Dr. Karen Coats (right), professor and award-winning author, will be this year's keynote speaker. Coats is a professor of English at Illinois State University and author of Looking Glasses and Neverlands: Lacan, Desire, and Subjectivity in Children's Literature, winner of the 2004 ChLA Honor Award for Best Book in Literary Criticism in Children's Literature.
The Francelia Butler Conference is a one-day, student-run conference dedicated to the study of children's literature. Graduate students may submit creative and critical papers to be critiqued by a panel of distinguished judges. The Shirley Henn Award is given to the top piece in each category. Students may also submit original artwork to the Art Show, and have the opportunity to earn the Margaret Kates Award. Another tradition, the Silent Auction, helps raise funds for future conferences.
Francelia Butler pioneered trails for the scholarly criticism of children's literature. She created the Children's Literature journal and was a founding member of the Children's Literature Association (ChLA). In 1992, at Butler's request Hollins launched a children's literature graduate program when the university became the sponsor for her scholarly journal. To this day, the graduate students honor Francelia Butler by running a conference in her name, continuing her vision to blaze trails dedicated to the creativity, insight, and academic study of children's literature.
Shirley Henn was a retired librarian who worked at Hollins for years. She was very interested in the Children's Literature Program and donated every year to it for the critical and creative awards presented during the Francelia Butler Conference. When she died, she left additional possessions to the university, and the department decided to name the critical and creative awards in her honor.
The art award prize was originally donated by Margaret Kates, a donor who firmly believes in supporting literacy and expression through the arts for children. In 2007 the conference's silent auction took on the role of funding the Margaret Kates Award and supporting the pursuit of imagination and story in art.
The conference is run completely by graduate students of Hollins' Children's Literature program. There are numerous volunteer opportunities, including committees dedicated to art and silent auction, food and decoration, entertainment, reading, future conference planning, technology, and beyond. The conference provides students experiences to collaborate with peers and build their resumes.