Wednesday, August 31, 2011

School Visit Programs

Hello, and I hope you've all had a wonderful summer. Here's some updated information on the different programs I do when visiting schools. Each of my presentations can be tailored to fit a specific age group and the needs of a curriculum. If you are interested in having me visit your school, and if you have any questions about adapting any of these programs, please feel free to ask.

Contact me at

Beginning, Middle, End: How Does a Book Get Made?
This is a very nuts and bolts presentation about the long, involved process of how a book is made. From the initial idea, to the printed book, I show the students all the steps in between. Notes, sketches, final art, revised art, and story revisions will be explored and analyzed. I will draw for the students, and, if time allows, have the children draw along. This is my "basic" program and is best for large assembly groups.

Story Cards!
Using a few random index cards with carefully selected words written on them, I show students how a story can quickly be created. The students can join in, create their own cards, and generate their own wild and unpredictable stories.

Parody This!
Drawing from my experience learning under Mad Magazine creator Harvey Kurtzman, I discuss my parody work (Goodnight Goon, Runaway Mummy, Furious George Goes Bananas) and lead the students through their own parody of a poplar song, TV show, book, or movie. Sticking to a theme, being satiric without being rude, and most of all, keeping it funny will be covered.

What Makes it Funny?
Using picture books, comic strips and gag panels, I work alongside the students to investigate why something is funny. Through discussions about timing, simplicity, expectations and opposite outcomes, students will learn how to inject more humor into their writing and drawing. Laughter guaranteed.

Writer's Block got you down? Try making a list. Students will be asked to generate a list of subjects, people, places, and activities that peak their interest and that are important to them. This list will then be used as a blueprint for their own original stories.

Parent's Night: Meet the Family!
In this evening presentation, I cover the basics of creating a well-rounded character. Using list-making techniques and interviews, students and their parents will learn more about each other, and then pick and choose the most interesting answers to build a new, fictional, member of their family.

K-5 is best. However, I have started to do Middle Schools, and have talked to an occasional High School group. With the older students, the process, not the content, of my writing is the main focus.

Length of Programs
All programs are about 45-50 minutes long. Shorter, 25 minute long presentations can be made for Kindergarten students if needed.

Audience Size
I'm comfortable with audiences of all sizes, and I will work to meet the needs of each individual school.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Gathering Ideas

I’m back. I met my deadline and I’m on to the next one. Right now, I have to write the manuscript for my next “Fangbone! Third Grade Barbarian!” graphic novel. This will be book #3 and is the last one I am contracted for. I hope to have the opportunity to do more. Books #1 and #2 will come out in January, with book three coming out in the Fall of 2012.

We decided for this project to write a script for the entire book before any drawing is done. That way the plot, character arcs, the jokes and the structure can all be worked out first. It’s very much like writing a screenplay for a film. The manuscript will run about 28 pages, and the completed book will be 128 pages of comics.

I’ve been thinking about this book for a while, and even did a rough draft back in March, but I’ve scrapped much of that. While it was very funny, it had way too many ideas and threads, so right now my job is to simplify and streamline. I’ve had to take out a character that I love, but it’s best for the story.

As I set out to write book #3 I have to get all of my notes and ideas in order. Above is a picture of all of my idea sources.

1. My Acer Netbook. I bought this a few years ago for Grad school, and it worked fine for what it was. The rough draft I mentioned above was written on this. That’s a printout in front of it. I’m going to go through that and grab the parts I like. My initial pitch of this project was also written on this, as well as summaries of the three books.

2. An early copy of “Fangbone!” #1 for reference. We recently changed the cover of Book #1 and as we completed book #2. I will be showing both of them very soon.

3. Sketchbooks. These have written ideas and drawings, usually all on the same page. I keep a few sketchbooks going at all times. One might be in my bedroom, one in the car, one in the living room. I want to have them available wherever I am. Some of these go back a few years to when I was first working on this concept. There are ideas that emerged during those initial brainstorming sessions that I still want to use.

4. Notebooks. These are the small sketchbooks I sometimes carry with me, or keep in my car. Again, notes and images sit side by side.

5. Index cards. This is the stack of index cards used for that first draft mentioned above. There’s stuff in there that might prove useful.