
Best fan moment
Best premise of a book discovered at Kidlitcon
Brent Hartinger‘s Geography Club, about high schoolers who start a secret LGBT club by naming it something no one will want to join (geography club, of course). I have a soft spot for Geography Clubs because I used to belong to one in third grade…we got to draw maps and make exploding papier-mache volcanoes. It was actually the epitome of coolness in my elementary school, which either says a lot about my school, or the awesomeness of my teacher (thank you Mrs. Coon).
Best roommate (my only roommate, but that’s not the point!)
Sondy Eklund and I commiserated at length about the alarming state of our to-read book piles. We then proceeded to make our problems worse by recommending books to each other…
Best feel-good moment
Colleen Mondor announcing we’d raised $1700 for Reading is Fundamental (RIF) through donations and book sales!
And of course, a huge thank you to Colleen Mondor and Jackie Parker for organizing the conference. I had a great time meeting authors and bloggers and discussing all things kidlit. What a relief to be able to throw around phrases like “going bovine” or “origami Yoda” without attracting strange looks!