Bookseller mufti, storyteller joys.

13 04 2010

This morning dawned “gray with an ‘a’ ” – the gray hue of dirty socks, not the crisp jagged grey of stone – and thus the perfect way to combat it is by donning brilliant attire.

And it paid off at the bookstore, where a little girl and her baby brother found common ground with me in the colors we both wore. They were fascinated by what I call my Crayola vest, with its dark purple base, inset mirrors, and patchworks of gold, green, orange, tan, and pink, as well as by my hot pink stockings and hot pink sash.

Children will always notice what you’re wearing. I still have neighborhood kids who are now teenagers or college-bound tell me that they remember my storyteller outfits from more than a decade ago, like my playful rendition of Miss Spider’s Tea Party by David Kirk, or my terrifying recounting of the Bloody Beast of Ruddigore as imagined by Judy Sierra.


Three fictional characters who serve as sartorial-bibliophiliac-polymath muses for me are: Miss Frizzle, especially when she goes into astronomy-mode; Crinkleroot, who is my eldest brother in disguise; and Miss Bindergarten, who always reminds me so much of one of my former coworkers, down to the chunky-alphabet-block necklace.

And there’s plenty of real-life counterparts in the professional storytelling world… Story Guys, Story Ladies, teachers, bards, naturalists, and plenty in between.

The Professional Storytellers Network on Ning

Make someone’s world brighter. Share a book, tell a tale, grow a scientist.



Scenes from a science fiction convention.

1 04 2009

A few of the highlights from my weekend…

SCENE ONE – Shrinkage is the sincerest form of flattery, sort of.

“I have the oddest thing to tell you”, I murmured to Annette Curtis Klause as she wandered past our dealer’s table at ConBust. “And I’m not sure whether you’ll be angered or pleased.”

Her sparkling eyes twinkled at me from behind her glasses as she awaited my next words.

“Your books are among the top 10 authors’ works shoplifted from the bookstores where I’ve been employed.”

Annette whooped with laughter. She agreed with me that, while neither of us can condone shoplifting, it says something that my shoplifters have excellent taste.

SCENE TWO – First there is a mallard, then no mallard, then there is.

Over on my personal journal, I had posted an amusing picture last night captioned “Duck, Batman, Duck!”, as a prelude to my report on ConBust 2009.

I reproduce that picture for you here, Gentle Readers, for your viewing pleasure.

The context of this photo is as follows…

Theo Black, of The Black Arts, was a guest at the convention, as was Holly Black. Theo seems to have developed a tradition of bringing bags of swag from his home and office to cons, and scattering the contents of his swag-bag throughout hallways and function rooms at those conventions. He made a point to gift my partner Michael and me a spinning light-up CD standee for our BLAKE’S 7 audio titles… a most useful device!

According to Theo, this “redistribution” practice occasionally causes consternation and befuddlement, but in this case it also caused merriment.

When the first stuffed duck appeared in Seelye Hall on Friday night, perched jauntily on a doorhandle, the Smith students and congoers wondered if this was an unannounced scavenger hunt. When I happened upon another stuffed duck later in the con, I mused aloud that it must be Schrodinger’s Duck.

This was seized upon over the weekend by several more congoers, and prompted an impromptu sing-along of “First there is a mallard, then no mallard, then there is”. I was most gratified to know that members of the Class of 2009 through the Class of 2012 were familiar with Donovan!

At the end of the con, two stuffed ducks and a diecast Batmobile remained behind. My partner and I brought them home and have “redistributed” them among friends who have needed a little brightening in their lives.


Such little things, these tales, but such far-reaching effects to make the world a friendlier place.


Find a hero, be a hero.

8 01 2009

Brought to my attention by Alethea Kontis. Thanks!

FIND A HERO! Contest

Once in a lifetime chance to be in a book with a DC Comics super hero!

How It Works:

Superman and Batman are superheroes. Ordinary people can be extraordinary and heroic for many different reasons such as helping others, being remarkably brave in a situation, or overcoming an illness with resiliency, humor, and courage. Tell us about someone you believe is a hero at your school. Your entry should describe your hero and offer examples of how that person is a hero in your eyes. Get creative by describing your hero’s “superpowers”.

Official Contest Prize:

First Place: The hero and the school in the winning entry will be featured in one of the upcoming Stone Arch DC Chapter Books. The name of the school, the city, the hero, the winner, and even the principal will be in the story. This is a once in a lifetime chance to be in a book with a DC Comics super hero!
Top 50 Entries: Top 50 entrants will receive two free Stone Arch DC Chapter Books; one for the student and one for the school library.

Official Contest Rules:

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Contest is open to students currently enrolled in public or private schools in
grades 3 – 6. Entries should be submitted by students with the approval of a librarian, teacher, or principal. Contest runs December 15, 2008 – February 28, 2009. Once an entry has been submitted it becomes the property of Stone Arch Books. Entries will not be returned.

Stone Arch Books is the sole sponsor of this contest.

Pass it along to your local schools and your favorite young reader!


Help put THE SNOWY DAY on a stamp!

27 10 2008

My thanks to my colleague Alison Morris, one of the buyers at the marvelous Wellesley Booksmith and blogger at Publishers Weekly’s ShelfTalker, for passing this press release to me.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                October 27, 2008

For further information:  718-965-1266







          The U.S. Postage Stamp Citizenʼs Advisory Committee, the group that decides what subjects are chosen for our countryʼs commemorative postage stamps, is considering celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the publishing of THE SNOWY DAY by Ezra Jack Keats.  This book is not just an American classic beloved by generations of children and parents around the world; it is also the book that broke the color barrier in mainstream American childrenʼs book publishing. 

It takes three years for the subject of a postage stamp to be considered, accepted and developed.  The fiftieth anniversary of THE SNOWY DAY is in 2012.  Help us gather signatures to send to the Citizenʼs Advisory Committee to let them know how welcome this stamp would be to families and educators across the country.  Help us show the world that Ezraʼs character Peter, playing in the snow, a character they recognize and treasure, is as valued here as it is abroad.

            To support the creation of THE SNOWY DAY 50th Anniversary Commemorative Stamp visit the website of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation (www.ezra-jack- and add your name to the Support the Stamp list.  Tell your friends, your students, your teachers and your parents to add their names to our petition. Names will not be used for any other reason than for THE SNOWY DAY Stamp Petition, nor will they be shared or sold to any other entity.  Help make 2012 a celebration of American children in all their diversity!

An exercise inspired by FAHRENHEIT 451.

28 08 2008

This past weekend I attended 3Pi-Con, a local up-and-coming science fiction convention. [At its base, its name is “Pi-Con”, and each year it adds a numeral as its prefix.]

While my main purpose at the convention was to be a dealer representing Mike’s Comics, the convention also used my services as moderator for a panel on Young Adult Fiction, with Cory Doctorow, Elayna Jade, Debra Killeen, and Shira Lipkin as my co-panelists.

We discussed some of the ways that young adult fiction is more heavily marketed in the publishing field, and the special handselling attention it gets from bookstores, as well as the fact that it’s often seen as less challenging than adult fiction to both write and to read. [This last was vigorously denied by a few on the panel and in the audience, some of whom WERE young adults.]

The panel concluded with audience involvement in a rather unique fashion. I truly had no idea I was going to do this until it actually happened. Instead of the usual question-and-answer session that is traditional amongst con panels [at least, from what I’ve been led to understand], I went around the room and proposed the following exercise:

You are a living book; you have chosen to be a living book. You are the last copy of your chosen book in existence. Who are you and why are you that book?

It certainly shook some people up, and I adored the answers I got from both my fellow panelists and the audience.

I put this question to YOU now, Gentle Readers. Tell me, in comments, which book you are and will be to the end of Eternity.


Blog Stoker’s DRACULA.

4 05 2008

Yes, I’ve neglected this journal sadly. Let’s just say that my life has been overcome by Serious Stuph, leave it at that, and start over with something bookwormish.

One of the more insane distractions I’ve chosen to do to keep my mind off Serious Stuph…

Over at my personal journal, I’m blogging Bram Stoker’s novel. In real time.

Yes, I need my head examined.

DRACULA is an epistolary novel, so it’s perfect for the online journal format.

There was a Blogspot guy who did this in 2005, 2006, and 2007, and there was a LiveJournal community that did it in 2006.

I couldn’t find anyone who was doing it this year, and so I took the plunge, as my own weird little picker-upper.

You’re all invited to watch, point, and laugh.

First entry from the book is here.

[There will be hopefully be book reviews in THIS blog again, starting on Friday the 9th.]

The working tools of an [occasional] overworked travelling bibliophile.

15 12 2007

Book reviews will hopefully resume after the 26th.  Until then, some random thoughts on an icy morning.

I’ve never had a cellphone, and have never made use of one until last month.  This unprecedented cellphone use on my part occurred when I was on an extended road trip, versus the day trips I periodically make to Boston or Springfield.

I am slowly starting to understand the practical applications of gadgets such as these phones, even for these short day trips, and to get a glimmer of gadget lust.  On my last trip to Boston, I held an iPhone in my hand for the first time, and its sleek functionality had great appeal.

However, while I’ve gained appreciation for the techno-nifty in other people, at heart  I’m personally a very simple creature.  I have always been able to firmly enforce my iron will to erect a solid wall between what I *want* and what I *need*.

What I found I *needed* on my last trip to NYC was:

* the ability to make and receive phone calls
* the ability to retrieve and write e-mail

What I found that I *wanted* was:

* the ability to surf the Net
* the ability to access a word-processing program to make notes, from which to write sales reports, travel reports and blog entries
* the ability to take pictures

What would have been truly nice, and would satisfy something in my overworked and underpaid soul, but not strictly necessary:

* the ability to play music

What I don’t really know that I need or want, but sometimes one doesn’t know what one needs or wants until it’s put in front of one:

*the ability to text-message

What I had no need for then and see no need for now:

*the ability to play games or watch video content

I’m utterly ignorant of these things, and I balk at the idea of having to spend money each month [for the phone plan] for something I’d use only a few days each month.  But investing in what would essentially be a mobile office might have a frugal appeal to frugal little me.

Speak to me of ECONOMICAL gadgets *AND* cellphone plans that would be serviceable and fill my requirement for said mobile office, Gentle Readers.