Five Highlights from KidLitCon 2015 - a guest post by Mary Fan

This year, I had the honor of attending KidLitCon as a speaker, and I had great time meeting people and learning a thing or two. Though I was only able to go for Saturday, I feel like I got a lot out of the conference… and wish I could have been there for the full two-day conference. Below are five highlights.

Spoke on and learned from the panel Intersectionality: The Next Step in Diverse Books
Mary Fan with twin bloggers and authors Guinevere and Libertad Thomas aka Twinjas
Mary Fan with twin bloggers and authors
Guinevere and Libertad Thomas aka Twinjas
Sometimes, panelists are the ones who learn from the session. Though our moderator, Zetta Elliott, was unable to attend due to illness, she sent us her wonderfully crafted presentation introducing the key ideas behind intersectionality. The main idea behind intersectionality is that people can't be reduced to little boxes, like "oh, he's Asian" or "oh, she's gay." There are many, many different aspects of identity—race, gender, sexuality, religion, socioeconomic status, etc.—that intersect to form identity. Dynamic twin bloggers and authors Guinevere and Libertad Thomas, the other two speakers on the panel, shared their insights into what it’s like being Afro-Latina in a society that splits that identity in two. And I gave my views on what intersectionality means to me—how it means looking within and acknowledging your own privileges. After we finished giving our individual presentations, we opened it up to the audience for questions and had a lively discussion about how to engage readers from different backgrounds and how to avoid some of the pitfalls that come when those of privilege try to incorporate aspects of oppressed identities into their books. I learned a lot from both my fellow panelists and from listening to what was on the audience’s mind, and it’s a debate I hope will continue long after the conference. The most dangerous thing about privilege is that it’s invisible to those who have it, and it’s only through continuing conversations that we can start correcting the imbalance—in books and beyond.

Behind-the-scenes with bloggers and reviewers
As an attendee, I sat in on a panel of reviewers and bloggers as they talked about what it’s like to be a book reviewer and earn a little cash while you’re at it. Though I maintain a blog of my own and post reviews when the fancy strikes, I’m not a reviewer reviewer. So it was cool seeing how reviewers select the books they read and how they juggle reviewing and blogging for different publications. Though the session was aimed at fellow bloggers, it was cool from an author perspective to see what goes into those coveted reviews. Answer: a lot of time and patience. Made me appreciate everyone who’s reviewed my books that much more.

Middle Grade is not YA!
A session featuring several MG authors illuminated what it is that makes MG its own unique category. Children’s literature has become more and more segmented over the decades—from back in the day when there was only books for little kids and books for adults to nowadays, where distinctions are made even within categories (upper YA vs lower YA, for example). Which is a good thing, because kids have very different reading levels and maturity levels. What really sets MG apart from YA, apart from the age of the protagonist, is that YA delves into darker and edgier themes that MG readers might not be ready for. At the same time, MG does tackle a lot of tough issues kids face—but with more humor and less grit. Mislabeling MG as YA (and vice versa, though this occurs much less frequently) is a pet peeve of mine, yet at the same time I’m not nearly as familiar with MG as I’d like to be, so it was great getting to learn more about the category from authors who know it inside and out.

How authors and bloggers connect
Drift and Dagger, THe Wolf Wilder, The Dead House, Sword and Verse,  The Red Shoes and Other Tales, Scarlett: A Star on the Run, The Copycat Kid
Swag from KidLitCon
YA fantasy author Kathy McMillan (Sword and Verse, HarperTeen 2016) and prolific book blogger Alyssa Susanna of Eater of Books put together a fascinating dual presentation on how authors and bloggers connect online. Kathy gave the author’s perspective, talking about all the hard work, patience, and dedication that goes into getting a book published (in other words, all the work that goes in after you’ve signed that coveted contract… and trust me, I understood all too well… signing the contract is only the beginning!). Alyssa then presented the results of a poll she ran on her blog about how readers discover new books to read and connect with authors. Twitter got the most votes by a landslide, with Goodreads and blogs trailing right after. It was my personal favorite presentation of the day, and as a bonus, Alyssa brought a bunch of extra books she had lying around (as a reviewer, she gets tons of these sent to her) as giveaways, and I got one with an awesome wolfy cover!

Swag! Swag! Swag!
Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between,  The Tapper Twins Tear up New York, Timmy Failure: Sanitized for Your Protection, The Firedragon, Firedragon Rising, Flynn Nightsider and the Edge of Evil
Swag table at KidLitCon
Speaking of giveaways, you would not believe the swag table at this conference. I felt like a kid walking into a candy shop… and being told the goodies were free. There were stacks and stacks of ARCs (advance reader copies), bookmarks, and other assorted giveaways. This was on top of the swag bags we’d already been given (note the awesome Firedragon and Firedragon Rising bookmarks in the pic). I was so tempted to grab one of everything. So many gorgeous covers and cool bookmarks—it was nuts! I grabbed plenty (as you can see) but had to restrain myself before I picked up more than I could carry. Had enough trouble hauling all that back to the car as it is. Also, I am now officially in need of a new bookshelf, as all these lovely books are currently sitting stacked on my coffee table…

You can read Mary's other post on KidLitCon, where she focuses on the topic of intersectionality.

Author Mary Fan
Mary Fan is a hopeless dreamer, whose mind insists on spinning tales of “what if.” As a music major in college, she told those stories through compositions. Now she tells them through books—a habit she began as soon as she could pick up a pencil. Mary is the author of author of The FiredragonFiredragon RisingTell Me My Name, forthcoming Flynn Nightsider and the Edge of Evil (Flynn Nightsider series) and Fated Stars series.

Mary lives in New Jersey and has a B.A. from Princeton University. When she’s not scheming to create new worlds, she enjoys kickboxing, opera singing, and blogging about everything having to do with books.

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