Saturday, September 27, 2008

Baltimore Book Fest

Last night Miss L and I hit the Baltimore Book Fest. While we were, of course, there to check things out Miss L was there primarily to promote her new history book on the jewish community of Baltimore. I'm happy to say she sold enough to pay for the space and have a little leftover.

I avoided most of the dealers this year, even the ones like Raw Dog Screaming Press and the Radical Book Fair tent that I know I like. I just don't have the money or the physical space to be buying books right now. So that left me the booths of nonprofits and the performance spaces to check out.

I first stopped at a reading hosted by the Baltimore Playwrights Festival. Actors were reading work from this past years festival. It was a real mixed bag in terms of quality. Some felt like pieces written by undergrads while others were quite good. But with comedies, character studies and absurdist pieces it was nice to hear such a big variety of work.

The so-dubbed Creative Cafe held a reading sponsored by the Art of Conversation reading series/open mic and the Little Patuxent Review. I walked in on the end of one poet reading a nice, rhythmic piece about his father. It was real loving and caring without being sappy. He was followed up by a female poet---apologies to the poets for not writing your names down---who read a powerful piece entitled My Letter to Michelle Obama. It really cracked open the complicated dichotomy of her being beloved as a black woman in her position, but also concerns over her recent re-packaging to make herself more palatable to conservative, white America (ie straightening her hair and being dubbed the black Jackie O). Although the piece was a little long, it was certainly provocative. I definitely want to check out the reading series once I get a bit more settled in B-more. If these two poets are any indication of the quality of work, it should be a good time.

Aside from the performances, I talked a bit to some folks with the Maryland Writers Association and Baltimore Science Fiction Association. The area seems really rich with literary groups and outlets and I can't wait to learn more about them.

It's a shame D.C. doesn't have an equivalent to this. While they do have the National Book Festival---which is an amazing event for all the national and international stars it continues to get----there is nothing this large in D.C. that promotes authors whose reach is more regional or local. Perhaps there is one and I'm just not aware of it...and if so please let me know.

Baltimore Book Fest runs the rest of the weekend. So check it out if you have the time.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Visions of Frank

One of my current side projects is helping put together a day-long conference in November that focuses on the use of comics, graphic novels and cartoons in a collection for teens in libraries. Among other things, one of the duties I ended up with is tracking down a good dvd of Japanese animated shorts to have playing in the background as people check in and get settled into the day. It's turned out to be harder than I thought. While there are a bunch of good collections out there, most can't be played on a US dvd player (yes, I know there are ways around that, but not with the equipment we'll be allowed to use at the conference).

One of the few that can be played on a US player I found through Netflix; it's a crazy collection called Visions of Frank. Basically, Japanese animation teams join forces to create cartoon shorts based on the Frank comics by Jim Woodring. If you don't know Woodring, just imagine Felix the Cat falling into a Salvador Dali painting and ingesting a big pile of acid tabs. It's twisted, surreal, often non-sensical stuff that ranges from complete idiocy to sheer brilliance.

The animation collection runs the full gamut of techniques: hand drawings, computer animation, stop motion photography....even magnetic sand paintings. The one I linked to at the bottom is my favorite off the disc, probably because it seems like an old-style cartoon gone completely awry.

As wonderful as this stuff is, I can't imagine using these to set the tone with 50 librarians. I think they're expecting something more along the lines of Pokemon, not something plotless and brilliantly nuts like this stuff is. It might work, but I think I'll keep looking for some alternatives that aren't quite so far out.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

And Now Back to our Regularly Scheduled Program

Miss L and I were sitting around yesterday morning, doing a whole lot of nothing before actually starting our Saturday. I was watching an unhealthy mixture of bad cartoons and Good Morning America while reading a few pages of Zeroville. Miss L was jumping around on the web.

All of a sudden she said, "You know, you really need to update your blog."

I looked up to see the same page that's been on this space for almost two months now, my review of Out Backward.

I shrugged. "I've been busy."

"Uh-huh," Miss L said. "No one's going to look at it if you don't update it."

I shrugged again, a gesture proclaiming my not caring without committing to not caring.

"Why do you even keep it public if you aren't putting any new content on it?" she asked.

I didn't have an answer for that one. At least not a real one. After a day of thinking on it now I realize there is no answer. Oh I can make excuses. I've got all kinds of those. I've been focused on moving from Virginia to Maryland. I've been looking for a full time librarian job. I've been preparing for our wedding next month. But none of that takes writing away from me, or at least it shouldn't.

Writing is, first and foremost, a craft that demands habitual dedication. It asks that every day, or at least nearly ever day, you write something. Be it a book review, a descriptive paragraph of someone in a coffee shop or a complaining rant on nothing in particular (like this one). If you don't do that the craft takes things away from you, and I don't just mean your writing skills.

One of the main reasons I started this blog was to reclaim the habit of writing frequently. Somewhere along the line, I'm not sure exactly where, I lost it. I'll be trying some things here to reclaim it and for any of you still willing to ride along, I thank you.