I’ll be a guest at Rose City Comic Con September 20-21st, mostly at booth #1217/1233, signing at the Dark Horse booth #701 on Sunday at 1 pm. Come say hi!
If you get a copy of Bad Houses I will draw an owl in it. Unless you tell me not to.
Book-recommending has unsurprisingly become a tradition at the BG Literary retreat (see 2013, 2012). Below are the titles we talked about this year, and as a bonus, miscellaneous productivity & other tools. In no particular order.
Revolution by Deborah Wiles
Lost Conspiracy by Frances Hardinge
Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
Last Dragonslayer series Jasper Fforde
The Man in the Empty Suit by Sean Ferrell
Greenglass House by Kate Milford
The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis
The League of Seven by Alan Gratz
We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory
Salvage by Alexandra Duncan
Dirty Wings by Sarah McCarry
Five, Six, Seven, Nate! by Tim Federle
Tequila Mockingbird by Tim Federle
Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia
Doll Bones by Holly Black
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy
The Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French
City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett
I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson
Pointe by Brandy Colbert
El Deafo by Cece Bell
Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
The Sixth Gun by Brian Hurtt and Cullen Bunn
Rat Queens by Kurtis J Wiebe
Hawkeye by Matt Fraction and David Aja
Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky
Stumptown by Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth
Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro
The Superior Foes of Spider-Man by Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer
The Fiction Editor, the Novelist and the Novel by Thomas McCormack
Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande
Poking a Dead Frog by Mike Sacks
Productivity & Other Tools
Mind mapping with coggle.it
SpiderOak as a DropBox alternative
For outlining: Screenwriting Beat Sheets
And finally, not a tool, but forever my favorite article about procrastination, Robert Benchley’s marvelous “How To Get Things Done,” which begins: “A great many people have come up to me and asked me how I manage to get so much work done and still keep looking so dissipated.” Read the whole thing, then get to work.
I don’t post here often enough for a period of silence to seem especially notable, but this time, the silence has been on purpose while I’ve been reflecting on current events.
Today I went to use the restroom at a coffeeshop and found the toilet clogged. (Aren’t you glad I’m not accompanying this with photos?)
I thought of leaving. I thought of telling the staff.
Then I picked up the plunger. Sure, I hadn’t made the mess, but whoever had left the toilet in its heinous condition was long gone, and the coffeeshop staff had a lot of other things to do. I unclogged it myself.
I’m not saying that dismantling the befouled toilet’s structural and institutional equivalents is nearly that simple. But that’s the approach I intend to take: recognize the mess, use the tools at hand to work on cleaning it up.
Obvious metaphors are obvious, but still.
I have to tell you that I’ve begun to rethink a thing I’ve been struggling with for some time.
Rocks to navigate, river to cross, the woods to get through.
The fallen tree that seemed like it could be a bridge doesn’t extend far enough.
Maybe a way to proceed.
Still not sure where exactly I’m going, but on my way again.
I listen to a lot of audiobooks; in the car to make long drives bearable, at night to slow the hamster wheel of anxiety.
I never look for a specific title. I browse, often clicking through screen after screen of books that aren’t to my taste, like sifting through the racks at a thrift store.
It was after midnight and I was nine screens in when I found Valeria Luiselli‘s Faces in the Crowd, read by Roxanne Hernandez and Armando Durán. Hernandez’s voice was immediately captivating, and I was intrigued, too, by the double translation, first from the original Spanish Los ingrávidos (The Weightless Ones), then into audio.
I’m not going to tell you what it’s about, only that I highly recommend it.
Bring lots of books, but remember that you’ll also want to watch beach TV. Reliable channels include Waves, Clouds, Dogs, and Children. Sometimes you can get Horses or Storms; occasionally Sparklers.
Someone’s going to be Beach-Fire-Building Alpha. If that’s not you, assist them by gathering kindling, carrying foodstuffs to be carbonized, and not complaining when smoke drifts your way. If you’re the Beach-Fire-Building Alpha, rule benevolently, and gracefully accept all praise of your skills.
Consider not taking sunset photos because geez, aren’t there enough of them in the world already?
* * * * * *
This One Summer, by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki, perfectly evokes the early-adolescent state where sometimes you want to be older, sometimes younger, where the issues of the adults around you intersect and influence your world even when, especially when, they try to shield you from them, and what it’s like to be in the place that has always meant one thing but now is starting to mean something else.
Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, a graphic memoir by Roz Chast, is about dread, denial, dementia, decline, and death, and still manages to be funny. Especially recommended for anyone who is, has been, or anticipates becoming a caregiver for aging parents.
How To Be Happy by Eleanor Davis is a collection of short, spare, lovely and haunting graphic stories. Some of them are funny, too. Among my favorites: “The Emotion Room,” “How To Be Strong,” and the one-pager that opens the collection which begins: “Write a story. A story about yourself. A story about your life. Now, believe it.”
I’ve been watching a lot of Justified. I was a little surprised to discover I like it.
But it’s not that shocking, considering I like Elmore Leonard’s ear for dialog and the ever-present evidence in his books that he follows his own writing advice. I liked discovering that producer Graham Yost gave the writers of the show WWED bracelets.
I’ve also been appreciating:
Timothy Olyphant‘s half Jimmy Stewart, half Jack Nicholson affect.
Herky-jerky Jeremy Davies, who manages to seem simultaneously like someone who’d be running the shooting range at a seedy carnival and a semi-functional toy you’d win there.
Walton Goggins (whose actual name would also work well for his character), buttoned-up and wild-eyed, with ever-precise diction.
I could go on naming actors; there are a lot of strong performances.
There are missed opportunities, too. I especially wanted more in Noble’s Holler; more characters (where were the women?), more scenes, more nuance.
But overall, good, compelling TV. Will watch again.
I’m just back from Ann Arbor, where I tabled at Kids Read Comics and taught a writing workshop at the Ann Arbor District Library.
I kept using the phrase “cognitive dissonance” to express how it felt to be in my old home town after many years away, and it’s close, I suppose, but inadequate.
I wasn’t discomfited per se by seeing how Ann Arbor has (and hasn’t) changed, but I became hyperaware of how site-specific memory can be; how experiences you’ve had in a particular place can suddenly return when you’re physically present.
I’d forgotten, for example, about Dominick’s. But as soon as I was standing inside, conversations I’d had in grad school over sangria came back; some, in fact, with these people (Dave Carter, Jim Ottaviani, & Kat Hagedorn):
I tried to do an update of this old photo taken outside the Clements Library where my dad used to be a curator:
but decided to respect the boundary around the book statue:
I went to some places that didn’t exist in the 1990s, too:
Perhaps the experience that best encapsulates the visit was going to Seva; a restaurant I remembered fondly which has recently relocated.
They kept stained glass from the old location, but display it in a different arrangement. They kept some items from the old menu, but added dishes. The result: a comforting, tasty blend of familiar & new.
Representing today & tomorrow for teen & adult readers at the Ann Arbor District Library’s Kids Read Comics festival — really fun to be back in the library I grew up using. If you’re in or near Ann Arbor, come say hi!