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The Order of Oddfish

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Chicago 90-Second Newbery this Saturday—and I’m at Bookies this Thursday!

March 4, 2024

It’ll be a busy week! This weekend is the Chicago screening of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival. We’ve been doing this for 13 years now! It’ll be at 2 pm this Saturday, March 9th at the Harold Washington Library Center (400 S State St.), with co-host Mary Winn Heider (author of The Stupendous Switcheroo and more). Get your FREE tickets here.

Want a sneak preview? Every year I make a 90-Second Newbery movie with Lucy, Ingrid, and all their neighborhood friends. This year’s is based on Katherine Paterson’s 1978 Newbery Medal winner Bridge to Terabithia. We all remember how, in the original book, Jess’s free-spirited friend Leslie dies by falling from a swinging rope. This movie tells the story from the point of view of the whimsical monsters who inhabit the imaginary land of Terabithia. Apparently Leslie isn’t the only kid who has met a grisly end there, and the monsters are frustrated at how kids keep dying in their fantasy realm. Will Terabithia be shut down by federal inspectors? Fantastic and hilarious performances from everyone here!

(Liked the movie? Want to see more stuff like this? Come to this Saturday’s 90-Second Newbery Film Festival screening.)

But that’s not all I’m up to: this Thursday, I’ll be appearing at Bookies Chicago (10324 S. Western Avenue) with award-winning horror author Cynthia Pelayo to talk about my latest novel Bride of the Tornado (named one of the Chicago Tribune‘s “Top 10 Books of 2023”) and Cynthia’s many scary and excellent books. That’s Thursday, March 7 at 6 pm! See you there.

Finally, last week I was at Seattle’s Emerald City Comic Con. It was a blast! (Thanks to my friends Joe and Madeleine for putting me up at their house, and to Joe in particular for driving me all the way from Portland to Seattle . . . it’s a long story.) At the con, I appeared on the “It’s Getting Dark” panel with fellow horror novelists Caitlin Starling, Claire Legrand, Autumn Krause, and Peter V. Brett. So many folks came! I was pleased to get to talk with these great authors, and everyone at ECCC was wonderful.

While I was there, I had the chance to browse the art booths, and on the recommendation of my friend Anne-Line, I stopped by the booth of Natalie Andrewson. I thought her art was amazing, so I bought a print! And she was a peach.

Overall, a great weekend. Now I’m looking forward to an intense week here in Chicago. Hopefully I’ll see you at Bookie’s this Thursday, and/or at the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival this Saturday!

I’m at Emerald City Comic Con this Friday—and I’m on some podcasts!

February 26, 2024

I want to take a quick break from 90-Second Newbery Film Festival updates to give some news about upcoming Bride of the Tornado appearances!

This Friday, March 1, I’ll be at Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle. I’m speaking on the “It’s Getting Dark” panel with authors Autumn Krause, Peter V. Brett, and Claire Legrand. This panel will be at 5:15 pm in Room 434 of the Seattle Convention Center Summit Building, followed by a book signing at 6:15 pm on Level 2 at the University Book Store (Booth #20627). The last time I was in Seattle was marvelous, so I’m really looking forward to this!

And I have other events coming up all over the country. On Thursday, March 7 I’m in conversation with big-deal Chicago horror writer Cynthia Pelayo (my third event with her!) at Bookie’s Bookstore (10324 S. Western Avenue, Chicago, IL) at 6 pm. And two days later, on Saturday, March 9 (my birthday!) I’m hosting the Chicago screening of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival with Mary Winn Heider.

Further down the line, I’m doing author events at Porter Square Books in Boston (on Thursday, April 4) and Good Neighbor Bookstore in Lakewood, New York (on Wednesday, April 17) leading up to the 90-Second Newbery Boston screening and Rochester, NY screening respectively. Check out my events page for the full rundown!

In the meantime, here are some online appearances I’ve made recently! I first met philosopher Greg Sadler when my sci-fi novel Dare to Know came out. He dug it, we became friends, and he ended up doing an excellent interview with me on his “Worlds of Speculative Fiction” podcast.

Now that Bride of the Tornado is out, Greg has had me on for another episode, in which he reads from passages of both Dare to Know and Bride of the Tornado and teases out the philosophical ideas of both books. As Greg says in his post about this episode, “I had the chance to interview him about his influences, his novels, what role philosophy plays, and a number of other subjects, and clips from that are woven into the video itself.” Check out the video, but put aside some time for it—it’s almost two hours long!

In Greg’s interview with me, I mention the influence that G.K. Chesterton’s short, weird, visionary novel The Man Who Was Thursday had on me. And that made me remember that I had been on a different podcast, called The Legendarium, in which they invited me to speak about that very book . . . but I had never mentioned it on this blog!

This episode is a somewhat shorter than the above. In it, I talk about my personal life in a bit more detail than usual, and use it to make my own idiosyncratic points about Chesterton’s very strange book. Watch and listen here:

(Actually, I’ve been a guest on The Legendarium twice; the first time, I gave a talk about “Determinism in Science Fiction and Fantasy,” and I floated my theory that there are four distinct types of predestination in fiction: “Durable,” “Fragile,” “Volitional,” and “Broken.” You can listen to that here.)

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for today. See you in Seattle, I hope . . . or at some other event in the next few busy months!

The AWE and EXALTATION of the 2024 Ogden, UT 90-Second Newbery Film Festival!

February 21, 2024

The 13th season of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival continued with our second show at the Treehouse Museum in Ogden, Utah this past Saturday! I am so thankful to Lynne Goodwin, Rob Goodwin, Wes Whitby, Caden Ware, and everyone at the Treehouse for bringing our screening back to their venue yet again. And of course, big props to Keir Graff (author of Minerva Keen’s Detective Club of many other great books for kids and adults) for being such a brilliant co-host.

Since our audience is younger at the Treehouse, we did a less satirical opening skit than we did at the Brooklyn screening the week before. Keir and I wrote this one backstage an hour before the performance, specially-tailored for our Ogden audience. Check it out above!

Here’s are Keir and me with some of the young filmmakers onstage after the show, and in the audience with the crowd:

We showed a lot of great movies at the screening, but in this post I want to concentrate on the three movies that were made right at the Treehouse at a weeklong 90-Second Newbery workshop I taught last summer with the help of Treehouse staff, especially Caden Ware.

This first one is based on Kate Dicamillo’s 2014 Newbery Medal Winner Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures . . . but retold in the style of Star Wars! Flora is Rey, her mother is Emperor Palpatine, the dad is Kylo Ren, and Rey saves Ulysses the squirrel by making him into a half-droid—and then the squirrel starts to get the power of the Force.

All the actors turned in fantastic performances, and I loved their energy in the light saber battles. Read the complete write-up about this movie on the 90-Second Newbery website.

The next movie is based on Richard and Florence Atwater’s 1939 Newbery Honor Book Mr. Popper’s Penguins. It’s done in the style of a Batman movie, in which Mr. Popper is secretly the superhero “Penguin Man.” Here, Penguin Man comes into the possession of a self-duplicating penguin: a penguin that can clone itself! Penguin Man and the cloning penguin fight crime together, and together they defeat the villain “the Laughing Seal,” a scientist who had drank a chemical that turned them into half-seal who needs to devour penguins to live.

I love how this movie mixes the styles of both the 1990s Tim Burton Batman and the 1960s Adam West Batman:

And here’s what the judges had to say on the 90-Second Newbery website.

The third movie we made was based on Christina Soontornvat’s 2021 Newbery Honor Book A Wish in the Dark. In the book’s original Thai-inspired fantasy world, the city of Chattana is ravaged by the Great Fire, plunging it into darkness. The fire is stopped by someone called the Governor—a magical, power-obsessed leader who goes on to outlaw fire. The city’s only sources of light and power are magical glowing orbs that only the Governor can create. The book’s hero is Pong, a nine-year-old boy who escapes the prison where he was born. He wants to live freely in Chattana, but he is pursued by Nok, the prison warden’s daughter who wants to bring him back to prison. However, they eventually make friends and join forces with others to bring down the evil magical Governor.

This movie tells the story in the style of the movie The Wizard of Oz. The Governor is the Wicked Witch of the West, Pong is Dorothy, and . . . well, just watch!

This movie resourcefully used the sets and costumes at the Treehouse, and there was good cinematography and acting too! You can read the write-up of this movie on the 90-Second Newbery website.

And those were the local movies of the Ogden 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! And I will be teaching another weeklong “Making a 90-Second Newbery” workshop at the Treehouse in July. I believe Keir will be teaching a writing workshop too. I’m looking forward to returning to Ogden soon and seeing all my friends again. And remember, it’s not too early to start working on your movies for next year!

The 90-Second Newbery relies on private donations to keep going! It’s only through your generosity that we can continue bringing our free public screenings and book-to-movie workshops to libraries and schools nationwide. You can make your (tax-deductible!) donation here. Donations are handled through our fiscal sponsor Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

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