Hello out there! Exciting news:
-I'm doing a live reading of "The Georgia Diaries" as part of this week's Cartoon Carousel, a kickoff party for SF Zinefest. It's at the fabulous Cartoon Art Museum (655 Mission Street in San Francisco) this Thursday, August 30, starting at 7pm. Also on the program: Eli Bishop, Gabrielle Gamboa, Ric Carrasquillo, and SF Zinefest special guest Sarah Oleksyk! Come out and see us.
-I'll be tabling at SF Zinefest this weekend, Sept. 1-2, at the County Fair Building in Golden Gate Park. I will be selling all my old books and......
-I'll be selling a new little book full of those Georgia Diaries and some other choice shorts.
-I'm reopening my Etsy store this weekend and will be selling online again. No, don't look at it yet, there's nothing there now. I'll repost the link once there is stuff. But yay right?
If you come to Cartoon Carousel (which will be awesome) or SFZF (which is ALWAYS awesome) you will love it and I hope you'll say hi!
So, it turns out there is more than one kind of nerdy convention I enjoy. In June I got to go to the 2012 ALA Annual Conference-- that's the American Library Association, y'all. It's a big, bustling, baffling conference, and though I still found it far easier to navigate than Comic-Con, there was a lot I missed because I wasn't in the know about how to find things, how to prioritize, and how to network your way into the Macmillan Dessert Party. Not that I needed any more dessert. And, well-- I'm just going to let the comics tell the story.
Here are 11 Lessons Learned from my First ALA Annual.
(Psst- I signed up to table at SF Zine Fest. Which means I will be producing new, printed books soon. Eeep.)
Okay, first. My favorite Maurice Sendak memory:
I was a new children's librarian, in Chicago, and during the summer we were showing movies to camp groups. One day I had a huge group of kids in our auditorium-- probably more than 100 kids. They were all squirrely and hot. One of the counselors asked me a question and I had to write down the answer--didn't have a pen--so I hit 'play' on the DVD player and dashed out of the room. I'd never left a room during a library program. We had strict rules about supervision. But I figured, I'll be gone 30 seconds, what could possibly go wrong? Then, coming back to the auditorium, I heard screaming. Children's screaming. What sounded like a LOT of children screaming. Panic hit and I started to run, wondering what could have possibly happened, would I be responsible---
And then I threw open the door and saw a giant projected naked Mickey, falling out of his diaper and into the Night Kitchen, his little penis flopping in the air and a hundred kids screaming while eight camp counselors laughed their heads off. Then I laughed too.
I'm so grateful Maurice Sendak wrote one more book,* the first book he both wrote and illustrated in thirty years, Bumble-Ardy, because it made us** all stop and think one more time about how great his work was while he was still living instead of waiting until he's dead and wishing we could hear just a little bit more, like we*** usually do with the people who've shaped our lives. And he has shaped mine. I wish I could tell you how much of my daily life is influenced by Maurice Sendak. Wait, why don't I:
-7am, I wake up, put the coffee on, and sink onto the couch for a few more minutes of stillness. Facing me on the shelf is a tiny little brown book---it's Chicken Soup with Rice, one of the Nutshell Library volumes. I read this book when I was little; I can still hear my mother's voice saying "sipping once, sipping twice, sipping chicken soup with rice," and I think it was one of the earliest books I learned to read on my own. Pierre... another Nutshell book. How distressing and disturbing that one was to me. So the kid was a brat--just for that he got eaten by a lion?! I was often a brat. I didn't want to get eaten by a lion, and here I will note that the book that most terrified me in childhood was Andy and the Lion, which used to send me out of the Wheaton Public Library sobbing, and I'll let you draw your own conclusions.
-9am, I arrive at work, and Sendak's work surrounds me: in the S's in picture books, also in the K's (Ruth Krauss), in the M's in easy readers (Else Holmlund Minarik's Little Bear series). When I worked at the Main Children's Room, I could not have counted the spots I would find him---folk tale collections, nonfiction, pop-ups; he was everywhere.
-Tomorrow, 10:30am, I'll have four preschool classes in for storytime, and I will read them Where the Wild Things Are. Sorry Mr. Sendak if it bored you to talk about it, but this book has stunning resonance with children, and I have yet to meet a child who didn't love it. It was the first book I read aloud in Spanish, when I moved to California and did bilingual storytimes in Hayward. Now that I'm in East Oakland, I think often about how I wish it were true for everyone, every child who misbehaves, goes on a rampage even, that they will come home to find an adult has kept supper hot for them. Wasn't it just two nights ago another was slaughtered? Sunday, 12:05am.
-11am, I finished putting up a memorial display in my library. I point it out all day. No one recognizes the name, but when I say Where the Wild Things Are, their eyes widen, their mouths open slightly.
-3pm, the wild rumpus starts. The local kids arrive at my library, no parents in sight, to Max it up. My day is challenging from here on out; rule reminders, rule breaking, so-and-so's been perfect but has a low trigger point, whozits is a time bomb today, remember X Y and Z's father just died. Giggles just had a cousin shot; Snorts is off suspension for now. Some of these kids might not reach adulthood. That's a thought I can't let myself have too often.
I guess you don't have to grow up in a neighborhood where there's a murder a week to understand that childhood is hard, scary stuff. In one of Sendak's Fresh Air interviews (which I highly recommend) he comes right out and says that childhood is awful; you have no money, no power, no ability to escape from things that menace you in your daily life. It is so important to respect that in children. Kids have the quiet dignity of a prisoner, to me, it's what I always feel when I talk to them. If I say something sweetly, I can see their eyes call bullshit on me. If I say it in a normal voice and unhalting cadence, I have to endure their judgment, and I know they are honest judges. Whenever I sugarcoat something for a kid, I find it's for my protection, not theirs.
Thank you, Maurice Sendak, for honoring the nobility of these little monsters, for acknowledging that life may eat us up and our parents may die and we may have to throw our own ninth birthday party, and it may be a nightmare--but god, it can still be okay, we can still get through it, if we have that hot supper on the other side. Even if the other side is very far away. Thank you, Maurice.
*Two, apparently; his NYT obituary mentions a February 2013 posthumous release.
I read WTWTA to the preschoolers yesterday. Mixed results. About half said they'd never seen it before. Of those, some were mesmerized with delight, and some looked terrified. Of the rest, about half were all squirmy and didn't pay attention. Talking, not keeping their hands to themselves!! I thought about delivering their first "you don't appreciate great art" lecture but nah.
I am typing this at 8:18pm, Pacific time, on January 22, juuust over nine hours before this year's committee announces the winner of the 2012 Newbery Award, the prize given to the most distinguished book written for children that year!
I realize many of you are not as moronically excited about this as I am. That's okay. You and I are very different. But I love children's books, and I am a sucker for this last minute drama. By this time tomorrow, the 2012 Newbery winner will be slapped with a gold sticker and placed in a special spot on my library's shelves.* It's a book I'll recommend to parents for the rest of my career. Or not recommend, but one way or the other, I will hold an opinion about it. Newbery books get criticized for being boring or out of touch, but they become a part of the historical record of children's literature. Each one declares "you guys, the year I came out, I was the BEST." And it's at least kind of right.
Also, the Caldecott! Although I never get quite as excited about the Caldecott as I expect. A lot of the illustrators I really love were never Caldecott winners, or they won for a book I'm not really wild about. And the Caldecott committee considers overall design, type, etc. in their decision, so it's not *just* the illusration.
So! Last year I drew a comic about the Mock Newbery, the process by which a bunch of total kid lit geeks debate and choose their own Newbery winner, in mini committees all across the country. That first link is part one, and part two is here. That's about what we do leading up to the day of the Mock Newbery. Posted below for your enjoyment is a comic I did at this year's Mock Newbery, and this one is about the day of. Read all three for maximum enjoyment.
Also, you should read my director's blog about her 8am encounter with a Newbery committee member this morning. They'd chosen the winner by then, sometime in the wee small hours of the morning, and today like every Sunday before the award is announced they spent wearing their poker faces and trying not to slip. Which just makes it all so much more exciting.
Okay, the cafe I'm in is playing this stupid easy listening version of "Mrs. Robinson" which makes me think they are trying to close, so no more dilly dallying. Mock Newbery 2012! Enjoy!
*Unless we haven't bought it! which has happened before! ha ha