A Week of Author Events

Been really, REALLY busy this whole week, which is why this is going up considerably later than usual. But there were bits and pieces of sort-of-comics-related things going on throughout, with both my students and me, and I'll tell you about those. Book signings, new publications, all kinds of things.

When I say book signings, I'm not kidding... only it's not attending them, it's trying to put them together. Sadly, for the first time in over a decade, my Cartooning and Young Authors students will not be having an Artist's Alley table at the Emerald City Comic-Con. The show has gotten so huge, and so expensive for us, that we just can't pull it off. We attacked it from every angle, believe me, because I hated to see it go, but the ugly truth was that with each passing year, the cost of the show has gone up AND the budget for the program has gone down. Moreover, as the show grew in size, it got more and more difficult for us to pull off as a class event.

So in the end it became clear that we just couldn't do it. But the Olympia trip will still be happening, and we decided that rather than do one giant event like ECCC, we would do lots of little ones instead. This week we had two.

The first was the middle school students tabling at Literacy Night at Madison, on Thursday. Cartooning and Young Authors both had new books to roll out.

This was also the premiere appearance of the brand-spanking-new school newspaper, Paw Prints. The school, to my complete astonishment, had never had a paper before, and as part of the budgetary stuff I alluded to earlier, this semester we created one and folded that program into Young Authors.

I assure you, the fact that the front page ended up being about under-attended afterschool programs is pure coincidence-- that was all Noah and he went after it HARD, he interviewed all sorts of people and took the photos. The fact is, the entire afterschool program's in constant danger because the school sucks at marketing it to the parents and kids that would be interested, and Noah wanted to talk about that. I cautioned him to leave us out of it and he did, although I could have given him pages of incendiary behind-the-scenes stuff (and I was tempted.) But frankly he did fine on his own, he had great instincts for a sixth-grade kid. I didn't need to fuel the fire. These activities are hugely important to the kids participating and the fact that the program keeps getting money taken away while the sports programs keep getting MORE support is not lost on them. They're twelve-year-olds but they have eyes. Mostly I had to caution him to dial down the editorializing.

As it happens, our second semester hail-Mary from half-court of combining Young Authors with a new Journalism program turned out to be a good call-- it solved our money problem and I'm discovering it's also tremendous fun. So now I have kids writing for the anthology books and also working on the paper. Some do both.... and yes, there will be comics in the school paper. It's all sort of cheerfully chaotic but I was hugely proud of the kids for pulling it off in just three weeks. EVERYONE made their deadlines.

Turns out this year's crop, almost all of whom are new to the program, took to tabling and signing like they'd been doing it for years, as well. Here's Willoweve from Young Authors and Koh from Cartooning.

And as you can see, the paper is a hit, everyone was grabbing it. But the Young Authors did well too. Here's Megan signing a book for an interested student.

Really, though, the best part of the evening was talking to the parents of my students. As I've said many, many times, the kids I get in my classes tend to be misfits, introverts, and oddballs. They're not joiners, and when they arrive in my classroom for the first time, more often than not it's because they've been ordered to sign up for SOMETHING. When they see what we really do once we're rolling, it lights them up, but rarely, if ever, do the kids confide how strongly they feel about their writing or their drawing to their parents. The flip side of that is that parents often don't really understand what these activities really are.... to them it looks like doodling. They mean well, they want to support their kid, but they don't know how because to them it all just looks like more misfit weirdness.

So when parents see their kids rattling off The Spiel and signing their books, there's always this magical moment of "oh, NOW I get it." They're not in the picture, but Willoweve's parents are just about levitating watching their girl sign her book for the first time in the shot below. (Willoweve's mother is a novelist herself so she does sort of get it, but it was still a huge thing for the family.)

Even better, there's often a reciprocal response from the kids, when they SEE their folks having that epiphany, of "oh, Mom meant well all along, she just didn't GET it." It's just a great, great thing, and it's the main reason I like to get as many parents to come to these things as I can... and it's a lot easier to do that at these little local events than a giant show like Emerald City.

That was Thursday night. Yesterday, Saturday, we did a combined-schools fundraiser at the YMCA. Our thinking here-- that is to say, mine and my bosses' -- was that, first of all, they're always after us to raise money and we can't do it at ECCC, so why not table right at the Y? And our ulterior motive was that maybe if we SHOW them the awesomeness of this thing they keep suggesting we kill to save a few bucks, they'll back off, especially if we get parents coming too.

Considering the Y sucks even more at marketing than the school does, it was a resounding success. Since it was volunteer, free to attend, and just down the street, I didn't put together the kind of schedule and assigned table time that I normally would have for shows like ECCC or even for a little one like Olympia. This hurt us because Cartooning didn't really turn out.... except that the Young Authors were more than happy to pick up the slack, and they sold a lot of books. Here's Kiera and Megan from Madison and Iman from Sealth giving The Spiel about the after-school programs while Julie watches in the background.

The twins, Kiera and Megan, are amazing. They had co-written a novelette, "Unsung Heroes," for the latest anthology (In Our Own Worlds, the green one you see there) and also did the cover illustration, as well as contributing several articles to the school paper. They're new this year but once they realized we were really publishing, they were on FIRE. They sold us a bunch of books, in no small part because their proud parents (fresh off Literacy Night and still aglow) had Facebooked and Tweeted to everyone they knew that the girls would be signing their new book that day.

It was hugely entertaining to watch them interact with Symphony and Iman from the high school.

The twins were being gushing fangirls over the Sealth book, Harrowing Fairy Tales, and in return, Symphony and Iman were really digging the new Madison anthology. "It's so THICK," Symphony said. "You guys did a lot." She looked at Iman and added, "We gotta step up our game."

The twins, as usually happens, were fascinated by the history of the program and were quite taken with the Cartooning benefit book the alumni did for us a while back, particularly the stories that Brianna and Katrina had done.

Nick showed up too, and the comics got him even more wound up than they had the girls. He wanted to draw himself and pretty soon they were all at it.

The twins had seen an old sketch of mine in the pile of 'convention stuff' boxes that all these displays live in most of the time, and prevailed on me to draw them, as well. So there was drawing and goofing off and swapping of anecdotes (Iman and Symphony were really enjoying being the seasoned older veterans at the table with Nick and the twins, while Julie and I were telling Nick's mother some of our convention stories) and a good time was had by all. The students completely won over the Y branch workers, many of whom bought books themselves, and I think it went really well.

And finally, amidst all this craziness, on Friday I even had a book of my own come out. Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective volume seven is now available in print and digitally.

I was pretty pleased with the last one, but honestly I think this new one is better. I don't mean mine (although I do like my entry this time better than the last one.) But I'm talking about my colleagues. All the guys did terrific stuff. Here's the back cover blurb.

"Fictional foe become real" is my story, "The Adventure of the Impossible Angel." It's a direct sequel to Doyle's "A Case of Identity," and reveals the final fate of Mr. James Windibank and Miss Mary Sutherland. It was a literary itch I'd been longing to scratch since I was a kid and I think it turned out pretty well.

I also found out Friday that volume six in this series, with my "Adventure of the Infernal inheritance," is up for a Pulp Factory award, which is very gratifying. You can get both volumes at Amazon or as PDF ebooks. I hope you'll check both books out if you haven't already... and if you have, take a minute and leave a review at Amazon, would you? It really is very helpful.

So that was the week, and frankly, between setting up class signings and printing student books, not to mention proofing final galleys and such on my own, I'm exhausted. I'm going to bed.

See you next week... and I hope I can manage it sooner than Sunday afternoon.

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