Thursday, October 11, 2018

All Things Considered

All Things Considered, this was incredibly exciting. 
I had the honor of sitting down to chat with Audie Cornish. 

 I talk about my unique upbringing, the saving power of art, and why my book’s dedication is a recognition for all of the readers who have addiction in their families. ‬‬

National Book Award Finalist!

What you’ll hear is an author who just learned he was a National Book Award finalist. 
I was already scheduled to be in Monte Belmonte’s studio for an interview but was running late because a phone call arrived...

This crazy thing happened. A day after HEY, KIDDO publishes, it gets named a finalist for a National Book Award. A FINALIST!
Check out this thread on Twitter for a moment-by-moment recap of how it all went down. I am grateful beyond words (and pictures)!

Press Roundup for Hey, Kiddo!

Got a ahold of the print edition of the Publishers Weekly with this fantastic. So grateful for the coverage for this book that is so very different for me. I’ve spent countless years wondering how this change of pace might be received... 

You may find the article online here:

SO psyched to have HEY, KIDDO on the Indie Next List for fall. Thank you, indie booksellers, for bringing this book to your readers!
Check out all of their recommendations here:

Hey, Kiddo has received a FIFTH starred review, and I am so incredibly thankful that this story is being supported. Look for the review in the September 15th issue of Booklist!

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the making of HEY, KIDDO over at the 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast blog:

My local papah covers all that went into making HEY, KIDDO. 🗞

HEY, KIDDO receives an official review in the New York Times!
Online now, in the papah on Sunday!

So incredibly grateful for this coverage in The New York Times. The front page of the Ahts section!
 I hope that young readers feel less alone when they read it. 

In their latest episode of the Scholastic Reads podcast, you’ll hear from me, but you’ll also get the perspective of Kim Tranell, executive editor, Scholastic Classroom Magazines, about ways she has covered topics of addiction—specifically, the opioid crisis—in Choices magazine for teen readers.

Hey, Kiddo Release Pt. 2

What an astounding launch for HEY, KIDDO. Family, old friends, new friends, applause for all of my old teachers in attendance, the mayor stopped by with the key to the city—and art.
It was a day I will forever remember.

Hey, Kiddo Release

Check out this animated preview Scholastic made for HEY, KIDDO. I am so psyched that this graphic memoir of mine is out in the world. I really hope that this book can help young people move past their current realities.

A profound epiphany. On the day that I launched HEY, KIDDO, it was my grandfather’s birthday. Joe would have been 90. 
Here’s to you, JDK. 

A lifetime in the making, here in my hand. 


You see that beautiful three-week-old baby? Her name is Lucy. I told her parents that the character in this book was named Lucy. “We know,” they said. “She’s named for the character in your book.” Shock. Absolute jaw-dropping shock. Naptastrophe was Big Sister’s favorite book while Mom was pregnant, and the family read it constantly. This book of mine, it didn’t fare all that well out there. But it goes to show you, it doesn’t matter how many people your stories connect with—they will connect with somebody in a profound way. And that’s all that matters.

Hey, Kiddo Tour

🎵I get by with a little help from my friends.🎵
While writing HEY, KIDDO was ultimately healing, there were times when the experience was emotionally fraught. When my mind went to tour, I reached out to pals to run in-conversation pieces with me after the readings.
I’ll be donating to non-profits in these folks’ towns, will likely have an auction or raffle too, to thank them. And please consider picking up a few of their books for signing when you come out!
The Hey, Kiddo readings are going to be emotionally raw w curse words courtesy my grandma & there are difficult truths covered.

Please keep that in mind if you were thinking of bringing your very young ones. This isn’t Jedi Academy or Lunch Lady—HK is a YA graphic memoir.

Same Message, New Technology.

I’ve been visiting schools with my books since 2001. From the very beginning, I talked about my childhood dreams, I shared how I persisted despite all of the book rejections, and I broke down my creative process. All of this illustrated with images of childhood artwork and behind-the-scenes sketches.
In those early years, I used actual slides in a slide carousel. I so remember having to put that thing in the overhead compartment when flying! Then I switched over to using iDVD to create slideshows on DVDs that I would play off of a portable DVD player. (Each image was its own track, so they’d be advanced with a remote control.) Then came Keynote, primarily used on an iPad. I just made the switch over to PowerPoint using a Surface Go. (Though I remain an Apple geek through and through...) I refreshed the scans for old artwork, upgraded the transitions (look at these page turns!), and will use the device to draw on when my audiences are too big for your standard chart paper.
I am ready for the 2018-2019 school year!

Oh—and I also now have a presentation on memoir for middle and high school students.

Hey, Kiddo Research

The name of my graphic memoir came from the letters my mom would write me when I was a kid. She was incarcerated at the time, and I saved every single one. These letters would always be accompanied by drawings that she made, and she’d request a drawing back. I know now how much her efforts encouraged me. 
For the longest time, my graphic memoir was just called Untitled. At her memorial last year, I read these letters aloud. That’s when I knew what the title needed to be. Her voice kept reverberating in my head. “Hey, kiddo.” And these letters of hers. They’re in the book.

Hours upon hours of VHS tape filmed on a camcorder were digitized in preparation for writing and illustrating HEY, KIDDO. I revisited spaces, voices, and personalities—not to mention fashion choices from the mid ‘90s.

One of the greatest assets I had in writing HEY, KIDDO was the collection of sketchbooks I kept as a teenager. These pages gave me direct insight as to what was going on in my mind and helped reconnect me with where I was at. Many of these sketches made their way into the final book.

Good Friends

At the airport in Boston again, but his time in Terminal A. I’ve now had the opportunity to see all three locations of the kidlit mural at Logan.

Something that is so neat is that I’m on this mural with Grace Lin and Anna Alter. When we were starting our book careers in the late 90s/early 00s, we all lived in Boston and would meet up. Not only are we still friends but we’re still neighbors too—we all settled in Western Mass!

In the fall of 1999, I landed in Somerville, MA, after graduating RISD. I joined a small Yahoo Group listserv of RISD Illustration alum. There were maybe 6 members there. One of them was Grace Lin.

When publisher rejections got me down or I was just looking for a place to scribble and brainstorm, I would head down the street to the Someday Café. Grace also lived within walking distance of the Someday. She’d meet me there at times.

Grace had just had her first book published, THE UGLY VEGETABLES. She signed my copy. She also gave me some advice that led to my first book contract. (Send your promo postcards to the editors as well as the art directors.)

Over the ensuing years, Grace and I would often have book events together. And somehow, we both ended up in Western Mass. Once again, down the street from one another.

We still get together to talk books, and we have a wonderful group of author friends to lean on.

In 2016, Grace made the longlist for The National Book Award. I brought doughnuts to our author lunch to celebrate.

Earlier this week, Grace brought cupcakes to our author lunch to celebrate my making the National Book Award longlist.

It’s good to have good friends. Especially good friends with doughnuts and cupcakes.

School Memories

This afternoon, I ran a free cartooning class for the younger set at the Worcester Art Museum. It was held in the same room that I used to take classes in. 

“Forget everything you learned.” These are the most influential words any teacher ever gave to me throughout my educational path. They were uttered by Mark Lynch when I was a teen and showed him I was reading a how-to-draw book. And those animation and comics classes of his at the Worcester Art Museum—they were the brightest spots in my teen life. I looked forward to them more than anything.
Here I am with Mark and the book that recounts that moment and those classes. Mark has had me on his radio show every single year since my first book published in 2001.
Please give this year’s episode a listen. Mark knows my work better than just about anyone on this planet. Link available in the comments section.

My old elementary school was long ago torn down, so I worked with the librarians at the Worcester Historical Museum to find some photos for visual reference for HEY, KIDDO.
And look what I uncovered—the room where it happened. It’s here that third-grade me watched visiting author Jack Gantos talk about writing.

That thing when you’re a high school English teacher and you’ve volunteered to be the faculty advisor for the school newspaper and you’re presented with this scrawny, geeky ninth grader who is utterly unhappy but loves to draw, so you reach out to him and hire him as the newspaper’s cartoonist and that position helps him thrive and jump starts his self esteem. And then, a few decades later, that kid, now a forty-year-old man, turns up on your doorstep with a graphic memoir that details those very moments and includes those very cartoons drawn for the school newspaper. And on top of that, the book has been longlisted for a National Book Award.
Mrs. Casey will surely be correcting this run-on sentence in her mind, but I just can’t contain my enthusiasm for this profound moment.

Massimo's Creations

Look at this treasure given to me by a young artist who has been attending my book events in recent years! Massimo creates these little creatures and puts them in the wild for people to find—for no other reason but to spread a little joy. Check out @themassimonster on Instagram and maybe you’ll be lucky enough to find one in your daily travels!

Hey, Kiddo Webisodes!

I sat down with Jeanne Birdsall to discuss HEY, KIDDO for a series of video shorts.
This is the first episode—where I see the book for the first time:

HEY, KIDDO webisode# 2: Ahtsy Fahtsy
I break down how I created the art for my graphic memoir:

This is what every page of script, sketch, ink wash, and digital print out looks like when stacked atop one another.

HEY, KIDDO webisode #3: Research, Research, Research. Also, it's pronounced “Wustah.")

Dav Pilkey!

My family had the honor and privilege to welcome the Pilkeys and our Scholastic fam at our house for dinner.