Spending the day with Kelly from Stacked.
Meeting the Book Smugglers in person.
Fangirling at Cheryl Klein from afar. (<--I kept my cool and she didn't notice, thankfully.)
Not throwing myself facedown on the floor and crying.
The opening keynote: Will Schwalbe is passionate and well-spoken and thoughtful... but he spoke about book blogging as, basically, cheerleading. Which, as someone who tends to enjoy reading—and yes, writing—critical reviews, didn't do much for me. Because cheerleading is all well and good, but it's not the only kind of book blogging that there is.
Speaking of, a word (or two) on the word critical:
It drives me bananas when people conflate 'Negative' with 'critical'. #beablgr— Leila Roy (@bkshelvesofdoom) May 29, 2013
And, of course, as Gwenda says, that goes both ways:
@bkshelvesofdoom Me too! And also positive with un-critical.— Gwenda Bond (@Gwenda) May 29, 2013
Literary criticism is not something that is 'negative' or a 'positive'. It's looking at a piece of art and attempting to assess its strengths and weaknesses and think about how it explores issues and themes and all that fun (<--not sarcasm, I really think it's fun!) stuff. Hopefully somewhat objectively. (Which isn't to say that there isn't room for cheerleading, or for that matter, pure snark. The book blogosphere is, as Agent Cooper would say, "a large and interesting place".)
The YA Editor Insight Panel: My fangirling about Cheryl Klein notwithstanding, this panel didn't really provide a whole lot of 'insight'. It was, basically, a buzz panel. Which is all well and good, but if you go into a room expecting 'insight' and are confronted with 50 minutes of Upcoming Titles, it's bound to make you a little bit cranky. Even if some of the titles LOOK AWESOME. (New Erin Bow! Also, NAZI HUNTERS.)
YA Book Blogging Pros: My notes kind of devolved at this point—see Kelly for evidence of that—but apparently I wanted to hug Thea of the Book Smugglers for speaking to the fact that 'critical' and 'negative' do not mean the same thing. As the panel was run by a Netgalley rep, there was some gratuitous advertising for Netgalley, which got old. (Netgalley was one of the sponsors, so I TOTALLY GET IT, but it still made for the cranky times. As I said to Kelly, though, my birthday was earlier this week, so I AM OLD NOW, and therefore entitled to bring the crank.) I also have some notes that say things like ""Free" books are not payment" and "IT'S YOUR BLOG", but I have no idea if a panelist said something along those lines or if some random comment from the audience prompted rage on my part. (There are a lot of CAPS involved, so rage is a good bet, but you never know: caps can also be joyful. Long story short, I need to take better notes.)
Ethics luncheon: The biggest thing I took away from this one was that the FTC isn't concerned about critical reviews. Which had me practically doing a jig. But then it all devolved into an argument about whether or not featuring book covers on blog posts was fair use or not, and I wanted to crawl under the table and take a nap.
Oh! But the whole discussion DID make me briefly wonder about all of those publisher sponsored giveaways, cover reveals, blog tours, and whatnot, and whether or not they constituted advertising. But then I decided that they didn't? Because the bloggers who run them aren't getting paid? Because, as I alluded to above, ARCs are not "free" books, because they HAVE NO MONETARY VALUE.
It's kind of early in the morning, btw, so my apologies if I'm at all incoherent.
Taking Your Online Presence Offline: Oh, MAN. My head might have exploded a little bit during this panel. The two bloggers, Jenn of Jenn's Bookshelves and Tirzah of The Compulsive Reader, have spun their online presence into offline work as well as real-life support/assistance to local schools, libraries, and indie bookstores. Which was cool to hear about. The rep from the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance was all about How Bloggers Can Serve Indies, though, which was vaguely offensive to me. I worked in an indie for years, I have three friends who own them, and I AM A FAN: but berating bloggers for linking to Amazon, using the SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL INDIE BECAUSE IT'S THE RIGHT THING TO DO! WHY? BECAUSE I SAY SO. argument, and again, telling us all about what we can do to serve her... it might've been a better pitch for a bookseller's convention.
I did like the idea of promoting local book events, though.
TL;DR: The line about "my pet bloggers" made me want to throw things.
Book Blogging and the "Big" Niches: The panelists were very, very upfront about the fact that they had NO IDEA what their panel was supposed to be about. But they soldiered on, and had good things to say. Or, well, the two bloggers did: the lady from Riffle just talked about... Riffle. Sadly, I have no real notes on this one, as I was too busy making faces at Kelly from the audience to write anything down.
The Closing Keynote: So. Let's just get this out of the way: THE CLOSING KEYNOTE WAS GIVEN BY A CELEBRITY CHILDREN'S BOOK AUTHOR.
A BOOK IN WHICH A LITTLE GIRL LEARNS A LESSON.
I ask you.
Yes, this was a convention for all sorts of book bloggers, but WOW.
She HILARIOUSLY mocked Crazy Cat Ladies (UMMM...) and also people who are so uncool that they watch shows, like, years after they air! (You'd think that such a SAAVY TECH MAVEN would be aware that streaming video has COMPLETELY CHANGED how people watch television, but I'm going to attempt to keep from digressing too much.)
Let's see, what else?
Oh, hell, I can't bear to revisit it. Kelly live-tweeted the whole thing, and it was JUST AS TERRIBLE as she made it out to be:
I've never been to a keynote where I vehemently disagree with every point the speaker makes. I am today.— Kelly Jensen (@catagator) May 29, 2013
If not worse. Seriously. It was... I wanted to stab myself.
Or, you know: drink heavily.
If you are interested in the online kidlit world at all, OH MY GOD, SKIP THIS "CONFERENCE"* AND GET THEE TO KIDLITCON.
*See what I did there? With the quotation marks? Like in their logo? WHEEEEEEEEE! Man, I hope no one punches me at BEA today.