Reaching Readers


This was the program from KidLitCon Providence, March 22-23, 2019

Friday March 22, 2019

7:00 – 9:00am  Set up and registration

9:00 – 9:15am Welcoming remarks from this year’s KidLitCon organizers Charlotte Taylor

9:15am Keynote 1 LeUyen Pham

Concurrent sessions 10:15-11:00am

Overcoming Adversity: Creating Resilient Characters in Children’s Literature

What sorts of books can help young people discover the strength to conquer their fears despite the myriad of obstacles and challenges they face every day? This panel of authors has written books that don’t flinch from the serious issues of today:  racial injustice, poverty, violence, broken families, death and serious illness, foster care, bullying, learning and physical and emotional disabilities, and fitting in – but they do it with characters who shine!  Just as diamonds are formed under pressure, these characters summon grit and determination to face adversity, and discover their own unique potential to fly. Join us as we talk about writing novels on tough topics – and doing it with empathy and grace.

Kimberly Newton Fusco

Leslie Connor

Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Padma Venkatraman

Rebecca Caprara* (She will do Speed Critiques for manuscripts.)

Laurie Smith Murphy (moderator)

STEM Stories

STEM (ScienceTechnology Engineering Math) topics can be a bit dry without a story to give readers an emotional connection to the people, animals, and natural wonders behind them. STEM Stories explores the intersection of STEM and narrative nonfiction as an exciting way to engage young readers through storytelling.

Anita Sanchez* (She will do Speed Critiques of manuscripts)

Richard Ho

Jason Viola

Sara Levine

Heidi Fiedler

Paula Willey (moderator)

Concurrent sessions 11:15 – 12:00pm

Reading Strategies with Multicultural Books

Starting with the big picture of how children process and understand race, this panel show hands-on examples of reading strategies using multicultural books including using Spanish language and Latinx poetry in the classroom and how to set up a diverse book tasting for kids and teens.

Lisa Carroll

Krista Aronson

Emma Otheguy

Lisa Rogers (moderator)

How to Take Great Photos of Books and Grow Instagram Followers

With more than 700 million active users, Instagram is the social media platform for book lovers! But how do you take great photos of books to grow your followers? Two KidLit Bookstagrammers will share their secrets for how to take engaging photos of books. They will also share how they use Instagram as an effective marketing tool for building their brand.

Charnaie Gordon

Lauren Neil* (She will do Speed Critiques for manuscripts.)

Lunch (included in registration)  12:00-1:30pm


Lunch time bonus session–Unlocking the Secrets of SEO with Sheila Ruth, based on the information provided by our original speaker, Amy Fields.

Concurrent sessions 1:30-2:15pm

Not Just the Newbery-All about Awards and Best Book Lists

How are books picked to be on lists and get awards?  What makes a great book, and how much does the intended audience matter?  Who gets to be on award committees? How are awards and book lists useful, and how do you find the ones you need? A panel of folks on awards committees will answer these questions and more!

Shoshana Flax

Anamaria Anderson

Charlotte Taylor

What We’ve Learned as Debut Picture Book Authors

A panel of debut picture book authors share their first year experiences working with their publishers, handling publicity and events, and everything in between.

Jannie Ho* (Will do speed critiques of illustration portfolios)

Gaia Cornwall* (Will do Speed Critiques of manuscripts or illustrations)

Alison Goldberg* (Will do Speed Critiques of manuscripts)

Gina Perry* (Will do Speed Critiques of manuscripts or illustrations)

Emma Otheguy

Charnaie Gordon  (Moderator)

Concurrent sessions 2:30 – 3:15pm

To Market, to Market! Getting your picture book into readers’ hands

Four debut picture book creators from Epic Eighteen share what they have learned about marketing their work, discussing what you can do to bring your book to the attention of readers, educators, bloggers, and parents; ways to share the load by banding together to help one another get the word out; and how to survive the experience intact if the whole endeavor is outside your comfort zone.

Traci Sorell* (She will do Speed Critiques for two picture book manuscripts.)

Michelle Cusolito

Sarah Lynne Reul

Jeanette Bradley

Christy Mihaly* (moderator) (She will do Speed Critiques for two manuscripts)

Teaching, Blogging and Reviewing Books about Social Justice

Powerful stories that deal with social justice issues allow kids to empathize with characters and act as tools to help them better understand complex situations. Three authors share tips about how to evaluate books with social justice themes in terms of accuracy and appeal to young readers, how to use them to educate readers, and how to promote the good ones to as wide an audience as possible, as well as talking about how to write and translate them!

Padma Venkatraman

Lyn Miller-Lachmann

Kip Wilson

Laura M. Jiménez (moderator)

Concurrent sessions 3:30-4:15pm

Big Issues in YA

What are the issues that kids and teens face today and what are the books that represent these issues in literature? Turning to books in a time of crisis helps the reader process their situation. The audience will participate to create a crowdsourced list of issues and book titles.

Chris Tebbetts* (He will do 1-2 Speed Critiques for manuscripts)

Pam Margolis

The State of the Bookshelf for LGBTQ-Positive Picture Books

This panel will take a deep dive into picture books representing LGBTQ families. In looking to the future, they will discuss creating picture books that kids 3-5years from now will need in terms of representation. Help them celebrate the picture books we have, assess what we need, and write for the future.

Megan Dowd Lambert* (She will provide Speed Critiques for  two picture books or early reader manuscripts)

Andrea Loney* (She will provide Speed Critiques for two picture book manuscripts)

Christian Trimmer* (He will provide Speed Critiques for two picture book manuscripts)

Alli Harper

Moderator: Jeanette Bradley* (She will do Speed Critiques of illustration portfolios or picture book manuscripts)

4:15-6:00pm Author meet and mingle. Books will be available for purchase & signing andspeed critiques. This is open to the public.

Speed critiques are limited to registered attendees: The speed critique is a no-prep review of10 pages of a manuscript or 10 illustration images. Please bring your work and wait until the author/illustrator/critiquer has completed the book signing portion before beginning the speed critique. Please be respectful of their time and limit the critique to 15 minutes. Thank you so much!

Saturday, March 23, 2019

7:00 – 9:00am
Setup and registration

9:00-9:05am Welcoming remarks by organizer Charlotte Taylor

9:05am Keynote 2– Varian Johnson

Concurrent sessions 10:00 – 10:50am

Don’t Forget the Chapter Books!

Early chapter books fall in between picture books and middle grade, and they are usually the books that do the heavy lifting to get kids reading independently. The burden is on these authors to get kids to decide that they like to read! This panel explores the unique challenges of writing to this audience, what makes their readers unique, and how they reach and engage their readers.

Debbi Michiko Florence* (She will do Speed Critiques for fiction chapter books or novels- no picture books or nonfiction)

Kara LaReau

Megan Frazer Blakemore* (She will do Speed Critiques for manuscripts)

David. A. Kelly

Jarrett Lerner* (moderator) (He will do Speed Critiques for manuscripts)

Diverse Fantasy in the Real World

Middle grade fantasy set in the real world can be a great escape for young readers, but just as importantly, it can offer new ways of seeing what is “real,” bringing attention to critical issues and making visible histories that maybe aren’t part of the standard curriculum. And of course it’s important that we have books with diverse protagonists to reflect the diversity of the real world; every kid should have the chance at magic! As well as addressing diversity gaps in fantasy, and how to fill them, this panel considers what makes good real world fantasy—how much magic do kids want? What stories resonate, and with whom? And how do gatekeepers know when the fantastical elements in a story warrant putting the little unicorn sticker on the spine, or when the magical realism of a particular culture falls on the side of realistic fiction?

Zetta Elliott

Rajani LaRocca

Anna Meriano

S.R. Toliver (moderator)

Concurrent sessions 11-11:50am

Person, Pacing, and Presentation: What makes a good comic/graphic novel

Comics promote visual literacy as well as reading enjoyment and problem-solving skills. They stand apart because of the interplay between text and image, working together to create the larger narrative. This session unpacks the anatomy and design of graphic novels, and how illustrations enhance the text and vice versa. You’ll never look at comics the same way again!

Mel Schuit

Alex Graudins

Laura M. Jiménez

LeUyen Pham

“You can’t say that in Middle Grade!”

Middle grade fiction covers a wide variety of complex and weighty topics, that in previous years might have pushed books up onto the Young Adult shelves.  How do authors cover such topics while keeping their books “middle grade?” What are examples of books where this is done well, and how can gatekeepers(librarians, teachers, booksellers, publishers, parents) both identify these books and justify curating them?  The importance of addressing tough issues, and what issues and topics might still be considered “taboo”, will also be discussed.

Ann Braden

Paula Chase

Barbara Dee

Varian Johnson

Jo Knowles

Katy Kramp (moderator)

11:50 – 1:30pm

Lunch (included in registration)


Lunch Time bonus- Book Blogger Salon, with Charlotte Taylor

Kidlitcon was begun more than ten years ago specifically to bring bloggers together, and this salon will continue that tradition, giving bloggers a chance to meet, discuss the state of blogging today, and share ideas about what makes it worthwhile.

Concurrent sessions 1:30-2:15pm

Reaching Readers: Part 1 Getting Your Book to Kids (industry and author perspectives)

Great books need great readers; great readers need great books. But how to get the two together? This panel of authors and professional publicists and book promoters talk about strategies they use to get books into the hands of gatekeepers(teachers, librarians, reviewers, booksellers, and family), and strategies that the gatekeepers can use to make the process of discovering the right books for their kids more effective.

Anika Denise

Debbie Kovacs

Barbara Fisch

Josh Funk* (He will do one Speed Critique for a picture book manuscript)

Lee Wind (moderator and panelist)

The Illustrated Middle Grade

Pictures aren’t just for little kids!  Illustrations can be an important part of books for older readers too. This session talks about how the illustration process works, how illustrations add value to even text heavy books, how illustrations impact a book’s kid appeal, and how reviewers can think critically and usefully about the illustrations and their interplay with the text.

Christopher Denise

Chris Tebbetts

Anamaria Anderson (moderator)

Concurrent sessions 2:30 – 3:15pm

Reaching Readers Part II: The Gatekeepers

This panel continues the discussion on how to reach readers from the perspectives of librarians, teachers, and booksellers.  How do you get the right book to the right kid? What strategies help you figure out what makes a book “right”? Gender, diversity, politics, and economics all come into play, making these simple questions a lot more complicated than they might seem at first!

Sam Musher

Melissa Fox

Carla Molina

Cindy Rodriguez

Karen Yingling (moderator)

Solving Great Mysteries

This panel will give you all the clues you need to unlock great mysteries for young readers!  How does the mystery format differ from other sub-genres, and how does this affect which young readers will find mysteries most appealing, and how mysteries can be effectively used in classrooms? How much violence is acceptable in a mystery for kids–and how, for instance,are guns portrayed?  How much realism do kids want/need in a mystery story, and how can/should adult gatekeepers suspend their own disbelief when realism goes flying? And finally, what’s the state of mysteries for kids today with regards to real world issue, like gender and diversity?

Sheela Chari

Erin Dionne

David A. Kelly

Diana Renn (moderator)

Concurrent sessions 3:30-4:15pm

The Frightful Fantastic

Fantasy fiction often gets to go to the kind of perilous places that realistic fiction for middle grade readers can’t even approach. Dead and undead characters,evil antagonists and twisted magic are enjoyed by many young readers. What doesfrightening content give kids and teens, and how can fantasy put peril to workin telling stories? How much scariness is “age appropriate”, and how cangatekeepers (librarians, teachers, booksellers) know when it becomes too muchfor readers?

Tui T. Sutherland

Antoine Revoy

David Neilsen

S.R. Toliver

Moderator: Paula Willey

A Dash of Play and a Sprinkle of Surprise

CreatorsNancy Tupper Ling, Isabel Roxas, Oge Mora, and Janet Bates discuss the inspiration, exercises, and rituals they incorporate into their creative practices in order to keep things fresh for their readers and themselves. Where do we discover/uncover ideas for our stories?  How do we add spice to our revision/edits? How do we bring creativity into the marketing of our books?

Nancy Tupper Ling* (She will do Speed Critiques for picture book manuscripts)

Isabel Roxas* (She will do speed critiques of illustrator portfolios)

Oge Mora

Janet Costa Bates

Kirsten Cappy (moderator)

4:15-6:00pm Author meet and mingle. Books will be available for purchase & signing and speed critiques.

This is open to the public.

Speed critiques are limited to registered attendees: The speed critique is a no-prep review of10 pages of a manuscript or 10 illustration images. Please bring your work and wait until the author/illustrator/critiquer has completed the book signing portion before beginning the speed critique. Please be respectful of their time and limit the critique to 15 minutes. Thank you so much!