Friday, August 23, 2019

What the Heck is nErDcamp Michigan and Why Should I Go? By Suzanne Jacobs Lipshaw

Invariably, when I tell people I attended nErDcamp Michigan over the summer I receive the same reaction— a chorus of giggles mixed with a confused facial expression. In case you’re responding the same way let me explain…

nErDcamp Michigan is a wondrous event that brings educators, authors, and illustrators together to celebrate books and reading. Held at Western High School in Parma, Michigan this two-day conference originated in 2013 with 180 attendees. This year attendance grew to 1,800 (with a waiting list just as big). In addition, once the adult conference ends, 1,200 kids bustle into nErDcamp Junior to experience the joy of meeting their favorite authors.

The name nErDcamp was derived from a combination of the #nerdybookclub (teachers passionate about children’s literature) and EDcamp. EDcamps are professional development “unconferences” that allow educators to determine session topics the day of the event, facilitate the sessions, and share experiences and ideas through conversation. nErDcamp Michigan is a free two-day conference that incorporates a traditional professional development day and an EDcamp day; hence the crazy spelling.

I go to nErDcamp with my teaching hat on, but the message is the same for educators and authors—every reader has value and a voice in the community! Those who attend believe that when we all work together, we can make a significant difference in the lives of all kids! nErDcamp is not just a conference, it is a movement!

Authors who volunteer at nErDcamp are asked to contribute to one planned session for the adults and three sessions for the students. Bookbug, an Indie bookstore in Kalamazoo, hosts the most popular table at the conference, selling the books of the authors who volunteer their time. At the end of day one, there is an author signing where educators flock with their books to chat with their favorite kidlit authors. As one of my nErDcamp buddies puts it, “Authors are my celebrities!”

Keynote speaker Jason Reynolds 

Those attending nErDcamp wearing their author hats had this to say:

“I can’t imagine all the work that goes into #nErDcamp, but I know that the end product is something magical. In that building, we are all truly equal, guided by the belief that the kids must always come first. I’m so grateful for the chance to learn, share, be challenged, and grow.” – Jarrett Lerner

“nErDcamp has been on my bucket list for years. It is the ultimate celebration of books and the educators who love them. The folks at nErDcamp are passionate about books and raising readers. They’re looking to make their classrooms, their schools, and the world better.” – Stacey McAnulty

“Writing can be a lonely existence sometimes. nErDcamps are a wonderful way to hear first-hand from teachers how kids respond to my books. It helps me with my writing. One of my favorite parts is nErDcampJr. I love working with kids, and this particular population is already enthusiastic about books and reading.” – Sarah Albee

“It’s always a thrill getting to meet so many amazing educators focused on literacy. nErDcampMI is the highlight of my summer!” – Josh Funk

Suzanne with author Lamar Giles at nErDcamp Junior

As an educator and an author, nErDcamp has supported and challenged my ideas about teaching reading and children’s books. It has spurred me to realize that my job goes well beyond teaching children to read. It is imperative that I provide my students with an opportunity to read books of all kinds. Using the tools I’ve learned at nErDcamp, I can now also gift my students a love of reading. I highly recommend attending a nErdCamp. I guarantee you will leave feeling connected, invigorated, and inspired!

Note: nErDcamp Michigan just announced that they are taking a step back and will not host a 2020 conference; they will reevaluate for 2021. In the meantime, the movement continues as there are nErDcamps popping up across the country including but not limited to New Jersey, North Carolina, Long Island, Kansas, Southern California, Georgia, Vermont, Northern New England…Google “nErDcamp” to find the one that works for you!

Suzanne Jacobs Lipshaw is a nonfiction children’s book author and elementary special education teacher who is passionate about growing young minds through her teaching and writing. Suzanne’s first book, I CAMPAIGNED FOR ICE CREAM: A Boy’s Quest for Ice Cream Trucks, debuted in April 2019 from Warren Publishing, Inc. The proud momma of two grown boys, Suzanne lives in Waterford, MI with her husband and furry writing companion Ziggy.  When she’s not dreaming up new teaching or writing projects, you can find her kayaking on the lake, hiking the trail, practicing at the yoga studio, or comparing paint swatches at the local Sherwin Williams.

Twitter: @SuzanneLipshaw
Facebook: Suzanne Jacobs Lipshaw – Author/Educator

Coming up on the Mitten Blog: 

We've enjoyed our relaxed summer schedule, but now we're gearing up for the return of our weekly Friday posts in September. Stay tuned for Book Birthdays, Painless Self-Promotion, Ask the Editor, Hugs and Hurrahs, and much more! The Mitten blog welcomes your contributions. Please see our Submission Guidelines for our current needs.


  1. Great post, Suzanne. Love the magic that happens there!

  2. This sounds like a great event. Too bad they aren't doing it next year.

  3. Thanks for this post, Suzanne. I have not attended (YET!) but hope to go when they reconvene.