When I left the classroom for the library in 2013, my curriculum director urged me to join Twitter. That directive saved me both professionally and personally. I’ve connected with other librarians, educators, kid lit fanatics, authors, and illustrators throughout the country. These dedicated educators bring me up and make me better.
I first met Lesley Burnap @auntierez and Jason Lewis @jasontes5th in person at a Scholastic Summit two summers ago. It was so nice to put actual faces to Twitter handles and we became fast nerdy friends. Lesley, as many of you know, has a gift for bringing people together and making you feel welcome. She is an amazing bundle of positive energy who everyone loves to be around. She quickly included me in a Voxer group and various Twitter chats. She has introduced me to incredible educators who read voraciously. Seriously, I cannot keep up with the sheer amount of reading this collective group does! I have a never-ending TBR pile. They introduce me to titles and authors not yet on my radar and give tons of insight into titles they’ve read.
Explaining my desire to board a plane to spend four days with people I only really know through Twitter may have sounded a little strange to friends and family. However, I had absolutely no hesitation. I counted down the days until #nErDcampMI. I couldn’t wait to be surrounded by people who love books and have open minds and hearts.
Sunday before #nErDcampMI
Nerd Van Day 1 – Don’t those smiles reveal their open minds and hearts?
Lunch at Bob’s Big Boy – I wanted to pinch myself to be among so many kid lit people I admire! Can’t stop looking at Margie Myers-Culver!
Lesley and friends had set up a meeting spot and time for anyone already reporting to #nErDcampMI who wanted to meet on Sunday afternoon. I was truly on overload at that long banquet table. It seemed every second I was pulling my phone out to add another title to Goodreads. I was bouncing from one interesting kid lit conversation to the next, watching Debbie Ridpath Ohi and friends do some “found” drawing, when Gae Polisner and Nora Raleigh Baskin walked into the dining room. I thought, “Here I am in an Olive Garden in Michigan surrounded by so many authors, illustrators and kid lit people I’ve admired for so long? Gae and Nora are here on purpose! How did this become my life?” And at that point, my cup runneth over. Yes, I burst into tears. And you know what? Instead of my peers giving me looks that would make me feel embarrassed, I got an arm squeeze along with, “It’s a lot to take in for the first time. I’m so happy to be able to see it through your eyes.”
Olive Garden on Sunday
Day 1 #nErDcampMI
Snappsy the Alligator did not ask to be part of this Nerd Run! With Carrie Davies @readwithdavies (who is one of the nicest people ever)
Making friends with the Princess in Black -the fun-loving Jacqui Cebrian of California
Day 1 of #nErDcampMI started with a Nerd Run and Pancake Breakfast. I wasn’t the only one to admit I hadn’t really slept the night before. It felt like Christmas Eve when you’re young – you just can’t contain your excitement. I promised myself that today I would hold it together. When they started the Nerd Talks (sort of like mini TED talks) to kick off the camp, I quickly broke my own promise. Colby Sharp brought Heidi up on stage to thank everyone in the kid lit community for the books they had sent when learning of her house fire. I’m sure there were not many dry eyes in the house.
Every speaker had a touching story of the power of books – Kathy Burnette, Raina Telgemeier, Donalyn Miller, Teri Lesesne, Pernille Ripp. Where could you ever hear this many important people in the reading world today all speak in one place?
And then the #nErDcampMI team pulled out the very last powerful punch of the opening talks. There was one more speaker who would like to address the auditorium of nerds. When we saw her walk through the doors, the crowd erupted. Yes, it was the master of story herself – Kate DiCamillo. And, of course, her talk about the power of story made you laugh, nod your head, and cry.
photo courtesy of Candlewick Press
In the afternoon I went to a really interesting session titled #EdCamp Kids! presented by third grade teachers Franki Sibberson and Kami Wenning. They discussed the idea of giving students 20-25 minutes a day to study whatever interests them. Every 3 weeks or so they carve out an hour to give students the opportunity to present out to their peers on their topic. Students voluntarily sign up to present and then 15 minutes before EdCamp Kids begins, students are given the schedule and can decide which 10 minute presentations they will go to. A lot of discussion and reflection time are built in to help things run smoothly.
My last session of the day, Taking CARE of Readers, was presented by Donalyn Miller and Teri Lesesne, who aside from being incredibly knowledgeable, are just plain fun to be around. I could listen to them all day! I tweeted out so many quotes from that session that we all need to be reminded of time to time. Actually, truth be told, the people in charge of education need these reminders more than the people attending #nErDcampmi.
There were author signings and lots of chatting in the commons area. As if this day wasn’t awesome enough, we then piled into the Nerd Van to attend the Nerdy Dinner. The so very kind and generous illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi hand-painted a gift for everyone attending the dinner.
It was an incredible night that went by all too fast as I got the chance to talk books with Patrick Andrus, Wendy Garland, Kathy Burnette, Niki Barnes, Erika Victor, and so many others! And, of course, I painfully put myself out there (on this trip I discovered that I am, in fact, pretty shy) to go up to Katherine Sokolowski to let her know how much I love her blog posts, and Raina Telgemeier to ask if we could take a picture together so I could show my students. She graciously agreed.
Thank you, Raina Telgemeier, for giving me a pic to bring back to my students!
As we left the banquet facility at 8:45pm the sky was still surprising so bright. It had been a very long, emotional day and my brain was jam-packed with ideas to take back to RI. However, I still had tomorrow to look forward to. My heart was bursting with gratitude for this opportunity to be with the kid lit community. My head was ready for my pillow.