We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to tell you about a beautiful fall day last week when kidlit bloggers came from all around the country to talk about their favorite subject: children’s and teen books. Along with librarians, authors, school teachers, agents, and publishers, three Mixed-Up Files members were there, too. Us, three that is.
At this year’s KidLitCon held at the New York Public Library, Michelle, Sayantani, and I shared our experiences in community-building on the blog and off the blog, using our collective Mixed-Up Files experiences. Not only that, there was KidLit Jeopardy, live tweeting, and prizes we handed out to our Jeopardy winners and 3 tweeters in the audience chosen at random!
We split our presentation into three parts – building, sustaining, and expanding your blogging community. Michelle started us off, using her previous experience as a founder of the group blog, YA Highway, to talk about how to build a blog, find friends instead of just followers, seek IRL or in-real-life interactions, and learn how to balance it all by finding the right methods of communication for yourself and taking time to unplug and recharge.
Over twitter, audience members in the room responded to our question:
What’s the best place for a meet-up? #mglitchat
@ohmiagarcia: cafe! Coffee is always a must.
@celialarsen: virtually: twitter; in person: a place that serves alcohol!
@SleepingAnna: depends on your group: living room to coffee shop to Skype!
@RobertFWalsh: Bill Gate’s basement. Failing that, his garage. (Note: I’m no longer welcome there.)
Next, I talked about sustaining a community – finding ways to keep your readers coming back. I focused on giveaways, something we’ve done frequently at the Mixed-Up Files, and shared two major ones: The Great Library Giveaway and Skype Author Visits. I talked about how giveaways, while fun, don’t always generate enough traffic on their own. But with some planning and innovation, and by looking at the big-picture, you can still have successful giveaways that benefit more than just the winner but the community, too. It was especially to nice to share the successes of the 2010 Library Giveaway, where we gave away 70 brand-new library books to a library in need.
I also shared some of the joys and challenges of Skype visits – and even tried to enact a real-live Skype conversation with Elissa Cruz in front of everyone – but the technological gods were not on my side and the call didn’t go through. But never fear! We continued on gallantly!
During this part of the presentation we asked over twitter:
how do you get readers excited about a giveaway?#mglitchat
@celialarsen: post link to contest in various places, offer swag/book of choice.
@SleepingAnna: Get the readers excited about giveaway! Thru info and fun contest!
@LeeandLow: Re giveaways: “Don’t have to give things away. Good content has more reach than giveaways.”
@RobertFWalsh: Giveaways should involve George Clooney. Or tickets to a Notre Dame football game. (Hint: my wife suggested 1 of these)
Sayantani ended the last part of presentation with a look at diversity in blogging. She suggested that expanding a blog’s readership with an eye to diversity means paying attention to who writes for the blog, and what they write for the blog – including a diverse blend of interviews, booklists, and general posts focusing on issues such as gender or multiculturalism. This also means diversifying who is on your blogging team. She gave the example of the Mixed-Up Files application process, our methods for scheduling posts through a message forum and calendar, and stressed the need for a robust membership committee that doesn’t always agree on everything.
She also talked about diverse content and shared several booklists from our blog that cover a broad range of interests, from books for boys, books for girls, books about disability, strong girl characters, and books by debut authors.
During Sayantani’s section, we asked tweeters:
What does diversity in blogging mean to you?#mglitchat
@SleepingAnna: Variety of ages, professions, opinions, interests. Ex: food story time entry read by a cook!
Yin (Perrine Wynkel), via paper and pencil: Diversity engenders a collision of different perspectives and ideas, which increases the possibility of something new and exciting and fascinating being created – new avenues of thought.
All in all, we had a fantastic time at KidLitCon, meeting so many wonderful bloggers and children’s lit enthusiasts. We feel especially lucky to have the chance to share some of our blog’s successes and challenges. Thanks so much to everyone who came out to hear our presentation! And thank you to all the wonderful Mixed Up Files authors who donated their books for our giveaway! And for those of you who weren’t able to attend, here’s three of the Jeopardy questions we asked attendees — test your knowledge of all things Mixed Up Files and leave your thoughts below in the comments section! (answers in form of a question, please):
Jeopardy “Answer” 1: The name of the statue at the center of the mystery in “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.”
Jeopardy “Answer” 2: The names of the two children in “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.”
Jeopardy “Answer” 3: The day and time #MGLITCHAT convenes to talk about all things middle grade
And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.
Sheela Chari is the author of VANISHED (Disney Hyperion). You can watch her this morning on the TODAY Show with Al Roker.
Sayantani DasGupta is the co-author of The Demon Slayers and Other Stories: Bengali Folktales (Interlink, 1995), the author of a memoir on race and gender in medical education, and co-editor of an award winning collection of women’s illness narratives. She likes to tweet, blog, and otherwise blather.