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90-Second Newbery 2018: SAN ANTONIO!

February 7, 2018

Do you like the 90-Second Newbery? Do you want us to continue into next year and beyond? Please consider making a tax-deductible donation. We are under the nonprofit fiscal sponsorship of Fractured Atlas.

The very first screening of this year’s season of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival just happened in San Antonio, on February 3! Above are stills from some of the Texas-made movies we featured.

This is our third year doing the 90-Second Newbery in San Antonio. It’s really taken off! This time we were lucky enough to get to screen it at the Mays Family Center at the Witte Museum. It’s a beautiful space. And check out this huge turnout. About 500 folks came! Thanks so much to the filmmakers for making the movies, and to the audience for supporting the event!

Thanks to organizers Laura Cole and her team at Bibliotech (Bexar County’s Digital Library) and Christa Aldrich and everyone at H-E-B Read 3, HEB Texas Grocery’s literacy program. And particular thanks to Judge Nelson Wolff of Bexar County for supporting the project from the beginning. Laura, Christa, and Judge Wolff all attended the screening, along with the mayor of San Antonio (who got up and made a speech to kick off the show), the sherriff, and other city political dignitaries. I was really honored!

Here are some kid filmmakers hanging out with the sherriff, Judge Wolff, and Mayor Nirenberg. And Laura and Christa, kicking off the program.

I was really delighted with my cohost this year, Katherine Catmull (The Radiant Road and Summer and Bird). She’s not only an author, but a legit actress, and she was able to nail the crazy opening song-and-dance skit (video upcoming) with verve and wit. Thanks so much for lending us your talent and hilariousness, Katherine!

We received many great entries from Texas this year. So many that we couldn’t feature them all at the screening. But here are some of the standout movies, who won CASH PRIZES for their schools thanks to the generosity of H.E.B. Read 3.

This movie of Victoria Jamieson’s 2016 Honor Book Roller Girl won an Honorable Mention and $250 for Rhodes Elementary (full review on 90-Second Newbery blog here):

Third place (and $500) went to this adaptation of Ruth Stiles Gannett’s 1949 Honor Book My Father’s Dragon by Alek C., Derek M., Aiden U., Anthony S., Julianna A., and Sarai C. of Maverick Elementary (full review here). This movie has a fun twist: it’s done in the style of the Minions of Despicable Me!

Second place, and a whopping $750, went to Madison Elementary for Vincent B. and Francisco R.’s Lego stop-motion adaptation of Gary Paulsen’s 1988 Honor Book Hatchet (full review here):

First place, and the grand prize of $1500, was awarded to Robert L. Vale Middle School, Northside ISD, for this adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s 2009 Medal Winner The Graveyard Book (by Daniel V., Makayla B., Iyannah G., John O., and Gia B.), which is done with shadow puppets and sung to the Scooby-Doo theme song! (Full review here.)

I wish I could feature all the Texas-made movies I received in this post, but that would clutter up this already monstrous post! Here are the rest of the Texas-made movies which were featured at the San Antonio screening. Click through to check them out:


My Father’s Dragon by Aubriana V., Nathaniel S., Alejandra D.L., Valerie A., and Bryan T.

My Father’s Dragon by BiblioTech South patrons

Roller Girl by Jude, Isabella, Claire, Mariela, Dhara, Ava, Izara, Julian, and Jude

Doctor DeSoto by Isaac and Matthew

The Wednesday Wars by Milad, Magnus, and Toby

Because of Winn-Dixie by Losoya Intermediate Library/Book Club 6th grade

Holes by Kingsley Onyema Jr. and Gerardo Flores

The Giver by Vincent Lopez

The Graveyard Book by Jessica D., Cira G., Kyndal S., Autumn W.

Holes by Madeline M., Dylan S., Kylie C.

The One and Only Ivan by Anna M and Margaret M.

Last Stop on Market Street by Emma D. / ShadowCreations845

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Savannah

Roller Girl by 5th & 6th Critic’s Club of Trinity Episcopal School of Austin, TX

The Girl Who Drank The Moon by Danielle, McKenzie, Maria, Selena, Ashlynn, Sebastian, and special guest Ms. Tondre

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Elise, Jann, Melissa, Jonesha, Aaleya, Chloe, Olivia, Maleah, Kaylah, and Eva

The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Angelica C., Alexis S., Taylor V., Sarah C., Carlos S., Stephanie B., and Lisa A. of BiblioTech Outreach Group

Walk Two Moons by Noah C. and Ally R. of Alamo Heights High School

Thanks to all the filmmakers, and the teachers and parents and others who helped them! In case you missed it, here’s the closing montage of all the videos we showed at the San Antonio 2018 screening. I’m looking forward to seeing what Texas has in store for next year! The deadline of January 11, 2019 is coming sooner than you think. And we’ve already reserved the same venue for the screening, on February 9, 2019. That’s just a year away! Start working now!

* Some of the pictures in this post by Adam Raymond Peche of SAY SÍ.

Do you like the 90-Second Newbery? Do you want us to continue into next year and beyond? Please consider making a tax-deductible donation. We are under the nonprofit fiscal sponsorship of Fractured Atlas.

Screening dates for the SEVENTH ANNUAL 90-Second Newbery Film Festival, 2018!

January 10, 2018

Do you like the 90-Second Newbery? Do you want us to continue into next year and beyond? Please consider making a tax-deductible donation. We are under the nonprofit fiscal sponsorship of Fractured Atlas.

It’s that time of year! Get ready for the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival tour of 2018.

This year we’ll screen our film festival in FOURTEEN cities, from New York to San Francisco, from Chicago to San Antonio! And we’ve added three new cities this year: Salt Lake City and Ogden in Utah, and Lansing in Michigan.

If you’ve ever been to one of our screenings, you know they’re raucous fun. I usually co-host it with a local children’s author, and we usually do a ridiculous song-and-dance skit at the beginning. Here’s what it looked like last year when I co-hosted with authors Keir Graff and that year’s Newbery Medal winner, Kelly Barnhill!

Complete showtimes and locations below. Thanks especially to my co-hosts this year: authors M.T. Anderson, Katherine Catmull, Michael Northrop, Keir Graff, Pete Hautman, Aaron Zenz, Matt Krueger, Dale Basye, Marcus Ewert, and Doug Mackey.

(Wait, what is the 90-Second Newbery? It’s an annual video contest I founded in 2011, in which kid filmmakers create movies that tell the entire stories of Newbery-winning books in about 90 seconds. Complete information about the 90-Second Newbery here.)

Here are the screening dates for 2018. Reservations are free, but if you’re planning to go, you should move quick—these events tend to sell out! Links to the reservations pages below.

Want to bring the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival to your city? Every year we expand into more cities! Drop me a line at james@90secondnewbery.com.

90-Second Newbery 2018 Schedule
All screenings are free.

Friday, January 12, 2018
GENERAL DEADLINE for submissions to the seventh annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival.

Saturday, February 3, 2018
The SAN ANTONIO, TX screening of the seventh annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival. At the Mays Family Center at the Witte Museum (3801 Broadway St, San Antonio, TX). Hosted by me and author Catherine Catmull (The Radiant Road, Summer and Bird). Made possible by partners at Bexar County’s Digital Library Bibliotech and H-E-B Texas Grocery. 2-4 pm. Make your free reservation here.

Saturday, February 10, 2018
The MINNEAPOLIS screening of the seventh annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! At the Minneapolis Central Library (300 Nicollet Mall) in Pohlad Hall. Hosted by me and author Pete Hautman (Godless, The Flinkwater Factor). On-site book sales by Addendum Books. 3-5 pm. Make your free reservation here.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018
Special extended deadline for ASHEVILLE, NC submissions to the seventh annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival.

Friday, February 23, 2018
The OGDEN, UT screening of the seventh annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! At the Treehouse Museum (347 22nd Street Ogden, UT 84401). Hosted by me and author Keir Graff (Matchstick Castle). Made possible by partners at the Treehouse Museum, Utah Humanities and Weber County Book Links. 6 pm. Make your free reservation here.

Saturday, February 24, 2018
The SALT LAKE CITY screening of the seventh annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! At the Salt Lake City Public Library (210 East 400 South). Hosted by me and author Keir Graff (The Matchstick Castle). Made possible by partners at Utah Humanities, the Utah Film Center, the Salt Lake City Public Library, and Spy Hop. Onsite book sales by The King’s English Bookshop. 2-4 pm. Make your free reservation here.

Thursday, March 1, 2018
Special extended deadline for BOSTON, SAN FRANCISCO, and OAKLAND submissions to the seventh annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival.

Saturday, March 3, 2018
The NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY screening of the seventh annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! At the New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (5th Ave at 42nd St., New York, NY) in the Celeste Bartos Forum. Co-hosted by me and author Michael Northrop (Polaris, the Tombquest series). 3-5 pm. Make your free reservation here.

Sunday, March 4, 2018
The BROOKLYN PUBLIC LIBRARY screening of the seventh annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! At the Central Library (10 Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, NY) in the Dweck Auditorium. Co-hosted by me and author Michael Northrop (Polaris, the Tombquest series). 2-4 pm. Make your free reservation here.

Saturday, March 10, 2018
The LANSING, MI screening of the seventh annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! At Celebration! Cinema Lansing (200 E Edgewood Blvd, Lansing, MI). Co-hosted by me and author/artist Aaron Zenz (Chuckling Ducklings and more). 10:30 am. Make your free reservation here.

Sunday, March 11, 2018
The CHICAGO PUBLIC LIBRARY screening of the seventh annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! At the Harold Washington branch of the Chicago Public Library. Co-hosted by me and author Keir Graff (The Matchstick Castle). 1:45 pm. Make your free reservation here.

Saturday March 17, 2018
The OAKLAND, CA screening of the seventh annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! At the Rockridge Branch of the Oakland Public Library (5366 College Ave, Oakland, CA). Co-hosted by me and author Marcus Ewert (Mummy Cat, 10,000 Dresses). On-site book sales by Books Inc.. 3:30 pm. Make your free reservation here.

Sunday, March 18, 2018
The SAN FRANCISCO screening of the seventh annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! At the San Francisco Public Library main branch (100 Larkin Street) in the Koret Auditorium. Co-hosted by me and author Marcus Ewert (Mummy Cat, 10,000 Dresses). 2-4 pm. Make your free reservation here.

Thursday, March 22, 2018
“Best of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival” presentation at the Irondequoit Public Library (1290 Titus Ave Rochester, New York). 7-8 pm.

Sunday, March 25, 2018
The ROCHESTER, NY screening of the seventh annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! Co-hosted by me and Rochester superlibrarian Matt Krueger. At the Dryden Theatre at the George Eastman Museum (900 East Ave, Rochester, NY). 2 pm. Make your free reservation here.

Monday, April 2, 2018
Special extended deadline for PORTLAND, OR submissions to the seventh annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival.

Saturday, April 14, 2018
The ASHEVILLE, NC screening of the seventh annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival. *Support this totally local event—I won’t be in town to host, but it will be amazing! At the Pack Memorial Library (67 Haywood St). 1-3 pm. More information here.

Saturday, April 14, 2018
The PORTLAND, OR screening of the seventh annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! Hosted by me and author Dale Basye (the Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go series). At Open Signal (2766 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd., Portland, OR). 1-3 pm. Make your free reservation here.

Sunday, April 15, 2018
The TACOMA, WA screening of the seventh annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! Co-hosted by me and Tacoma’s own Douglas Mackey. At the Blue Mouse Theatre (2611 N Proctor St, Tacoma, WA). 11 am – 1 pm. Make your free reservation here.

Sunday, April 29, 2018
The BOSTON screening of the seventh annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! At the Boston Public Library (700 Boylston St, Boston, MA). Hosted by me and National Book Award winning author M.T. Anderson (Feed, Octavian Nothing, Landscape With Invisible Hand). 2-4 pm. Make your free reservation here.

Please support the 90-Second Newbery with a tax-deductible donation. We are under the nonprofit fiscal sponsorship of Fractured Atlas.

Podcasting With The Birds

December 6, 2017

I’ve been on some podcasts! Three of them, to be precise. I should’ve told you. I keep meaning to post about each podcast episode right after it drops, but then I’d get distracted, and well, here we are. But I’m ready to share them now!

Let’s kick this off by featuring my appearance on Betsy Bird’s podcast, “Fuse 8 and Kate.”

I’ve known Betsy Bird for a long time. I met her when she was a children’s librarian at the New York Public Library. She interviewed me on her children’s literature blog Fuse #8 when The Order of Odd-Fish came out, she videotaped my showdown with “Neil Gaiman” in which I wrested the 2010 Newbery Medal from him, and she used the mighty power of Fuse #8 to get the word out about the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival back when we were starting it up. Now Betsy and her family live in the Chicago area, so I get to see them all the time!

Betsy’s podcast “Fuse 8 and Kate” has an intriguing premise: in each episode, Betsy and her sister Kate consider some “classic” children’s picture book and ask: is it really that great? The hook: Betsy knows almost everything about children’s literature, and Kate knows almost nothing. Since they’re sisters, they have a rapid-fire, push-and-pull, goofily humorous rapport. Come for the kidlit discussion, stay for the sisterly banter!

They invited me on back in October, their “Spooky Books” month. I suggested we discuss the bizarre 1929 Newbery Honor Book Millions of Cats. No spoilers, but despite being an award-winning children’s book, “Millions of Cats” actually has the highest body count of any book of all time. You listen to the episode right here (and hear me do an a cappella version of their catchy theme song). Stick around for the post-credits extra!

Betsy has a post about the episode on her indefatigable blog here, complete with extra images and links, including to the amazing 90-Second Newbery of Millions of Cats done entirely in Minecraft.

My chemistry with Betsy is fun and collegial. My relationship with her husband Matt? Exhilaratingly contentious! He writes a storytelling advice blog called “Secrets of Story” and has a book out of the same name (which I highly recommend to all writers!). I am Matt’s co-host and sparring partner on his podcast “Secrets of Story” (You can find the first four episodes of the podcast on my blog here, here, here, and here).

Matt’s big innovation is a checklist he invented, which he uses as a tool to analyze story structure and to help writers find out what their broken stories might need. It turns out a lot of writers and gurus have their own idiosyncratic system. For instance, a writer whom I admire, the Community and Rick and Morty showrunner Dan Harmon, has something called the Story Circle. I thought it would be fun to compare Matt’s checklist to Dan Harmon’s Story Circle. And that’s just what we do in this, episode six of “Secrets of Story,” by testing both frameworks against Raiders of the Lost Ark. Here is Matt’s own post about the episode, and you can also listen to it here:

In that episode, we refer a lot to Dan Harmon’s storytelling theories, which he has laid out in fascinating detail on the Channel 101 site. (As it happens, Channel 101 was an inspiration for my 90-Second Newbery Film Festival, and I adapt some of Dan Harmon’s advice for kids making movies about Newbery books here).

Anyway, here is Dan Harmon’s storytelling advice:

Story Structure 101: Super Basic Stuff
Story Structure 102: Pure Boring Theory
Story Structure 103: Simply Before Moving On
Story Structure 104: The Juicy Details
Story Structure 105: How TV is Different
Story Structure 106: Five Minute Pilots


In these two posts Dan goes even deeper into his storytelling methods using specific examples from his own work:

Could You Explain Your Story Breaking Process?
Could You Explain a particular Community episode?


Think we’re done with this post? Nope! There’s one more episode of “Secrets of Story” that I haven’t yet posted. On episode 5, Matt and I have on a special guest, children’s author Jonathan Auxier (Sophie Quire and the Last StoryGuard, The Night Gardener, Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes).

Matt and I had been quarreling about point of view in the comments sections of this post and this post on his blog. In this episode, Jonathan swoops in like a gentle schoolmaster, magnanimously and classily ironing out Matt’s and my disagreements, and basically making us both seem like petulant bickering babies. High-roaded by the special guest?! I won’t make that mistake again!

You can read Matt’s post about this episode here, and you can listen to it here:

Okay, I think we should be caught up on my podcast appearances now! I’ll be back soon to announce the final cities and dates for the 2018 90-Second Newbery Film Festival. I think this will be the best year ever!

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