I'm back from Kidlit Con, and though my bags are still unpacked (long story), I'm ready to share everything I learned there (an equally long story). This is important stuff, so pay attention here, people!
(Note: I didn't get any photos, so sorry about that. I doubt anyone took photos of me, either, but I'm still looking...)
1. When conference planners tell you the walk between the bus/train station and the hotel is "close," don't believe them.
On Friday, I flew into the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport and hopped the lightrail train into downtown Minneapolis. I enjoyed watching my surroundings as they flew by me. First I saw Fort Snelling, and was tempted for an instant to get off the train and take a tour (I love touring old buildings!) but thought that might not go over well with the people waiting for me to arrive at the hotel. Then I saw some place names that made me smile, like Minnehaha and Hiawatha. I saw a community garden whiz by, and plenty of non-descript buildings. People came and went off the lightrail, then the Minneapolis Metrodome came into view and it was my turn to step off the train.
Then came the hike to the hotel. Two blocks north and at least a million blocks east, I walked and walked and walked and walked, lugging my...er, well..luggage. To be fair, it really wasn't a long walk, but it would have been much much easier without the suitcase rolling behind me. But I made it to the hotel, checked in, and met Kurtis Scaletta and Steve Brezenoff in the lobby. They were my official Minneapolis Welcoming Committee. Together we wandered back the way I had come until we made it to Open Book, the scene of the conference.
2. You can learn a lot from celebrities, just not what they expect you to learn.
That night we had about an hour of schmooze time, followed by an appearance of the Merry Sisters of Fate, which consists of Tessa Gratton, Maggie Stiefvater, and Brenna Yovanoff. They discussed critique groups and their weekly short story projects. Though the information they shared wasn’t applicable to my current situation (because I have a great critique group and am not interested in writing short stories anytime soon), I did learn a lot about public speaking from watching them. I was hoping some of what I learned would rub off on me the next day.
3. There is such a thing as jetlag.
Let’s just say that getting up at 7am Minneapolis time was REALLY EARLY in Elissa time.
4. When things go well, it’s all a blur, but when things go bad...
Our presentation was the third session of the day, so I spent the morning patiently waiting until it was my turn. And by “patiently” I mean…well, patiently. I waited for my nerves to kick in, but they never did. And when it was time to get up in front of that group, it was all a blur. A good blur. I do remember a few stray thoughts like “I wonder if that camcorder is rolling,” and “I hope I’m not saying something incredibly stupid,” but for the most part it was a smooth presentation, and Kurtis (my co-presenter) and I were poised and well-prepared.
(And you thought things went horribly wrong. I can’t imagine where you got that idea. You really should pay better attention.)
5. People say the darndest things.
My favorites were along these lines:
“Great presentation! Really!”
“I learned SO much!”
“I want to be just like you when I grow up!”
“You’ve inspired me.”
“You nailed that one.”
I’m pleased to announce that not once did someone say “Please don’t come back.” They may have been thinking it, though. I’m not psychic, after all.
6. It's not what you know, it's who you know. Wait...I mean, it’s not who you know, it’s what you know. Okay, it's really who you know AND what you know. Though none of it matters, really. You know?
By far, my favorite thing about this conference was meeting some great kidlit people. It was great talking about writing and books with the people there. I met people I had always wanted to (hi, Alice Pope!), people I learned so much from because they let me listen in and participate in their conversations (hi, Dori Butler, Susan Taylor Brown, and Kellye Carter Crocker!) and online friends who are now friends IRL (hi, Blythe Woolston and Anne Marie!). And so so many others, who I wish I could name but then this post would be very very very long (hi, everyone else!).
7. Kidlit Con is worth every penny.
And then some.