September 20, 2011

Thoughts on KidlitCon, Part 1

The one thing about going to KidLitCon is that you come home brimming over with ideas for your blog, not to mention thoughts about the conversations you've had and listened to. It's exhilarating and overwhelming at the same time (I mean, look at all the live tweets at #kidlitcon. Seriously!): where do I even begin to put it down in a post?

Out of all the notes I scribbled on my program (loved having that!) and on the (wonderfully provided) notebook paper, here are some of the things I found to be of most value:

There was a lot (a LOT) of talk about positive reviews versus critical reviews versus negative reviews. I've long known that I'm among the minority in the blogosphere: I review everything, the good, bad, the didn't finish. (And I'm up-front about that, I think.) I've always considered what I write to be "negative" reviews, but listening to people talk about it the nature of reviews, I suppose what I write is actually "critical" reviews. The big difference: I try, very hard, to answer the WHY. And that makes all the difference. Instead of saying "this book sucks", I think about how I'm reacting to the book, and what made me react that way. I need to be better about providing support for that reaction (as well as positive reactions, as well); I used to be good about that, and have gotten out of the habit. Abby, who was part of a very helpful panel on writing critical reviews, has a post on her thoughts on the matter. Go check it out.

That said, I agree with the idea of writing critically: it's helpful for me to know not just what you thought about the book, but why. The other thing I brought home from the conference is the idea that we always need to be aware of who our audience is, and what our blog's purpose is. This was brought up in several panels, including the one I was on (where I used the term "shiny" to describe new books; I really need to lighten up on my Nathan Fillion crush...): the idea that even if we feel like we are, we're not blogging into a void, and we have a responsibility not to the publishers or the authors but to our readers first and foremost. Know who they are. As a blogger, you have influence.

Everything else was just frosting. Scott Westerfeld's keynote was funny, fascinating, and thoroughly engaging. He spoke about the relationship between text and image and the process of writing an illustrated novel (which he considers the Leviathan trilogy to be). It built upon a fascinating panel about transmedia (definition: books that use more than text -- video, images, text messages, etc -- to tell their stories; though it seemed a bit limited and really only suited to horror/thriller/mystery and fantasy) stories, which thoroughly sold me on the Angel Punk world, and another panel I went to that highlighted some of the book apps for kids. I left feeling that my old stick-in-the-mud attitude to iPads and e-readers needs to change; while there's a lot of crap out there, there's also a lot of good storytelling going on, and I'm not the solely linear reader I thought I was.

Two final thoughts: keep in mind quality over quantity; your blog will be better if you focus on having good, quality posts rather than one (or more) every day. And from author Brent Hartinger: It's okay to write what is your truth. He meant it in context of writing stories, but I think it works for blogs as well. If the book didn't work for you, it's okay to write that. It's your truth, and no one can take it away from you.

I'll put up the pictures I took tomorrow. Promise.

6 comments:

Annette said...

On the other hand, we aren't professionals (at least not all of us) and using a term like "shiny" gives personality to your review. (Spoken like a real Nathan Fillion fan...)

Melissa said...

Thanks, Annette! I'll keep that in mind (from one fan to another). :-D

Fancy Terrible said...

Good timing to read this, especially as we're new to the lovely book blogosphere. I'm attending a festival this weekend, (weeee!), so I'm excited to see what I bring home from it.

Jackie said...

Wow, look at that program! Glad you liked the conference!

Corinne said...

Good thoughts, friend. Especially the idea of being a critical reviewer. I always try to back up my statements also, especially if I don't like a book. I'd want the same from a reviewer if I was an author, right?

Melissa said...

Jackie, the program's only that way because there was so much to soak up and remember!

Corinne: agreed. It's only fair.