So for those of you bloggers that don't know much about Book Conferences(Don't feel alone, we're just discovering a lot of them too XD) they're basically events that celebrate what's new in publishing. I'm sure everyone has heard of Book Expo America?
So yea, This year we wanted to start attending more Book Conferences because blogging can be pretty lonesome. You have your faithful followers who always show you love with their rec's and comments, but we made ourselves a few promises that we'd go out there and start meeting other bloggers who blog about books. Put some faces to the blogs that we follow and luckily a Book Conference called "Kid Lit Con", made it really easy to do that.
Kid Lit Con is a different kind of Book Conference. For one it's one of the few that brings bloggers away from our computers to discuss our musings in person on the topic of Children's, Middle Grade & Young Adult books.
Photo By Tanita Davis
With this year's theme being Diversity, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for the Twinjas to attend and I gotta say, It was well worth the trip to Sacramento!
The first day was pretty exciting. You expect for all these bloggers to be kind of shy and introverted but everyone was amazingly friendly and weren't shy about introducing themselves to us.
The Day started with us being given name tags highlighting where we review and our twitter handles. It felt totally official!
Guinevere w/ Author Kelan O' Connell
We got to chat with some bloggers that we've been fans of for years!
Edith Campbell, a librarian, who blogs at CrazyEdiQuilts, has been blogging about diversity long before we have. She's probably one of the bloggers that pushed us into making our own book blog!
And Nathalie Mvondo, a blogger @ Multiculturalism Rocks! Also a blogger we've loved and admired since wanting to start a book blog. Her presentation on Finding and Reviewing the Best in Diverse Children’s and YA was sooo informative. Plus she had the coolest accent!
How could I forget presenting with the lovely Laura Atkins and a personal favorite author, Zetta Elliot? In the panel we talked about self published books and how we don't give enough chances to the people that are including diverse characters and can hold the torch next to a traditionally published writer. Having the chance to discuss this on a deeper level was awesome.
I think we spend a lot of time complaining about how there are no diverse books but we want the major publishing houses to do something about it. Meanwhile there are authors like Zetta Elliot and Kelan O'Connell, Emlyn Chand and Jerry Craft, who are actually putting out these titles that speak to me on a level that some traditional publisher will probably never take a chance on. And why?
Because they don't see them as a universal experience and therefore won't appeal to white audiences. It's really depressing that I can walk into Barnes and Noble and see 3 aisles of YA books with almost the exact same plot featuring "default" characters, but agents, publishers even bloggers are so picky about what they accept, promote and read featuring diverse characters. What really bugs me most about it is I've read some pretty bad books by the Big Publishing houses to the point where I asked myself, How did this get published?
One thing I loved about Zetta Elliot is that she is one of those writers were her characters really speak to me. The language, the non stereotypical characters, the magic in her writing.
Presenting with her was such a highlight of the year and for authors like her, I will continue to support Independent Published authors, even if we're alone on it...However anyone is welcome to join our misfit group :) We're inclusive!
From left to right: Librarian/Blogger Edith Campbell, Librarian/Blogger Sarah Hannah Gomez and Author Jewel Parker-Rhodes.
And then there was the panel Getting Beyond Diversity and Getting to the Story
featuring Edith Campbell, Sarah Hannah Gomez and the oh so ever exuberant Author, Jewel Parker-Rhodes. Jewel just had this amazing energy during the discussion but unfortunately we hadn't owned any of her books but best believe we walked away with a few that day! Any author THAT enthusiastic about diversity should have no problem finding it's way on our shelves! She even had time to chat and pose with us in a pic below!
Left to right: Me, Libertad, Author Jewel Parker-Rhodes and Guinevere.
I think one of the main things we took from Kid Lit Con is the importance of promoting children's books. We @ Twinja Book Reviews have a strong preference for YA and Adult fantasy but after meeting these amazing children's authors like Kathryn Otoshi(Author of One, Zero and Two)...
And Emily Jiang, Author of Summoning of the Phoenix, who was actually nice enough to waste her day showing us around San Francisco...
(Us with Children's author Emily Jiang)
It prompted us to update our review policy and soon we will be accepting children's books for review!
And you know how it is when you just meet someone who just has this presence that stands out to you?
That's exactly how we felt when we met this children's author/illustrator/activist, Maya Gonzalez
This woman is probably, like, the bravest person we've met in publishing. Her books have themes that are really missing in children's books. Identity is a really important battle we all struggle with in our lives.
My sister and I are Afro-Latina(which means Racially we can categorize ourselves as black or African Descented, but since our family is from Cuba, culturally we identify as Latina.) and growing up we battled how we identified to the world. Often not feeling Black enough for African Americans or looking Latina enough for Latin Americans.
But imagine being 5 with boy body parts and feeling "like a girl". Or being 8 and knowing you're different because all of your boy friends like girls but you're the only one who thinks he likes boys.
Her books explore these themes in a way a traditional publisher may never explore. Inclusiveness is all we ever wanted to promote on this blog and it was such an amazing Day One meeting all these awesome people who agree!
Guinevere w/ Librarian Charlotte Taylor, who blogs @ Charlotte's Library
Next Year Kid Lit Con will be on the East Coast in Baltimore, MD. Anyone close should really consider being part of panel(Cuz really, how many of us love going in front of people feeling like celebrities! Letting you know from someone who's done it, it's pretty awesome!) or just dropping by to meet some people you've already had the chance to converse online with. Once you put faces to people, you appreciate their blogs even more!
Stay Tuned for my Day 2 Recap of #KidLitCon