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The Order of Oddfish

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Back from Pennsylvania, D.C., and Virginia

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I’m still reeling from my lightning April tour. A tour that started thrilling and surprising, and ended kind of weird and melancholy. Not in a bad way!

I started out at Abington Friends School in Pennsylvania, whose movie of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon was featured in our 90-Second Newbery Film Festival last year. Felix Chen and the other teachers made me feel right at home, and we even got to do a costumed Dome of Doom insult-dance-battle with the fifth graders!

Then I popped over to Tredyffrin Public Library, whose adaptation of Holes was also in the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival. I was the guest of the librarian Angela Newman, who showed me a great time and delivered a real turnout. Thanks, Angela!

Then it was off to Springfield High School and Junior High, thanks to superstar librarian and blogger Joyce Valenza. I got the treat of seeing a play written by Jelli, one of the Springfield High students, and hang out with their “Somewhat Virtual Book Club” (that’s them in the picture at the top; Jelli is directly behind me) after speaking at the high school and junior high that day. The junior high school students thoughtfully greeted me with props they made from The Order of Odd-Fish:

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After that it was off to Washington, D.C., where I spoke at the Sidwell Friends School, whose Claymation version of Island of the Blue Dolphins has also been a favorite at the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival. Heck, let’s show it again now—it has the distinction of being simultaneously the most violent and most relaxing 90-Second Newbery movie:

Weird story: Many people know Sidwell Friends as the school where Presidents’ children often go. Amy Carter went there, Chelsea Clinton went there, and now so do Sasha and Malia Obama. I’m such an idiot, I didn’t realize that I was doing my presentation to the President’s daughter! In my defense, I hadn’t seen pictures of Sasha before I spoke to her class. But when I saw a Secret Service agent standing around between presentations, I concluded one of the daughters was in the next class, so I said to my host teacher Becky Farnum, “My presentation involves a lot of lurching around and bellowing— should I change that so I don’t get tackled by that Secret Service agent?” and Becky was like, “Uh, you just spoke to Sasha’s class.” Nice, Kennedy.

I also got to speak at the Field School near Charlottesville, Virginia who had submitted several of their own videos for the 90-Second Newbery. It was thanks to their teacher Jen Wilson, and their write-up of the visit pretty much sums up what I do: “literally running around the room, shouting and gesticulating (maybe even spitting).” I am what I am, people.

At last, I spoke at St. Catherine Laboure in Wheaton, MD—which is where I actually worked as a science teacher from 1995-96 (yikes, that’s a long time ago . . . ) It was my first “job” out of university, but I wasn’t actually paid. I’d decided to be a volunteer science teacher for the Archdiocese of Washington, DC. They had me living in a convent with actual nuns, which is the wrong place for a 22-year-old man to be, and teaching science to sixth, seventh, and eighth graders—about 150 kids a day—a task I was not prepared for, and that I must admit, I was terrible at. This is the job in which I actually blundered into killing a live snake in front of the 7th-grade class. (I taught for just a year and quit. This is consistent with my usual pattern of dithering.)

It was a real time-warp crazy feeling going back to St. Catherine Laboure—indeed, back to D.C. at all. Luckily, I have friends living there whom I was able to stay with an hang out with, but returning to D.C. always makes me feel wistful and weary. It’s not you, D.C., it’s me!

Then again, while I was walking down the street, I unexpectedly saw the Space Shuttle piggybacking on a 747, and it was jaw-dropping! So let’s end with that:

Odd-Fish Fan Art Cavalcade: Sefino Doll, Universe-Creation Comic, and Sewer Scene

Lots of news to talk about, but WAIT WHAT IS THIS?! Yes: a plush doll version of Sefino from The Order of Odd-Fish. A very, very, very kind birthday treat for me, by one Emily Bricker, a.k.a. “GlobalSoft Pirka.” She had previously done some awesome Odd-Fish fan art here and here and here (this one even includes an animated music video) but this just might be my favorite! I’m blown away and humbled and honored that she made a doll of my cockroach butler.

Look at him! The bespoke purple suit-jacket! The ominous-yet-cute clicking mandibles! The kawaii eyes! Emily, I’m just not worthy of this. THANK YOU so much for making it—it shall take a place of honor in my heart next to the plush chibi doll versions of Waitress Jo and Aznath Jo.

This might be my last time blogging for the next two weeks or so. No doubt about it: the next two weeks are going to be intense. After Easter in Michigan with the family, I’m embarking on a 9-day mini-tour visiting Abington Friends School (who made a great Where the Mountain Meets the Moon for the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival), Tredyffrin Public Library (who made a similarly ace Holes), and Springfield Township High School and Junior High in Pennsylvania; then zipping over to Washington, D.C. to visit Sidwell Friends School (who made an unforgettable 90-Second Newbery Claymation version of Island of the Blue Dolphins and many more) and St. Catherine Laboure School; and the Field School in Charlottesville, VA (who also did five very enjoyable 90-Second Newbery videos).

But before I go—behold the power of this next piece of Odd-Fish fan art, retelling the legend of how the universe, and the All-Devouring Mother, came to be (click image to enlarge so you can read the words):

Another hit! This one is by Kirsten Atwood, who is herself an aspiring writer (I’m enjoying reading the start of her book Kindle-Sun). I love the goofy joviality of the All-Loving Mother, the bickering chatter of the gods stuffed in her belly, and of course the epic god-vomit. Thank you, Kirsten! (Double threat: writer and artist . . . something I’m afraid I could never pull off . . . my almost-three-year-old daughter is already drawing better than me.)

One more before we go! This picture is by Emily, whose school I visited a couple weeks ago. It’s the scene where Jo has followed “Nick” into the sewers of Eldritch City, and “Nick” and Ian have just jumped down the hole, leaving her alone and scared:

Another bullseye, Emily! I like the ominous green shimmer coming from the hole and Jo’s gasp of terror. If you want to see more of Emily work, check out this cool opening sequence for Teenage Ichthala that she made. Go Emily! Well done on both counts.

Thank you, everyone, for your splendid Odd-Fish art! I can’t tell you how pleased and thrilled I am when I see stuff like this. The complete gallery of all the Odd-Fish fan art I’ve received is here, though unfortunately I haven’t updated it in a while—I’d better get cracking on that.

The return of Mallory Woods!

Last time on the blog, I talked about how much I enjoyed doing author visits in the Mississippi Delta in March. But there’s one thing I didn’t mention, because it deserves its own post. I finally got to meet Mallory Woods, a.k.a. DarkshireWarlock! There we are in the picture above.

Mallory is the first person to have made Order of Odd-Fish fan art after the book came out. Here’s when I posted about it, from way back in November 2008. I’ve repeated the art below: on the left, Jo dressed in costume armor as Aznath, the Silver Kitten of Deceit, and on the right Fiona dressed in costume armor as Ichthala, the All-Devouring Mother:

Mallory lives only two hours or so from Indianola where I was presenting, so she drove in and I got to meet her in real life. It was a treat for me! Mallory sometimes threatens to make an Aznath costume. To that I can only say, YES MA’AM BRING IT ON. Such a development would probably be enough to make me throw another Dome of Doom fan art show / costumed dance competition party so she could show it off.

Mallory also brought to Indianola surprise treat: an Odd-Fish OC (original character) she created. The name: Cassia Hemingway, of the Order of Wormbeards. Mallory gave me the art and sent me the character description later. I was so pleased and impressed with this I got Mallory’s permission to reprint it all on the blog. Enjoy—this is a brilliant and well-thought-out addition to the Odd-Fish universe!

Mallory, take it away:

Her name is Cassia Hemingway; I figured she’d be one of the older characters, somewhere between 15 and 17. She’s a Wormbeard, but she doesn’t get into the whole vs. Odd-Fish attitude because she simply doesn’t see a point in it.

She has artisan sewing skills and, on a good day, can sometimes hand stitch as fast as a machine. This is her primary skill among the Wormbeards, as she’s often sewing dueling costumes for the other members, though on occasion she gets commissions from Eldritch City civilians. When Cassia started sewing outfits for Fiona, the latter insisted she attend her Dome of Doom battles. Cassia found herself somewhat enjoying the “colorful” atmosphere and became a regular attendee as a result, even when Fiona wasn’t dueling. It was here she met Dugan, and while the two did not get off to a good start, they had a silent agreement to not cause trouble for one another, and they eventually got on better terms with one another. Cassia was also noticed by Oona Looch for one of the outfits Cassia had made for herself to wear at the Dome, and was quickly appointed to be Oona’s personal designer and seamstress (a paycheck Cassia couldn’t disagree with and a client even the dumbest tailor wouldn’t think of refusing).

Though sewing is Cassia’s primary skill, her true passion is making perfume, with a dream of opening a shop that sells scented items such as perfume, soap, and candles. However, she has limited space in her room to work on both hobbies, so she usually has her perfume-making supplies tucked away, unable to touch them for months at a time.

Cassia for the most part has a very dry, sarcastic personality. She comes off as antisocial, and on some level is. As hard as she is to approach, Cassia can be friendly and helpful to whoever needs it, though her kindness is often hidden behind a shell of apathy. She’s just noted for having a very serious work ethic, and since she’s usually working most of the time, her personality’s never had the chance to waver into anything short of diligent and no-nonsense.

Her parents are Brandon and Azalee Hemingway, also members of the Wormbeards. Azalee’s family specialized in flower arrangements, a profession passed down from several generations since before the founding of the Wormbeards. Brandon is a highly skilled calligraphy artist, and is responsible for most of the signs seen around Eldritch City.

Brandon is very protective of Azalee and Cassia, and when he was younger he was known break noses and declare duels if anyone was dumb enough to upset Azalee (though he has since then mellowed out, mainly because people have learned not to mess with his loved ones by the time Cassia was born). Azalee is a very soft-spoken, kind individual who is most known for never getting angry and being a doormat, but she doesn’t seem to mind as long as people are somewhat respectful. She is not entirely weak, however, as in order to obtain the more exotic flowers for her business she occasionally has to travel far into the wilderness, and has gained the ability to navigate difficult terrain and fend off predators with ease.

The incredible success of both of their professions come from the same source, which results in a mysterious trip the duo would take every few months or so, and they started bringing Cassia with them once she was old enough, though the where they go was a complete mystery to everyone except the Hemingway family.

This mysterious place is a town called Navalla. It is a harbor city and is located one and a half days away from Eldritch City if traveled on foot. Navalla is estranged from Eldritch City because its residents, the birdmen, did not believe in the story of Eldritch’s 144,444 gods, and as such the two cities have refused to have any alliance or negotiations with each other.

Brandon and Azalee stumbled upon Navalla in their younger years during a traveling period of their lives. While the birdmen were reluctant to have humans in their city, Brandon and Azalee’s tolerance of their society’s views and culture lead them to quickly become accepted by the town’s residents.

It was here that Brandon finally found the mythical rainbow squid, a species of squid whose ink comes in one of the seven colors of the rainbow and, when mixed with a special solution, the ink never fades. Azalee also took advantage of the city’s fauna to take and use for her arrangements. During their first stay, they became friends with the Cazador Corvo, a squid merchant, and his wife Seda, a fabric weaver. The Hemingway family stay with the Corvo’s whenever they visit Navalla, and their son, Shinzo, is just a few years older than Cassia. Shinzo is very quiet, calm, and a diligent worker, but he sometimes shares his father’s hardheadedness. After the Itchthala’s rebirth, the birdmen saw the truth in the 144,444 gods and helped rebuild Eldritch City after the attack, and the two cities have more or less been brought to good terms with one another.

What an epic! A worthy and inspiring addition to the Odd-Fish world. I want to hear more about this Navalla in particular . . .

Thanks so much, Mallory! I’m glad I finally got to meet you for real.