Monday, May 13, 2013

Masked Candy Thieves, Huge Walking Apples, & Life Altering Humiliation for a Bag of Cheetos

 So, you know how sometimes, you're at a huge author event in another state and you're with your friend, and you're just trying to get your picture taken with a 100% real, magical, huge, walking apple that happens to be wandering through the place and PEOPLE WON'T LEAVE YOU ALONE?

It happened to me once again on Saturday, when I had the good fortune to be asked to attend the first annual Author Fest in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. It was certainly a special occasion for me. Generally, I am not technically "invited" to events like this. I usually have to slip in through any unlocked door, clutching a box of my posters and bookmarks and stuff, and make my way to an empty seat behind a table.

People will wander up to me as I sit there and look at the name tag on the table where I have seated myself.
"So, you're J.K. Rowling?" they will ask.
"Yes," I answer. "Yes I am. Only I have a few books out under my new pen-name, Marty Kelley. Would you like o buy a few cases of them?"

Sometimes I can even grab a few cookies off the refreshment table as security drags me to the door.

But I was actually invited to this event because my good friend, the wicked talented story-teller/author, Becky Rule suggested to the organizers that I might be a good person to contact.

When pressed for details, Becky admitted that she had recommended me simply because I was the only person she knew who might be willing to drive over 100 miles each way for a free bag of Cheetos and a chance to get my picture taken with a 100% real, magical, huge, walking apple.

And I was planning on taking full advantage of that opportunity. When that apple strolled into the room, all shiny and bright and delicious looking, I vaulted over my table, ready to tackle it and take a bite.

Becky grabbed my ankle as I lunged. "No, Marty!" she wailed.
I kicked at her hand, still clutching my ankle. "Let go! The apple is here!" I cried. "And I'm hungry!"
Becky began sobbing. "I'm sorry, Marty," she wailed. "I lied."
I stopped struggling against her iron grip. "What?" I gasped.
"The apple," Becky managed between shuddering sobs. "It's... it's not a 100% real, magical, huge walking apple like I told you. It's just a child in an apple costume."

The news hit me hard.

"So I can't eat it?" I whimpered.
Becky shook her head. "I'm sorry," she murmured.

"Well," I groaned, standing and brushing myself off. "I guess I don't need to eat it. I've got some Cheetos, after all. Let's go get our pictures taken with the apple."

The apple tried to run, but Becky grabbed its stem and forced it to pose with us for nearly 250 pictures.
But, as happens so frequently when famous authors try to have our pictures taken with non-magical, huge, walking apples, the crowds of paparazzi gathered around, yelling and snapping pictures.

Can we get no peace?

"Don't worry, Becky. I'll handle this," I said, heading for the unruly crowd.

Becky kept a firm hold of the apple's stem while I stalked over to attend to the paparazzi.

The last photo on that paparazzi's camera.

I dusted myself off and returned to the apple for a few thousand more pictures.

You cannot hear the child weeping helplessly inside the apple costume. "Please... enough pictures... set me free..."

After the extensive photo sessions were over, I went back to my table and met Doreen Tango Hampton, my table-mate and new best friend. Obviously someone with this much gum is someone you want to befriend. I threw myself in her lap and instantly proposed marriage. Her husband was, for some reason, somewhat opposed to the idea.

Doreen is trying to hold back the tears when she discovers that I am not actually Dr. Suess, as I claimed I was.

Please notice all the gum Doreen has spread out in an enticing fashion across the front of the table.

Note to self: Gum attracts children.

Throughout the day, due to Doreen's appallingly short-sighted decision to spill gum all over the place, our table was besieged by roving hoards of children, all desperately seeking gum. Some children asked if she had any other kind of candy.

"No," she explained politely. "My book is called, I Like Gum. So, you see, I have gum."
The kids would shrug, slightly disgusted by Doreen's poor assortment of candy, and grab a few hundred pieces of gum to cram in their pockets.

Some children wandered by six or seven thousand times, pausing just long enough to fill their pockets at each pass.

These two girls–I am not joking–actually donned masks to grab more gum after Doreen politely suggested that the 15 pounds they had each already taken might be enough. They should probably be considered armed and dangerous.

Thwarting gum thieves is hungry work, and having been denied my chance to eat a 100% real magical, huge, walking apple (thanks, Becky), I rooted through the goodie bag that had thoughtfully been supplied by the event organizers.

And I feel that at this point, I must point out that the people who organized this Author Fest did an absolutely AMAZING job. It was their first Author Fest and they totally nailed everything. There were even personalized signs on each table with hand-drawn pictures depicting scenes from each person's book. The event was very well attended, things ran perfectly and all the authors and illustrators had a great time.

And the goodie bags! The goodie bag was filled with what I must call the greatest collection of goodies in the entire history of goodie bags:

Candy and a bag of Cheetos.

And, although I was facing starvation from spending the afternoon fending off gangs of children in search of gum, I carefully weighed the options, trying to decide in which way a bag of Cheetos might deliver the most pleasure.

Sure, I could eat them. And I'm sure they would have brought me a few blissful moments of Cheezey Delite™.

But could I not find some way to turn those few minutes of gustatory delight into a memory that will haunt some poor child for a lifetime?

Why, yes, I could.

I hobbled together a makeshift poster and offered my bag of Cheetos to anyone who would sing a song for me.

Then I began accosting everyone who passed by, begging them to sing in exchange for a cheesy treat.

Nobody was coming up to sing to me, however, because they were all in line to see Scott Nash, the wonderfully talented creator of Flat Stanley and many other great books. Obviously, all the other authors and illustrators were incredibly jealous of the line he had all day long. Naturally, we plotted to have him eliminated, but not a single author in the place had had the foresight to bring along something so basic as a surface to surface thermonuclear warhead.

Get away from Scott Nash! I have CHEETOS!!
But try as I might, I could not get anyone to sing.

And then, to my horror, I discovered that Becky Rule–not content with having cheated me out of my chance to eat a 100% real, magical, huge, walking apple–was undermining my attempt to make someone sing by making a different, and much easier offer.

Becky is a mad, evil genius who bears constant supervision. Her daughter, Adi, is lurking in the shadows on the left and may have had some part in this sinister scheme.

I attempted to rally support to have Becky eliminated, but all the other authors were still mopey and despondent about the whole Scott Nash thing.

And then, something amazing happened.

Eva came shyly up to me and asked if she could sing for the Cheetos.

Please note the amazing treasure trove of goodness I heaped upon this brave and amazing young lady.
And sing she did. After a stirring rendition of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, I heaped everything from my goodie bag unto her. She was amazing.

And then, as I sat back, satisfied with a job well done, several more children came up to sing to me.

I explained that I had no more Cheetos to offer, but they offered to sing in exchange for a poster. I didn't have the heart to tell them that I was giving posters away to everyone, so I let them sing.

Teagan sang the entire theme song to the Brady Bunch and brought nostalgic tears to my eyes.

Watch out Delaney and Teagan! The gum thief is behind you!
These two amazing ladies sang a duet of Call Me Maybe that wold have left Katy Perry breathless with awe.

Naturally, I gloated about my success loudly enough for Becky to hear.

She did manage to give away her chips to a young lady who told this joke:

Marty was talking to a squirrel. 
He told the squirrel, "You are what you eat." 
The squirrel ran away yelling, "I'm nuts!"

I had no idea that there was that much talent in the lovely, quiet town of Cape Elizabeth.

It was a wonderful event and I certainly hope to return next year.
I'll be sure to bring a lot of Cheetos.
But no gum.

And, I'll be wearing this:

Thursday, May 2, 2013

My Blog - It's... ALIVE!!! A brief pictoral history of why my blog hasn't been updated in a long time. PART 1

I've been busy.
I know. I know. It seems like all us authors and illustrators do all day is sit around and write and draw.
Why don't you get a real job, I can hear you asking.
Because, I answer, if I had a real job, I wouldn't have time to write this blog and then you'd have to find some other way to amuse yourself online while you're at your real job, pretending to work.

In March, I went to the Massachusetts Librarian Association Conference in Sturbridge and got to see some author/illustrator friends I hadn't seen in a while. We all need to gather together sometimes and remind ourselves how grueling and difficult this job is.

I set up this sweet display and was ready to woo the throngs of librarians with my amazing powers of book setting-up-ness-itude.

"I'm totally gonna rock this convention center because I brought a tablecloth!" I thought.

And I might have totally rocked it if the organizers hadn't thoughtlessly put me next to this guy.

This is my new friend, author/illustrator/fashionista: Jef Czekaj (pronounced "jef"), sporting the most amazing cat sweater ever created.

Despite being eclipsed by Jef and handicapped by my lack of cat sweaters, many schools still asked me to visit, and visit I did.

I am constantly amazed and flattered by all the cool things teachers do in conjunction with my visits.

Bulletin boards:

 Where they choose only the best pictures from my blog to share.
(Note to self: Don't be ugly.)

Amazing art by kids, who have happily adopted me as "their" author/illustrator. 

Library displays:

 More art by kids, including...

 Someone whose favorite spring activity is to single-handedly save the universe with his light saber.
Sadly, not one of us will ever be as cool as this kid obviously is.

 This kid, whose favorite springtime activity is to destroy the universe with weapons of unimaginable power.
 And, you know, some people just don't care for spring. This kid just wants to stay in his house.
Who among us has not had that same feeling?

And this kid, whose moving Ode to Spring is one of the most brilliant pieces of writing I have ever read. This is wonderful. He likes his bike even better than his brother. Almost. well, maybe not. 
I don't know. 

Seriously. I'm so flattered by all of this. I absolutely love all the creativity here. Thank you so much to all the teachers and students who make this possible.