Thursday, January 21, 2010

Shannon Hale Wears a Wig!

(cc) Douglas Cootey

So how's your book coming along, Douglas?

Um, errr, hey! Did I tell you what I did on the 9th?

I was supposed to be in line early to hear Shannon and Dean Hale talk about their new book, Calamity Jack. I had planned to attend for days. Me. A library. Authors. Adult conversation. What could go wrong⸮

[Cue family drama to rear its cutely coifed head.]

I can't recall (thankfully) the exact events, but when the drama dust settled, I was an hour late and I hadn't even left yet. I was thinking of not going at all, but my fifteen year old practically pushed me and the eleven year old out the door.

I ended up having a great day, made especially great because I wasn't ticking. We missed the keynote and some interpretive dance, but I made up for it by meeting, Stacy Whitman, an editor from Tu Publishing. I've been chatting with Stacy over Twitter since the summer, so I introduced myself. These IRL moments can be so awkward, but we seemed to hit it off well. We talked about everything from Harry Potter to anime to the need for a wider diversity of cultures represented in Science Fiction & Fantasy. I don't know if she enjoyed the conversation, but I most assuredly did. I only misspoke once or twice. Nothing embarrassing—I hope.

Getting the opportunity to talk to editors and authors is why I attend these book launches. Considering how housebound I am, I don't get a lot of practice talking with other adults. I often feel like my tongue wears a size twelve sneaker, so I need practice trusting myself to be myself around peers and professionals instead of being stiff & guarded. Knowing me, it's a risk, but I'd rather go through this now than AFTER I manage to get a book published when bad first contacts could cost me money.

Just in case you were worried, I am fairly certain my fly was up and there was nothing in my teeth. My breath on the other hand…

(cc) Douglas Cootey

Here's Stacy still smiling even after being stuck in line with me. Or maybe she is relieved to be free of me. I may never know.

I was delighted to find Nathan Hale was also at the book launch. He was the illustrator. Curiously, he is not related to the Hales at all, except somewhere deep in their genealogy tree perhaps. I had him draw several excruciatingly detailed, life-like portraits of my family before moving along. It was that or ask him to perform interpretive dance for me.

(cc) Douglas Cootey

As you can see here, Dean Hale found Stacy & Nathan more interesting than me. I don't really blame him. Not only was I completely distracted by keeping tabs on my eleven year old, but I hadn't thought beforehand what topics I might discus. We had polite chitchat, but honestly, look at how many people were in the line. They all had polite chitchat with Nathan and Dean. Too bad I didn't think to slug Dean or insult his blood splattered shirt—anything to help him remember me. He looks like an understanding guy here…unless the blood is from the last dude who slugged him. Best not dwell on it.

Next time I'll think ahead and write down questions. I should choose 2 or 3 basics to ask all authors or illustrators, then think of personal questions, too. Then I could go over them in my mind and come across as a savvy, intelligent guy they'd like to know instead of another hand they shook. I know this. After all, it's the same advice I gave my daughter Bri'anna so she could intelligently interview people for her podcast.

As if that wasn't unprepared enough, I had a big ADHD moment when I finally got to Shannon. The previous week I had been interviewing authors on Facebook. I was curious what metric they used to pace themselves. For example, did they write a certain amount of words per day? The answers were very fascinating and I'll write them up here next week. I had quite a few authors reply, too, but not Shannon.

While standing in line, Stacy let me know in passing that Shannon doesn't do email. It's one way she maximizes her small windows of writing time. No wonder I never heard back from her. So when I was finally in front of her I said "HI" and then had the rug pulled out from under me. Shannon recalled our last conversation in December and asked me if I had been drawing lately. I was so embarrassed that the answer was "No", I completely forgot to ask her my questions. I photographed the eleven year old with her, then we left.


(cc) Douglas Cootey

I was also distracted by learning that Shannon suffered from female baldness. So tragic. Shannon courageously donned the wig in front of admiring readers. We can all take inspiration from her. At first I felt the wig made her look a little cartoonish, but then she lassoed some fans and hogtied them with her hair. It was a good look for her.

Next time I see Shannon and her graphic novel posse I will be better prepared. Not only will I have questions thought of in advance, but I'll have drawn, too. With luck I'll also have finished "Take a Hike!" and moved on to the next goal.