Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Children's book writers are allowed to cuss, right?

I was on my way to an a illustrator's critique group put on each month by a few guys from the Austin SCBWI. It would be my first time attending and I was excited. I got it my car, headed west down Ceasar Chavez, north up I-35, west on 38 1/2 Street, and BAM! Traffic at a standstill. "Must be construction," I thought as I cut my way down some side streets trying to find an alternate route. Detour signs littered the road. "Oh no! The Austin Marathon is on today!" I remembered, while cursing the chicken-legged men in their short shorts.

I spent a good 30 minutes trying to find a route to the critique group. I even went way north and tried to come down Lamar. No luck. The critique group was isolated, surrounded by a moat of runners.

"North Lamar... I don't get up here often," I mused. "Maybe I'll stop by Half Price Books." (the best used bookstore warehouse in the world, for you underprivileged non-Texans)

So that's what I did, and even though it wasn't my first choice, perhaps it was fate which brought me to cart away a pile of life changing books.

First up, The Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker. List, $60. HPB: $19. A huge book, weighing probably 15 pounds, it has every New Yorker cartoon published from 1925 to 2004. Many of the 68,000+ cartoons are actually printed in the book, the rest come on 2 CD's. Some of these cartoons are so brilliant they give me shivers. I guess I'm weird that way.

These two were published in 1937.

And since graphic novels seem to be all the rage these days, I picked up a few titles from a great publisher called Top Shelf Productions. These aren't your superhero comics, folks. These are amazing feats of visual art - and literature too!

My favorite so far is Dear Julia, by Brian Biggs. It has breathtaking artwork and a fascinating, suspenseful story which plays out like a foreign film (and not one of those crappy, hard to understand foreign films). I highly recommend this book.

Another Top Shelf book I found was an autographed copy of James Kochalka's The Sketchbook Diaries. Basically it's just a daily journal in cartoon form. Most of the entries I find pretty boring, the funny part is: I can't stop reading it!

The drawings are so simple and the situations so mundane, it actually inspired me to start a cartoon journal myself! I'm no Indiana Jones, but my life feels a heck of a lot more exciting than his!

And then today, I was walking near the river/nature area near my house, when I was struck with an idea for a middle grade chapter book (I blame Because of Winn-Dixie!). It was crazy, everything just came to me at once! Plot, characters, settings, everything! And while I suspect it's natural for a writer to fall in love with his own ideas, I really believe I have an objectively good book idea on my hands!

Cartoons, graphics novels, picture books, chapter books, short stories, long stories, dumb stories, smart stories.

I could go in any number of directions, but I still don't know what the fuck it is I'm doing.

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