I’m hoping there will be other opportunities.
Ever since I was a kid, and saw Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times, I’ve wanted to be a Giant Disembodied Talking Head.
Chaplin’s movie inspired me to be either a Giant Disembodied Talking Head, or a Little Tramp. The Giant Disembodied Talking Head seemed a better choice. I finally got my wish this past week when I Skyped with a really bright bunch of sixth-graders, who had some excellent questions and really seemed to have enjoyed What We Found in the Sofa. I was in New York, they were in Indiana. My face got projected on the wall of their school library and, for some reason, it didn’t occur to me to open with “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi; you’re my only hope.”
I’m hoping there will be other opportunities.
used hand-painted glass slides to achieve its effects. Traditionally, two magic lanterns were used in such shows, so that the image from one slide could be superimposed over the image from another, thereby creating an illusion of motion - many years before the invention of true cinema.
A sample is included below, in the form of two antique glass slides combined in a looping GIF image. I’m doing this in the absence of any book news (the Time Travel book is about to go to the copy editor; the Sofa book is selling reasonably well, thank you) and also because it’s been a long February and I’m feeling nostalgic.
The Legend of Washington's Tomb
It is said that on midnight every February 11,
the anniversary of George Washington's birth
(if you're using the Julian calendar, as what
John Lennon fan doesn't?)
the ghost of George Washington emerges from his tomb, looks around, sees his shadow, runs back in the tomb,
and we have another six weeks of winter.
End of Legend
It's hard to believe, but some people found my magic lantern shows amusing. A somewhat lengthy excerpt from one can be found here. Some of the images you've seen elsewhere on this website are from antique magic lantern slides, of which I have a modest collection.
In case you were wondering.
The event was held in the evening, the theme was Camping Out, and each author sat next to his or her own campfire in the school gym and read to the kids, who went from author to author dragging their pillows and sleeping bags behind them, so it actually may have been a ploy to mop the gym during an ongoing custodians strike.
I had never seen an inflatable campfire, and when I expressed trepidation to the event organizers, they assured me the school was equipped with inflatable smoke detectors. There was a billboard outside the school depicting Smokey the Bear holding a hatpin, next to the slogan ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT INFLATABLE FIRES. (Had I known in advance, I would have brought a bag of inflatable marshmallows. The Stay-Puft brand, as seen in Ghostbusters.)
For me, the most memorable moment of the evening occurred when I looked up from my book, from which I had just read a passage about three kids finding a crayon between some sofa cushions, to see a fifth-grade boy sitting a few feet from me, engrossed in a book three times the size of mine. I asked him what it was. He held it up so I could see. It was The Collected Works of H. P. Lovecraft. So I’m reading about crayons, and my audience is reading the Necronomicon. I told the kid Cthulhu would get him for this. (And, I swear, as I said the name Cthulhu, all the campfires in the room deflated a little. It was a creepy moment.)
The event was a great success. By the end of the evening the kids were pumped, and the campfires much less so. Mine had a distinct list to it, and so did I. I'm not as good at sitting cross-legged on the floor as I used to be.
Today my interview with FanboyNation went up, and the site debuted the above image from my trans-temporal book promotion tour for The Book that Proves Time Travel Happens. This is me, visiting the library of Alexandria, circa 48 BC. The librarian kept telling me to put out my cigar, but all the ashtrays had scrolls in them…
It was actually very similar to my visit to an old barn outside Chicago on October 8, 1871, where a crazy Irish woman kept yelling at me about the same thing.
FanboyNation also ran a very kind review of What We Found in the Sofa and How It Saved the World.
As the April 2015 publication date of The Book that Proves Time Travel Happens gets closer and closer, there will probably be more photos such as this, of the author on his trans-temporal promotional tour. (Sorry, it can’t be helped.)
Scouts sent ahead to the year 2015 report the book is selling like hotcakes. Which is unfortunate, because our local International House of Hotcakes has been boarded up for decades.
Addams, a rare example of conjoined writers (or, to use the antiquated term, "Siamese authors,") is, or possibly are, credited with the invention of the “mash-up,” the literary form in which two seemingly incompatible genres are brought together between the covers of a single book. In 1953 he incorporated characters from Pride and Prejudice into an oil-burner repair manual and spent fourteen weeks at the top of the New York Times best-seller list.
In addition to having two heads, Addams has also admitted to having two butts. As he quipped during a panel discussion at the 2009 San Diego Comic Con, "If two heads are better than one, then two butts are better than none, especially if you're constipated!"
The Q&A went very well, and we talked about everything from the middle-school guidance counselor who told me I would never be a writer (a deeply suppressed memory that the tweens’ needle-sharp interrogation brought to the surface; fortunately the library had a defibrillator ) to William Faulkner’s advice to writers, “kill your darlings.” My young audience had been unaware that William Faulkner was a serial killer, and many resolved to go out as him this Halloween. Suggesting, of course, the following Halloween doorstep scene:
Them: Trick or Treat!
Homeowner: Oh, how cunning! What an adorable Tinkerbelle! And such a cute zombie! And, oh! What a creepy William Faulkner! And, behind you, is that big, bad, Ernest Hemingway? Who’s that hiding in the cardboard box at the back? Oh! J. D. Salinger!
At my house, we’ve traditionally given out Oh Henrys and Clark bars on Halloween.
In case you were wondering.
Met with my editor and assistant editor on Tuesday in a restaurant where crispy pork bellies were on the menu but the waiter wiped them off with a damp cloth. We discussed the many sentences I write in which a pronoun’s antecedent is ambiguous. I argued that for a humor writer this can be a good thing. They (the editors, not the pork bellies) did not agree.
Discussed my next book, tentatively titled The Book that Proves Time Travel Happens, due out from Little, Brown in April of 2015, which only sounds like the far future if you’re mentally sitting at home on Friday, September 8, 1966, watching the premiere of Star Trek, which I perpetually am, communicating only during perceived commercial breaks, which makes conversation spotty. By 2015 we will all have flying cars and people will be reading books by swallowing them as pills, and I expressed the hope that mine would be published as a chewable, since the intended audience is children, but my editor informed me that by 2015 Amazon plans to be selling children’s books in the form of PEZ candy, while offering the proprietary Amazon PEZ dispensers at cost or slightly below in a ploy to corner the market.
Walked the dog when I got home. She spent a good five minutes sniffing the base of one particular stop sign, reading the traces of all the dogs who had passed that way earlier, then added a trace of her own, and I realized this is how dogs blog, which she verified by rubbing her back against the sign and looking up at me as if to say Best Post Ever.
It’s late September and I really should be back in school, but tuition is so horrendous I’ve decided to sit this semester out, and listen to old Rod Stewart records instead. (Don’t you hate it when a blog entry begins with a sentence that should have been used as a tweet? I know I do. It used to be one of the rules of good blogging grammar, but nobody's teaching good blogging grammar anymore.) Where was I? September.
The Eva Perry Mock Newbery Award nominees (so far) have been announced, and What We Found in the Sofa is on the initial list!
Mock Newberys are chosen by a number of different Mock Newbery book clubs, organized by libraries and schools across America. Kids in the clubs read books written for kids, and try to guess what the actual, non-mock Newbery committee, composed of mock children (that is, adults) will select in January as “the most distinguished American children's book published the previous year.” (And, of course, it’s that “distinguished” part that greatly diminishes the winning chances of any book featuring a hot-air balloon in the shape of a giant toilet bowl. What was I thinking?)
The twenty-five kids in the Eva Perry club have so far narrowed down the possibilities to nineteen titles, which they’ve listed alphabetically, and fortunately for me, National Book Award finalist Paolo Bacigalupi published Zombie Baseball Beatdown this year, so What We Found in the Sofa is not the last book on the list. (I, for one, never expected to use the phrases “National Book Award finalist” and “Zombie Baseball Beatdown” in the same sentence, but sometimes life throws you a curve, and it turns out to be a severed zombie head.)
If you click on the above screen capture of the book club website and go to the blog entry entitled “Favorites (so far) for 2013-2014” there are two photos of the extraordinary kids in the club. Click the photo at the top to see the kids who will probably vote for Clare Vanderpool’s Navigating Early. Click the photo at the bottom to see the kids who will probably vote for What We Found in the Sofa. (Or possibly Zombie Baseball Beatdown. Zombie is definitely a dark horse. Or maybe a flesh-eating cow.) The vote is going to be close; there’s almost the same number of kids in each group.
However it works out, gang, I’m really impressed with what you’ve read this year!
Yes, this is me, making "bunny ears" behind the stack of books sitting next to me. The habits of grade school die hard. And the habits of high school. And college. I always made the best, most convincing bunny ears. You'd swear it was a real bunny.