Visiting scholar Jack Zipes will be this year's keynote speaker. He is the author of numerous books on fairy tales and their evolution, including Breaking the Magic Spell: Radical Theories of Folk and Fairy Tale, Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales, Children and the Culture Industry, Sticks and Stones: The Troublesome Success of Children's Literature from Slovenly Peter to Harry Potter, The Brothers Grimm: From Enchanted Forests to the Modern World, Literature and Literary Theory: Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion, and a translation from the original German of the complete tales of the Brothers Grimm, as well as numerous edited books on the subject.
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.