Last week I traveled to Parma, Michigan for my first Nerd Camp. Nerd Camp (#nErDcampMI) is an event sponsored by Colby Sharp and his amazing wife, Alaina, with the help of the Nerdy Book Club members. The two-day un-conference featuring authors, illustrators, and expert educators was awesome, and I’m still on Cloud 9! The main reason I signed up for Nerd Camp MI was to finally meet Josh Funk, author of Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast (and the upcoming Pirasaurs! and Dear Dragon). I used this wonderful picture book in my 6th grade classroom last year, and some of my students got to know Josh through email. The kids were thrilled that an author would actually write back to them, and in May he even joined our class for a Google hangout, which was the major talk of the sixth grade class! Thank you, Josh!
My Twitter friend, Kelly Vorhis, knew of a place to eat dinner the night before camp, but she didn’t tell me that the Olive Garden would be the meeting place for tons of Twitter friends I’ve followed for so long! I met Lesley Burnap face-to-face and she even gave me a handmade book necklace — she’s so talented. Thank you, Lesley! As I sat there, talking to author Jess Keating and her husband Justin, I started to feel like I was living in a fiction book. How could a teacher from Indiana sit with all of these famous people and feel so comfortable? I’m a book nerd. I fit in here. This was my “tribe.” I’m so glad they all let me in.
Nerd Camp itself was full of surprises. I had no idea that I lived just a few miles away from Kathy Burnette, librarian-extraordinaire! She was an inspiring keynote speaker and all-around beautiful soul. I am so lucky to now call her “friend.” Other speakers included Raina Telgemeier, Donalyn Miller, Teri Lesesne, and Pernille Ripp, who also told inspiring stories (and made me cry!). Then…surprise! Kate DiCamillo came to speak to us! What a wonderful opening! I don’t know how Mr. Sharp pulled that one off. I’m still reeling!
I met Debbie Ridpath Ohi, author of Where Are My Books? — she was so nice to me! She offered me Mitzi Tulane cookies and conversation, which I loved. (The cookies were delicious, and the book is the cutest!) I spent time with some of my favorite lit-world friends, Donalyn, Katherine Sokolowski, and many others. I ate lunch with Gae Polisner and Nora Raleigh Baskin, authors of books about 9/11 that I will definitely use in my classroom this year. The fun did not end there! I saw Cardboard Schu in the lobby with the real John Schumacher (@mrschureads). I just had to get a picture.
On Day 2, after adult learning sessions ended, the children came to Nerd Camp Jr. The evening was filled with mini-classes in writing for students of all ages. I signed up to help an author in a classroom, and I met Aimee Carter. Wow — She’s so cool! She told the kids about her book, Simon Thorn and the Wolf’s Den, and how she develops characters and plot in her series. Thank you for spending time with me, Aimee!
Nerd Camp is over, but I still have so many ideas to mull over and books to read. My summer is going to fly by now, thanks to my nerdy friends. I will attend this event again — #nErDcampMI definitely lives up to the hype!