order of oddfish cover

The Order of Oddfish


I read first chapter of The Magnificent Moots with video accompaniment

December 12, 2013

Chicagoans! This Saturday (12/14/2013) I’ll also be reading a piece in which I affectionately impersonate legendary Chicago newspaperman RICK KOGAN at Christopher Piatt’s “salon in a saloon,” the Paper Machete reading series. At the Green Mill (4802 N. Broadway). It’s at 3pm and it’s free. Details here.

So I was working on this science-fiction novel, The Magnificent Moots. It’s about a brother and sister of the Moot family who are invited to compete in an Interplanetary Olympics. Elsewhere I described it as “a combination of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, Douglas Adams’ The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and the movie The Royal Tennenbaums. With a dollop of the 1970s TV special Battle of the Network Stars.”

Unfortunately, I put it aside to focus on other projects. Now I’m back on it! Back in October I read the first chapter of The Magnificent Moots at the Tuesday Funk reading series at one of my favorite bars in Chicago, Hopleaf. The video is above.

This first chapter is about a skydiving swordfighting game on Mars. I thought it would be fun to edit together a video collage to play along with my reading, so the video above shows my reading accompanied by a mishmash of clips of skydiving, octopi, swordfighting, dragons, and spaceships, mixed with Isao Tomita’s electronic version of Holst’s “The Planets.” Sounds like a mess, right? It kind of was, but the crowd and I had a good time with it.

(Whoa. Just looked back in my blog to see the first time I mentioned The Magnificent Moots. It was in 2009, with this post. In it, I read a completely different first chapter that I’ve since discarded, which is unfortunate, because Paul Hornschemeier did great illustrations for it, which are also in the post . . . )


December 4, 2013

Our third annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival is coming—a video contest in which kid filmmakers create movies that tell the entire story of a Newbery winning book in 90 seconds or less.

Above, check out Wilmette Public Library’s movie of Grace Lin’s 2010 Honor Book Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Terrific! I love the cunningly articulated puppets, engaging voiceovers, and attention to detail like the fish’s tail wagging. And oh, those monkeys! I look forward to showing this at the upcoming 90-Second Newbery screenings around the country. More details about those screenings below.

BUT FIRST! Want to make your own 90-Second Newbery movie, but are running out of time? Don’t fret, I’ve extended the deadline. The deadline used to be December 10, but it is hereby extended to January 20, 2014. Get cracking!

More big news. Our San Francisco screening will be co-hosted by me and last year’s Newbery Medal winner, KATHERINE APPLEGATE (The One and Only Ivan)! And my co-host for the Oakland screening will be triple Newbery Honor winner JENNI HOLM (Our One and Only Amelia, Babymouse)! More co-hosts to be announced soon.

Below, info about our screenings around the country. All free. Mark your calendars!

Saturday, February 1, 2014: The CHICAGO SCREENING of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival at Adventure Stage Chicago’s historic Vittum Theatre (1012 N. Noble, Chicago). 3-5 pm.

Saturday, February 8, 2014: The OAKLAND, CA SCREENING of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival at the Rockridge branch of the Oakland Public Library (5366 College Ave, Oakland). With co-host Jenni Holm!12 pm – 1:15 pm.

Saturday, February 8, 2014: The SAN FRANCISCO SCREENING of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival at the San Francisco Public Library main branch (100 Larkin St.). With co-host Katherine Applegate! In the Koret Auditorium. 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm.

Saturday, March 1, 2014: The TACOMA, WA SCREENING of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival at the Tacoma Library Main Branch (1102 Tacoma Avenue South). 3-5 pm.

Sunday, March 2, 2014: The PORTLAND, OR SCREENING of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival at da Vinci Arts Middle School (2508 NE Everett Street). 3-5 pm.

Saturday, March 22, 2014: The NEW YORK CITY SCREENING of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival at the New York Public Library main branch (476 5th Ave, New York, NY). In the Bartos Forum. 3-5 pm.

Help Kickstart Saving These Marionettes

November 12, 2013

Joseph Lewis is a friend of mine, one of the masterminds behind Chicago’s own Emmy-nominated Elephant and Worm Educational Theater Company. Longtime readers of the blog and fans of our 90-Second Newbery Film Festival will remember Elephant and Worm’s excellent movie-musical adaptations of The 21 Balloons and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.

A few days ago Joseph asked me to tell everyone about a Kickstarter campaign he’s promoting. Joseph wrote:

In late June of this year, I discovered what may the largest collection of marionettes in North America. These Lost Marionettes had been abandoned in a vacant building in my neighborhood here in Chicago. Incredibly, I was able to track down the man who made them.

The artwork was created by Ralph Kipniss, the last surviving member of a family of marionette makers stretching back to Czarist Russia. Due to a series of personal and financial tragedies, Ralph was forced to abandon his life’s work and is now living near destitution in Michigan City, Indiana. The entire story of his life and losses was covered by Dave Hoekstra in a cover story of the October 27, 2013 version of The Chicago Sun-Times (with video!) and was also covered by NBC5 Chicago here.

Joseph goes on to say,

You can help save an art legacy for future generations. But time is running out.We need to reach our goal of $25,000 by 9am November 13, 2013 in order to save this collection from destruction. Please help us share this story with those that care about the future of puppetry in America. You can be part of the miracle of reinvigorating the art of marionette puppetry to a new generation of eager minds and apprentices waiting to be inspired by the magnificent work of Ralph Kipniss.

So go do it! The Kickstarter page is here. Thanks, Joseph, for letting me know about this, and what an amazing story!

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