KidLitCon 2011, Part I

It’s been said before, it’ll be said again, part of the fun of KidLitCon —  the conference for children’s and young adult book bloggers — is being able to meet in person the people you know online. Sometimes, it just needs five minute; Kelly Jensen at Stacked Books and I met last year with barely enough time to say “hello,” and that was more than enough for us to talk that much more online, and then meet up at ALA Midwinter and Annual and BEA, and this year, again, at KidLitCon where we ate a lot of food and laughed a lot.

But, it’s more than just sitting, talking, and learning the right way to make Chinese tea (thanks to Anne Boles Levy and Vital Tea Leaf.) This year’s conference was held in Seattle at Hotel Monaco (don’t ask about the goldfish….) and organized by Colleen Mondor and Jackie Parker; the program was designed by Sarah Stevenson.

Day One, Part One: Friday, September 16.

Bloggers and Writers and Pubs, Oh My! by Pam Coughlan, Zoe Ludertiz, and Kirby Larson, and me. A big thanks to Zoe for being the “pubs” part of the panel and Kirby for the “writers.” Our goal (in only fifty minutes!) was to “explore the relationships of the various members of the children’s literature industry.” (I know, no agents! Maybe next time!) As Colleen’s post shows, it inspired conversation during and after the panel; and, honestly, I think that there is so much to talk about, and so many differences between publishers, writers, and bloggers, and how they blog or what they want. Pam, Zoe, Kirby and I had a handful of questions that we talked about (and more we just didn’t have time for), such as What’s your favorite thing that book/publisher/author bloggers do? What makes you go ‘huh, I wonder why they do that?’, What one thing you wish bloggers/publishers/authors knew, and how do negative reviews affect our relationships. From my random notes jotted down as I was both listening and talking: high on my list for authors was a website that contained their list of books; whether there is a “blurring” in our relationships with each other or are we just more aware of our relationships; the fear of bloggers that books won’t be sent by publishers if reviews are negative, leading to a side conversation about negative reviews, critical reviews, and why sometimes negative reviews don’t appear (pretty much “I don’t have time to blog about the books I do like so how can I have time to blog about the ones I don’t like”). Also: I mentioned that in terms of relationships (i.e., bloggers also being writers, for example), that awareness is key along with transparency, so that the blog reader can decide whether they think the relationship influenced the review.

The Future of Transmedia Storytelling: Angel Punk, Pottermore and Skeleton Creek by Amber J. Keyser, Devon Lyon, Matthew Wilson and Jake Rossman.  Long term readers know that while I may use the term “book,” often what I mean is “story,” and I love good storytelling, whether it’s book or comic or film. I also am intrigued by the following ideas: that some stories are told best in certain medium (i.e., Mad Men is best as a TV series, because it needs both the visuals and the multi episode storytelling); and that the same story can be approached through multiple avenues and each be valid (i.e., the multiple ways that the King Arthur story has been approached over centuries). So it was with great excitement that I sat down to listen to this panel. Keyser, Lyon, Wilson and Rossman are all involved with the AngelPunk project, a transmedia project. The four not only spoke about their own roles in the project, but also about transmedia storytelling in general. The idea of “transmedia storytelling” is this: telling a story across different media, with the story always conceived that way and the different media not simply re-purposing the same content. So, while Pottermore was discussed, because Harry Potter wasn’t initially conceived as using the online site it isn’t true transmedia storytelling. Other transmedia stories discussed included The 39 Clues, Inanimate Alice, and iDrakula.

One part of transmedia storytelling is that web content and fan engagement can also be part of the story; or, another way to put it if “story” sounds too linear for all these parts, the “general universe” that has been created that contains all the individual, linked stories. (Linked meaning the film may be the prequel to the novel, with comics using secondary characters as main characters.) So,  you can see why I got excited about this panel and why it has given me much to think about. While the panel didn’t address ebooks, since I believe ebooks are going to evolve into their own medium, I can easily see a transmedia story where one story is told in ebook and another in book format. What I also liked about the panel was the inclusion of a lawyer, Matthew Wilson, in the panel and the development of the universe/story of AngelPunk. Wilson discussed such issues as intellectual property and digital rights and how they work in this type of context, both with multiple individuals involved but also with fan inclusion. One thing he mentioned was “transmedia exclusion,” allowing the cutting a bit of a story and using it in a different way. Keyser, as the author of the upcoming AngelPunk novel, also spoke about how that works — writing a story when the canon/continuity matters and cannot be changed.

Another part that really impressed me from the panel was the observation that the energy of readers/viewers matters, noting the buzz that comes up during release dates of films and books. Transmedia storytelling (or at least how AngelPunk is doing it) organizes their release dates to always keep have some new bit of content being released, in order to keep the energy up. (My observation: much like the marketing for the Hunger Games movies always has something in the news, from casting to pics to trailers.) For AngelPunk, part of that is not just timed release of book, film, and comic but also, for example, Keyser providing Rossman with snippets of her work in progress to use on the website.

Finally, the panel also brought up the issue of how the  heck does a reviewer review such a work? In whole or in part? Should the book stand alone? Or do you have to enage in the whole world? (My observation: how much does one need to know about the War of the Roses to understand Tudor politics while reading a book about Anne Boleyn? Because in a way, that is a similar context for reviewing a prequel/sequel/companion story.)


5 thoughts on “KidLitCon 2011, Part I

  1. Thanks so much for the mention! Alas, I’m terrified of making my fancy Asian teas for fear I’ll mess it up anyway. Your summaries of the two sessions is fantastic … now I’m wondering why I bothered to take my own notes. I think for transmedia storytelling, maybe it makes sense for reviewers to find common qualities to critique across media. We have film reviews and book reviews and theatre reviews already … and they all pretty much look at story and character and the quality of the writing. Then you toss in special criteria for the filmmaking or acting or the art/illustrations.

    I think that’s where many book reviewers start to feel out of their depths. But I don’t see why bloggers feel they need to reinvent the wheel. If you can go to a movie and say “Ugh, that was so dumb,” why couldn’t you do that with the video part of a transmedia story? I think it’s more a matter of confidence and practice, but that’s my $0.02.


  2. Jackie, right now, my last one is schedule for October 1st. Can you beat that?

    Anne, my niece adores making the tea. Won’t drink but loved adding water, steeping it, measuring, etc. I think some reviewers get too caught up in “does it stand alone” for books, in a way I usually don’t see for films.


  3. I’m excited for the potential of transmedia storytelling. I’m so curious to see how effective it is with younger readers. It’s clearly right up their ally but wonder if they’ll latch on to the all the electronic “extras” and still bypass the book. I suppose if crafted in a specific way there isn’t really the potential to enjoy the electronic portions without having read the book though. Either way I think this is a great step in an interesting direction. One that I (as an educational technologist) watch with great anticipation.


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