Our featured blogger this month is Paula Willey, as nominated by Sheila Ruth. Sheila writes, “Paula has been a Cybils judge in several different categories, going back at least to 2008, and has always been a cheerleader for Cybils and all things kidlit. Her blog posts are fun and a joy to read; she writes in a distinctive voice, and her love of children’s books come through in every word. This year I’ve had the pleasure to work closely with her in planning KidLitCon 2015, and I’m constantly in awe of her creativity, energy, knowledge, and connections. I’ve come to believe that she knows everyone and everything in Baltimore! If KidLitCon is a success, it will be due in no small part to her intelligence, determination, and passion.”
We managed to corner Paula and ask her a few questions about blogging, writing, and KidlitCon.
Tell us a bit about your blog.
PW: I write unadulterated.us. It’s called unadulterated because I review un-adult books, get it? Hoo boy I am SO FUNNY. But it’s also unadulterated because I am, er, opinionated. I use swear words.
I claim to review everything from board books to adult books for teens, but nowadays I spend a lot of time on picture books and YA, largely because those are the things I have a lot to say about lately. Since I write for a lot of different outlets, I tend to use unadulterated specifically to vent or puzzle out my feelings or really celebrate a book I need to say something about.
How long have you been blogging and how did you get started?
PW: I started writing reviews of picture books on my foulmouthed personal blog, your neighborhood librarian, in 2006, just to keep track of the books I liked and the books I didn’t like. I was working at the public library and purchasing a 2600-item opening day collection for a K-8 school library, and having a very difficult time keeping my brains together. If we’d had Goodreads back then, I bet I never would have started a blog!
Before too long, I spun the book reviews off into a new blog I called Pink Me, for no better reason than that my hair was pink and that’s how all the kids and their parents found me at the library. “Is the pink-haired librarian here?” Then last year I changed the name to unadulterated.us.
You write a column on children’s books for the Baltimore Sun, no? What are the differences/similarities between doing that and blogging?
PW: The AWESOME thing about writing for the Sun is that for once, I am not preaching to the choir. Let’s be honest, most of the people who read kidlit blogs are industry people – publishers, teachers, librarians, other bloggers. Nobody who reads unadulterated.us needs ME to explain, like, the virtues of audiobooks. We all know that audio is great for improving comprehension, motivation, vocabulary, etc.
But the parents I talk to at the library don’t know that, and probably not all of the people who read the newspaper know that. So I get to unleash the spiels I’ve developed over the years for talking to parents about graphic novels, nonfiction, author visits, etc. It’s VERY satisfying. I absolutely recommend writing to a wider audience when you can. It reminds you of what kids need and the conversations we have to initiate in order to get them those things.
On top of everything else in your life, you’re helping organize KidlitCon! What’s that been like? What can we expect from the conference this year?
PW: You have to see the funky dance I do every time someone asks me about KidLitCon. It goes like, “Uh huh! Oh yeah! KidLit! Baltimore!” with kind of a sprinkler move. Maybe you don’t want to see that, actually. WE (Sheila Ruth and I, with a huge assist from Charlotte Taylor) have put together a BLAST of a program, starting with a slick little hotel in the coolest neighborhood, moving through keynote speakers who were selected for maximum wit and profundity, genius sessions featuring GENIUS panelists, excellent food, and… I mean, what haven’t we thought of? Good transit access? Check. Cheap parking? Yes. I’m even working on getting discounts to Baltimore’s museums and historic attractions for attendees.
KidLitCon has been an incredibly meaningful experience to me personally every time I’ve been. The first time I ever presented to a group in this profession was with Mary Ann Scheuer and Betsy Bird at the Seattle KidLitCon. I was talked into becoming a Cybils judge at the Alexandria KidLitCon. KidLitCon is where you get to actually meet the person you’ve been re-Tweeting for the past 8 months. It was important to me to create that kind of welcoming, informative experience here in my hometown. I knew Sheila and I had the resources and contacts to knit everything together into a very strong and fruitful con.
What’s your favorite kidlit book you’ve read in the past year?
PW: This year? Hmm. *fires up goodreads* Ooh, I really liked Cherie Priest’s I am Princess X. Not just because of the mystery and the peril, though those are great. But because I am a sucker for setting, and Cherie Priest sends her characters in and out of Seattle neighborhoods in such a way that you really feel the grit on the sidewalk and the damp in the air. Cherie Priest never writes down to kids. We have this book shelved in the teen section at our library, but I recommend it to little counterculture types grade 4 and up.
Thanks so much for your time, Paula!