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My Excellent Adventure at the Texas Library Association (TLA) 2015 Convention

My publisher, Pelican, flew me out to the Texas Library Association’s 2015 convention. TLA is the second largest such convention in the U.S., after ALA. It’s Comic-Con for librarians! I had a terrific time signing books, getting free books, getting books signed by authors I admire, and meeting lots of cool librarians and teachers. I was a kid in a candy shop. Below are photos of some of the talented KidLit writers and illustrators I met.

Highlights that I was not able to capture in photos included:

  • signing a book for a child with the cool name, Azul Estrella (blue star)
  • I approached Mac Barnett, who was wearing a name tag of “Harry N. Abrams”, and said he looked a lot like Mac Barnett. He concurred. We also agreed that he looked pretty good for someone who passed away years ago.
  • watching Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers sign The Day the Crayons Quit in parallel, Drew on the left side of the spread, and Oliver on the right. They needed to be efficient given how long the line was.
  • seeing Dan Yaccarino (the Italian Stallion) vs. Dan Gutman (the Kosher Butcher) verbally sparring to a standing room only crowd.

Larry Brimner – prolific author and all-around nice guy. I have an interview with him elsewhere on my blog.

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Justin Chanda, aka very busy guy. Not only is he the editor of children’s imprints at Simon & Schuster, but I saw him setting stuff up, taking photos, etc., all with a big smile on his face.

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Dianne De Las Casas – fellow Pelican author

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Peggy Eddleman – author of the Sky Jumper series. I have an interview with her elsewhere on my blog.

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Dan Gutman – funny and prolific author of Honus & Me, the My Weird School series, and the Genius Files series. I first met him at LA SCBWI 2012. I have an interview with him elsewhere on my blog.

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Henry Herz – yours truly signing Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes at the Pelican booth

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Molly Idle – Caldecott Honor-winning author/illustrator and all-around delight. She was on a KidLit panel I moderated at WonderCon 2015. I have an interview with her elsewhere on my blog. She hogs all the talent.

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Cynthia Leitich Smith – NY Times bestselling author of the Feral and Tantalize series. I have an interview with her elsewhere on my blog.

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Meg Medina – Pura Belpre medal and CYBILS Fiction winning author of Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. I’d vote for it based on the title alone.

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Karen Santhanum – Up and coming picture book author/illustrator from San Diego.

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Neil Schusterman – NY Times bestselling fantasy author. I met him at the 2014 ABLA Big Sur Writing Workshop. His voice sounds like Jon Favreau’s.

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Jon Scieszka – Awesomely creative author, whose name I’ve spelled correctly.

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Don Tate – picture book illustrator. He’s cool, plus his hair is the inverse of mine. Together, we are fully coifed. He completes me.

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Eugene Yelchin – Newbery Honor-winning author illustrator. I first met him at LA SCBWI 2012.

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Jane Yolen – Nebula, World Fantasy, Golden Kite and other award-winning author of Owl Moon. She contributed a story to my dark fantasy anthology, Beyond the Pale. I refer to her as a legendary writer, but she assures me that she does indeed exist.

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“A good time was had by all.” – Tea Rex by Molly Idle

 Click to Tweet: My Excellent Adventure at the 2015 TLA Convention at http://wp.me/p31Xf4-Pq via @Nimpentoad


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My WonderCon panel on SciFi/Fantasy Kid Lit

My WonderCon panel on SciFi/Fantasy KidLit featured awesome authors Frank Beddor (Hatter M), Cecil Castellucci (Odd Duck), Nancy Holder (Wicked), Shannon Messenger (Skyfall), and Dan Yaccarino (Doug Unplugged).

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 Click to Retweet: WonderCon Panel on SciFi/Fantasy KidLit at http://wp.me/p31Xf4-Ck via @Nimpentoad


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Panel on Scifi & Fantasy Kid’s Books at San Diego ComicFest

The San Diego Comic Fest has a focus on comics, science fiction, and movies. It will run Oct 4-6, 2013. San Diego Comic Fest will take place at the Town and Country Resort and Convention Center, 500 Hotel Circle North, San Diego, CA 92108.

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I will be moderating a panel “SFF for Kids – With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility”. Why should kids have to wait until they’re old enough to read Tolkien or Asimov to enjoy the worlds of science fiction and fantasy? This panel will comprise a mix of authors/illustrators who’ve created any form of juvenile speculative fiction (book, comic, graphic novel, or animation).

My panel will be held from 10-11 am on Sun. Oct. 6. My panelists and I will be signing books from 11am to noon adjacent to the Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore booth. The panelists scheduled are:

PJ Haarsmahttp://pjhaarsma.com – Author of The Softwire sci-fi series and online game.

Haarsma HaarsmaSoftwire
“I began writing science fiction late in life. Thirty-eight felt late for me, but I had reached a point where I would try anything. It was very hard to get up in the morning and do what I was doing back then. I ran a small production company, I produced a movie and now I was directing corporate spots for clients like Hewlett Packard and Nokia. I had been shooting stills or film for advertising clients for fifteen years and I was spent. I began reading quite a bit then, trying to spark some creativity into my work again. This is when I began journaling. Next I started writing little stories, mostly about growing up. And then one morning the character JT appeared on my page.

At first The Softwire was just a bunch of little ideas inspired by an incident that happened in my youth. I’d always been a science nut, I have a degree from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, so I began attaching little tidbits of science to some of the ideas. My wife Marisa encouraged me to keep going and ten months later I finished the first draft of my first novel.

A lot about The Softwire comes from my own experiences growing up. No, I never traveled on a seed-ship to Orbis but I did feel like I was a slave working in my parents ceramic factory as a teenager. During the summers, I would slug 50lbs+ molds around while standing in a room with kilns firing at 1400 degrees. It wasn’t fun, and at the time I really resented my parents for it. I felt used and not in control of what I wanted. Probably like a lot of other kids my age then but hey, what did I know, I was fourteen.”

Eric Shanowerhttp://www.hungrytigerpress.com – Author of Age of Bronze and Little Adventures in Oz.

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Eric Shanower is an award-winning and New York Times bestselling cartoonist, author, and illustrator. His work has been widely published–from Marvel Comics to Random House, from Nickelodeon Magazine to BBC television.

His current comics project, Age of Bronze, tells the complete story of the Trojan War in all its dramatic detail. Every version from Homer’s Iliad on down will be newly integrated in comics form when Age of Bronze is finished. It’s also set in the correct period–the 13th century BCE. Age of Bronze has been published by Image Comics since 1998, garnering two Eisner Awards, a Gran Guinigi, and a slew of nominations. The second volume, Sacrifice, was selected as one of the Best Books of 2004 by the editors of Publishers Weekly. In addition to English, Age of Bronze is published in Spanish, French, Polish, Italian, Croatian, and Indonesian.

Dani & Eytan Kollinhttp://www.theunincorporated.com – Authors of The Unincorporated Man sci-fi series.

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Author siblings Dani and Eytan Kollin’s debut novel, The Unincorporated Man was designated a SciFi Essential and went on to win the 2010 Prometheus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel of the year. Their second and third novels, The Unincorporated War and The Unincorporated Woman were also nominated for the same award (the 2012 winner will be announced in July). Their fourth novel, The Unincorporated Future releases August 21st, 2012 and can be pre-ordered on Amazon.

Shelley Moore Thomashttp://www.shelleymoorethomas.blogspot.com – Author of the Trinket and Good Knight fantasy series.

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When I was little, I was one of those kids that had messy handwriting. Really, really messy. As a matter of fact, it is only marginally better now, but I have learned how to decipher it most of the time. Ironically, even though putting pencil to paper neatly was torture, I loved writing. I was the kind of kid who wrote poems as gifts to people……the kind of kid who read fairy tales and adventures stories…..the kind of kid who still remembers writing her first book report ever, on The Story of Ferdinand the Bull.

I had great parents: a mom who loved reading and a dad who loved trains. My sister and brother were always up to something, and believe it or not, I was not always the one who instigated things. (They are quite respectable these days, you know). Some of my favorite memories include long road trips from New Mexico to Oklahoma, sweating in a car with no air conditioning while my dad stopped in each town so he could take a picture of the train depot to add to his collection. Good times, good times.

Remarkably, I grew up. I became a teacher (what better excuse to read tons of kids stories every day?) I got married to a wonderful prince and had three charming and lovely princesses. Oh, wait, I forgot the whole part about how I became the queen of stories….

Somewhere along the way, I discovered that I was born from an ancient royal line of velvet wearing, crown sporting, bedazzled storytellers who use puppets to make their stories come alive. Yes, it was quite a shock, if I do say so myself. But I made peace with my destiny.

Writing and storytelling seem to go hand and hand. So, when I am not dressed as the most royal thing this side of the Mississippi, I am working on my next book!

This article is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Book Examiner.


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The Nimpentoad authors at San Diego Comic-Con

My fellow Nimpentoad and Twignibble co-authors and I had a great time wandering the Exhibit Hall at the San Diego Comic-Con. Here are a few pictures.

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Nothing starts your day like meeting a zombie from the Plants vs. Zombies game my boys enjoy playing.

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For us older folks, it was a real treat to meet Peter Beagle, author of “The Last Unicorn”.

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Here are my co-authors with comic artist Ken Meyer, Jr.

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Here are my co-authors with Katie Cook, who writes “My Little Pony” for IDW Publishing, and has also done licensed illustration work for DC, Marvel, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings.

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Proving again that timing is everything, we just  happened to wander in front of the Badali Jewelry booth, when our friend Cliff Broadway from TheOneRing.net was conducting a Lord of the Rings trivia quiz. Have I mentioned that I am a Lord of the Rings Rainman? It will then come as no surprise that we won the quiz, and left laden with terrific Tolkien booty, much as Bilbo ended his Hobbit adventure riding a pony burdened with treasure. As a bonus, we got to meet the Rice sisters, who write and star in the weekly Happy Hobbit video that is shown on TheOneRing.net.

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In the foreground, my co-author Harrison. In the background, the smoking hot Evangeline Lilly, who will be appearing in the upcoming (second) Hobbit movie. We also saw Sir Richard Taylor, who heads up Weta, the company that makes props for Peter Jackson’s movies.

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Here my co-authors pose with the largest Domokun I’ve ever seen.

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An enormous Azog the Orc in front of the Weta booth was not nearly as welcoming as Domokun…

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At the IDW Publishing booth, we spoke with several comic book illustrators. As it turned out, fate smiled upon us again. We have a friend Sohaib Awan, who writes the comic JINNRISE. His illustrator, Andrew Huerta, was there and graciously offered to sketch Nimpentoad !

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Here is the wonderful end result he knocked out in no time flat.


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SDCC interview with comic book artist Ken Meyer, Jr.

Ken Meyer, Jr. has been doing art of one kind or another since he was a kid. He started drawing by tracing comic books using carbon paper (ask your grandpa). He became interested in more realistic comics, and then in illustration and painting. He has done some short Marvel comics pieces, but most of his comic work was done for smaller publishers like Caliber and Revolutionary. Today, the lion’s share of his art is painting.

Ken has graciously to tell us a bit more about himself and his work. In the photograph, he is the one on the left…

MeyerKen

For what age audience do you illustrate comics?

It has varied. The Marvel comics I’ve done are for all ages, while the Caliber work was more mature (but still able to be read by all ages). I have done a lot of horror art and some horror themed stories, so I guess the audience would depend on how much they could handle!

Henry: Challenge accepted!

Tell us about your latest work.

Lately, my work has been either doing altered Magic cards (Magic the Gathering is a collectible card game, and people send me the cards I have done to paint new images on them, making them more collectible), illustration for various uses, or portraits and other types of art. I also do “sketch covers,” which are actual comics with totally white covers (aside from the logo). They are made that way so fans can get their favorite artist to do drawings on the covers. I have done several Avengers (the movie character versions), and Walking Dead covers, with more to come.

Henry: Note to self: order one of these from Ken.

What aspect of illustrating do you find most challenging?

It depends on the job, to some degree. In comics, the most fun part is the initial layouts/thumbnails, where I am working out the composition of the page, what the best viewpoint for any given panel would be, etc. Considering I tend to use a lot of photos and models for reference, the most challenging part is probably getting people together and shooting the actual photos. If I am doing the strip completely out of my head, the most challenging part is probably doing any given viewpoint (worm’s eye view, bird’s eye view, etc.) correctly. Oh, and horses.

Henry: Note to self: do NOT ask Ken to paint the Riders of Rohan.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned?

To be honest, the most powerful lesson I learned is that it is very hard to actually make a living as a comic artist. You have to put a lot of work and time into comics, and the pay is not usually proportional to all that work (which is why a lot of people go into other fields such as animation or games). If you are in comics, most likely you are in it because you really love the genre.

What’s been a memorable experience that you’ve had?

I really love music, and several times, when I knew I was going to a concert by someone I really liked, I would do a painting ahead of time and take it to the show to try to meet the musician. It worked several times, and I met some of my favorites (Elvis Costello, Bruce Cockburn, Loudon Wainwright, Tori Amos and several others). Those were memorable for me!

Henry: And memorable for them too. That is certainly a unique way to get their attention. Well played, sir.

What advice would you give to aspiring comic or graphic novel illustrators?

The most crucial advice, and the advice you almost always hear, is just draw draw draw. Keep drawing, practice all the time, draw everything (not everything is skin tight-clad superheroes), and then draw a lot more. I had a professor who was an incredible draftsman, and he said the only reason he would be considered a better artist than us is that he had gotten a lot more terrible drawings out of the way. Of course, it helps to look at your favorite artists. See how they handle problems, the way they compose a panel and page, etc. Copy them for awhile, eventually you will come into your own style. Look at books and online sources. Draw from life. Just draw.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

“I am an artist you know … it is my right to be odd.”
― E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly

Henry: It does seem to come with the territory. 🙂

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you illustrate?

Does painting with a chicken on your head count?

Henry: Yes. Yes it does. Best. Answer. Ever.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

It would be the superpower to mimic all other superpowers. If there is a void of superpowers, then perhaps the good old standby, flight. If I am feeling altruistic that day, then it would be the power to manufacture any amount of food out of thin air.

Henry: Good for you for thinking of others!

If you could have three illustrators over for dinner, who would it be?
Oooooh, tough one! I will say Alphonse Mucha (to talk about his big Slav epic mural series), Bob Peak (an illustrator popular in the 70’s mostly, who did magazine illustration, movie posters, etc), and comic artist Bill Sienkiewicz (who started in comics as a clone of then very popular realistic comic artist Neal Adams, but went to to become one of the best multimedia artists ever, and is still creating amazing work today).

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

When I was young, I was a huge fantasy/heroic fiction fan, and read stuff like The Lord of the Rings, Edgar Rice Burroughs (John Carter of Mars), Conan, etc, non-stop. So, you are talking about a lot of imaginary creatures to choose from! I guess I will say the Sirens…you might drown, but you would have fun doing it.

Henry: Always the ladies’ man, eh?

What do you like to do when you’re not illustrating?

I have several activities that siphon good working time away from the desk, unfortunately. I play tennis frequently, for example. I read a fair amount (but have become selective, choosing authors I have already read a lot of, such as Stephen King, Chuck Palahniuk, John Irving, etc.), plus tons of music magazines. I would say “listen to music,” but I do that all the time anyway. I probably watch too much TV (shows like Game of Thrones, Dexter, Breaking Bad, Stewart/Colbert/Maher, and like to see as many films as I can as well. So, you can see the easel has to do its share of fighting for attention!

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

“There was no shortage of art created, and no amount of time wasted!”

Where can readers find your work?

If you want to search in the comic book stores (which nowadays, means going online), I have a graphic novel called “Gustave, PI.” I have a few Marvel stories in comics, such as Open Space number 4, Marvel Portraits of  Universe 1, and Midnight Sons Unlimited 4. Caliber comics I have done include about seven issues (and about 11 covers): Kilroy is Here, stories in the anthology Negative Burn, and many covers. I also have many covers for Revolutionary Comics (music- and sports-related). You can search out the Tori Amos RAINN benefit calendars I put together between 2005 and 2009 (as well as her tour book for the “Dew Drop Inn” tour). I have a ton of work in various White Wolf game books, mostly for the lines of Vampire the Masquerade, Demon, Wraith, etc. I have also done a lot of cards for their Vampire the Eternal Struggle series (originally known as Jyhad). The game Magic the Gathering has card art by me, mostly in the Arabian Nights and Ice Age expansions. You can, of course, always go to my website if you have a few weeks to waste (there is a lot there, but I will be revamping it soon), or other websites that have my work for sale, such as Fine Art America. I also have a DeviantArt page.

Ken will be at San Diego Comic-Con in Artist Alley table II-6.

This article is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.


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Interview with NY Times Bestselling ‘Babymouse’ & ‘Squish’ author Jenni Holm

Jennifer L. Holm is a New York Times bestselling children’s author and the recipient of three Newbery Honors for her novels ‘Our Only May Amelia’, ‘Penny from Heaven’, and ‘Turtle in Paradise’. Jennifer collaborates with her brother, Matthew Holm, on two graphic novel series — the popular Babymouse series and the bestselling Squish series. ‘Babymouse for President’ is an Eisner nominee.

Thanks for interviewing me. I have a personal San Diego connection. I was born here! (At the Naval Hospital). And my family and I attend Comic-Con every July, so we love San Diego.

Henry: Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak with us. And for our readers, the Newbery Medal is given to the author of “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. The Newbery (along with the Caldecott) is considered one of the most prestigious children’s literature awards in the United States.

HolmJenni

For what audience do you write?

I write middle grade fiction (‘Penny from Heaven’, ‘Our Only May Amelia’, ‘Turtle in Paradise’) and graphic novels with my brother, Matt Holm (The Babymouse series and the Squish series).

Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book is ‘Squish: Game On’. It actually features a comic convention.

Henry: Amazon helpfully adds “a hilarious, action packed graphic novel series from the award-winning creators of Babymouse! Filled with superheroes, comics within comics, and gross-out science, Squish is perfect for fans of Dav Pilkey’s ‘Captain Underpants’, Dan Gutman’s ‘Weird School’, and Jarrett Krosoczka’s ‘Lunch Lady’.

Beep! Beep! Squish can’t get enough of his awesome new video game Mitosis! (Mitosis is what happens when cells divide. Who says video games can’t be educational?) In fact, he may even be obsessed! He plays at home . . . at school. . . even in his sleep! Are video games taking over Squish’s life?! And can Squish’s favorite comic book hero, Super Amoeba, stop the Creeping Black Mold that’s taking over Small Pond?”

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

Kids today have to deal with the challenges of different media (video games, etc.) This book tackles what is a common situation a lot of kids face.

Henry: The heartbreak of unwanted mitosis?

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

It’s hard to live in your own head all day.

Henry: Some heads more than others. The voices. The voices!

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?

The impact you can have on a child. A book can really change someone’s life.

Henry: I admit it was delightful to hear that after reading ‘Nimpentoad’ one of my little readers will now eat mushrooms. A small victory, perhaps, but we take them.

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?

I probably wouldn’t be able to wear pajamas to work.

Henry: And fuzzy slippers?

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Read! Read! Read!

Henry: Yes. I heard this great saying at a SCBWI conference, “Just as the lion is the product of all the zebras she’s eaten, the author is the product of all the books she’s read.”

Do you have any favorite quotes?

Keep calm and revise on.

Henry: Good one. I don’t think all aspiring authors realize how much revising is required.

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?

I generally don’t like to discuss whatever I’m working on. I worry I will jinx myself. (I’m pretty superstitious).

Henry: How do you feel about black cats walking under ladders on Friday the 13th?

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

The ability to make the house be instantly clean (I have two kids).

Henry: So, you’d be exercising that power frequently. Very original superpower. Well played, Jenni. Well played.

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

Lloyd Alexander (my childhood hero), Bill Watterson (my whole life hero) and Hal Foster (my Prince Valiant hero).

Henry: Wikipedia helpfully adds, “Lloyd Chudley Alexander was a widely influential American author of more than forty books, primarily fantasy novels for children and young adults. His most famous work is The Chronicles of Prydain, a series of five high fantasy novels whose conclusion, The High King, was awarded the 1969 Newbery Medal for excellence in American children’s literature.”

Hal Foster was a Canadian-American illustrator best known for his comic strip Prince Valiant. And of course, we all know and love Bill Watterson from the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

The dragons from Anne McCaffrey’s “Harper Hall” series.

Henry: Dragons. It’s always dragons. There has to be some deep psychological root for our affinity.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I have recently taken up fencing and I love it!

Henry: Touche!

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

She Liked to Revise

Henry: Or “She Liked to Revise”, then “She Liked to Edit” underneath, then “stet”.

Where can readers find your work?

www.jenniferholm.com and www.babymouse.com. And I hope to see everyone at San Diego Comic-Con!

This article is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.


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Before Comic-Con, there was the Belgian Comic Strip Center

The Belgian Comic Strip Center (BCSC) is located in a majestic Art Nouveau building designed by Victor Horta in 1906. The BCSC assembles anything that deals with European comics, from its prestigious beginnings to its latest developments. It is located in one of the oldest districts of Brussels, just a few steps away from Grand’Place and the Royal district.

Our summer vacation included Brussels, and we could not pass up a visit, particularly when viewed as a European prelude to our attendance at San Diego Comic-Con. Here are my sons and co-authors posing with some life-sized Tintin figures.

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My Nimpentoad co-authors at the BCSC with life-sized Tintin characters

Many Americans got their first taste of European comics from The Smurfs and when The Adventures of Tintin was recently released as a movie directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Peter Jackson.

Per wikipedia.org, “The Adventures of Tintin (French: Les Aventures de Tintin) is a series of comic albums created by Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi (1907–1983), who wrote under the pen name of Hergé. The series is one of the most popular European comics of the 20th century. By the time of the centenary of Hergé’s birth in 2007, Tintin had been published in more than 70 languages with sales of more than 200 million copies.”

“The Smurfs (French: Les Schtroumpfs) is a Belgian comic and television franchise centered on a group of Smurfs: small blue fictional creatures that live in mushrooms. The Smurfs were first created and introduced as a series of comic characters by the Belgian comics artist Peyo (pen name of Pierre Culliford) in 1958. The word “Smurf” is the original Dutch translation of the French “Schtroumpf”, a word invented when during a meal with fellow cartoonist André Franquin, Peyo could not remember the word salt.”

Printing opened everything up to a wide audience

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“The introduction of engraving, published books, newspapers and color prints sold at fairs enabled a wide audience to be reached. Both master of their art, The Englishman, William Hogarth and the Japanese, Katsushika Hokusai, told stories by means of a series of engravings or etchings. They are essential milestones in the history of this nascent art, following the example of the Swiss comic artist, Rodolphe Topffer, who taught movement so well to his pupils.”

Play With Dickie

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This museum display perhaps doesn’t realize how American boys would read it.
Museum display directions: Dickie is mixed up. Arrange some order in the drawings for him.

Tintin is Nobody. Tintin is Everyman

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Image caption: Tintin’s face is made up of a few very simple features. It’s almost expressionless. Because it is neutral, it’s the ideal recipient for the emotions felt and projected by readers.
Depending on the circumstances, Tintin can be young or old, Scandinavian or mediterranean, African or Asian. He’s a universal character. If Tintin is Everyman, he is also you!

Which Tintin Characters Appeared When

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Image caption: Raymond Macherot was born in Verviers in 1924. He is unanimously considered to be the greatest author of animal comics of his generation. With series such as Chlorophylle (Tintin, 1953) and Sybilline (Spirou, 1965), he created a universe characterized by poetry, fable, and satire. ”

Jerom

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Image caption: Jerom (Jethro) began his solo career in the weekly children’s magazine Ons Volkske in 1960 with Het geheim van Brokkelsteen. Willy Vandersteen wrote the first scripts and entrusted the drawings to his assistant Edward De Rop. The appealing strongman soon found a following and became a publishing success for the Vandersteen Studio.

Raymond Macherot

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Image caption: Raymond Macherot was born in Verviers in 1924. He is unanimously considered to be the greatest author of animal comics of his generation. With series such as Chlorophylle (Tintin, 1953) and Sybilline (Spirou, 1965), he created a universe characterized by poetry, fable, and satire.

Willy Vandersteen through his stories

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Per wikipedia.org, “Willy Vandersteen was a Belgian creator of comic books. In a career spanning 50 years, he created a large studio and published more than 1,000 comic albums in over 25 series, selling more than 200 million copies worldwide.

Considered together with Marc Sleen the founding father of Flemish comics, he is mainly popular in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. Hergé called him “The Brueghel of the comic strip”, while the creation of his own studio and the mass production and commercialization of his work turned him into “the Walt Disney of the Low Countries”.

Vandersteen is best known for Suske en Wiske (published in English as Spike and Suzy, Luke and Lucy, Willy and Wanda or Bob and Bobette), which in 2008 sold 3.5 million books. His other major series are De Rode Ridder with over 200 albums and Bessy with almost 1,000 albums published in Germany.”

Spirou passed from hand to hand

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Per wikipedia.org, “Spirou (Walloon: Squirrel, mischievous) is the main character of the Spirou et Fantasio and Le Petit Spirou comic strips. The character was originally created by Robert Velter (Rob-Vel) for the launch of Le Journal de Spirou in 1938. Spirou was originally an elevator operator and bell-boy at the fictional Moustique Hotel. At some point he became a reporter for the eponymous magazine, though he remained dressed in his trademark red uniform.”

Smurfs!

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In the US, probably the most well-known European comic characters are the Smurfs. Per wikipedia.org, “The Smurfs (French: Les Schtroumpfs) is a Belgian comic and television franchise centered on a group of Smurfs: small blue fictional creatures that live in mushrooms. The Smurfs were first created and introduced as a series of comic characters by the Belgian comics artist Peyo (pen name of Pierre Culliford) in 1958. The word “Smurf” is the original Dutch translation of the French “Schtroumpf”, a word invented when during a meal with fellow cartoonist André Franquin, Peyo could not remember the word salt.”

This article is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.


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Interview with ‘Herobear’ comic author Mike Kunkel

Mike Kunkel has been a cartoonist for as long as he can remember.  He spends his time writing and drawing stories for animation, comics, and children’s books.  He has won the Annie Award for Best Character Design in an Animated Series.   And he is the 2-time Eisner Award winning creator of the comic series “Herobear and the Kid”. While working daily in the animation industry, he is creating new books for release through his company The Astonish Factory.

Despite all the preparations required for San Diego Comic-Con, Mike has (heroically) made time to answer some questions.

KunkelMike

For what age audience do you write?

To be honest, I truly try to write for all ages. I want to create stories that are enjoyed from little kids to grandparents. It means a lot to offer stories that all ages can enjoy.

Henry: Indeed, we all have a kid inside us, struggling each day to remind us to not be too serious.

Tell us about your latest projects.

I have two brand new projects… The first is a brand new “Herobear and the Kid” adventure. It’s called “Picture Day”, and it is a fun one-shot story about Herobear and Tyler (the kid) saving the bridge in their town of Simpleton from an attack by the villain Von Klon and his “Sub-of-Doom.” “Herobear and the Kid” is a very nostalgic series with superhero origins.  It’s written with the feeling and tones of Wonder Years and A Christmas Story.  So with this story, I had fun writing about the memory of our school picture days and added in the adventure of fighting maniacal metal piranhas.

The other book I have coming out is a new children’s picture book entitled “Timmy and the Moon Piece.” It is the story of a little boy, named Timmy, and his fat little guinea pig, named Ton, that find a piece of the moon in the front yard one night. They decide to build a little rocket with their red wagon and fly the piece back up to glue it back to the moon.

Henry: I’m struggling to integrate “tone of Wonder Years” with “maniacal metal piranhas”. Well played, sir.

What do you hope readers will get from reading it?

My hope would be that with both these books, the readers enjoy the time they spend with my characters on the adventures.  I hope at the end, they have a smile on their face.

What aspect of writing or illustrating do you find most challenging?

Sometimes it’s the scheduling and balancing of regular life that is the hardest to juggle with the writing/illustrating responsibilities.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from your career?

Make sure you love what you’re creating. Don’t do it to please others, because you can’t please everyone. So make sure you love your creations first. That will then come through to the readers…your “tribe.” Enjoy the process and value your results. Don’t rush through your projects and not enjoy the the creating of them.  And always celebrate the end result.

Henry: That is very sage advice.

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer/illustrator?

The opportunity to have traveled to Angouleme, France with my family. An overwhelming experience that was made even more amazing because I could share it with my wife and kids.

Henry: Travel is great. We just got back from Europe. One of our stops was the Belgian Comic Strip Center. You gotta’ love the Belgians. They put a comic museum inside an Art Nouveau building designed by Horta! We’ll be posting about our visit tomorrow.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors or illustrators?

The simple advice is “don’t give up.” But really that covers so much. Stick to your dreams…go after them daily…even if you make teeny, tiny progress, keep at it. And the foundation for all of this is when you have a dream, make sure you also have plan toward that dream. And the plan may change or adjust, but make sure you have one to follow and don’t give up.

Henry: Many people mention persistence. But you bring up other important aspects: plan and adapt. “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” — Field Marshal von Moltke

Do you have any favorite quotes?

A couple that I really like are by Ray Bradbury… “Do what you love, and love what you do.” “Build your wings on the way down.”

Henry: The latter seems a tad risky to me.

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write or illustrate?

Hmmm, not that I know of… Though my kids say that my eyes “bug out” a little bit when I get really into a drawing.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Definitely flying. I would love to be able lift up off the ground and fly through the clouds.

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

Dr. Seuss, C.S. Lewis, Stephen King, L. Frank Baum, Stan Lee, Ray Bradbury. . . Each one of these has inspired me tremendously in different ways. I’d love to get the chance to talk personally with them and see them all interact.

Henry: I said “three.” Clearly, two of them have crashed the dinner. My first Lewis read was, of course, Narnia, but his “Mere Christianity” knocked my socks off making cogent logical arguments for religious beliefs.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

Traveling with my family, waiting impatiently for football season to start…and considering I’m always writing and drawing, I do like to sleep every once in a while.

Henry: “A life of leisure and a life of laziness are two things. There will be sleeping enough in the grave.” – Benjamin Franklin

Where can readers find your work?

“Herobear and the Kid” can be found all this week at SDCC at the Boom Studios Booth. And both “Herobear” and “Timmy and the Moon Piece” can be found online at http://www.theastonishfactory.com.

This article is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.


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Interview with Ned Vizzini, NY Times Bestselling author of ‘House of Secrets’

Ned Vizzini is the New York Times bestselling author of young-adult books ‘It’s Kind of a Funny Story’, ‘The Other Normals’, ‘Be More Chill’, and ‘Teen Angst? Naaah..’.. In television, he has written for MTV’s Teen Wolf and currently writes for NBC’s Believe, forthcoming in March 2014 from J.J. Abrams and Alfonso Cuarón. His essays and criticism have appeared in the New York Times, the Daily Beast, and the New Yorker. He is the coauthor with Chris Columbus of the fantasy-adventure series ‘House of Secrets’. His work has been translated into 25 languages. He lives in Los Angeles.

Henry: And yes, that would be the Chris Columbus who directed such movies as Mrs. Doubtfire, two Harry Potter movies, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, and Home Alone.

VizziniNed

For what age audience do you write?

I write for everyone! That’s an easy answer because you hope everyone — or anyone — will read your work. In terms of marketing terms, my books are young-adult books, which means they are for readers 13 and up. My recent project ‘House of Secrets’ is for younger readers, from ages seven to twelve, although I have photographic evidence that at least one six-year-old has read it. My work on Last Resort, the TV show, was adult-oriented, and Believe, the show I’m on now, is also for adults. (It will air on Sundays at 9pm.)

Tell us about your latest book.

‘House of Secrets’ is a fantasy adventure book in the tradition of ‘Redwall’ or the R. A. Salvatore books I loved as a kid. It’s about a trio of siblings — the Walkers — who move into a creepy house in San Francisco and learn that it used to be owned by an even creepier writer, Denver Kristoff. Kristoff is like an H. P. Lovecraft or Robert E. Howard; he wrote all these cult novels in the early 20th century that have been lost to time. When the Walkers anger the wrong person, they — and the house — get sent into a mixed-up world where all of Kristoff’s books come to life. So they have to fight to find their way home. Oh, and there’s a colossus who eats giant dragonflies.

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

I hope that readers will have a good time reading ‘House of Secrets’.

Henry: I have a copy in my to-be-read pile.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

The most challenging aspect of writing is finding the time to do it. This is difficult because the world is a treacherous and horrible place.

Henry: Particularly when there’s a colossus who eats giant dragonflies nearby.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?

I’ve learned that you can’t let anyone do your selling for you. Even though there’s a big apparatus at HarperCollins supporting ‘House of Secrets’ and they have done a fantastic job, a lot of the press that I’ve received for it has simply come from me asking for help.

Henry: You’re welcome. 🙂

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?

I got a chance to speak at Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada for my book ‘It’s Kind of a Funny Story’. Fort McMurray is very far north — like Arctic Circle-north — and the only way to get there is through the desolate airport.

But then once you arrive, the town is part of the shale oil boom and everything is super expensive! They have a Keyano College, and bars, and hotels… it’s like the tiny alternate-universe Canadian version of Dubai.

Henry: Hmmm. That gives me an idea for a sci-fi book plot…

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Start small. Don’t try to write a novel off the bat. Write a short story so you can feel accomplished before you tackle bigger things.

Henry: Note to self: write a board book. Maybe a horror board book – The Very Hungry Cthulhu.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

“The majority is always wrong; the minority is rarely right.” – Henrik Ibsen
“No matter how cynical you become, it’s never enough to keep up.” – Lily Tomlin
“I’m not well-read, but when I read, I read well.” – Kurt Cobain

Henry: I wonder if Dox Equis ad writers were inspired by Kurt Cobain…

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?

I don’t believe in writing rituals; I think they hold you back.

Henry: Note to self: stop wasting time on Cthulhu-worship rituals. BTW, my spellchecker recognizes Cthulhu as a word. Now THAT’S how you know you’ve arrived.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

The power to stop time! For obvious reasons. At least I hope they’re obvious. Anybody who doesn’t want to stop time must be bored.

Henry: Stopping time is the most popular answer I’ve received from authors.

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

George Orwell, Michael Crichton, and Amy Sohn, because all of their writing made a big impression on me when I was a kid, and I’d like to see them bounce ideas off of each other.

Henry: Perhaps Crichton would develop a TV show about cloned farm animals…

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

Can’t go wrong with dragons!

Henry: Ah, a traditionalist. But which flavor of dragon: LeGuin’s, McCaffrey’s, Tolkien’s, or Martin’s?

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Go to the post office.

Henry: To mail manuscripts or receive royalty checks. Well played, sir.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

“Loving husband and father.”

Henry: Nice. My sense of self-preservation would have me add grandfather and great grandfather.

Where can readers find your work?

You can find ‘It’s Kind of a Funny Story’ face-out at Barnes & Noble since it has “tipped” and become popular. My other work can be harder to find; you might have to ask for it. ‘House of Secrets’ is heavily discounted on Amazon. Your local independent bookstore should have my stuff in the young adult and children’s sections. The many articles I’ve written are here. Enjoy!

Henry: Usually when I’ve “tipped”, I’m face down. Ned will also be signing books at the Smart Pop Books booth (#4300) at the San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday, July 20 at 11 am.

This article is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.


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‘Game of Thrones’ as Saved by the Bell characters

George R.R. Martin’s ‘Game of Thrones’ (GoT) is a wildly popular fantasy book and HBO series. And fans can’t seem to get enough mashups of ‘Game of Thrones’ characters and other franchises. For example, GoT meets the Muppets (http://www.examiner.com/list/game-of-thrones-meets-the-muppets-by-ymercado). The latest GoT mashup we’ve found (thanks to Rebecca Pahle at The Mary Sue is by artist Mike Wrobel.

In a delightfully twisted way Mike Wrobel of Moshi Studio visually transported GoT characters into the late 1980’s. He says, “I grew up at a wonderful time when X-Files was THE show we couldn’t miss, Grunge music made us wear ripped jeans, and we still could find toys in cereal boxes.” Perhaps Hollywood will make a sci-fi time travel spinoff, with characters transported through by the Throne a la Dr. Who’s TARDIS…

Mike describes himself as “a French creative graphic designer based in Tokyo Japan. Well, something that could probably explain my vivid imagination and passion for pop culture is the fact that I grew up watching the X-Files, throwing Hadoken in Street Fighter, reading horror movie magazines, building some unlikely Lego spaceships and other stuff that made my childhood so awesome.”

Winter came and went! Enjoy these images from http://www.moshistudio.com/

Khal Drogo

khal

Per wikipedia.org:
“Drogo is a powerful khal, or warlord, of the Dothraki people, a tribal nation of expert riders and raiders in the steppes beyond the Free Cities. He is an accomplished warrior and has never been defeated in battle. In ‘A Game of Throne’s, Viserys Targaryen and Illyrio Mopatis conspire to marry Daenerys Targaryen to Drogo to get his support and warriors for the invasion of Westeros. Drogo approves of her and takes her as his wife. Despite his fearsome attitude toward his warriors, he proves to be a kind and sensitive husband. After a failed attempt on the pregnant Daenerys’ life, he vows to invade Westeros to reclaim the Seven Kingdoms for the Targaryens and his son. However, Viserys’ impertinence ultimately causes Drogo to kill him. He raids several villages and attacks other Dothraki hordes to gather supplies for the invasion and is wounded by an enemy khal. The wound festers and Drogo falls from his horse, causing most of his warriors to abandon him. Daenerys unwittingly sacrifices their unborn son to revive him, and he becomes an unresponsive shell of his former self. She smothers him out of pity, and the flames of his funeral pyre hatch her dragon eggs.”

Cersei Lannister

cersei

From wikipedia.org:
“Cersei Lannister of House Lannister is the older twin sister of Jaime and is the only daughter of Tywin Lannister. She is physically beautiful, but she is also greedy, cruel, manipulative, amoral and not very intelligent; she is also short tempered and quick to hold grudges, as well as often rushing into situations without pausing to consider the consequences of her actions. She shares her father’s belief that to be feared is better than to be loved; however, unlike her father, Cersei has never learnt to temper ruthlessness with pragmatism and good judgement.”

Bronn

bronn

From wikipedia.org:
“Bronn is a sell-sword with a sardonic sense of humor, and a retainer to Tyrion Lannister. After their arrival in King’s Landing, Bronn’s service to Tyrion earns him a position as Commander of the City Watch. When Stannis Baratheon attacks the city by sailing up the Blackwater Bay, he shoots a fire arrow to a ship containing wild fire which destroys half of Stannis’ fleet. However, Bronn is stripped of his position after Tywin Lannister takes over as Hand of The King.”

Margaery Tyrell

marg

From wikipedia.org:
“Margaery is the only daughter of Lord Mace Tyrell, and has recently married the late King Robert’s brother, Renly Baratheon, as part of House Tyrell’s support for his bid to seize the Iron Throne from King Joffrey. Somewhere in her mid to late twenties, she is surprisingly canny and cunning. She is aware of her husband’s homosexual orientation and inclinations towards her brother. Despite her knowledge of this, she actively attempts to become pregnant as to secure the alliance between their families. When Renly is killed, the Tyrells ally with House Lannister and she is planned to marry to King Joffrey. In a departure from her characterization in the novels, where her personal motivations are unclear, Margaery’s naked ambition is made obvious.”

Theon Greyjoy

theon

From wikipedia.org:
“Theon Greyjoy is the youngest son of Lord Balon Greyjoy of the Iron Islands. He is the hostage and ward of Lord Eddard Stark, stemming from the failed Greyjoy Rebellion. Despite his position, he remains loyal to Eddard and is good friends with his sons Robb and Jon. While he has never questioned his position, he soon begins to have doubts after Tyrion tells him he is nothing more than a servant to the Starks and not everyone respects him. Nevertheless, Theon initially remains loyal to Robb after he goes to war with the Lannisters and supports his decision to have the North secede from the Seven Kingdoms and form their own kingdom. He is sent to the Iron Islands in Season 2 to seek a Stark alliance with the Greyjoys. However, his father criticizes Theon for accepting the northern lifestyle and reject Robb’s proposal. Wishing to prove to his father that he is a true Ironborn, he joins his family’s invasion of the North. To gain the respect of his men, he ignores his orders to raid the shores and captures Winterfell.”

Tyrion Lannister

tyrion

From wikipedia.org:
“Tyrion Lannister, mockingly nicknamed the Imp and Halfman, is a malformed dwarf and is the third child of Tywin Lannister. He is intelligent, witty and shares his father’s skill for political maneuvering. Because he is an outcast, he also has great sympathy for outcasts and the mistreated. His mother died giving birth to him, and Tywin has never forgiven him. Tywin also hates him for his dwarfism, sharp tongue, and frequent use of prostitutes. While Tyrion is hated by Tywin and his sister Cersei, his brother Jaime treats him with kindness and respect.”

Arya Stark

arya

From wikipedia.org:
“Arya Stark is the younger daughter and third child of Lord Eddard and Catelyn Stark of Winterfell. Ever the tomboy, Arya would rather be training to use weapons than sewing with a needle. Her direwolf is called Nymeria. When Ned is arrested for treason, her “dancing master” Syrio Forel helps her escape the Lannisters. She is later disguised as an orphan boy by Yoren, a Night’s Watch recruiter, in hopes of getting her back to Winterfell. From then on, she takes the name Arry. During Season 2, Yoren convoy is attacked by the Lannisters who are under orders by King Joffrey to find and kill Robert’s bastard children. Before she is captured, she releases the prisoner Jaqen H’ghar and two others, saving their lives. She and the rest of the captured recruits are sent to Harrenhal under Gregor Clegane who cruelly tortures and kills prisoners everyday. At the same time, she follows the advice of the late Yoren and makes a list of those she wants dead like a prayer.”

This article is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.