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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

If I Were a Rich Girl: The Children’s Literary Conference and Convention Tour

Ever have that moment where you wish you were independently wealthy?  Let’s say you are and that you’re also a children’s librarian (dream with me here) who can take leave anytime you wish.  What would you ideally love to do?  Me, I’ve got a plan in place.  When the universe informs me that I’ve won the lottery (this would be the lottery you never have to actually play but that grants you free moolah for no particular reason) I am going to go to every single cool children’s book related conference I know of.  Yep.  That’s my crazy dream.  So let’s see if we can drum up a roster of where one would go if, in fact, they could go wherever they liked.

  1. SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) Conferences (January 27-29th & August 3-6th) – There are the national conferences and the regional ones.  And even at the height of my fantasy I can’t really see myself going to ALL the regional conferences.  So instead I’d make sure to go to the two big national ones (one is held in L.A. and the other in New York City) and one New York State-based one.  And maybe New Jersey too, if I’m feeling plucky.  More info here.
  2. Kidlitcon (November) – The children’s and YA book bloggers meet each and every year somewhere in the country for a big beautiful conference.  This year I’ll actually be able to attend the Kidlitcon in November because . . . er . . . well, I’m kind of hosting it.  In my big library.  Hmmm.  Better get cracking on that, shouldn’t I?
  3. The London Book Fair (April 16-18th) – Book fairs abound and not all have much to offer on the children’s literary side, but if I had to choose one I think I’d go with this one.  For one thing, it’s in London.  Fabulous.  For another, I’ve heard good things about the children’s lit offerings.  More info on it is here.
  4. IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) World Congress – London (August 23-26th) – Not content to take merely one trip to London a year I would backtrack a mere four months later to attend the yearly conference meant for people all over the world that love books for youth.  I’ve actually made my free days this year for these dates, just on the off-chance that I’m feeling up to it.  You never know.  I’ve never been to a real IBBY Conference before and this wouldn’t be a bad place to start.  More info here.
  5. The Bologna Children’s Book Fair (March 19-22nd) – Well, obviously I went last year so I’ve probably filled my quota for the next decade or so.  Still, it would be a blast to attend yet again.  Portugal will be the guest of honor country this year (fascinating since I could swear they said before that it would be Russia).  And as I stated in my SLJ article back in July, there’s a ton to do at the fair for everyone.  You needn’t be an editor or publisher to have a good time.  More info here.
  6. Book Expo (June 5-7th) – This one happens here in New York which makes my life easier.  Ostensibly meant for the bookseller community, it’s plenty informative if you’re a librarian too.  And there are a lot more free books on hand than you’ll find even at an ALA Conference (this is true).  More info here.
  7. TLA (Texas Library Association) Annual Conference (April 17-20th) – Oh, there are state library association meetings and then there are state library association meetings.  The one that everyone talks about, though, is in Texas.  TLA has gotta be the biggest, most notorious library association meeting of them all, and I want in, man.  I wanna see it firsthand.  I’ve never been to Texas (crazy, right?) and this could definitely be a rip-roaring good time.  Sure it would interfere a little with London’s Book Fair, so I figure I’d spend a day at the London fair then catch a red-eye (or two) to Texas and finish up there.  That’s logical, right?  More info here.
  8. ALA (The American Library Association) Conferences (January 20-24 & June 21-26th) – These I would normally attend but this year I’m eschewing the Midwinter Conference (thereby busting my chance to see Texas, yet again).  I will be attending the June conference in Anaheim, however.  In a perfect world, I’d do both.  Ah well.  More info here.
  9. Comic Con (San Diego July 12-15th and New York Oct. 11-14th) – I mean, you can’t ignore this one, even if you wanted to.  The days when librarians could turn up their noses at comics have long since passed.  And honestly, I’ve never been to the San Diego conference before.  Word on the street says it’s a madhouse, but I still think it’s still worth checking out at least once.  More info here.
  10. MoCCA (Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art) Festival (April 28th & 29th) – And if I’m going to the big Comic Con conferences then it only makes sense to attend the much smaller New York-based MoCCA.  A must-stop for anyone interested in the genre.  More info here.
  11. ChLA (Children’s Literature Association) Conference (June 14-16th) – A show of hands.  How many of you belong to this organization?  It is my fervent opinion that they need to be better known.  We have a whole organization dedicated to children’s literature out there yet how often are they part of the conversation?  Academics tend to belong to this group, and they deserve our love.  I do wish to attend this conference one of these days (it’s in Boston this year) when the opportunity presents itself.  More info here.
  12. PLA (Public Library Association) Conference (March 13-17th) – Held in Philadelphia this year, PLA is another mystery.  Though I’ve been to ALA Conferences galore, PLA offers practical solutions for the average public librarian like myself.  I think I may be able to go down for a day or two this year, just to check it out.  More info here.
  13. NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) Annual Convention (November 15-18th) – Vegas, baby, Vegas!  That’s where they’re having this particular conference.  If you’re interested in children’s literature from an educator standpoint, NCTE is the place to be.  Think of it as a teacher’s version of ALA.  This is another conference that has always been shrouded in mystery to me.  I’d love to see it. More info here.

Now what have I missed?  Any must-attend cons come to mind for the discerning children’s literary enthusiast?

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. TLA is amazing! I went as a sophomore in undergrad – and Betsy Hearne was there! And agreed to meet with me! And talked me into going to Champaign-Urbana for grad school! Ahem.

    When I went to a state library conference (Wisconsin) as a “real” librarian, I was taken aback…NOT what I expected! Where were the books? The authors? The friendly local librarians who pounced on unfamiliar faces and said hi? I’ve gotten accustomed now and WLA has some nice points, but TLA….forever on my list of things I miss about my home state.

    I’ve always wanted to go to the Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature in CT. It just sounds fun! I think it’s run by the Westport library.

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      Rabbit Hill! How could I forget? I would add it but I can’t find any information for it online whatsoever. Grr!

  2. Betsy: Since you ask for a show of hands, I belong to the ChLA. Hope to see you there at some point!

    And one other suggestion: The International Research Society for Children’s Literature (IRSCL) holds its conference every other year. I’ve now attended three: Kyoto Japan (2007), Frankfurt Germany (2009), and Brisbane Australia (2011). In 2013, IRSCL will meet in Maastricht.

    I do know what you mean about funds. I receive enough funding to cover roughly half a conference each year, but I attend 3-4 conferences a year. It’s expensive!

  3. So your library is where exactly? Just trying to figure out where kidlitcon 2012 will be this year.

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      Beautiful additions here. And I’d never even heard of the International Research Society for Children’s Literature. I intend to make a pilgrimage to Mazza one of these years. And LeAnn, my library is the one with the big stone lions out from. The main branch of New York Public Library known as the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. 42nd Street and 5th Avenue. New York, NY. You can’t miss it.

  4. Vicki Hall says

    The IRA International Reading Association Conference has an awesome lineup of authors and literacy experts. This year the 57th annual conference will be held in Chicago, IL April 29 – May 2. Registration is now open.

  5. Linda Urban says

    Honey, you want to come to a regional SCBWI, I say pack your bags for New England! The conference is huge, but still manageable. The speaker list is always astonishingly good (um. yes. I’m on the list this year . . . why do you ask?). The people are nice and friendly and it is in New England — just a teeny little train ride away. I betcha you can even find a few folks willing to watch that darling girl of yours during a session or two. 🙂

  6. For the illustration junkies out there, The Mazza Museum in Findlay Ohio hosts amazing conferences featuring top picture book creators. I was fortunate to attend their most recent Fall Conference which included presentations by Jerry Pinkney, Keven Henkes, David Wiesner, Steven Kellogg, Jim Arnosky, Anna Dewdney, Vincent Nguyen… Yeah, amazing. The conference was packed full of librarians and teachers — I was the the sole, odd, non-presenting illustrator in attendance. If I’m not mistaken, their next Conference will include Mo Willems and the Steads among others. Plus, the gallery itself is a marvel. It’s the world’s largest museum dedicated to the art of picture books and has over 7000 pieces in the permanent collection. It’s like Disney World for picture book lovers.

  7. Would love to go to IBBY in London myself! A girl can dream . . .

    This year is also the ASLC Institute, September, 20-22 Indianapolis, which I’m hoping to attend:

    And along the dreaming line — the Mazza Museum’s summer conference, a week long event focusing on the art of the picture book. This link is for last summer’s speakers: — looks really promising.

  8. You’d also want to travel down south to the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, MS. They’re also hosting the Ezra Jack Keats awards this year.

  9. TLA rocks! Yes, I’m biased, but I’ve attended many other events in the US. I’ve been a librarian in Texas for the last 20 years. TLA has over 5000 attendees, 400 booths, and zillions of workshops. If you ever come for the conference, it would be my pleasure to be your guide.


    • Elizabeth Bird says

      I’ll take you up on that, Martha. From what I hear TLA practically requires a guide the first time around.

  10. I’ll second the plug for ALSC Institute, in the lovely Hoosier State this year. Gary Paulsen, Kevin Henkes, Denise Fleming… plus fun times with some cool children’s librarian types. Good times ahead!

  11. Karen Ruelle says

    I went to the first Rabbit Hill conference some years back and it was wonderful. And, yes, it was held by the Westport, CT, public library. I assume it still is. Check with the Westport PL website and maybe they’ll have info there.

  12. Oh my goodness… what a list!! I’ve always believed that the world is divided into Disney World Lovers and Disney World Haters. I also believe it to be divided into people who would find this list amazingly wonderful and those who would be confused by the very idea of it! Hope our paths cross at one of these great events one day 🙂

  13. Pat Clingman says

    I looked up the Mazza Summer Conference information for who was going to be there as follows: It will be held July 16-20, 2012

    (registration required) Featuring Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, Mary Higgins Clark, Susan Stevens Crummel, David Diaz, Boris Kulikov, Loreen Leddy, Florence Minor, Wendell Minor, Peter McCarty, Janet Stevens, Walter Wick and Dan Yaccarino

  14. Pat Clingman says

    Hehe. Me Again. Here is the Mazza Fall Conference information: November 9 & 10, 2012

    (registration required) Featuring John J. Muth, David Ezra Stein, Erin Stead, Philip Stead, Mo Willems
    Can you tell I might be from Ohio? 🙂

  15. Hi, well of course if money was not a problem you could come to our World Heritage city of Bath, UK and attend our brilliant Kids Lit Fest in September. Here’s the link Great fun and everywhere total chaos with children running all over the city to make the next event.

  16. If I were a rich girl, indeed….sigh. I’ll be lucky if I can attend just the SCBWI in LA this year.

    What about Comic-Con? Lots of kids/YA graphics on offer these days.

  17. Yet another!:

    “Stranger in a Strange Land: Exploring Texts and Media for Young People Across Cultures and Continents is a Peer-Reviewed Graduate Student Conference on Children’s Literature and Cultural Texts with keynote speakers Elizabeth Marshall and Sarah Park held at the University of British Columbia on Saturday, April 28, 2012.

    This is a one-day conference showcasing graduate research that explores and questions any facet of children’s literature. We are particularly interested in research that draws
    upon the broadly interpreted themes of navigation, exploration, and narrative.

    The conference fee of $18 for students and presenters, and $35 for faculty and professionals, includes morning and afternoon refreshments and a catered lunch.”

    They’re currently accepting paper proposals “from graduate students (also including upper-level undergraduate students with exceptional research, and recently graduated MA and PhD students).”

  18. Thanks for the great list Betsy – I got lost in imagining being able to all of these as well! I second the Children’s Literature Association (after Phil Nel), it’s an amazing organization. IRA is great as well along with the Michigan Reading Association conference which rotates between Grand Rapids and Detroit each year – you should plan a trip home for it sometime!
    I’m looking forward to my first ALA Midwinter Conference in a few weeks – any suggestions for a first-timer (other than the award announcements on Monday morning that is!)
    Kristin – East Lansing

  19. Kristin, given your assumed interest in children’s books, I’d recommended attending at least a few publishers talks of upcoming titles, if you can (many are invite only). If you aren’t able to snag an invite, I’d recommended stopping by your favorite youth publishers’ booths in the Exhibit Hall and asking the publicists to walk you through the upcoming books they’re excited about (always a bonus if you can snag a copy). I had a lot of fun chatting with publishing representatives last year. Also, you might try to attend a Notable Children’s Books Committee Meeting (ALSC). Great way to pick up ideas of new books or hear some great commentary on the past year’s offering.

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      Julie took the words right out of my mouth. Particularly when she mentioned sitting in on a Notable committee meeting. That’s always something I get a kick out of at a conference. Make sure you attend the ALA Youth Media announcement for all the big awards too. If you go early enough you can try to compete with Barry Goldblatt for first place in line (a gold star to anyone who can get a photo of themselves in front of Barry in line). And be ready to ship home all the galleys you get. Trust me, it can be extreme.

  20. I am so with you on this wishlist, Betsy! You did forget a small one in my neck of the woods — The National Book Festival. It’s on the mall in our nation’s capital, and is absolutely free. This is where I first heard stellar author/speakers like Jon Scieszka, Jerry Pinkney, Shannon Hale, so many others.

  21. I second the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival at USM. I’ve been going for over 10 years. It is a fantastic three days of authors, illustrators, fellow librarians, storytellers, some practical seminars, some academic seminars. It is small and intimate. I feel lucky I am only an hour and a half away. Here’s the website

    I would love to go to Rabbit Hill. I can’t find anything at the Westport website.


  1. […] get bitten by the conference-bug (and find a huge amount of expendable income), I’ve got this fantastic list of 2012 conferences over at A Fuse #8 Production. Lifetime goals? Hit the ALA conference, Comic Con, and the Bologna […]