Announcement: We’re Blogger Award Winners… Again!

We are once again humbled and honored to announce that our blog has been nominated for an award! The Versatile Blogger Award is an award that “… consider[s] the quality of the writing, the uniqueness of the subjects covered, the level of love displayed in the words on the virtual page. (source)”

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The Rules of the Versatile Blogger Award (as taken and quoted from their website):

  •  Thank the person who gave you this award. That’s common courtesy.
  •  Include a link to their blog. That’s also common courtesy — if you can figure out how to do it.
  •  Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly. ( I would add, pick blogs or bloggers that are excellent!)
  •  Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award — you might include a link to this site.
  •  Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

So first and foremost, we want to give a big thanks to Denny at his blog The Ceaseless Reader Writes, who was kind enough to nominate us for this blogging award. Kate and Denny connected because they had both read and reviewed the book “Cold Calling.” He is a voracious reader and poet, who along with reading enjoys going outdoors and writes poetry. Definitely check that blog out!

So seven things about ourselves. Since there are two of us, we will each take three on our own, and then will share the last fact together.

Kate’s Facts:

  1. Along with reading, I also greatly enjoy landscape photography. I’m no Ansel Adams by any means, but I like to take photos of all kinds of landscapes whenever I travel.
  2. I like going to Sci-Fi/Fantasy conventions, and yeah, I do the occasional cosplay. The most recent cosplay I’ve done is Edina Monsoon (and a friend of mine was Patsy Stone) from “Absolutely Fabulous”.
  3. I used to work at two historic sites in the Twin Cities, Historic Fort Snelling, and the Alexander Ramsey House. At the Ramsey House during the holiday season I usually was in charge of baking cookies on a wood burning stove. No lie.

Serena’s Facts:

  1. Another hobby of mine is cross-stitching. Yes, I am well on my way to fulfilling all of the cat lady requirements. Life goals! I am currently working on a massive project depicting scenes from most of Shakespeare’s plays. It has already taken years, and will take many more to finish, but I love it.
  2. I do, on occasion, venture out of the house. In fact, my husband and I both very much enjoy hiking and camping. We’re taking a trip to Glacier National Park this coming fall and are very excited about it.
  3. Before librarianship, I’ve worked in a lot of weird jobs: community fire brigade, wilderness EMT, bus driver, house keeper, cooking at a bakery, newspaper copy editor, and last and definitely least, Subway “sandwich artist.”

Joint Fact:

  1. We are on a weekly trivia team together with our husbands and a couple other friends. One of us is helpful (Kate). And one of is…less so (Serena). Serena’s just there for the wine, let’s be honest.

We Nominate:

The Perpetual Page-Turner

On Starships and Dragonwings

Dark Wolf’s Paraphernalia

Navigating Neverland

Fine Print

The Middle Shelf

Sci-Fi Fan Letter

Rinn Reads

The Untitled Book Blog

ReadRetRead Podcast

Kristen Twardowski

YAPS!

Bec’s Books

Books That Shook Us

Book V Book (Note: This site hasn’t updated in awhile, but it is still a great idea!)

Once again we are so thankful to those of you who follow us, and to Denny, who gave us this shout out.

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Thank you and good day. (source)

 

Serena’s ALAAC17 Experience: Books I Got

Over this past weekend, we had the honor to attending the Annual American Library Association Conference in Chicago, Illinois. ALAAC17 was a get together of librarians from all over the country (and in some cases the world) to come together and celebrate libraries, literacy, books, and information sciences. This week we are going to share with you the things that we saw, the things we did, and the books that we got that we are the most excited for.

Serena’s Top 5 Books from ALAAC 2017

33158525“Wishtree” by Katherine Applegate

As we all know, I am a massive fan of Applegate’s Animorphs series, and for a long time, that’s all I ever knew here as. It wasn’t until I was in library school and her Newbery Medal award winning book “The One and Only Ivan” was assigned as a reading requirement that she came back on my radar. It was pretty shocking to me, in a lot of ways. I mean, I always knew she was a great author, but the Animorphs books, rightly and not rightly, were not thought of as “high literature” for kids and teens. So it was thrilling to see her literary talents on display in KIMG0622a manner that couldn’t be poo-pooed away as just all that sci-fi nonsense. All of that said, once I knew she’d be at ALA, I gathered up my favorite Animrophs book and got in line. The book she was signing is her latest middle grade novel, “Wishtree,” a story told from the perspective of “Red” an ancient oak tree that has come to be known as the wishtree by those in its neighborhood. When a new family moves into the area, Red learns how important wishes are for those who aren’t always welcomed everywhere they go. Also…I got a picture with her and it was so exciting! I was at my all time most fangirling state ever.

83067411“Thick as Thieves” by Megan Whalen Turner

I got to meet Megan Whalen Turner twice, not counting the third time when I got to listen to her present at a panel! It was all super exciting for me, a long-time fan of her “The Queen’s Thief” series. It’s been around 5 years since her last book came out, and there’s typically a rather lengthy period between the publication dates of her novels. To me, this just builds the anticipation. But I felt so bad for her! Both at the book signing and at the YA Coffee Klatch where I met her a second time, she was busy apologizing for the long wait for her book and I just wanted to hug her and be like “Stop apologizing! We’d all wait forever for your next book! They’re THAT good, and if it takes longer to write them to maintain the ridiculous level of quality to storytelling that you have, don’t apologize for it!” Her latest story features Kamet, who we met several books ago, and who is the personal slave to a Mede diplomat. Slave or not, Kamet sees a bright future of power and control coming his way, as he is soon to be given to the heir to the emperor. All of this goes out of the window when his master is murdered and he is blamed for it and must go on the run with an Attolian soldier, fleeing to the backwards kingdom of Attolia itself with its ridiculous thief-made-puppet-King, Gen. Expect a review for this one coming up soon, as I’ve already dived in!

32991569“Jane, Unlimited” by Kristen Cashore

I’ve been a fan of Kristen Cashore since devouring “Graceling” many years ago. I then proceeded to read the next two novels in the series, and have been waiting for a new story from her since! It’s been a while since she’s written anything or appeared anywhere, so meeting here at ALA was very exciting. She also spoke on a panel I attended and had some interesting thoughts on what it means to write YA and whether young adult readers are really that different from adults. At the same panel, one women asked (rather inappropriately since the panel was a general session, not a meet and greet with the specific authors there….conference 19429839_10154357686492757_3387062802618176631_netiquette lesson!) whether the ARC version of “Jane, Unlimited” had the chapters in the right order (yes, ARCs are uncorrected but not THAT bad!), and Kristen said she wasn’t surprised to be asked. So, now I’m very curious about this book! From the description, it seems like a fairly straight forward story of a girl who is in mourning for the loss of her caretaker and Aunt who died several months ago, when she gets caught up in the glamours, and dangerous, lives of a wealthy family. Excited to read it and find out what’s what!

29246020“Skythe” by Neal Shusterman

The story behind this one was of me walking past a super short line for a signed copy of this book, thinking to myself, “Man, I shouldn’t, I already have too many,” then meeting Neal Shusterman at the YA Coffee Klatch and hearing all about this book which sounded amazing and having all the regrets. I then went back to the booth and was lucky enough to snag a copy, but I missed out big time on that signature opportunity! Shusterman described the idea of this book as his desire to right about what the world would look like after we’ve solved many of the problems we struggle with today. Notably, we’ve cured ageing and it is possible to live forever. To deal with population control, scythes came into existence: an organization dedicated to randomly killing off people. The story follows Citra and Rowan who have been apprenticed to a scythe and are now facing the challenge of what it means to take on this role. Definitely sounds intriguing, so big points to Shusterman for a successful book talk that snagged my interest!

29749085“Wonder Woman: Warbringer” by Leigh Bardugo

Take a guess as to what book on this list was the one that Kate teased up yesterday? Shocking no one, it is “Wonder Woman: Warbringer.” This book has been on my list ever since I heard about it and when I saw a massive crowd gathering around a booth at ALA, I wandered over and was not at all surprised to see that it was this book inciting the hysteria. I snuck my way in and was able to nab a copy for both me and Kate. I don’t think I need to go into much detail about why I’m excited for this book, cuz…obviously. It’s an added perk that this one is written by Leigh Bardugo. This book is the first of a foursome of DC heroes who are getting novel adaptations in a “DC Icons” run, and I have some feelings about the authors chosen to write the other books (notably “Catwoman”s author being Sarah J. Maas whose books have left me pretty frustrated in the past.) But Bardugo is a solid choice, and I’m excited to see what angle she takes for Diana’s tale.

And that’s it, folks! Our week of ALA-related posts has come to an end. Next week we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming with our July Highlights post and more book reviews! Have a happy Fourth of July weekend to all of our U.S. readers!

Kate’s ALAAC17 Experience: Books I Got

Over this past weekend, we had the honor of attending the Annual American Library Association Conference in Chicago, Illinois. ALAAC17 was a get together of librarians from all over the country (and in some cases the world) to come together and celebrate libraries, literacy, books, and information sciences. This week we are going to share with you the things that we saw, the things we did, and the books that we got that we are the most excited for.

Kate’s Top 5 Books from ALAAC 2017

15797848“There’s Someone Inside Your House” by Stephanie Perkins

This book is being described as “YA meets “Scream””, so you know that I am one hundred percent here for it. Students at a high school called Osbourne High are being picked off one by one and murdered in increasingly horrific ways. New girl Makani finds herself in the middle of it all, wondering if she will be next. But Makani has secrets of her own that she is trying to forget. Now she may have to confront her past as well as a killer. I went looking for horror and thrillers at this convention when it came to to the books that I wanted to come home with, and I feel like I found it and then some with this book. It’s been on my personal radar for awhile, and I was absolutely stoked when I was able to get a copy of it to take home. It’s not easy to find slasher horror that translates well to the page, so I am really hoping that Perkins can make it work.

24974996“Dear Martin” by Nic Stone

I really, REALLY enjoyed “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas, and when I heard that she had really good things to say about “Dear Martin”, I knew that I needed to keep an eye out for it. It’s a story that feels all to real and relevant, with more and more stories in the news of African Americans being victimized by the police, which means it’s all the more important. Justyce is an A student filled to the brim with extracurriculars and a bright future. But all the police officer to puts him in handcuffs sees is the color of his skin. While Justyce is released without charges, he’s completely shaken up by his experience. He starts to feel the derision and contempt from his classmates and those around him at school, and so to cope he starts a diary in which he writes letters to Martin Luther King Jr. Given that here in Minnesota we are still feeling the fallout from the Philando Castille/Jeronimo Yanez verdict, this feels like a book that I need to read ASAP.

32957193“When I Am Through With You” by Stephanie Kuehn

When I asked the publisher rep about “There’s Someone Inside Your House”, one of them said that if I wanted that one she had another one in mind for me. When she handed me Stephanie Kuehn’s new book “When I Am Through With You” I started jumping up and down. As you all know, I LOVE Stephanie Kuehn’s novels, as they take gritty and dark thriller lit and expertly make it seamlessly YA. And this one is a CAMPING TRIP NIGHTMARE!! ONE OF MY FAVORITE THINGS! When a group of teenagers go camping, something goes terribly wrong. Now Ben is in jail, and while he isn’t claiming it to be a confession, he is saying he will say what happened to Rose, even though he isn’t sorry about what he did. He tells the tale of what happened on the camping trip, who lived, who died, and potentially why. Kuehn is so good at exploring the psyches of messed up and tragic people, and I am very excited to have this one on my shelf.

31123250“Ravenous” by Amy Lukavics

If you recall, I absolutely LOVED Lukavics’ book “Daughters Unto Devils”, but was a bit underwhelmed by her other book “Women in the Walls”. That said, I know that she has a serious talent for writing straight up horror for teenagers, and so I’m more than willing to give “Ravenous” a try. The Canes are a seemingly put together and loving military family, but the reality is the sisters hate each other, their father is always gone, and their mother is lost in her own world of sadness and addiction. But when Rose Cane, the youngest sister of the bunch, dies tragically, the sisters are completely ruined… Until Rose comes back to life, and has a need to eat human flesh. Now the Cane sisters need to figure out how badly they want to keep their family together. ZOMBIES, GUYS.

30251972“Strange Weather” by Joe Hill

As I am sure you guys can imagine, when I saw that “Strange Weather” by Joe Hill was available at ALA I practically screamed. Hill is one of my favorite authors writing today, and I have been aching for this book since I finished “The Fireman” last year. In this book Hill is kind of taking a page from his father’s work structure wise, as it’s four novellas combined into one book. They sound like they run the gamut from the bittersweet to the scary, the surreal and whimsical to the disturbing and finite. A camera erases memories. A cloud is solid and traps a skydiver. The sky rains nails. A man stops a mass shooting but loses his sanity. I just know that Hill is going to write all of these stories with a deft hand and deep insight, and that I will no doubt end up curled up on the floor rocking back and forth either because I’m so freaked out, or because it’s so damn good.

Tomorrow Serena will be giving her book highlights. Keep an eye out, because there is one on there that I got as well and that I’m VERY excited for along with these. Suffice to say, ALAAC17 was a success all around, and I am so glad that we were able to go and experience all parts of it.

 

 

Serena’s ALAAC17 Experience: What I Saw

Over this past weekend, we had the honor of attending the Annual American Library Association Conference in Chicago, Illinois. ALAAC17 was a get together of librarians from all over the country (and in some cases the world) to come together and celebrate libraries, literacy, books, and information sciences. This week we are going to share with you the things that we saw, the things we did, and the books that we got that we are the most excited for.

Serena’s Top 3 Events from ALAAC 2017

As Kate said, this wasn’t our first rodeo at the massive library festival that is the ALA annual conference. In many ways, I feel like this fact allowed me to more fully enjoy this experience. If anything, knowing the ins and outs of things saved me a lot of time standing in lines when I knew better the tips and tricks for when to get where and how early. This was also my first trip to Chicago, and other than the nightmare traffic (thank God Kate was driving and handled all the challenges of massive city driving with aplomb), I very much enjoyed experiencing the culture the city had to offer. As Kate also mentioned, we went with largely the same group of library friends this time around. And, again, being the second go-around I think this opened up more pathways for everyone to pursue panels/speakers/author signings as they wished rather than needing to move in a massive, terrified-by-Vegas-and-the-crazy-convention-crowds group that we did before. I had a great time hanging out with all of my library friends at these various events! But, as I can’t highlight them all, here are my top three! (My phone takes awful pictures, so you’ll have to excuse the lack of photography for my post, unlike Kate’s!)

“Generation Gap: Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors Look at Youth and Technology” Panel

19510464_10154357686052757_2124766542408213575_nSo, I’ll be honest, the main reason I slotted this panel into my schedule was because I discovered that this would be the one and only place where V.E. Schwab would be signing copies of her books. But, that less-library-oriented-than-it-should-be reason for attendance aside, I was pleasantly surprised by the content of the panel itself and the variety of topics related to technology, libraries, and publishing that were covered. Open access, gaming, and publishing challenges with DRM (digital rights management) were all topics that were brought up and discussed, both from the perspective of the authors on the panel, and through comments by the librarians in attendance. Many of these questions didn’t have clear answers, which was part of what made this panel stand out in my mind. The authors on the panel were:

“Problem Solving: Teaching STEM with Comics” Panel

audubon-cover-rgbOn Friday, before the true madness began, there was a whole day of sessions targeted towards different subjects having to do with comics and graphic novels. While I went in mostly interested in a later panel that had to do with how graphic novels can be catalysts for change in society, looking back, this panel focusing on non-fiction graphic novels really stood out. I’m not a huge non-fiction reader myself, but coming from that perspective, I can see the huge potential for using graphic novels as a way to introduce non-fiction topics in a way that will appeal to readers who may feel intimidated by traditional non-fiction publishing. Specifically, it was noted how graphic novels allow authors to deep-dive into a very specific topic, but leave them free to not provide an entire history of other elements that may surround it, as many non-fiction biographies and histories are almost required to do. I unfortunately failed to take good notes this early in the conference, but “Audubon” and “Inconegro” and “The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation” were a few that were mentioned.

2017 Alex Awards Panel

29093776Kate and I ended up at this one purely based on the unadulterated fun that we had at the Las Vegas conference when we got the sheer pleasure of hearing John Searles present (supposedly) about his book “Help for the Haunted.” What we got instead was, in his own words, “reckless gossip!” and it was amazing. So, while we knew that this previous experience was probably an outlier from what Alex Award panels are typically like, we knew we’d have to slot this one in anyways. There were shockingly few slide shows that involved Zumba instructors in giant Jack-o-lantern tank tops, but it was still quite interesting all the same. I hadn’t heard of many of the authors on the panel, and now have an even longer reading list due to this event. One common feature that became clear was the need for honesty in young adult literature. Teens aren’t looking for the harsh truths of life to be glossed over for them, and many of these authors’ works tackled serious topics in an upfront manner, presumably a trait that contributed to their winning this award. The authors on the panel were:

Next up, Kate’s top five books that she nabbed while at the conference!

 

 

Kate’s ALAAC17 Experience: What I Saw

Over this past weekend, we had the honor of attending the Annual American Library Association Conference in Chicago, Illinois. ALAAC17 was a get together of librarians from all over the country (and in some cases the world) to come together and celebrate libraries, literacy, books, and information sciences. This week we are going to share with you the things that we saw, the things we did, and the books that we got that we are the most excited for.

Kate’s Top 3 Events from ALAAC 2017

Ah, ALAAC (American Library Association Annual Conference). The conference where librarians come together to mingle, educate, and get a sneak preview of books that are coming out in the near future, as well as meet the authors who write them. This isn’t my first ALA experience, as in 2014 I went with Serena and our friends from library school. That time it was in Las Vegas, a city that seems like a strange choice for librarians. The good news is that we got into some odd shenanigans at the Pepper Mill and have many stories to tell. This time, however, it was in Chicago, and the deep dish pizza was far more appetizing than the desert scorch. It was mostly the same group that went again this year, though since it was the second time for most of us we knew the ins and outs of the convention and what to expect. In this post I will talk about the three things I saw that I liked the most.

Gene Luen Yang Speaking

genluenGene Luen Yang is a pretty formidable guy. Not only does he write acclaimed comics such as “American Born Chinese”, “Boxers and Saints”, and “The Shadow Hero”, he is also the current National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. His big project with this is the ‘Reading Without Walls Challenge’, in which he encourages young people to go outside their usual comfort levels when it comes to reading and to try reading 1) a book about someone who doesn’t look or live like you, 2) a book about a topic you don’t know much about, or 3) a book in format you don’t normally read for fun. He is an inspired speaker and absolutely charming, and hearing him talk about how he started writing comics was heartfelt and inspirational. Plus, he totally passed me during a panel and said a polite ‘hello’ to me, which seriously made my day. He had a lot to say about the need for diversity and windows and mirrors in children’s literature, and he also had some really fun and insightful things to say about Superman vs Batman. Basically, I love this guy and loved that I got to see him. 

The Young Adult Author Coffee Klatch

yacoffeeThe last time we went to ALAAC we participated in the YA Coffee Klatch, in which YA authors visit your table for five minutes and talk about their most recent book. I basically had a heart attach when Marcus Sedgwick sat at our table last time. This time, not only did I have one heart attack, I had multiple, because we got some SERIOUSLY AWESOME authors to sit with us. When the first one to sit down was Neal Shusterman to talk about his book “Scythe”, it was already worth it. But then we also got to hear from Kwame Alexander and Nnedi Okorafor, two other really big authors. Seeing as I LOVED the book “Akata Witch” and am excited for Alexander’s upcoming “Solo”, it felt like we had hit the jackpot with this coffee klatch this year. Though we only scratched the surface of the people that we got to see, we still got some good titles to look forward to, or to pick up already (I still need to get my hands on “Scythe,” and this just reminded me of that). And plus, I’m never going to say no to free coffee, especially when we have to get up early.

The Booklist 50 Years of YA Panel

yapanelOkay, so yeah, it’s all pretty YA oriented for me, but that is my passion as a librarian, and once again there was a great panel about the topic. Daniel José Older, Kristin Cashore, Brandy Colbert, Nicola Yoon, Neal Shusterman, Deborah Heiligman, and Megan Whalen Turner all gave their insights into the genre that they write, past, present, and future. Given that I LOVE Shusterman and Yoon, this was bound to be a winner from the get go. But everyone had some really good things to say about teens, the genre as a whole, and where it should go (as in to keep striving for diversity). It was a very good opportunity to see some of the best in the business.

Next up from me is hearing about the five top books I got at ALA that I’m most excited for. Because yes, this is also the kind of event where not only do you get free books, you get books that haven’t even come out yet. But before that, Serena is going to tell you the cool things that she did while at ALAAC 2017!!

Announcement: We’re Blogger Award Winners!

So imagine our surprise and flattery when Steve D. from Redstring Paper Cuts gave us the Blogger Recognition Award (which we presume is a recognition of badassery and awesomeness).

bloggeraward

Our blog is a year old and it’s really something we’re quite proud of, so to receive an award for it is so incredibly humbling and gratifying. Major, major thanks to Steve D. We’re truly honored.

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But unlike Frank Cross, we mean it. (source)

So to officially accept this award there are certain steps that we have to go through. We’ve covered thanking the person who nominated us. The next is to write a post showing the award. And the rest are as follows:

How Did This Blog Get Started?

We have been friends since we met at our graduate program for Library and Information Sciences, and as one would imagine, we both love to read. Serena had the idea that we should put together a blog of book reviews, reader’s advisory, lists, and various other booky things, and Kate agreed. For a year now we’ve been doing this and have really enjoyed the collaboration and the fun that it has brought, as well as all the reading it’s encouraged us to do.

Two Pieces of Advice for New Bloggers

  1. Blog about things you are passionate about. Reading is a huge part of our jobs, but it’s also one of our favorite hobbies in our spare time, so I look forward to writing reviews and lists and posts about reading, books, and librarianship. And make sure to set time for it at designated times a week, because it’s easy to get frazzled and behind if you’re hoping to post consistently. If you make time, it will happen. – Kate
  2. Don’t fret too much about having a unique “voice” in your writing. As a reader of other book blogs, I was always very impressed by the creative and entertaining styles of other reviewers. This, in turn, intimidated me when I began reviewing books myself. I felt pressured to come up with some clever “take” on things. As it turns out, if you write enough, your own natural voice/style will emerge. Be patient with this process. Writing is like any other hobby/skill: with practice comes results. And there is always room to continue growing (which is a relief for those times that writer’s block sets in and you begin questioning how you ever managed to write anything before). – Serena

We Nominate…

Kristen Twardowski : She’s not only one of our favorite fellow bloggers,  she’s a very insightful writer with a well written blog about writing and literature. Kristen is great and you should check her out!

The Untitled Book Blog: Donna is a passionate reader who reviews the books in her TBR pile on this site. Solidarity with fellow book bloggers!

Bookish Feminist: Kate’s friend Sarah has a blog that follows the feminist books she and her book club have been reading. There’s a social justice bent to her list and it has lots of great recommendations.

YAPS!: This YA blogger and fellow librarian covers a wide breadth of YA books. This blog is fun to read for a couple of YA nuts like us, and has some great insights into YA fiction.

Storyscope: Marianne is another relatively new blogger on the scene, but her great writing voice and similar taste in reading material (shout out to “Anna Dressed in Blood” and “The Name of the Wind”) makes her blog one of the many that we check out.

Escape Into a Book Site: This blog covers romance fiction more than anything, and as a genre that we don’t cover here but do read occasionally, it’s a good one to check out!

Bec’s Books: This blog is fairly new too, but Bec is a passionate book blogger who reviews stacks of books on this blog, as well as talking about books she wants to read and books she has in her possession.

Book V Book: Another new site, but this one is very fun and spunky. The two bloggers who run it each pick a book from a similar genre, and each make the case as to why their book would win the book fight. It’s funny and well thought out.

 

NerdCon Stories 2016!

Hey readers! Kate here! We’re shaking things up with the Monday blog post, as I was
presented with a rather unique opportunity this past weekend. Serena and I are based in Minnesota, as you all know, and the Second Annual NerdCon: Stories, occurred on Friday and Saturday in Minneapolis. Though Serena was unable to attend with me, as she was out of town, I went wi20161014_152656_hdrth our dear friend Alicia, a fellow librarian and former classmate of ours. So I thought that I would write about this convention and what Alicia and I did while we were there.

 

So what is NerdCon: Stories you may ask. John and Hank Green, two brothers (one of whom is an author, known for “Looking for Alaska” and “The Fault In Our Stars”, and both of whom run a podcast together) founded a convention based on the idea of storytelling. It gathers for two days and brings in authors, musicians, poets, and many other people from many walks of life to talk about the importance of storytelling. It was held in the Minneapolis Convention center, spread out across many rooms and event spaces. I will be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect. Alicia sent me her schedule asking if I’d put mine together, and I responded with ‘Uhhhh….?’ Content to just follow Alicia around, I let her take the wheel and let myself just float from place to place, taking it all in.

20161015_123307_hdr
“Storytelling in Tabletop Gaming” panel.

 

One of the most prominent events of this convention was a large amount of panels. Many of them were about storytelling, though there were also panels where authors took the wheel, or panels about librarianship, or panels about different kinds of storytelling. I attended a few, and the ones that stood out for me were “Storytelling in Table Top Gaming”, and the two randomly generated panels “Lightning” and “Wild Cards”, where the audience came up with topics for various authors to speak on. As someone who just likes hearing authors talk about many different random things, I enjoyed hearing the likes of Paolo Bacigalupi, Patrick Rothfuss, Wesley Chu, and Mikki Kendall talk about foods they like, Halloween costumes, and childhood stories. But then in “Storytelling in Table Top Gaming” we had various gamers and storytellers (including John Darnielle, author of one of my fave books of last year “Wolf in White Van”) talking about how D&D and other role playing games can also tell stories, which is something that some may not think about. I’m a huge tabletop game fan, so this was my favorite panel of the convention.

 

20161015_110155_hdr-1There were also various opportunities to have social and networking moments. Alicia and I attended a library and librarian meet up group, where we ended up talking about different aspects of librarianship and what we do in our libraries. At the end of this group meet we were exchanging contact info with other librarians, connections that we may use in the future, or maybe not. But even if we don’t it was a rewarding little meet up group. Along with networking, we did have opportunities to meet different authors who attended the convention, and get them to sign their books. As an avid book lover and someone who has been collecting autographs since ALA 2014, this opportunity was an exciting one! I asked Cindy Pon to sign a book for me (“Silver Phoenix”, a YA fantasy novel with a BEAUTIFUL cover), and I asked John Scalzi to sign a copy of “Redshirts” for my husband (he gave him a very funny personal message too, which was very cool). The signings were well coordinated and I didn’t have to wait long at either signing, and both Pon and Scalzi were very kind and talkative when talking with the convention-goers.

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We do rock, Cindy! Thank you!

By and large, however, my favorite events were the Variety Shows that happened twice a day. Presenters could present on whatever they wanted to, so you could either get authors reading from their works (such as Daniel José Older, John Scalzi, and Cindy Pon), or giving presentations on topics of their choice (like Joe DeGeorge talking about “Mrs. Pac Man” or John Green talking about Mental Illness and Creativity), or having an author conversation

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Patrick Rothfuss and Wesley Chu.

on stage (like Patrick Rothfuss and Wesley Chu talking about video games). Or participating in a lip sync battle. Yeah. That did happen. These moments were fun and relaxing, and while it never felt totally cohesive it did showcase a lot of different and mostly interesting pieces that I enjoyed. One of the more powerful moments was a presentation on undocumented immigration and how undocumented immigrants are trying to tell their own stories now, and how important their stories are. I didn’t expect this kind of presentation, but I was really happy to see it.

 

 

And finally, one of the most important things of a convention, in my opinion, is the SWAG you can get! I love going to the expo and dealer rooms of conventions I go to so I can 1) get good information, 2) make connections with interesting people, and 3) get cool stuff to bring home and treasure! I’d be lying if I said that that I didn’t value point three higher than the rest. 20161015_152004_hdrNot only did we get signed books, we randomly met up with audiobook narrator Kate Rudd and she gave us signed copies of a few mp3 CDs of books she’s done, all because we did her a solid! The expo area at NerdCon was smaller than other conventions I’ve been to, but boy were there a lot of books for sale, sometimes by the authors themselves. There were also tables being manned by local book related organizations, from Ramsey County Library to the St. Catherine MLIS Program. I got myself a cute necklace that has a tiny little version of the book “Emma” on it, as Emma (well fine, Cher Horowitz) is my personal hero. Lots of really cute trinkets, though probably not as much to see as you might at other conventions.

So is NerdCon Stories coming back next year? That isn’t totally clear at the moment. Attendance was down and it seems that it wasn’t the success that the organizers really wanted it to be. I think that a few factors kind of conspired against it this year. One is that the Twin Cities Book Festival was going on this past weekend as well, which also has lots of books and really neat authors to meet. Plus, NerdCon did have a pretty pricey attendance fee, about one hundred dollars for two days (one of which is Friday, typically a work day). True, it’s two days of lots of cool things and opportunities, but one of the big local cons here is four days at about the same price, and quite a bit cheaper if you register at the early bird rate. I think that locals just may not be as willing to pay that much when there are other, cheaper opportunities.

All that said, I did enjoy myself greatly at this convention. I think that if you like stories and you want an experience that is a bit more interactive and in depth, NerdCon Stories is a fun way to spend part of a weekend. If it comes back next year, I say give it a chance! So thank you, NerdCon Stories! It was a nice way to spend a weekend with a good friend!