order of oddfish cover

The Order of Oddfish


90-Second Newbery Deadline EXTENDED to January 16, 2015

December 8, 2014


Short post today! Two items.

First: why has the blog been dark oh these many weeks? Why, I’ve been busy finishing a brand-new manuscript! At long last, my second novel Bride of the Tornado is complete. I sent it off to my agent, the patient supportive superstar Tina Wexler, a few days ago.

Can’t wait until it’s published? At 7pm on Tuesday, January 6, 2015 I’ll be reading an excerpt from Bride of the Tornado at Tuesday Funk at the upstairs lounge of the Hopleaf Bar in Chicago.)

Second: I extended the deadline to submit movies to our 4th annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival to January 16, 2015!

I can see making a 90-Second Newbery being a perfect project to fit into your Christmas vacation. Or this will give you extra time to polish those 90-Second Newberys you’ve been working on.

Wait, what is the 90-Second Newbery? It’s an annual film festival I founded in which young filmmakers crate movies that tell the entire stories of Newbery-winning books in 90 seconds or less. The best movies are screened in yearly gala events in New York City, Brooklyn, Chicago, San Francisco, Oakland, Portland, Tacoma, and Minneapolis! And this year I’m lucky to have co-hosts fellow kids’ authors Ame Dyckman, Peter Lerangis, Annie Barrows, and Kelly Barnhill. Check out our Events page for details on dates and locations of screenings, and here for complete details about the film festival.

And I’ll leave you with this—Carolina Day School’s entry for this year’s 90-Second Newbery Film Festival, of the 1984 Newbery Honor winner The Wish Giver by Bill Brittain:

So joyous and funny! Love the plummy accent of the Wish Giver—in fact all the accents were hilarious. And the mustaches! And the way glasses keep getting flung off faces throughout! And the special effect of the flood, and getting drowned—the idea of doing it with a squirtgun and a blue sheet was inspired. And I laughed out loud when the kid got turned into a tree. And of course “I got a bloody nose” was a perfect way to end.

Now go, my pretties! Make more 90-Second Newberys! MORE MORE MORE

Get Crackin’ on those 90-Second Newberys!

October 8, 2014

Just got back last night from Minneapolis / St. Paul, speaking at schools about the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival. Next week, it’s off to Phoenix for more school visits! Have YOU made your entry for the 90-Second Newbery? If not, get cracking! The deadline is December 20. Consult the events sidebar for dates and info for screenings in New York, Brooklyn, Chicago, San Francisco, Oakland, Tacoma, Portland, and Minneapolis.

I’ll also be doing a “best-of” screening of the 90-Second Newbery at the Oak Park Public Library (834 Lake St, Oak Park, IL) next Monday, October 13, from 3-5 pm. Check out the fantastic promotional art they made for the event, above, by Tom Deja of Bossman Graphics! It’s beautiful!

Speaking of movies, if you’re interested in screenwriting or even storytelling in general, you owe it to yourself to head over to Matt Bird’s essential Cockeyed Caravan blog, which is a treasure trove of storytelling advice. I never miss a post! And this week I’m honored to be the “guest expert” on the blog, answering Matt’s question, “Why do we love Luke Skywalker in Star Wars when he just seems to be a petulant, whiny farm boy?” I take exception to Matt’s characterization and break down why I think the beginning of the movie works so well. It’s a three-parter, so here’s Part 1 of my response, followed by Part 2, and finally Part 3 (followed up by Matt’s response to my points). Warning, this is for folks interested in the nuts-and-bolts of storytelling and/or Star Wars only—even my own mom couldn’t read through all of these.

Bringing it back to the 90-Second Newbery . . . let’s check out a few of the entries I’ve already received for this year’s film festival! These four come from old favorite Jacob von Borg and his sisters. Jacob & co. have made some great Order of Odd-Fish fan art (here, here, and here) and they are also some of the masterminds behind two marvelous 90-Second Newbery movies I’ve received (Frog and Toad Together and The Old Tobacco Shop).

First, Charlotte’s Web as a puppet show:

I particularly dug how cute Wilbur looked when Fern was feeding him from the bottle, and all the great voices, especially the weird Germanic-voiced judge. The truck scuttling back and forth made for a nice structural touch, and “all of the animals acted of their own free will” made me laugh. Jacob says, “This film took a lot of floss. The most difficult part was that puppeteers had to be laying on the ground right outside the shot the whole time. The set was at ground level because the animals had to rest there. Also, did you catch Templeton’s cameo?”

Next, Frog and Toad Together:

I love how Toad willfully flings the list away from her as she wails, “Oh no, my list!” And how Jacob got a large tree and a dog sound effect so he wouldn’t have to invest in a snake, a hawk, or an avalanches. I’m impressed at how the shots are so well-composed, the editing so crisp and assured! Jacob writes, “We filmed this last fall, and finally edited now. My sisters and I went for a walk in the forest and I had just happened to bring a camera!”

Next up is (Sedimentary) Shiloh:

Jacob writes, “Yes, I enjoy geology jokes. And that wig that my sister wears to be Marty? You’ll be seeing more of that in future videos.” As for me, I thought it was a stroke of brilliance to have the dog played by a rock. Every time the camera cut to a motionless rock, automatic laughs. I loved the melodramatic way they all played the “I couldn’t lie to your Pa” line and the absurdity of the doctor confidently saying, “I can sew up this rock!”

Next up, Ella Enchanted:

I liked the “Oh, fudgemuffins!” and the star turns of Hattie and the Stepmother, and the hilarious exchange “I broke the curse” “That was arbitrary” “Wanna get married?” “That was my idea!” Jacob writes, “Since we’re working off a borrowed Public Access laptop for its editing program, and I had it out for two extra days, I said to my sisters ‘what other Newbery books have we read?’ It took us so long to actually record a usable shot of the suitcase scene because Alex (who was filming) kept cracking up and shaking the camera. And yes, that wig again.”

Great work on all of these, Jacob and Co.! I’m looking forward to seeing you when I come around to Portland in just a few months!

Joke Book, 90-Second Newbery Update, and Where Am I?

August 28, 2014

What is that cartoon above? A few months ago I was invited to contribute to a joke book for the 7- to 10-year-old crowd called Do You Smell Carrots?. The book is supposed to support California Bookstore Day, a celebration of brick and mortar indie bookstores stores as well as the physical beauty/fun/coolness of books. The book was only available at the indie bookstores participating, not at online booksellers or chain stores.

I was honored to be asked to contribute a joke-and-illustration in a book that also featured the likes of Lemony Snicket, John Scieszka, …. Here’s what I didn’t realize, though: almost every single other contributor—including bona fide artists—only used one page of the book, or a double-page spread max. For some reason I drew this excessively long meta-joke above (based on a conversation that my 5-year-old Lucy Momo and I had) and it took up 8 pages. Ay yi yi.

So, I’m back from my usual summer hiatus with several bits of news. First of all, good news on the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival front—we are now under the fiscal sponsorship of Northwestern Settlement. Want to make a donation to keep the film festival going? Now you can do so here!

Upcoming events! Live in the Atlanta area? This weekend (August 30-31, 2014), I’ll be at the Decatur Book Festival in Decatur, GA speaking about The Order of Odd-Fish (with other writers Peter Lerangis and George Hagen) and doing a best-of screening of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival. Details in the events sidebar.

Also, for you hometown Chicago folk, I’m once again co-hosting the annual Adult Spelling Bee at the Book Cellar with Robbie Q. Telfer and Kelsey Huff. It’s on Thursday, September 4 at 7 pm. This is the kind of bookstore that has a wine bar, and the spelling bee always a sloppy happy hilarious mess, so do come! Words will be misspelled! Prizes will be flung wildly about! Elementary school humiliations will be revisited! Register to compete at words@bookcellarinc.com or just show up and watch, it’s a good time. And heck, buy some books while you’re there at that worthy independent bookstore.

Ah! See how I brought it full circle, there? That’s true blogging mastery. I still got it!

Previous Post