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« Early Bird Rate for KidLitCon Registration Extended to 9/20 | Main | Carrie Mesrobian to Speak at KidLitCon 2015 »

Announcing the KidLitCon 2015 Program!

We’ve planned a KidLitCon program jam packed with interesting panels, authors and events. There should be something for everyone, but don’t worry, we’ve left time for socializing and networking, too. If you can stay an extra day, we’ve even planned a tour of Baltimore for Sunday. Early bird registration price ends September 20th, so register now before the price goes up.


Friday, October 9th

Setup and registration
Welcoming remarks from KidLitCon organizers, Sheila Ruth and Paula Willey

Concurrent Sessions:

Keeping Things Interesting for You and Your Readers

Blogging is rewarding, but it can be hard and lonely work. This session offers a variety of ideas for both new and the experienced blogger on how to keep yourself interested in the craft of posting about books, and how this can make your blog one readers will keep coming back to. Topics to be discussed will include reviewing critically, to finding what gives you joy in reading and writing, to developing a passionate focus (or giving yourself freedom to deviate from your norms), to playing with the voices you use in chronicling your journey as a reader and a writer and the platforms you use on which to share them.


Exploring STEM through Gripping Stories

STEM topics (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) aren’t just confined to dry fact-filled non-fiction books! This panel explores how fiction, narrative non-fiction, and graphic novels can make STEM topics part of gripping stories for young readers. This panel explores what makes STEM friendly to a young audience, and how STEM content can be balanced with entertaining narrative.

Moderator: Jennifer Schultz (The Kiddosphere)



Concurrent Sessions:

Middle Grade Horror

Middle School can be a scary place, and there are scary books aplenty for readers 9-12. But what is too much for one reader is just right for another. If you are in the business of recommending horror books to kids, this is a panel for you! The panelists will talk about the unease that some people feel about books written for middle grade kids that are actually scary, and how reviewers can communicate levels of scariness to gate-keepers; the ways that horror can get at some of the anxieties of kids beginning to learn about themselves and the world; and the sensitivities and empathy often found in horror fiction, buried beneath the fanged weirdness.

Moderator: Karen Yingling (Ms. Yingling Reads)


The Power of Teamwork

Authors from will talk about the benefits of a group web presence can help not just authors, but bloggers. They’ll discuss organizing, marketing, and managing a group in which the power of a whole team can help the individual team members to build their own brands and find new fans.



Concurrent Sessions:

Visual Storytelling

A panel of bloggers, illustrators, and a former Caldecott committee member discuss the choices an artist makes and how they affect the tone or content of a story. Attendees will come away with improved understanding of media and techniques and better vocabulary for discussing and evaluating illustrations in children’s literature.

Moderator: Susan Kusel (Wizards Wireless, former Caldecott committee member)


CYBILS: Nonfiction Roundtable

Publishers Weekly just suggested that in 2015, children’s non-fiction is “having its moment.” At the Cybils Awards, it’s always had just as much of a moment as any other other genre. This round-table will discuss how non-fiction books are evaluated in the Cybils Award process, how to discuss them on your blog, and how to connect with other bloggers and reviews about great nonfiction books. Also included will be some salient pointers for those new to CYBILS or looking to become involved in the future.

Moderator: Ellen Zschunke (On The Shelf 4 Kids


Keynote — Carrie Mesrobian

Carrie Mesrobian is an instructor at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. Her debut novel, Sex & Violence was a finalist for the American Library Association’s William C. Morris Award and the winner of the 2014 Minnesota Book Award. Her second novel, Perfectly Good White Boy received starred reviews from Kirkus & Publishers Weekly and was a Tayshas Reading List Pick. Her third novel, Cut Both Ways, received starred reviews from Booklist and Kirkus. With author Christa Desir, she produces The Oral History Podcast, which features discussions on sex and young adult literature. Visit Carrie online


Whole room session

And the Winner is… 
A Panel Discussion with Literary Award Judges

Literary awards work a certain magic on books, often transforming titles about to be relegated to the backlist into a must-have for libraries, classrooms, and private TBR piles. A book with a shiny sticker on its cover gets better placement on bookstore shelves, and often goes on to clinch a spot in the literary canon. So what’s it like to be one of the people who holds an author’s fate in one’s hands? What goes into the thought process of choosing a winner? Do judges follow trends or create them? Our panel pulls together judges from a variety of awards for children’s and teen literature, who’ll demystify the adjudication process for us and discuss the influence of these awards on kids and adults alike.

Moderator: Anne Levy (The Temple of Doubt)


  • Susan Kusel (Wizard’s Wireless) (Caldecott, Cybils, Maryland Blue Crab Award, Sydney Taylor Award)
  • Alysa Stewart (Everread) (Cybils)
  • Jennie Rothschild (Biblio File) (Cybils, YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, YALSA/ARCL Outstanding Books for the College Bound (chair), Maryland Library Association Blue Crab Award)
  • Francisca Goldsmith (California Young Reader Medal, Odyssey Award, Printz Award, Eisner Awards, Audie Awards, and Alex Awards)
  • John Scott (Newbery - currently serving, Caldecott)
  • Elizabeth Burns (A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy) (Printz, Schneider Family, Cybils, YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, Edwards - currently serving)
Author mix & mingle (books will be available for purchase and signing)
Cybils birthday party, dinner, and bowling


Setup and registration
Keynote — Tracy Baptiste

Tracey Baptiste was born in Trinidad, where she grew up on jumbie stories and fairy tales, and decided to be a writer at the wise old age of three. Her debut, a young adult novel titled Angel’s Grace, was named one of the 100 best books for reading and sharing by New York City librarians. Tracey is a former teacher, textbook editor, ballerina, and amateur librarian who once started up a library in her house in the hope that everyone would bring their books back late and she would be rich! You know, like other librarians. She is now a wife and mom and lives in New Jersey, where she writes and edits books for kids from a very cozy office in her house that is filled with more toys than she can count. The Jumbies is her second novel.


Whole room session

How Graphic Novels Work

Amazing things are made possible brain-wise when readers look at drawings and words together. Plus there’s a kind of “Hey, look at this! I’ll give it to you when I’m done” sharing that happens with comic book reading. This panel of cartoonists for teens and kids have produced, variously, heroic fantasy with a scientific bent; wistful summer camp memoir; gangbusters adventures kids can’t put down - all feature strong female protagonists facing unlikely odds. These cartoonists’ styles, subject matter, personal backgrounds and approaches to cartooning are wildly divergent. So what do the panelists think about this whole images and text doing storytelling together thing? What do they know about kids as comic book readers. How does what drew them in as young readers translate to what they make today? Keep in mind that children have literally wrestled over who gets to read these books first. Try not to do that at this session.

Moderator: Miriam DesHarnais (librarian and graphic novel expert)

Graphic novels are engaging readers of all ages and enabling some exceptional visual storytelling. Join a panel of best-selling graphic novelists for a discussion of why graphic novels work, how stories are developed in the graphic novel format, and why graphic novels are the optimal reading choice for millions of readers. Long gone are the days of hiding your comic books from your teachers and parents. Gain firsthand insight into the sophistication, art, and humor of graphic novels from some of today’s best known names in graphic novels for children and teens.


Whole room session

Intersectionality: The Next Step in Diverse Books

The need for diversity in books has never been clearer as readers clamor for stories about underrepresented characters. But diversity can’t be understood through a single lens. Nor can different types of underrepresented experiences be considered independently from each other. This panel will discuss the need for intersectionality in books, and how it can take the diverse books movement to the next level.



Concurrent Sessions:

Going Wide: Beyond Your Blog

What’s the difference between writing for yourself and writing for pay? Two bloggers, a journalist and an editor will share tips, horror stories, and best practices for making connections, honing your writing, and finding a wider audience.

  • Mahnaz Dar, editor, School Library Journal
  • Marjorie Ingall, columnist, Tablet magazine; contributor, The New York Times
  • Charlotte Taylor, Charlotte’s Library; B&N Reads
  • Paula Willey,; columnist, The Baltimore Sun; contributor, School Library Journal; reviewer, Booklist
Authentic Voices

The importance of diverse representation in children’s fiction and nonfiction is becoming more widely recognized in the children’s book community. But as important as it is to have diverse books, it’s just as important that they be authentic. As bloggers, how can we do our part? Evaluating diverse representations can be difficult if we don’t have any direct experience or knowledge of the represented group. This panel will look at the issues of authentic representation in children’s literature and important considerations for bloggers, with a particular focus on books featuring LGBTQA+ and differently-abled people.



Concurrent Sessions:

Middle Grade Madness

Sponsored by Brightly ( - a resource to help parents raise lifelong readers.

This panel talks about writing and recommending books for 9-13 year olds, the age range for “middle grade” readers. What makes a good middle grade book that will appeal to at least part of that age bracket, and which part? In the minds of authors and gatekeepers, are there really boy books vs girl books? And what distinguishes middle grade from YA?

Moderator: Sam Musher (Parenthetical)


Kidlit Podcasting

Matthew Winner (The Busy Librarian)

The way we consume and share information is changing. Podcasts are giving voice to industry professionals, children’s lit advocates, and virtually anyone with a story to tell. Join Matthew Winner, host of the Let’s Get Busy podcast, for a discussion of some of the best kidlit podcasts being created today and the skills and tools necessary for starting your own podcast in minutes.


Concurrent Sessions:

Who Is the Reader? (and Why That Matters When I’m Blogging About Books…)

When young people discover their own “reading superhero” personality, they can search for books that they’ll love and will keep reading — and book bloggers can help them find “good books” way beyond the award-winners and bestsellers. We’ll look at reader types, books as windows and as mirrors for readers, reviewing for the reader vs. reviewing for selectors, and see how Ranganathan’s Library Laws can keep our book blogging and reviewing locked on target. (We’re librarians first, book recommenders always, and deep-dyed kidlit book lovers forever!)


Connecting with Debut Authors

Learn about the ins and outs of the debut author experience, connecting with debut author groups, and how bloggers can get in on the ground floor with exciting new authors.As a 2016 debut YA author and founder of the Sweet Sixteens, a debut group of middle grade and young adult debut authors, Kathy MacMillan has worked with over 100 debut authors and has developed an understanding of the wide varieties of debut author experiences. She’s joined by a Kidlit blogger who will talk about connecting with authors from that perspective.



Tour Baltimore in a private tour bus with local guides. Possible tour stops include:

You must register separately for the Sunday tour; the cost of the tour is $35, which includes the tour bus and an all-day Inner Harbor Water Taxi pass.

Register Now

Here’s the registration link. Don’t forget: early bird pricing ends September 20.

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