Thursday, January 28, 2010

That Terrifying Author Came to our School and Scarred Me For Life!

As I  have mentioned before (56 trillion times at last count), I visit a lot of schools to talk about writing books. I have also mentioned before (also 56 trillion times, I just recounted) that my brother is of the opinion that I spend more time talking about what I do than actually doing what I do.
Usually, I talk about writing. Now,  I'm going to turn the tables a bit and write about talking about writing.
You might need to read that last sentence again. I know I did.

I have been visiting schools, acting like some famous hot-shot authorstrator* for almost a dozen years now. I try to change my presentation  every year to keep things interesting for schools that hire me time and time again. It would be tough to present with a row of snoring teachers lined up against the back wall.

The one constant I have always kept in my presentations is the part where I have a kid from the audience come up and model for me so I can draw him. This drawing demonstration has always been very popular with both adults and kids and it gives me the occasional opportunity to see a child traumatized irreparably. It also gives the audience the occasional opportunity to see me get traumatized irreparably and even more spectacularly than the kids.

The drawing demonstration has evolved over the years. I used to simply read my book, The Rules, then have the kids share their own rules that weren't in the book. This part of the process remains, as it allows me to collect new rules for a possible sequel.
After listening to the rules, I used to simply choose one rule that I liked, have that kid come up and draw him.

That worked until a kid stood in front of me on the stage and ate a hideous gooey strand of snot that she picked out of her nose. Her rule, I might mention, was "Don't pick your nose and eat it." It made me realize that I seemed to have a knack for picking kids that probably shouldn't be given uncensored access to an audience. So I started asking the teachers to choose the kid for me.

That worked until I had a kid throw a shoe at me. The teachers dutifully listened to the rules then selected "Don't throw shoes at people" as a winning rule. The kid came up and assumed a good shoe throwing posture, complete with shoe in hand. He posed and I drew. I drew and drew and drew as the kid threatened to throw his show at me. I assumed the kid was really getting into his role.
Until the shoe bounced off my head.

That got my attention. When I looked up at the kid, he was crying hysterically because his classmates had been laughing at him.

So I started warning kids that people would laugh at them and they would feel ridiculous. That worked until the kid came up, saw several classes of kids looking at him, grabbed the front of his pants and screamed "I gotta go to the bathroom!" He ran from the room and I never saw him again.

I would like to take this opportunity to remind you that the drawing demonstration is–by far–the most popular part of my presentations.

Today I was at a school and I listened to rules and gave my warnings and had the teachers pick a victim for me. When he was picked, this first grader ran up, jumped on to a stool I had placed next to me, fell off and landed on his head on the floor.
First graders found this very, very entertaining.
I suffered a series of tiny, but very real anxiety attacks.
Since first graders bounce, he was unharmed but unfortunately, he remained unconvinced of his own mortality. Since I always watch my models closely for early warnings of flying shoes, I had an excellent view of him as he bounced and twitched and tipped the stool in a dizzying display of acrobatic skill and death-defying bravado. It was thrilling and terrifying and I was still able to draw despite my morbid visions of the reams of paperwork that would lay before me if he fell off and injured himself.
We both survived the ordeal, but it was a close one.

I'm considering wrapping the kids in bubble wrap before they come up to model.

It would probably be really, really hard to draw, though.

*Authorstrator - A word I stole from a kid at Washington Elementary. It is brilliant and I intend to describe myself as that from now on.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bring On The Lawsuit!

I'm not scared!
So, I really do love those Life Is Good shirts. As a sort of homage to their ubiquitousness, I put a parody of one of their mugs in my most recent book, The Messiest Desk.

As so often happens with the things I do, I amused the heck out of myself with my wit.
I decided to create some shirts with my new logo. Because, you know, life isn't ALWAYS good...

I sent my kids to school wearing the shirts today. I figure if there's any legal trouble, they'll catch it, not me.  I'll just say I don't know where they got the shirts.

The "" printed across the back?

Who knows...

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Now On The Air - MarTV

You devoted, passionate followers have no doubt already noticed the cute little box that has appeared at the side of my blog.
That is the gigantic multimedia extravaganza I promised in an earlier post. I tried, for a few days, to have a player embedded right here in the blog, but it seemed to have only sporadic results. So, I offer this new, improved link directly to NH Public Television's delightful page full of me.

There, you can enjoy the giddy spectacle of me looking nervous and uncomfortable in front of lots of people and TV cameras.

I'm going to recommend that you make a big batch of popcorn, invite all your friends over and gather around the computer to witness real, actual streaming video of me on TV, being interviewed by the world renowned Rebecca Rule.

It's well worth the admission cost. In fact, I'll offer a full money back guarantee if you aren't completely satisfied with your free viewing experience.

As a side note of utmost importance: There is one point in the show where I refer to "a teacher in Salisbury" who submerged me in the swirling ocean of Author Visits I occasionally find myself drowning in.
That same teacher emailed me yesterday to remind me that he does, in fact, have a name.
I know this. I probably was aware of it during the taping of the show, too, but I was busy trying not to piddle myself with anxiety, so the subtleties of details like names escaped me briefly.
Now that I have returned to my senses and am not in imminent danger of soiling myself, his name is Bruce Johnson. In addition to being a really swell guy, he is the author of some swell reading books for adults and kids. Check him out here.

Tell him that "an author in New Boston" sent you.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Happy, Smiling Kids

Just a quick one here. This is my most recent portrait, my lovely daughter Victoria.
She's almost always that smiley and happy.

On an unrelated note, I am busy working on some serious high-tech, super-colossal, amazing awesomeness for the blog.

Stay tuned.

But if you hear a big explosion somewhere in the distance,  run.

And keep running.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A new year of pain, suffering and happy love-spewing unicorns.

This year, my suffering will be legendary. 
In order to fully explain my suffering, I must tell you about my honeymoon.
My beautiful wife (Kerri) and her beautiful husband (me) went to the beautiful White Mountains to behold their beautiful beauty. When we had beheld all the beauty we could possibly tolerate, we opted for something slightly different. Something to counteract the overdose of beauty we had subjected ourselves to.
Imagine our joy then, when we discovered, nestled amid the majestic mountains, a tiny shop like nothing we had ever seen before. FiFi's Clutter Shop.
FiFi's was home to the most amazing collection of eyesores the world has ever seen. So dense was the collective ugliness of its offerings, I am surprised that the building didn't form its own ugly black hole and suck itself into some alternate dimension.
We immediately sprang into action and spent hours shopping for souvenirs for all our friends. We were panting and breathless as we staggered out of FiFi's, struggling to carry the immeasurable ugliness we had purchased.
Needless to say, our friends were delighted with their gifts. It was their obvious thrill at receiving such wonderful treasures that gave me The Idea.
Really, it's quite simple. Every year, everyone who wants to play goes shopping to find the most awful, ugly, horrifying objet d'art he can. The rules are few and simple. It cannot cost more than $5 and it cannot pose an actual health hazard to humans or domestic animals (including children), the gift you receive must be prominently displayed in your home until the next swap. Once a date is decided on, we gather together to eat, drink, and inflict a year's worth of heartbreak, despair, and depression on one another. Names are drawn, gifts are swapped, and lives are ruined.
The best part about The Swap is when somebody new joins. This sucker typically has no idea what sort of depraved lunatics we are and thus, his contribution is invariably supremely inadequate. My friends Jay and Cris came up from North Carolina to play a few years ago. They brought a soap dispenser which would be considered slightly tacky at best.
They left with a terrifying, life size, light up witch head that would have given Charles Manson nightmares. Jay told me that Cris was weeping profusely for much of the ride back down south.

The unpleasant part about that is that typically those people will return the following year seeking vengeance. Jay and Cris came up the following year in a large pickup truck with a tarp wrapped around something huge in the back. We were seized with an unnameable horror, but they walked into the swap with a small gift bag. Kerri and I drew their name and opened the bag to reveal a fairly ugly framed picture of five fairly ugly chairs. No problem. We'd had worse. Much worse.
We laughed, telling them that we had been concerned that the cargo in the back of the truck was their contribution. As it turns out, it was. The photograph depicted the five horrid black, purple, and turquoise velvet covered chairs stacked in the back of their truck.
That was a grim year in the Kelley household.
There have also been backfires where the recipient actually enjoys the gift. Julie and Scott received a gigantic painting of an old waterwheel mill that they adore, It is still hanging prominently in their home several years later.
Last year, I myself was given a delightful light-up Jesus picture so unthinkably, exquisitely tacky that I cannot bear to remove it from my studio. Here you can see it lit and unlit. Feel free to bask in its beatific splendor for as long as you wish. I know I do.

Here are a few more selected highlights from this year's Swap:

Ben finds the real moth entombed in this display case strangely compelling. The fake birds and clumps of dead foliage act as a delightful counterpoint to everything that is beautiful.

Julie is nearly rendered speechless as she beholds the awesome spectacle of her light-up glass tiles with the festive Christmas bow. Her husband, Scott immediately realizes that the gift, with its Christmas trappings will be rendered even less appealing when July rolls around.

Tim enjoys his 300 pound door knocker, but wonders if there are any doors sturdy enough to support its crushing weight. This is one of those dangerous cases where the recipient may actually enjoy the gift. He will suffer greatly for that next year.

Jo-Ann contemplates the sweeping, all-encompassing horror of the oil portrait she and Ellen will display in the home they are trying to sell. Their idea to include the painting with the house as part of the sales agreement was denied by general consensus.

Here I am squealing with delight as I see the fun loving, oddly misshapen unicorn that will haunt my dreams for the next year. You can also get a slightly closer look at Ben and Ann's dead moth display near the top right of the photo.

The most grave danger of The Swap is the simple fact that you grow immune to these eyesores after a remarkably short time. Thus, when company comes, you never think to explain why there is an inflatable stool filled with flowers in your living room, or a slab of varnished plywood adorned with a glossy Elvis photo hanging above your toilet, or a gigantic wooden fork and spoon set dangling in your dining room.

So, when you come and visit and you see the unthinkable horrors on display in my home, remember, I have suffered for that art.

Suffered dearly.