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The Order of Oddfish

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An epic Order of Odd-Fish cartoon by Andreas Sconzo!

November 30, 2018

One of the best things about being an author is getting to see the fan art that people make of your stuff. I’ve been lucky enough to get quite a bit of fan art for The Order of Odd-Fish. Sometimes it’s so good that I feel I must devote a whole post to it.

That day is today! This week I received a brilliant comic book adaptation of the story of our hero Jo’s birth, which the Belgian Prankster tells Ken Kiang in Chapter 10. It’s by Andreas Sconzo of Dubois, PA and it’s amazing! I particularly liked the stuff Andreas added to the story, in particular Sir Kittius Fluffikins IV (with his “Give me MICE!” picket sign) and the dialogue between the mayors (“I am the new mayor, and my hat is much cooler than yours!”).

Brilliant work, Andreas! Thank you so much!

(As it happens, I visited the school that was to become Andreas’ way back in 2014. I got some seriously amazing fan art back then, too: check it out! There is some incredible talent in Dubois.)

Folks, here are the pages of Andreas’ comic book in large form so you can enjoy it in all its glory:

Screening dates for the EIGHTH ANNUAL 90-Second Newbery Film Festival, 2019! (Plus: A “Les Miserables”-style Tale of Despereaux)

November 14, 2018

What is this madness?! Only a movie of Kate DiCamillo’s 2004 Newbery Medal Winner The Tale of Despereaux, retold in the style of the musical Les Miserables! (You’ll recognize many the actors from their movie of My Father’s Dragon last year.) It’s one of the many movies that’ll be featured in the 2019 season of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival.

It’s not too late to make your own movie for the 90-Second Newbery! The deadline is January 11, 2019, so you should get busy. Moviemakers in New York, Brooklyn, San Francisco, and Oakland have an extended deadline of March 1, 2019. Boston moviemakers have a special extended deadline of April 1, 2019. Boulder, CO moviemaketds have an extended deadline of April 15, 2019. (Want to make a movie, but don’t know where to start? We’ve got you covered with video resources and how-to guides.)

This year we’ll screen our film festival in fourteen (!) cities. All of the screenings are FREE, though reservations are recommended because they do “sell out.” I’ll put up links to the reservation system in January . . . but for now, save these dates:


Saturday, February 9, 2019
The SAN ANTONIO, TX screening of the eighth 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 Nikki Loftin (Wish Girl, Nightingale’s Nest). Sponsored by Bexar County Digital Library Bibliotech and the Hidalgo Foundation made possible by the generosity of H-E-B Texas Grocery. 2:00 pm, reception following. Make your free reservation here.

Friday, February 15, 2019
The OGDEN, UT screening of the eighth annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! At the Treehouse Museum (347 22nd Street Ogden, UT 84401). Hosted by me and author Keir Graff  (The Phantom Tower). Made possible by partners at the Treehouse Museum, Utah Humanities and Weber County Book Links. 6:30 pm. Make your free reservation here.

Saturday, February 16, 2019
The SALT LAKE CITY screening of the eighth 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 Phantom Tower). Made possible by partners at Utah Humanities and the Salt Lake City Public Library. On-site book sales by the Printed Garden. 2:00 pm. Make your free reservation here.

Saturday, February 23, 2019
The MINNEAPOLIS screening of the eighth annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! At the Minneapolis Central Library (300 Nicollet Mall) in Pohlad Hall. Hosted by me and author Jacqueline West (The Collectors, the Books of Elsewhere series). On-site book sales by Red Balloon Bookshop. 3:00 pm. Make your free reservation here.

Sunday, March 10, 2019
The CHICAGO PUBLIC LIBRARY screening of the eighth annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! At the Harold Washington Library Center (400 S. State Street) in the Pritzker Auditorium. Hosted by me and author Keir Graff (The Phantom Tower). With special guest, author Mary Winn Heider (The Mortification of Fovea Munson)! On-site book sales by Booked. 1:45 pm. Make your free reservation here.

Sunday, March 17, 2019
The ROCHESTER, NY screening of the eighth annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! At the Eisenhart Auditorium of the Rochester Museum & Science Center (657 East Ave). Hosted by me and legendary children’s author Bruce Coville (My Teacher Is An Alien, Space Station Ice 3, and more). 2 pm. Make your free reservation here.

Friday, March 22, 2019
The SALEM, OR screening of the eighth annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! At the Loucks Auditorium at the Salem Public Library (585 Liberty St SE). Hosted by me and author Heidi Schulz (Hook’s Revenge, Giraffes Ruin Everything). 6 pm. Make your free reservation here.

Saturday, March 23, 2019
The TACOMA, WA screening of the eighth annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! At the Blue Mouse Theatre  (2611 N Proctor St, Tacoma, WA). Hosted by me and Tacoma’s own Doug Mackey. 11:00 am. Make your free reservation here.

Saturday, March 30, 2019
The BROOKLYN PUBLIC LIBRARY screening of the eighth annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! At the Central Library (10 Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, NY) in the Dweck Auditorium. Hosted by me and author Torrey Maldonado (Secret Saturdays, Tight). 1 pm. Make your free reservation here.

Sunday, March 31, 2019
The NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY screening of the eighth 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 Auditorium (NB: this is different space from last year; this time it’s the downstairs theatre). Hosted by me and Newbery Honor winner Rita Williams-Garcia (One Crazy Summer, Clayton Byrd Goes Underground). 2:30 pm. Make your free reservation here.

Saturday, April 6, 2019
The OAKLAND, CA screening of the eighth annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! At the Rockridge Branch of the Oakland Public Library (5366 College Ave, Oakland, CA). Hosted by me and author Marcus Ewert (Mummy Cat, 10,000 Dresses). 3:30 pm. Make your free reservation here.

Sunday, April 7, 2019
The SAN FRANCISCO screening of the eighth annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! At the San Francisco Public Library main branch (100 Larkin Street) in the Koret Auditorium. Hosted by me and author Marcus Ewert (Mummy Cat, 10,000 Dresses). 2:00 pm. Make your free reservation here.

Saturday, April 27, 2019
The BOSTON screening of the eighth annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! At the Boston Public Library in Copley Square (700 Boylston St, Boston, MA). Hosted by me and National Book Award winning author M.T. Anderson (Feed, The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge). On-site book sales by Trident Booksellers and Cafe. 2:30 pm. Make your free reservation here.

Saturday, May 11, 2019
The BOULDER, CO screening of the eighth annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! At the main branch of the Boulder Public Library (1001 Arapahoe Ave, Boulder, CO). Hosted by me and a co-host TBA. 3-4:30 pm. Make your free reservation here.

These screenings are crazy fun. The co-host and I banter between the kid-made movies and even do a ridiculous song-and-dance skit at the beginning. There’s a reason we consistently have sold-out audiences of hundreds of folks for these screenings! Thanks so much to my co-hosts this year for being part of this madness.

(The 90-Second Newbery, if you didn’t know, is 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.)

Want to bring the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival to your neck of the woods? Every year we expand into more cities, and I’d love to come to yours! Drop me a line at james@90secondnewbery.com.

(Want to ensure I can pull off this weird operation for another year? Please seriously consider donating to us here, through our fiscal sponsor Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. All donations are tax-deductible.)

Episode 7 of The Secrets of Story Podcast: OODA Loops, Expectations, Mission: Impossible and the Screwtape Letters!

October 29, 2018

It’s been nearly a year since Matt Bird and I released an episode of our podcast, The Secrets of Story, in which we try to figure out what makes good stories work. Matt and I had actually recorded an episode right after we’d both seen The Last Jedi—a movie I adored and Matt hated. In that episode (which I guess Matt will never release) we argued about that movie. Maybe I Eberted too hard, or maybe Matt didn’t Siskel quite enough. In any case, Matt found it unreleasable. And then the podcast went dormant for a while.

Now it’s back! I think it’s a good episode. I’ve had a few half-formed ideas lately about managing the audience’s expectations. I’ve been mulling some other ideas about how specific expectations bear on how a character behaves in a story. These ideas and others all finally crystallized when I heard about a concept invented by some 1970s military person called “OODA Loops,” a scheme which tries to clarify how people adjust to their environment and make decisions and act.

It sounds obvious when it’s spelled out—basically, we’re all always going through a cycle of Observing the situation around us, Orienting ourselves to it, Deciding what to do, and Acting on that decision. But once it’s made explicit like this, it’s easier to conceive of how your adversary is also going through the same OODA cycle at the same time. And so what you try to do is to complete your cycle faster than your adversary does—that’s what’s called “getting inside their OODA loop”—so that you can decide and act more quickly and with more agility than them. That way, they’re constantly adjusting to the new situations you’re creating. They’re stuck in the “Observe” and “Orient” parts of the loop, which they can never complete because you keep knocking them back with new things for them to observe and orient themselves to. The alternative is letting them get used to the situation and figuring it out so they can “Decide” and “Act” to their advantage . . . or even worse, letting them overwhelm you with new situations of their own creation. Getting inside the adversary’s OODA Loop is a way of deliberately introducing chaos into a situation for your benefit. I saw some merit in the ideas from a storytelling point of view. So I flesh out that theory with Matt on the podcast.

I talk about how storytellers can use the OODA Loop for more interesting storytelling; I also talk about how characters often “get inside” each other’s OODA Loops. One of the scenes that I reference in the podcast is this one from the third Mission Impossible movie, in which Tom Cruise’s hero is interrogating Philip Seymor Hoffman’s villain. At first it seems that the hero holds all the cards, but by the end of the scene the villain is dominant, and that’s because he’s gotten inside the hero’s OODA Loop:

I don’t have the time to explain it all again here; just listen to my mellifluous tones on the podcast!

At the end of each episode of the podcast, Matt and I have this tradition of “giving away” ideas for TV shows and movies, and I had an idea about a limited TV series adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters that I think is actually pretty workable. It’s worth listening to this one all the way to the end.

Our podcast is back in the saddle, baby! Indeed, we recorded this episode and another episode back-to-back that night. So there will be another episode going up in a few weeks. It never rains but it pours!

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