To help connect and motivate writers in the Covid-19 era, Laura Backes and Jon Bard, the Colorado-based husband and wife team that co-founded Children’s Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children’s Writers in 1990, have launched Kidlit Distancing Socials, a series of free weekly webcasts featuring editors, agents, authors, and writing educators in conversation with Backes. Held on Thursday evenings, the episodes examine various aspects of writing, the publishing process, and the book industry and include interactive activities and q&a segments.

Backes explained that the idea for the program was born in late March, as the pandemic escalated and “the stay-at-home orders were issued. We sensed that writers were feeling especially isolated and were bummed out that writing conferences were canceled, and Jon and I decided to do something to connect with not only our CBI subscribers but with the kidlit world at large. So we came up with the notion of holding informal, weekly online gatherings with some meaty content as well as some fun stuff to help writers keep the energy going on their projects—and to help Jon and me to stay connected to the children’s writing community.”

The webcasts debuted on April 2 with an episode starring author and writing educator Katie Davis, which celebrated “The Legacy of Tomie dePaola,” the author-illustrator had died three days earlier. Subsequent weekly installments have included picture book and YA author Alice Kuipers discussing “Connecting with Your Creativity in Difficult Times”; Move Books publisher Eileen Robinson addressing “Middle Grade Fiction for Boys”; Gabriela Pereira, a writer, teacher, and podcaster, exploring “The Power of a Writing Community”; and Helen Wu, associate publisher of Yeehoo Press, on “Publishing for the International Kidlit Market.”

Upcoming Kidlit Distancing Socials guests and the topics they will tackle are Sean McCollum, author and self-proclaimed “digital nomad,” on “Turning Your Passions into Books” (July 23); PJ McIlvaine, author and co-host of #PBPitch, on “Tips for Participating in Kidlit Twitter Pitch Parties” (July 30); and Bad Kitty creator Nick Bruel on “Writing Subversive Kidlit Characters” (Aug. 6). Viewers can put their names on the notification list for Kidlit Distancing Socials here and can view replays of each episode here.

Backes, who noted that each live episode currently attracts between 125 and 150 live viewers, hopes to continue the weekly series post-pandemic, shortening its title to Kidlit Socials. “I’m a publishing geek and love talking with others about how the industry works, so I would like the webcasts to go on, even after we don’t have to social distance,” she said. “We have had very positive feedback from viewers and we’re having a lot of fun doing the episodes, because they are so informal and combine an educational component with lighthearted segments, including book-themed polls, celebrations of our viewers’ writing accomplishments, and quizzes about literary landmarks. I love that the programs do not have to be all polished and perfect. If we have a technical glitch, we laugh about it—and then we move on.”