order of oddfish cover

The Order of Oddfish

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Odd-Fish Art #5 and Literary Death Match

February 1, 2010

libby_ostrich_smallerThe date of the Order of Odd-Fish art extravaganza has been set: April 17, 2010! That will be the night of the Dome of Doom costume dance party and the unveiling of the gallery. I can’t wait.

Want to submit art for the show? Here’s details. The deadline has been extended to March 15. Get cracking!

Word’s getting out: Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, Book Aunt, The Happy Nappy Bookseller, Charlotte’s Library, Chicagoist, BellaOnline, Literago, Booklust, Lady Schrapnell, the Oklahoma Department of Libraries CYA blog, and Gapers Block are all spreading the word. Thanks a million!

And the art keeps rolling in! This fantastic ostrich is courtesy of Libby. Longtime friends of the blog will remember her intense two-voice poem about Jo and the Ichthala and her goofy, fourth-wall-breaking ending to The Strange Ship II (a book I had written when I was eight . . . it’s a long story).

I knew Libby was a good cartoonist from her illustrations for The Strange Ship II ending, but this is a huge level-up. The elaborate, jewelry-like feel to the ostrich armor is perfect, especially the feathers on top—putting me in the mind of a simpler Aubrey Beardsley—but the best part for me is the imperious, cocky expression on the ostrich’s face.

And those mysterious runes! I just spent the last couple minutes on Wikipedia’s entry on runes, trying to figure out what they mean. Leftmost = “t” or the god Tiwaz, and the middle and rightmost seems like a reversals or deliberate distortions of the rune for “n” which means “need” (reverse of need? hidden need? “Unnecessary”?) WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO TELL ME, LIBBY!

freya_shirt_cupUPDATE: Libby writes in to explain the runes: “From left to right: Tyr, god of war. I figured it would aid in battle. Kaen (reversed), in order to ward off chaos/bad luck. Naudr (reversed), to ward off death. You did have it right with need, but it’s associated with the needs of life (which is necessary, but it led you in the wrong direction).” Thanks, Libby! I didn’t know you could reverse runes to get the opposite meanings. Cool!

Meeting up with my protegees Freya and Theo over the holidays, I got some dandy art from them as well. Freya and her friend Georgia made shirts depicting different scenes from Odd-Fish; here, Freya’s wearing one with the ruby palace. (I want one!) And she’s holding a small idol of the All-Devouring Mother made of a red plastic cup. The genius is in the simplicity: what better way to convey the idea of “emptiness” than an empty cup? Conceptual! Festooned with eyes, bristling with tentacles, gaping with toothy mouths, this looks like the kind of idol an aspiring Silent Sister might have secretly made herself and is keeping under her bed.

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Freya and Theo, along with Georgia and August, also made a gingerbread house of the Odd-Fish lodge! Last year they made a gingerbread house of Aunt Lily’s ruby palace. This is the kind of Christmas tradition I can get behind. The reason the lodge is slathered with frosting and marshmallows here, Theo explained, is because it had just suffered one of the Belgian Prankster’s pranks. I particularly like the “ostrich take-off” sign on top, and off to the right . . . the all-devouring . . . brother?

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Thanks for it all! Freya and Theo are my test audience for The Magnificent Moots—nowadays whenever I see them I usually have another chapter or so finished, and so they’re the ones who must endure listening to me read aloud from my clunky first drafts. I did a reading of Odd-Fish at Freya’s school a couple weeks ago, and this Friday we’re all going to see the newly minted Newbery winner Rebecca Stead at 57th Street books. We all adore her When You Reach Me, so this will be exciting. Don’t worry; no Newbery shenanigans planned this year.

crowned_with_shawn

Back on January 14, I participated in Opium magazine’s Literary Death Match. It was tons of fun. The idea is that four local writers read a short piece, and are judged American Idol-style by three judges on literary merit, performance, and “intangibles.” Two semifinalists go on to the final round, a contest which has nothing to do with literature—in the past it’s been stuff like laser-tag, musical chairs, or long division.

My worthy opponents were Davis Schneiderman, Rebekah Silverman, and Andy Farkas. The judges were Shawn Smith (whom I’m pictured with above, the mastermind behind Shawnimals plush toy empire), author Kathleen Rooney (who just got bumped to the top of my to-read list), and one of my favorite people in Chicago, music critic and author of The Girls’ Guide to Rocking Jessica Hopper.

An account of the whole evening is here. I faced off against Davis Schneiderman in the semifinals, in which we had to execute sketches of the judges in 20 seconds. For example here’s my sketch of the lovely Kathleen Rooney, side by side with the real thing:

kathleen_rooney_sketch_smaller real_rooney_cropped

Long story short—somehow, I won! (Hence, the crown and medal above.) This puts me in the illustrious company of previous Literary Death Match victors such as Daniel Handler, Cintra Wilson, and Amelia Gray. I’m honored! (Wilson’s hilarious, poisonous A Massive Swelling: Celebrity Reexamined as a Grotesque, Crippling Disease is a longtime favorite of mine.)

Thanks, everyone! This year has started off promisingly.