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The Order of Oddfish

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DARE TO KNOW in Esquire, and I’m on the “A Little Too Quiet” podcast!

May 19, 2022



The paperback edition of Dare to Know comes out on June 7, which means it’s getting some extra promotional juice. I spoke at the Bay Area Book Festival a few weeks ago with some other great authors such as Kate Folk (Out There), Claire Stanford (Happy For You), and Vauhini Vara (The Immortal King Rao). There’s a good write-up of the panel here, if you’re interested . . .

And then, as if by magic, this week my fellow panelist Claire Stanford and I both showed up in Esquire‘s list of books, “What To Read If You Miss Severance.” I haven’t seen Severance yet, so I guess it’s time to fire up my Apple TV+ subscription again. There are some heavyweights on this list, too, including Kazuo Ishiguro, Richard Powers, and Ursula K. Le Guin! Thanks, Esquire!

In other news, I’m in edits for my next novel Bride of the Tornado, which Quirk Books is slated to put out in March 2023. I’ve been working on one version or another of Bride for years and I’m really, really excited for it to finally see the light of day. Think Rosemary’s Baby meets Twin Peaks and you won’t be too far wrong! And I’m already hard at work on my third book for Quirk. After years of not publishing anything after The Order of Odd-Fish, I’m committed to striking while the iron is hot!

I’ve been on a bunch of podcasts lately, but I realized I haven’t been properly featuring them on the blog. Here’s one I did back in March for the Ferndale Public Library, which is just a few miles from where I grew up in Troy, Michigan. In it I talk to host Jeff Milo about how the internet feels different than it used to, why it’s okay to write “unlikeable” characters, how M.T. Anderson’s Feed is the proper successor for Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, and much more. It’s a good interview!

The BEST-OF-THE-BEST 2022 90-Second Newbery Film Festival: Online Screening!

April 24, 2022

Hello, fans of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! Usually, we do our screenings live at libraries and theaters around the country. However, due to Covid, we couldn’t do most of our screenings live this year.

So instead, we are doing ONLINE screenings! In the video above, join me and my co-host Keir Graff (author of The Tiny Mansion and many other books for kids and adults) as we watch THE BEST OF THE BEST 90-Second Newbery movies that we received for the 2022 season!

This is also a special occasion, because 2022 marks the HUNDREDTH ANNIVERSARY of the Newbery award. And so Keir and I open the show with a brief skit in which we learn about the HORRIFYING PROPHECY that comes true on the centenary anniversary of the Newbery award. Will John Newbery rise from the dead? Will we once again sing our way bravely through an opening musical number? Yes and yes! Thanks to Javier Ramirez and the Exile in Bookville bookstore in Chicago for helping us out with that. (Go buy a book from them! They ship!) And thanks to Chris, Alice, Heather, Domingo, Lucy, and Ingrid for helping sing the opening song.

Want to learn more about the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival? Check out our official website at www.90secondnewbery.com. And remember, it’s never too early to start making movies for the 2023 90-Second Newbery Film Festival!

Thank you to all the young filmmakers for their fantastic movies, and the families, teachers, and librarians who assisted them! So sit back, relax, and enjoy the video above.

(By the way, the 2022 90-Second Newbery season isn’t quite over: on April 30 we’re doing a New Jersey online screening, on May 7 we’re doing a live show for the Bay Area Book Festival, and on June 25 we’re doing a live show in Boulder, CO. See my events page for details.)

Here’s the running order of the movies, with links to their reviews on the 90-Second Newbery website:


1. Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut (Derrick Barnes, 2018 Honor Book) by Juarez E. of the Advanced Learning Academy in San Antonio, TX

2. Doctor Desoto (William Steig, 1983 Honor Book) by Mr. Johnson’s 5th Grade Film Club at the Grant Center for Expressive Arts in Tacoma, WA

3. Doctor Desoto (William Steig, 1983 Honor Book) by Luana, Satvik, Tavleen, Tyler, and Yosef of Frances M. Rhodes Elementary in San Antonio, TX

4. Bridge to Terabithia (Katherine Paterson, 1978 Medal Winner) by Aurelia C. of Novi, MI

5. New Kid (Jerry Craft, 2020 Medal Winner) by Maya of Green Bay, WI

6. The War That Saved My Life (Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, 2016 Newbery Honor Book) by Jack Wright & Co. of Lookout Mountain, GA

7. Doll Bones (Holly Black, 2014 Honor Book) by the Leland Street Players of Chicago, IL

8. 26 Fairmount Avenue (Tomie dePaola, 2000 Honor Book) by Mr. Johnson’s 4th Grade Class of the Grant Center for the Expressive Arts in Tacoma, WA

9. The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle (Hugh Lofting, 1923 Newbery Medal Winner) by Eian-Gabriel Sinclair of Rochester, NY

10. When You Reach Me (Rebecca Stead, 2010 Medal Winner) by Andrew, Davis, Duncan, Jackson, Lilly, Linley, Payton, and Micah of the Compass Homeschool Initiative in Tulsa, OK

11. Cedric the Forester (Bernard Marshall, 1922 Honor Book) by Max Peck of Brandon, VT

12. Holes (Louis Sachar, 1999 Medal Winner) by Rivers and Roads ALC and Nature School of Oklahoma City, OK

13. Onion John (Joseph Krumgold, 1960 Newbery Medal Winner ) by Laurel, Frances, and Thuan of Chicago, IL

14. The Giver (Lois Lowry, 1994 Medal Winner) by NetNav Productions of San Antonio, TX

15. Along Came A Dog (Meindert Dejong, 1959 Honor Book) by Lily Manning of Chicago, IL

16. A Visit To William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers (Nancy Willard, 1982 Newbery Medal Winner) by Nigel, Simone, Fletcher, Otto, and Hansel of Tacoma, WA

Do you want to support the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival, so we can keep this crazy show going every year, coast to coast? Please make a tax-deductible donation to the 90-Second Newbery here. The 90-Second Newbery is under the nonprofit fiscal sponsorship of Fractured Atlas.

Secrets Of Story Episode 36: Is Save The Cat! Any Good?

April 9, 2022



The Secrets of Story podcast returns! Matt and I had recorded an episode earlier, but we got so contentious that it turned into a huge quarrel. An even bigger quarrel that usual! Don’t worry, Matt and I are all made up now, and we ditched the bad-blood episode. We’re back with this brand new episode about something we can agree on: Blake Snyder’s infamous Save the Cat! books.

Blake Snyder was a screenwriter who wrote bestselling books about screenwriting and storytelling that are filled with terrible advice (such as, your hero must do something “nice” at the beginning of the story, so the audience will like them—like saving a cat). Matt didn’t really want to criticize Snyder’s Save the Cat! books, perhaps because it would seem like a combination of sour grapes (Snyder’s books are more well-known than Matt’s Secrets of Story, although Matt’s is better) and glass houses (who wants to hear a “story guru” bitch about another “story guru”?). Anyway, bellyaching about Save the Cat! is so old-hat, Slate did an article about it ten years ago.

But then Sophie Beal and Gary Dalkin contacted us. Sophie is the co-director and founder of Cadence Publishing. Gary is the senior associate editor there, as well as a freelance editor at To The Last Word. I met Gary because I had a short story included in the sci-fi anthology Improbable Botany that he had edited in 2017. (You can’t get a physical copy of that anthology anymore, but you can get a Kindle version of Improbable Botany here.) Gary is a great editor, I highly recommend him!

Anyway, Gary and Sophie have an article in the upcoming issue of Writing Magazine in which they debate the pros and cons of the Save the Cat! books. On this episode, the four of us intended to hash out the merits of Blake Snyder’s advice, but the conversation often went off into other topics. If you’re looking for the definitive takedown of Save the Cat!, this ain’t it, but Matt and I enjoyed talking to Gary and Sophie about all things writerly.

Oh and by the way, Matt has a new book coming out soon! It’s a follow-up to The Secrets of Story, and it’s called The Secrets of Character: Writing a Hero Anyone Will Love. As Matt said in his own post about this episode, his new work is a “book-long rebuttal to the titular advice in Save the Cat!“, so this is a timely episode.

People, I’ve read Matt’s new book, and it’s great! I’m also quoted in it a bit, and it includes some points I’ve made on the podcast, so it’s a must for Kennedy completists. The Secrets of Character comes out on April 19, but you can pre-order it here, and you should.

And you can listen to the podcast episode here:

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