Friday, 5 July 2013

Four people I met in Chicago

This is the third of three posts about my recent trip to Chicago, and this one is about four very cool artists I met there, and the very cool books that they make. These people are well-known names in the US, but might not be so familiar in the UK. If you can get hold of their books, you won't be disappointed.

First up is Gene Luen Yang. I'd list every award that Gene has won but that would use up this whole post, suffice to say that one of his previous books; American Born Chinese, was the first graphic novel to win the incredibly prestigious Printz Award.

Here's his latest project: Boxers and Saints:

It's such a simple but brilliant idea; while reading about the Boxer rebellion that happened in China at the end of the 19th Century, he found himself unable to decide which side he felt more sympathy with; the result therefore is not one but two books on the subject. The genius of this is obvious; all stories have two sides, but history is very good at sometimes forgetting one of them. Not so with Boxers and Saints, and the result is very powerful stuff that I suspect will win Gene more awards.

Second, here's a couple of books by Faith Erin Hicks, a Canadian illustrator with a wonderful modern edge to her work.

I should point out that Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong was written by Prudence Sen. Faith explained to me how the book was serialised online, for free, before publication as a physical book. It's an interesting approach and one that might worry some authors, but Faith reckons it's a model that has worked well and has helped build her reputation since her previous book; Friends with Boys.

Third up is the 'rock star of graphic novels' (as he was described to me): Paul Pope. Paul is certainly a very cool gentleman; it was enough to learn that he lives in Brooklyn, knows Thurston Moore, and that his girlfriend is a trapeze artist to realise the truth of that introduction.

Paul's clients include LucasArts, Paramount, Diesel, DKNY, Dargaud, Marvel, DC... the list is seemingly endless.

He was a charming guy to hang out with, and always had something interesting to say whatever we were talking about. He also disproves that widely-held belief that the biggest names have the biggest egos - his modesty was extremely refreshing. Here's the cover of his latest book; Battling Boy.  It simply bursts with energy, and I loved it.

Now, the final artist of these fantastic four: Mark Siegel, and his extraordinary work; Sailor Twain.

I can't do this book justice in a few words; let me just say that it's beautiful, funny, touching, exciting, dark and sexy, and not for nothing did the book become a New York Times bestseller. Mark's soft charcoals give a lovely mysterious edge to this tale of a steamboat captain who becomes entranced by a wounded mermaid he takes into his care. It's just wonderful and here to give you a flavour is the full page splash when Twain finds the mermaid on the deck of his boat.

Isn't that the most beautiful thing you've seen in a while?

So there's four wonderful and very different artists who it was my very great pleasure to meet in the States, and I hope you find something to love there too.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Goodbye Chicago ALA 2013

I just finished my second ALA - this time in Chicago. The American Library Association annual conference is an extraordinary thing to visit - the vast scale of it alone makes it unlike anything we have in the UK.

Here's the view across the exhibition hall:

Yes, it's big. The other thing that strikes you immediately is how enthusiastic, knowledgable and passionate the delegates are. Whether they're from school or public libraries, I lost count of the great conversations I had with people over the importance of libraries, their changing role, and the sheer joy of helping children become more confident readers. In this respect, that's very like things are at home in the UK - we have passionate librarians too, but the sheer size of this conference  and therefore the combined 'love in the room' is delightfully overwhelming.

I did a few events over the weekend. Here's a snapshot of the 'Coffee Klatsch' - which is basically like taking your book speed dating with 100 librarians. You have 4 minutes at a table of 6-10 delegates, then a whistle blows, and you move on to pitch your wares to the next table. Exhausting, intense and great fun.

I made lots of new friends over the weekend - here's me with two fantastic graphic novelists: Gene Luen Yang and Faith Erin Hicks, both published by First Second Books.

I also did a bookshop panel event in cute Naperville: here's the panel: (l-r) S A Bodeen, Sara Zarr, Annabel Pitcher (yay! a face from home :-) ) Tara Sullivan, and in the back is me with Matthew Quick of Silver Linings Playbook fame. He was a great speaker and said a couple of things that really resonated with me - that alone was worth the trip.

BTW, the dwarves behind in the background were nothing to do with us.

There was time for a few signings and dinners too, and the chance to talk books all day every day :-) All in all it was very good for the soul of the writer who spends so long in isolation to be immersed for a few days in such a wonderfully positive environment. Thanks to my US publishers, Roaring Brook, for giving me that chance.