And I'm gonna be talking at the downtown branch of the Los Angeles Public Library tomorrow...about reading...and teens...and why teens should be reading, I suppose (author's note: my talk still needs a little work). 

So, if you happen to be around downtown LA tomorrow and want to hear me explain why you should be reading more, I suggest that you give it a visit. 


Now, I'm sure there are some of you who are interested in the idea of coming to the teen read event at the downtown library, but aren't quite sure that they're ready to commit their prime Tuesday at 4PM time to hearing me talk.  Well, how about I sweeten the deal a bit. 

More reasons you should come

1.  I'm not the only one talking.  I will be joined by fabulous YA authors Cherry Cheva and Brenda Woods

2.  When she isn't writing hilarious YA fiction, Cherry Cheva is also one of the head writers on Family Guy.  Thus, she is at least partially responsible for the following clip. 

And since Cherry cares so much about Teen Read Week, she is going to be playing an exclusive clip from next week's episode.  Seriously.  If you come to the library tomorrow, you will get to see next week's Family Guy a solid five days before your friends and neighbors.  Just imagine that kind of bragging power. 

3.  You can win Guitar Hero somehow.  I'm guessing in a raffle.  Sorry, I just read that off the flyer, so I don't have all the details, but still...WIN GUITAR HERO. 

4.  I've been told that there will be brownies.  I don't know if these are supposed to be special "for the authors only brownies" but since we're cool, I'll make sure you get some. 

So, there you have it guys.  I hope to see you at the downtown library. 

Also, for any of you guys who live in the greater LA area but don't want to go downtown, send me an email at, and I'll let you know where the closest library is that is participating in Teen Read Week. 
Therefore, I am completely confident that you guys want to see a video of some guys in a Salt Lake City library doing a puppet version of Adam Rex's PSST! 

A few reasons why you guys should watch it: 

1.  It clocks in at over nine minutes.  Which is like one tenth of a movie, at zero zeroeth the price. 

2.  The guy does the pig with a german accent...and maybe I'm just simple minded, but I think german accents are really funny.  Maybe I have conflicted feelings about my heritage or something.  Either way, this is some top notch pig doing a german accent action. 

3.  This video only has like 44 views, so if this springs into a "Piano Cat" type internet phenomenon, I'll feel really important. 

4.  PSST!  Is a really funny book. 

5.  And Adam Rex is awesome.  I may have mentioned this before. 

6.  Library based puppet theatre is a seriously underrated field. 

Anyway, here is the video.  Enjoy! 
Hey readers,

So, the West Hollywood Book Fair happened last Sunday and it was more fun than a book fair should be.  First of all, take a look at this picture: 

This is the stage debut of Sophomore Undercover!  Well, a couple pages of it at least, but we made up for it in sheer dramatic intensity.  Okay, to be technical, the kids who were acting supplied pretty much a hundred percent of the dramatic intensity, but I'm wearing a really pretty lei in that picture, and I think that should count for something. 

Kendall (Ms. Trasker), Riley (Dixie) and Noah (narrator) did an amazing job with the scene and if the technology existed for me to clap through the internet, you better believe that's what I would be doing right now. 

The rest of the scenes went really great too and a fun day was had by all.  And, as an added bonus, the Book Fair thought so much of the star power of the LAYAs that they set us up next to Carol Channing and the original cast of the Brady Bunch.  Oh yeah...that's star power. 

I think somebody might have snagged some video footage of this, so stay tuned for that. 

Hey readers,

Some very cool things are going to be happening this Sunday at the West Hollywood Book Fair

1.  I'm gonna get a muffin from Joans.  Goddamn do I love muffins, and they make these super delicious ones that are super dense and have some kind of crunchy corn meal stuff thrown in and I'm too lazy to drive over to Beverly Hills on a normal day, but book fair days are special. 

2.  I will be signing books/available for pleasant conversation at the LAYA (Los Angeles Young Adult Authors) table. 

3.  Some super talented kids are gonna act out a scene from "Sophomore Undercover" along with scenes from nine other really great books.  Trust me on this one, I saw the rehearsals.  This is going to be legit. 

Here's the lineup:

1 to 1:45 on the Teen Stage 

"Duplikate" by Cherry Cheva. 

"Hottie" by Jonathan Bernstein

"All About Vee" by Leigh Purtill

"Kids Inventing! -- A Handbook for Young Inventors" by Susan Casey

"Side Effects" by Amy Koss

2:30 to 3:15 on the Teen Stage

"Danger Boy" by Mark London Williams

"Snap" by Carol Snow

"The Heights the Depths and Everything in Between" by Sally Nemeth

"Simon Bloom, Gravity Keeper" by Mark London Williams

"Sophomore Undercover" by Ben Esch

So, if you've got some free time this Sunday and you know from personal experience what Randy Newman's singing about here --
Author's note:  I live by the Burrito King sign they show about a minute or so in.  And in case you're wondering, I like LA.  Love?  I don't know...that's a pretty strong word, and I have commitment issues. 

-- Then you should stop by the West Hollywood Book fair and have some good times with literary minded people.  Plus, I think they sell funnel cakes, and that's always good. 

Also, I will be making my acting debut as "Big Bob" in "The Heights the Depths and Everything in Between."  Just in case some of you guys needed some extra motivation. 

There is going to be a ridiculously cool book event next Monday. 

How cool?  Well, how about a little Adam "Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich" Rex...AND Jon "The True Story of the Three Little Pigs" Scieska...AND David "No David" Shannon...AND Mac "Guess Again" Barnett

All on one stage. 

And holy crap is that exciting. 

This is gonna be like the Woodstock of picture book writers, just with less filthy hippies and acid, so even better than that! 

Here's the event info: 

Laughing Loudly for Literacy
Monday, September 28, 2009, 6:30 pm

Crescenta Valley High School Auditorium

2900 Community Ave, La Crescenta, CA 91214

There's some more details about tickets and such here.

So, if you live in LA come out and check this out.  I will be there in all of my fanboy glory.

Also, I heard a rumor that these guys are gonna be doing this presentation at the White House at some point or another, so if it's good enough for Barack, it's gotta be good enough for you.  I mean, what the hell else are you gonna be doing on a Monday night? 

Personal Note: 

"The True Story of The Three Little Pigs" was one of my favorite books when I was a kid and I am super excited to meet Jon Scieska. 

Personal Note #2: 

Adam Rex is quite possibly the nicest and most talented person in all of literature.  And that's not just because he blurbed my book, though that doesn't hurt him either.  The dude is just that cool.

Hey readers,

So, one question I've been getting a lot lately...

The question:  when's the next book coming out? 

The answer:  Uhh...soonish?  And on a completely unrelated note, is Costco hiring? 

So, in an effort to delay my future career in cart wrangling, I'm gonna return to  my Los Angeles office (i.e. closet with card table) and get back to scribbling.  And as a sincere apology for not having too many original thoughts and/or jokes and/or writing tips, here's a video of Christopher Walken pretending to be a cat. 
Hey readers,

It's been a while since I've talked about writing, so I figured I'd remedy that with a quick writing tip.  Here goes: 

The writing tip:  Have people read your stuff. 

Let me break this down a bit. 

Question: What do you mean by "stuff" exactly? 

Answer: books, screenplays, epic poems, etc. 

Question:  Who should read your stuff? 

Answer:  Good question.  You don't want to just get any random/neighbor/person you just met in the laundromat.  Try to find some people that are A) fluent in the language that you're writing in (author's note: that one is a biggie), B) Care enough about you that they'll put some time in to give you good notes. 

Yeah, A and B are pretty much the only two requirements that you're going to need.  You may have noticed that I left off a few requirements.  You don't need readers that have advanced degrees in English or book contracts or jackets with those neat leather patches on the elbows.  You basically just need some people who give enough of a damn about you to sit down for several hours and carefully read what you have written and want to help you get better. 

Question:  And how do you find these people? 

Answer:  Ask them. 

Here's a handy little exercise that will help you to find your readers:

Step 1:  Mail your finished manuscript to ten people who you think might make for good readers. 

Step 2:  Wait for several weeks. 

Step 3:  Reevaluate your friends list. 

Step 4:  Receive responses.  Wonder what happened to the other seven people. 

This, my friends, is how you get your inner circle of readers together.  As a writer, it is your job to cultivate this relationship, listen to their notes, and work together to make the best book/screenplay/epic poem you can. 

In case you're wondering, I had three people respond when I first sent out Sophomore Undercover. 

And they were my mom, my dad, and my brother. 

Author's note: my family is kick ass. 

One more piece of advice:  Never, under any circumstances, send your manuscript to this guy
So, I was looking through my blog posts for the last nine months or so, and the topic breakdown goes as such:  

Blogs about writing: 1%

Blogs where I shamelessly pimp A) my book B) me reading somewhere: 4%

Blogs about cartoons:  38%

Blogs about Tony Jaa:  Whatever number is left (author’s note: I could not locate the calculator program on his computer)

I decided I would shake things up today, and do a little social commentary, because dammit, this is my blog, and I have deep thoughts, and if I’m sufficiently indignant I might even get linked on reddit or metafilter (author’s note: consider that a hint). 

The issue:  a school in Boston got rid of all of the books in their library. 

My initial reaction:  What the f? 

My reaction after I read the article: Technology is depressing. 

I don’t know if you guys are actually going to click over and read the article, but basically the school thinks the books are taking up too much room, so they bought some kindles, threw up a couple flat screens so kids could display stuff from the internet (i.e. fantasy football, facebook, and youtube videos of dudes getting hit in the pills with wiffle balls) and a freaking coffee bar and turned the place into a “learning center.”  

I have some thoughts on this, and some of them may very well be deep. 

My Thoughts

1.  A coffee bar?  Seriously?  What the hell kind of school is this?  Where I went to high school all we got were bagels and these deceptively gross cookies the size of a Frisbee (author’s note: I still get in arguments with my friends about the “giant cookie,” but seeing as I have a web presence and they don’t, you're just gonna have to take my word for it.  The giant cookie sucked.  Hard.  Square yardage should not factor in the equation for the deliciousness of a cookie).

2.  I don’t think the people at the school are evil or anything, and yeah, it’s probably a huge pain in the ass to store a bunch of books, but still…this seems a little premature.  Maybe in five or ten years every kid will have a Kindle, or one of those freaky computer implants in their brains like in “Feed” by MT Anderson (wicked book, by the way) but I’m pretty sure that’s not the case right now.  So, I’m guessing that the “learning center” is going to be less of a place where kids read so much as “the room where we get lattes and watch youtube videos of dudes getting hit in the pills with wiffle balls on the sick ass flat screen TVs.”
Guess what happens in this video? 
Sure, everybody’s got a cell phone and there’s probably some app or another to read books off it, but let’s just slow down and think about this for a second.  What do kids do with their cell phones? 

A.  Talk/text with their friends about boys or Twilight or stickers or whatever (author’s note: I'm not entirely sure what kids talk about). 

B.  Watch youtube videos of dudes getting hit in the pills with wiffle balls. 

C.  Play video games. 

And I mean legitimately awesome video games.  Back when I was in high school, there was a bowling game for the TI 82 calculator that was just a bunch of black dots on a green screen, and I’d estimate that a solid sixty percent of my total classroom time was spent playing that thing (author’s note: my grades reflected this.  Was it worth it?  Totally).  So…I’m pretty sure you can go ahead and nudge that number up a bit with the games that are out there now.

The conclusion:  If I had a book that I could also use to A) get on the internet B) talk to my friends C) watch movies and D) play Oregon Trail, there is no way in hell that I would actually use the thing to read with.  And I like books.  This is what I do for a living.  I was even an English major, okay?  I really, really like books.   

I just like Oregon Trail, too. 
Oregon Trail is easy.  Oregon Trail is fun.  Oregon Trail never makes my brain hurt.  

And sometimes, books aren’t easy.  Sometimes they aren’t fun.  Quite often they make my brain hurt.  Hell, I still have no idea what William Faulkner was talking about, and I’ve written quite a few papers about the guy.

It’s not fair to make Faulkner compete against Oregon Trail, because Faulkner is never going to win. 

And that’s a bummer.  Because I don’t think that playing Oregon Trailer or calculator bowling made me a better person.  

But I’m pretty sure that struggling through Faulkner did. 
Hey readers,

After I graduated from college, I spent a few months bumming around China.  It was a super fun and confusing (mostly confusing) time in my life, and once I figured out that A) Mandarin was super difficult, B) teaching kids English sucked really hard and C) I could only eat noodles so many hours of the day, this was when I started to write. 
Disney wouldn't let me use this for my author photo.  Just FYI.   
So, China will always hold a special place in my heart. 

And once I heard that somebody made a video of their beard growth while spending a year walking across China...well, let's just say it spoke to me.  Because I too grew a beard in China, and spent a good deal of time walking.  Granted, this walking usually occurred when I got lost trying to find the subway, but I still feel like me and this dude have some kind of spiritual kinship. 
Hey readers,

The very first job I ever had was raking the backyard for three bucks so I could rent a Wrestlemania VHS when I was six years old.  I have pretty well avoided honest employment and professional wrestling since that day, but I will always have a soft spot in my heart for classic WWF. 

Even when they're rapping a diss song about Hulk Hogan. 
Okay, it's not quite Dr. Dre vs. Eazy-E, but for being a fifty year old former wrestler, those are some pretty legit rhymes.

And just so we don't forget Macho Man in his prime...
Author's note: stay off the drugs, kids.