Tag Archive: The Order of Odd-Fish

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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I hesitate to call this a review – it’s not often one can befriend an author while reading his book. Or collab with him on a book giveaway. (A girl can dream?!)
Read on for giveaway details…

James Kennedy’s The Order of Odd-Fish was introduced to me by the dude himself, at an author panel organized by SCBWI-Illinois. Amidst sage advice on how to promote a book, Kennedy retold a doozy I’d have taken for the “don’t do this” pile – a doozy involving “whimsically insulting” Neil Gaiman AND a theatrical attempt to de-Newbery him.

So, I’ll admit, one of my first thoughts was, “Is this a book for me?” In the end, I figured if Odd-Fish was half as entertaining as the guy himself during an author panel, I’d be in good hands.

Lucky for me, the Odd-Fish paperback came out soon after I’d taken a five-chapter bite. For the release party at 57th Street Books, Kennedy answered questions and gave a few outrageous performance-readings. With a story this Python-esque and darkly visual, the action seemed to come at me – so the cadence of his voice offered the perfect pace to read by.

There were times I couldn’t keep up with that pace, like whenever my pesky left brain seemed to reject the idea of the Order of Odd-Fish: these knights who dither as an occupation, creating an Appendix of dubious facts, rumors, and myths. But at other times, my micro-managing self receded into the background – as any party-pooper should – and I had an absolute blast.

The book opens like an overture: action from all angles. Jo Larouche, the main character, kept my attention until the pace found its footing. From there, the romp was on. For one thing, who can resist a villain who reads back issues of Sassy magazine? (No one, that’s who.) On page 275, I laughed out loud at a 112-word sentence that recalls Douglas Adams’s charming absurdity. And in the opening scenes of the book, as Jo enjoys the fake sarcophagus her Aunt Lily gave her for Christmas, Kennedy’s description reads:

“The inside of the mummy’s coffin, lined with black velvet cushions, was surprisingly comfortable. Lying in it, she felt pleasantly dead.”

If that isn’t an argument for adverbs, I don’t know what is. It certainly made me smile.
(Bottom line: You gotta see what this guy is up to. You can also check out his interview with Rick Kogan on WGN radio!)

On the big news front, Kennedy has received an overwhelming amount of fan art for The Order of Odd-Fish – and on Saturday, April 17th at 7pm, he’s partnering with Collaboraction for a showing in their gallery at 437 N Wolcott. Come for the rooms decorated as scenes from Odd-Fish, and stay for the costumed battle-dance party – the Carnaval Dome of Doom.

How would you like to win an autographed Odd-Fish paperback AND Kennedy’s soundtrack mix CD?
Just answer me this…

Among the Odd-Fish, a “society of ditherers,” each knight takes up their own pointless research. Sir Festus, for instance, studies absurd musical instruments like the “urk-ack” – a live animal whose innards have forty-one sweet spots with which one can play a beautiful tune. So: Tell me about an absurd Odd-Fishian musical instrument of your own invention. How would it work? What would it sound like?

Submit your answer as a comment by Sunday, March 21 at 11:59pm CST!
(Please note: Tweeting/blogging about the contest adds karma appeasing Odd-Fish’s 144,444 gods!)

James Kennedy himself
will determine the winningest, most absurd instrument! The lucky winner will get an autographed copy of The Order of Odd-Fish in paperback (complete with sweet cover art by Paul Hornschemeier) and a BONUS PRIZE: Kennedy’s own special Odd-Fish mix of tunes.
Add your entry today!

UPDATE: This contest has ended, and the results are right here!

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