Thursday, March 02, 2006

Thinking BIG

I've been thinking a lot lately about book promotion and the relationship between librarians, booksellers, authors and schools.

It started when I attended the awards ceremony for an excellent young writers' competition hosted by our county library system and Reading Reptile. There's a reason Reading Reptile was voted the best bookstore in the country last year. They get it. (By the way, look at what's coming up next. They are hosting the DNA Litfest the weekend of March 30th. Some heavy-hitters are coming to town!)

Later that week, Susan Taylor Brown sent me a link to the Children's Literature Network. I've been dragging my feet, but I intend to join. This organization brings authors, illustrators, booksellers, librarians, teachers--everyone involved with children's literature--together. While many of their current members are from Minnesota, you'll see they are seeking members from everywhere. You might also notice that they host a lot of literacy events, author events, book signings, and that they have a lot of marketing resources that their members will find helpful.

Today, I picked up a copy of one of those local children's magazines that sits in the entry to every kid-oriented establishment in the city. As far as free magazines go, the quality is good, but most parents read it for the ads. Ya gotta know what's going on in the wonderful land of Oz! They are hosting a writing competition for young children. Smart business people that they are, there's an ad sales tie in--the company that will provide savings bonds to the winner.

So, I'm sitting here looking at all this stuff, and I'm thinking there has to be a way to get all these people to communicate. It would be nice to start a regional organization to host some awesome events and boost everyone's visibility. It would be a big win for everyone who supports children's literacy.

But, who has the time to start or maintain another organization? Not me. I need to work on getting published (Yes, I know it's strange to think of all these things with no contract in hand, but that's how my mind works when it comes to this stuff. I'm usually thinking three steps ahead of where I am.)

I'm not sure what the answer is. I'm guessing this situation is not just a local/regional "problem."

In my dreams I'd love to see an event co-sponsored by SCBWI, JWKC, the Kansas City Star, an independent bookseller, and...dreaming big about the state library association, a University and the State Board of Education in Kansas in Missouri. (Realistically, I know we can't get this many groups to cooperate, but it is my dream.)

We'd host a gigantic literacy festival. Authors and illustrators would demo their school visit programs to give librarians and teachers a taste of what they have to offer. Booksellers and libraries in both states (Kansas City sits on a state line, for those of you who don't live here) would feature books from participating authors.

  • At the event, we'd push the teaching guides.
  • We'd have coupons consumers could exchange for a special gift when they go into the bookstore to buy a book by one of the featured authors.
  • We'd host a youth writing competition
  • We'd have mini-lessons that kids could atttend to hear authors and illustrators speak and to learn how to write or illustrate.
  • There would be snacks and entertainment and activities related books by participating authors.

It would be a three-ring circus with the best, most engaging, book presentations you've ever seen.

What do you think? What's going on in your community to bring everyone together to support children's literacy? What can or should be done?

Edited to add: The fabulous Elizabeth C Bunce also provided this link to this weekend's Children's Literature Festival in Warrensburg, MO. If you go, or if you've been there before, I'd love you to tell me all about it. It looks similar to what I imagined above. I wonder why I just heard about it today? Cool!

Edited again: Don Tate posted this link to Staple, the Independent Media Expo. Read the description, this looks very similar to what I was thinking. Shoulda known it would be in Austin! Read this description and think KIDS to imagine how this could work in your area as a Kids' Expo: An event to promote independent creative media: comics, mini-comics, zines, art, and self-published literature. Building a community to encourage communication between creators and their audience. All the while having a damn good time in the Live Music Capital of the World - Austin, TX.

Edited yet again: My friend Sharon directed me to the Texas Book Festival. YES! This is what I'm thinking! It is on a larger scale than I thought (look at the major sponsors!), but I did say THINK BIG! I'd love to check this out. Maybe I can get some KC writers to roadtrip with me next year!


At 12:13 PM, Blogger tem2 said...

I'd attend.

At 12:17 AM, Blogger Disco Mermaids said...

You have me both inspired and depressed. Inspired by all that’s happening in your area...depressed that it’s not happening in mine. I work at a county library and I love the idea of a contest for young writers. I’ll definitely be speaking to our children’s librarians about it.

Keep thinking BIG!

- Jay

At 9:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Kim,

Have you looked at the Texas State Book Festival? I'm sure there's a web site. Laura Bush started it years ago when she was just the governor's wife. Its a very big deal now and always has a separate children's section. Its always in Austin, you've inspired me to take the kids this year.

At 9:30 PM, Blogger Don Tate II said...

Kim, sorry I missed this. I think Staple, or something like it would be great for kids. Would give them hands-on experience creating, writing, and illustrating stories.And they could sell them. The only reason I was disappointed in Staples was because these were adults and they weren't really making much money. but, for kids, I highly recommend.

At 9:32 PM, Blogger Don Tate II said...

And, hey, hope you do. It would be great to meet you. You'd love TBF. Many authors, and you get to hear them speak, ask questions, and buy their books to have them sign. Children's books, too, plenty. But mostly adults.


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