Tag Archive: James Kennedy

About an eon ago, my friend, young-adult author James Kennedy, “took over” my blog – I hosted a giveaway when his book The Order of Odd-Fish came out in paperback. Oh what fun that was, since James was also gearing up for his “Dome of Doom” fan art show and battle-dance party in Chicago – in which yours truly competed and valiantly… uh, lost… in the first round. But anyway.

James is up to some serious fun again. This time, he’s asking folks to retell Newbery-winning stories…  In video, in 90 SECONDS.

[Cough] Oh my. The prospect starts my little heart racing, it does. The contest has gotten lots of kids, classrooms, and families inspired, too. James and co-curator Betsy Bird (she of School Library Journal’s Fuse8!) have collected dozens of entries from miles around. With submissions from Canada and New Zealand, this thing has gone international AND intercontinental.

(Where it all began: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, starring James’s niece Freya. She’ll also star in the book trailer for my young adult novel Thirty Decibels.)

Check out this entry, told entirely in shadow-puppets!

Grace Lin’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

OH! Here’s one that had me laughing. I mean, c’mon, it’s a musical!:

The 21 Balloons by William Péne du Bois

Mark your calendars for the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival:

New York:  Saturday, November 5, 2011, 3-5 pm
The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival at the New York Public Library main branch (Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street, New York, NY. 917.275.6975.)
Co-hosted by James Kennedy and Jon Scieszka, with appearances by Rebecca Stead and Ayun Halliday!

Chicago: Wednesday, November 16, 2011, 6-8 pm
The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival at the Harold Washington Public Library in Chicago (400 South State Street)

Even better: you can be a part of it. That’s right, James is taking entries until October 17th!

Here’s James’s take on the whole thing:

Teachers, here’s a fun project that will get your students reading Newbery winners.
Students, here’s an excuse to mess around with video equipment.
Librarians, here’s an activity to do with your teen advisory boards.
Anyone can enter. Everyone wins!

I love it! For full rules, head over to the official contest announcement. And get crackin’ on your entry!

Libraries’ Armchair Auction: AMAZING

I want to extend the warmest of thanks to everyone involved with the Evanston, IL Public Library FriendsArmchair Auction.

All I had to do was ask – and my heroes, Adam Selzer, James Kennedy, Claire Zulkey, Jodi MacArthur, Trina Sotira, Cynthea Liu, and Beverly Patt contributed fabulous auction prizes. (Jodi asked Ms. Karen Schindler to donate – pyramid scheming at its finest.) Their items raised $500. And, they just rock.

But even they would agree: the best heroes of the day were the ones clicking, bidding and winning from those armchairs, snatching up 300+ items among 30 categories, from Memorabilia to Health & Fitness… to Author Outings of “hilarity and literarity.

The success astounds.

Organizers have informed me the auction raised over $34,000 for Evanston Libraries.

Taken with their fundraising efforts thus far, the EPLF has raised well over half of their $200,000 goal to keep Evanston’s North and South branches open. (Click here and here for the big-pic sitch.)
Your support is greatly appreciated.

Lori Keenan, VP of Evanston Public Library Friends (and another of my heroes), shared her thoughts with me this morning:

Overall, it was an amazing effort by an incredibly talented and creative team. From development of the auction name and logo, right down to the final bid, they were a model of organization and enthusiasm. We are extremely grateful, and the money raised by the auction will go a long way in supporting our efforts to keep the libraries open. Everyone involved can feel great in knowing they helped to make a real difference.

If you haven’t yet, please consider supporting the EPLF.
Libraries mean so much more than books. And books mean the world!

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Authors: It’s not branding, it’s fun

This morning, I attended an author talk at Story Studio on “Shameless Promotion: How to Market Your Writing.” Representing the shameless were Claire Zulkey (author of An Off Year, writer for The Onion A.V. Club and L.A. Times); Johanna Stein (TV writer, essayist of the daringly hilarious and hilariously daring); and James Kennedy (author of The Order of Odd-Fish, friend, and blog usurper). I treated the talk as a kick-off for my day of manuscript-revising. (Operative word: “kick”; as in, “in the ass”; as in, “You’re so close. Get in there, girl!”) But, I also felt it was worth a quick blog.

As a digital marketing biz person (I’m a Copywriter for Critical Mass), I’m always curious to spy the natural intersections of art and communication, affinity and promotion. I’m a nerd; I like this branding stuff. It’s the side of the pool from which I push off regularly, into my personal fiction work.

As they answered questions, the authors’ drastically different backgrounds informed, you guessed it, drastically different answers. They seemed to strive for bite-sized distillations of career advice for their hungry-writer audience – and a theme emerged: I recognized an opportunity, took it, and had fun with it, fueling others’ excitement about my work. With this attitude, the worst-case scenario is you having fun. Not too shabby.

If something fascinates you, pursue it. Claire Zulkey interviewed James Frey pre-memoir scandal, which led to a little call from Anderson Cooper. James Kennedy made an indelible mark with the ALA in a way both silly and relevant, and connected with Odd-Fish fans to curate and cultivate an equally enduring fan-art event. Johanna Stein shied not from human nature, sharing her cringe-worthiest experiences to create some of the most memorable humor available in print.

I like to think of Anne Lamott’s one-inch picture frame from Bird by Bird, which breaks a goal down into more manageable parts. In fact, “branding” is an intimidating, heart-palpitating word. So, forget it. Instead, keep an eye out for fun as you go, in the name of connecting with someone who gets you and your work. Look for relevant opportunities of any size that trigger your fun-meter. If something speaks to you, your genuine excitement will speak to potential friends and fans.

Sassy magazine was right – just be yourself.

So, did my theory work? If you enjoyed this post, leave a comment below. Sharing is caring.

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James Kennedy’s Giveaway Results OF DOOM

Dome of Doom: No weapons, just some fierce dancing

Hey! Margo here. Quick reminder for Chicago-area readers: Come to the Odd-Fish fan art show and Dome of Doom battle-dance party hosted by James Kennedy and theater group Collaboraction – Saturday, April 17 at 437 N Wolcott. Get your tickets here! Use promo code 185 for $5 off.

James "Joust" Kennedy

But wait: Battle-dancing duelists get in FREE! Just register to fight by 4/15: Send your fighting-god name and picture (if possible) to domeofdoom@collaboraction.org. That’s my kind of deal. In fact, dear readers: I, Margo, will be dance-fighting in the Dome of Doom! As which god, you ask? Not one as Björk-like as James (left), but it’ll be an equal mix of practicality, absurdity, mundanity, and ubiquity. A must-see – especially if you need lightly used onesies. (Now I’ve said too much.)

Now on to the giveaway results, from James Kennedy himself!

Thank you for all your fantastic entries! It was a tough decision.

Certainly I am intrigued by Amy’s “Sharlton,” a fish which can only mimic sounds it’s already heard. The Sharlton is, of course, well known in ichthyological circles; hence it is puzzling that Amy neglects to mention the Sharlton’s constant companion, a small parasite known as the Notlrahs, which can only emit sounds that it has never heard. Amy informs us that the Sharlton is a “combination cop/psychic fish,” but strangely, she neglects to tell us exactly how the Sharlton performs its police duties. Little-known fact: the Sharlton simply asks the Notlrahs to emit the sound of the true criminal’s confession (a sound that, of course, has never before been heard, and therefore is well within the competence of the Notlrahs) and then the Sharlton toddles off with this information and arrests the correct suspect. Sharltons and Notlrahs are often found in aquariums in police stations, though oddly, they are rarely used in detective work. “Takes the sport out of it,” is the touchy consensus.

Kelly Polark gives us the “Woo Hoo Kazoo,” which is a kazoo which shouts out “woo hoo!” or “you rock!” at public spectator events. Unfortunately, points must be taken off from Kelly’s entry, since she neglects to mention that the “Woo Hoo Kazoo” is bitingly sarcastic. Performers and athletes have wept unmanly tears.

Jennifer Hubbard tells us about a comfortingly bureaucratic musical instrument: a printer that emits different tones depending on the thickness of paper running through it. The notion of such an instrument fills me with nostalgia, for I grew up in the era of dot-matrix and daisy-wheel printers, whose relentless bangings and chatterings provided the soundtrack of many a lonely Friday night as I printed out, for the umpteenth time, my “magnum opus” (which was literally called Magnum Opus; a science-fiction alternate-history, a “what-if” scenario about how the world might be different if Tom Selleck of Magnum, P.I. played Opus the penguin in Bloom County, and the converse (i.e., a plump penguin played a private investigator in Hawaii in an CBS series from 1980-1988). Spoiler alert: the Germans would have won WWII. Think about it; it all hangs together. So, no thank you, Jennifer Hubbard, I believe in freedom and democracy.)

Livia Blackburne puts forth the compelling idea of a machine which reads human brain waves, then transmits them to a canary, who then sings the brain waves. Very charming; until you remember that canaries are sadistic busybodies, and will unerringly pick your most embarrassing brainwaves to sing, the ones that reveal your darkest and most shameful secrets, truths you’ve hidden even from yourself. The canary cannot sing human words, of course, but the structure of its brain-wave song will induce a congruent brain-wave in the minds of all who hear it, thus giving all hearers instant access to one’s most shocking, unspeakable scandals. This is especially excruciating if someone is forced to hear a canary sing one’s own brainwaves, for one is constantly reminded,

to the point of madness, of one’s worst moments, in a self-strengthening loop. Indeed, “locked in a room with a brain-wave canary” is the one torture so heinous that it has never been used in wartime, although it is amusing at parties.

Ruthanne wins an autographed paperback and soundtrack music mix!

Which brings us to the winner: Ruthanne’s “Zith-Dither.” No more perfectly self-defeating, and hence fittingly Oddfishian, instrument could be! Ruthanne treats us to a lovingly detailed discourse on the odd engineering details behind the instrument (“The length of the strings is inversely proportional to the width of the sounding board at any given spot”) which gives way to bureaucratic infighting (“the creators of this instrument couldn’t agree on what they wanted it to sound like, vacillating day in and day out”) and finally to ascends into sweet absurdity when the creators decide, as a kind of compromise, to make the “make the sounding board solid, so as not to allow for resonance.” And therefore, no sound at all. Genius! The instrument “may or may not be making music, but you will never know because the sounds it produces are so soft as to not be audible to the human ear.” This is the perfect instrument for my brother-in-law Chris. He is a gifted musician, but he also avers (to my constant irritation) that the anticipation of something, or the version of reality one cherishes in one’s imagination, is always superior to the disappointing reality. Here Chris can enjoy the best of both worlds: a musical instrument to play, but the freedom to imagine the music he’s playing is better than any possible real music — and the ironclad guarantee that he’ll never be disillusioned, and have to listen to the (theoretically) perfect music he’s playing. A triumph!

Therefore I choose Ruthanne’s “Zith-Dither” as the winner, though it was a hard-fought battle. Everyone contributed fantastic entries. Thank you, one and all!

– James

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