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The Order of Oddfish


The Hunger Games in 9 minutes

August 8, 2012

I took an unintended break from blogging this summer, mostly because I was busy teaching fantasy and science fiction writing courses at the Aaron School in New York City and at the Center for Talent Development at Northwestern University. I had a ball with the students (and taking the whole family to New York City for two weeks was a thrill!) but I had no free time. Almost no writing got done!

I’m wrapping up my grading right now. In the meantime, I’d like to share with you something I did with the talented teens at the Schaumburg Township District Library. I show up there once a month to do theater stuff with their Teen Story Troupe. One of the regulars, Kevin, put together a script for an abbreviated fan-film of The Hunger Games. I loved the idea, so we got the troupe together and Kevin directed the movie. My role? Hold the camera steady and appear in a cameo as Haymitch, Katniss’ alcoholic mentor. Let’s just say Woody Harrelson’s job is safe.

Check out Kevin’s film above! Not only did he script it, but he also edited it himself. Pretty amazing, especially for a ninth grader! Kevin—he’s the one with the long hair and maniacal grin—manages to give himself three roles, and so naturally he has three separate death scenes (hey, there are perks to being the writer/director). Teen Story Troupe regular Angela does a hilariously deadpan Katniss (I love how she fumbles with a bow), Ian is Thresh and Claudius Templesmith, Matt and Joey are Peeta, Rebecca is Clove, and Justin is Rue. The high point for me? The buildup before the games begin at the Cornucopia. It literally goes on for a full minute, starting at 2:02 and stretching until about 3:00. Great script and editing, Kevin!

In case you want just a taste, here are Kevin’s two trailers:

Kevin’s working on a script for a short Catching Fire film, too. Truly I was born too early. It’s so great that the tools of filmmaking are so easily available nowadays. I’m looking forward to seeing how Kevin’s career develops!

Second Annual 90-SECOND NEWBERY news, plus Heart of a Samurai (2011)

June 7, 2012

Preparations for the Second Annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival are underway! The 90-Second Newbery is a film festival I curate in which filmmakers of any age are challenged to make movies that tell the story of a Newbery award-winning book in 90 seconds or less. Full details here. The deadline for video submission is October 29, 2012. Details about screenings in New York and Chicago—including special celebrity guests—below!

But first, check out the latest submission above! It’s of Margi Preus’ fantastic 2011 Newbery Honor book, Heart of a Samurai. The movie is by Alex, Amy, Izzy, Asher, and Zach from Burley Elementary in Chicago. Full disclosure: I helped with this one! And here’s our twist: we did the film in Japanese, even though the students, er, don’t know Japanese. I helped with the script and pronunciation. There are storms at sea! Whales! Burning beards! Fistfights! It’s also slightly longer than 90 seconds. Oh well. ENJOY!

So where will the Second Annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival be screened? So far we’ve nailed down the New York and Chicago dates.

The New York City screening will be Sunday, December 2, 2012 from 3-5 pm at Symphony Space. Just as last year, it will be co-hosted by me and former Ambassador for Children’s Literature Jon Scieszka. I’m also thrilled and honored to announce our two special guests: Newbery winners Kate DiCamillo (2001 Honor book Because of Winn-Dixie and 2004 Medal winner A Tale of Despereaux) and Rita Williams-Garcia (One Crazy Summer, 2011 Honor Book). Whatta lineup!

The Chicago screening will be Sunday, February 10, 2013 at the Pritzker Auditorium of the Harold Washington Public Library from 2-3:30 pm. My co-host will be New York Times bestselling author Blue Balliett (Chasing Vermeer, The Wright 3, The Calder Game, The Danger Box, and more).

Whoa! This is some serious kidlit literary firepower! It’ll be an honor to share the stage with these leading lights children’s literature. Just as before, we will feature not only movies, but also a kind of singing, dancing live Newbery cabaret show. Don’t miss it!

Curious about how the screenings went last year? Here are recaps of the screenings in New York City with Jon Scieszka and Rebecca Stead (2010 Medal winner When You Reach Me), Chicago with comedian Seth Dodson, and Portland with Laini Taylor (Lips Touch, Daughter of Smoke and Bone).)

Want to make your own 90-Second Newbery film, but feel daunted by where to start? You can download a step-by-step guide on how to make a 90-Second Newbery movie here. It’s by Debra Ross, the mother of the superfamily that made one of the best 90-Second Newbery videos I’ve received, an adaptation of Linda Sue Park’s 2002 Medal winner A Single Shard done in the style of Sijo (a traditional Korean poetic form).

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting Debra and her family (including Madison and Ella from the movie) in real life at the Teen Book Festival in Rochester, New York. Debra’s also the mastermind behind Kids About And About, an events resource for Rochester, Albany, Buffalo, and Fairfield County, CT.

What book will YOU adapt for the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival? Learn all about the film festival here!

Odd-Fish Art From the TALENT FAMILY, Fanfic, more!

May 7, 2012

I am deep in writing mode, and so this post will be short. Above are two brand-new pieces of top-notch Order of Odd-Fish fan art I’ve received. On the right: a graceful Sefino, resplendent in his exquisitely tailored “fifteen-piece suit,” courtesy of Diana Todd, also known as Loki God of Tricks on DeviantArt. I love the jaunty manner in which Sefino doffs his hat, the insouciant way he grips his walking-stick, the subtly stylish flare of the trousers . . . and best of all, he looks like a true, honest-to-goodness cockroach! Back in 2010, Diana had graced me with three other fantastic pieces. It’s a delight to see how her style has evolved. Thank you!

And the piece on the left, above? It’s a gorgeously colorful illustration of Ken Kiang riding the Schwenk! This comes from Isaac, one of the kids at Aaron Zenz’s Bookie Woogie blog, which just gave a wonderful positive review to The Order of Odd-Fish here.

Not to be outdone, Isaac’s sister Lily did a similarly awesome drawing of the scene where Jo, Ian, and “Nick” are riding squids in the flooded underground cathedral:

And his other sister Gracie drew a hilarious picture of when Mr. Cavendish’s head is flying around the Dust Creek Cafe:

The maniacal expressions on everyone’s faces make this picture so awesome. I love them all!

Longtime readers of the blog will remember that it’s the Bookie Woogie blog that did this flat-out incredible shadow-puppet 90-Second Newbery video of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, which went on to win the School Library Journal’s Trailee award. Lily also went solo and made another 90-Second Newbery, this time of Lloyd Alexander’s classic The Black Cauldron, and it always gets a great response from audiences—a true 90-Second Newbery classic.

Good gravy, is there nothing THE TALENT FAMILY can’t do? But I wouldn’t expect anything less of the children of Aaron Zenz, whose books you must check out. Do it!

The last time we heard from Kristen Atwood, I had shown off her charming comic strip that told the Ichthala’s legend of how the universe began. Now Kristin is back with a monstrous illustration of the nang-nang—the spastic, fingernail-devouring creature that gets loose in the Municipal Squires’ Authority. Wonderfully done! I like how this mirrors the ostriches-with-necks-tangled-up chapter emblems on the book, too:

Thanks, Kristen! I’m proud to share this with everyone. And even prouder to link to Kristen’s piece of Order of Odd-Fish fan fiction! It’s called “The Ritual of the Rising Moon” and you can read it here. Ever wondered about other Odd-Fish specialties, such as “ridiculous headgear” or “whimsical dances”? Or an eyewitness account of one of the ancient disasters of Eldritch City told about in the tapestry? Kristen’s got you covered. She promises more fan fiction on the way. Her writing chops are excellent. I foresee great things for Kristen Atwood.

We started out today’s post with Ken Kiang mounted on the Schwenk. So let’s wrap it up with Ken Kiang dancing his very own EVIL DANCE, courtesy of Emily Bricker, also responsible for plush-doll Sefino and much other gloriousness:

Ken Kiang’s manic twitchiness makes me want to get up and move. I’ve got to get back to work! But thanks everyone for all the creative work you’ve sent my way. I am very appreciative, and I’m impressed by your talents.

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