The weekend started off with a bounce.
And about five hundred more that followed.
Chestertown was at its festive best. Free (and endless) bouncing was to be had via a colorful inflatable parked in the courthouse lawn.
I was asked to take care of Alden’s tiara while she jumped herself silly.
I forgot it was there as we walked around town and talked to various adult people over the next half hour or so. No wonder no one here takes me seriously.
After bouncing, we dropped the kids off with our friends Donald and Ann and hit the road. Our destination, Washington. Along the way, we stopped for a nutritious meal.
Runners prepare for a challenge by eating carbs. Robbi gets ready with char-broiled beef.
It was a gorgeous day. The sky was blue and the bay was calm.
Our spirits were high as we drove across the bridge.
Our GPS routed us around traffic into parts of DC we’d never seen before.
Our destination was DC’s preeminent independent bookstore, Politics and Prose
It was exciting to see our books on display at the front of the store.
It was exciting to see our friend/subscriber/fan? Lindsay show up early to say hello and browse the back catalog.
And it was exciting to gaze out from the podium at 3:20pm, wondering whether we’d have more than one person in attendance when we started speaking ten minutes later.
As it turned out, we had more than one peson. But somewhat fewer than 300, which is, apparently, the standing room capacity of P&P events.
We were delighted with the happy medium, a blend of old friends and new faces. We gave our talk, we read our latest Idiots’Book The World in Love, and we answered a few questions. We would have kissed babies or signed body parts if anyone had asked us to. Alas, nobody asked us to.
We were pleased to reunite with our friend Sarah Baline who oversees events for P&P and with whom we spent a soggy (but thrilling) day at Crafty Bastards a few years back.
After the show, we headed out with our friends (including Alden’s pal Iris) for dinner.
At one point, I threatened to eat Iris’s chicken fingers, which looked far more delicious than my fish tacos.
Iris made it clear that it wasn’t going to happen.
A belly full of fish tacos, we drove home again across the bridge, and collapsed into bed.
Today was cold in Chestertown, surprisingly so. We have told you before about our family excursions on which I push August in a jogging stroller while Robbi piles Kato and Alden onto a frankenstein bike. Wondering if August had gotten big enough to handle himself in a bike-mounted booster seat, we ordered another and set to modifying our bikes to accommodate the new setup.
Of course, we needed a helmet for him as well. At first, I wondered if they would make helmets small enough for his head.
And then I remembered that his head is the size of a planet and wondered if they would have one large enough.
As it turns out, they did, big helmets for big-headed kids, labeled as such.
While Robbi and I worked with the wrenches, Alden wrote lovely messages on the sidewalk.
I wonder what it is they want from me? A raise in allowance? The keys to the car? Whatever it is, I’m game. This kind of thing makes my heart melt in a great big puddle.
The love was well-timed. I needed a little lift. It took us about two hours and many misfires to work out all the mechanics and hardware. I’m sure it shouldn’t have been as complicated as it seemed at the time, but I’m a writer, forgodsake.
All the while, Iggy watched from the bushes, doing her best to blend in to her unnatural environment.
And then, finally, it was time for our first ride.
We did a lap around Wilmer Park and then took the bike path to the end. On the way back, we drove through the College.
And back through town, Kato between my legs and Alden behind.
Robbi had August on the other bike.
And so it is confirmed: we have officially graduated to the point where we can go on longish bike rides together. Today was but a glimpse of the adventuring to come.
Not a bad weekend. A very good one, in fact.
Well, this week we spent most of our time working on Bobbledy stuff. If you’re interested, have a look over here for how we spent the bulk of our week.
There are a couple things we did that were Idiots’Books related. We’ve been tweetering up a storm:
Look at all those twitters! See how well we tweets! You can follow us at @IdiotsBooks or individually at @BobbledyDad and @BobbledyMom. We are finding it to be a colossal waste of time, but so is everything else we do, really.
We also had to do a few tweaks to our slideshow presentation/talk so that it is all ready for our Politics & Prose appearance TODAY (Saturday April 20th! At 3:30 pm! 5015 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington DC!). And by “a few tweaks” I mostly mean that I had to remove Lily (sniff! cry!) from our little family portrait.
We are assuming there will be enough people there (1? 2?) who follow the blog well enough that they would feel their hearts rend a little bit at the old drawing, which features Lily in a nightdress with a walker. In deference to them and their hearts, we thought it would be best to let the old girl rest in peace.
But we also got to add in the new cover design by Chronicle for Ten Thousand Stories, which, frankly, made the sting of Lily’s absence a little less noticeable.
I would put a picture of it here, except Matthew read this post this morning and lamented that he had wanted to do a whole post dedicated to the making of the cover, so I don’t want to steal his fire. Maybe if you all stage a protest in front of the barn, he’ll get to it sooner rather than later.
So that’s the hippety-haps around here. We’ll TRY to remember to take pictures at the P&P event, but our track record suggests that we will only remember to do it if no one shows up, in which case they don’t make very compelling photos. So, look forward to no photos or bad photos. Set the bar low, folks, set the bar low.
Hello all. This is to remind you that we will be giving a short talk, answering questions, signing books, and kissing babies at Washington’s finest independent bookstore this coming Saturday afternoon at 3:30 (That’s April 20).
We’ll be giving the talk we delivered at the ICON conference last spring—The Virtues of Creative Impatience. Geared toward creative professionals of any stripe, but hopefully interesting and helpful to anyone who’s looking to cultivate creativity, the talk focuses on the virtues of subscription-based art distribution, the power of selfless self-promotion, the advantages of collaboration, the pleasures of artistic freedom, the importance of saying yes, and the unquestionable merits of doggedness. Also included are musings on luck (what it is, whether it can be made, and how to go about getting more of it) and impatience (how it might not be as useless as we are often told).
Also, if things go according to plan, it’s pretty funny. At least, it has been in the past.
We would love to see you there. Bring your friends. Bring your mom. And Snickers bars. Robbi loves Snickers.
I was just going through an old photo library and came across this:
Yep. That’s me. And R. Crumb. Embracing.*
My life is fucking crazy.
*In case you forgot, I interviewed R. Crumb on stage here in Chestertown for the Chestertown Book Festival. It was terrifying and awesome and literally the highlight of my professional life (such as it is – “professional,” I mean). It has been committed to film but I’m still waiting for the guy to send it to me. That was two and a half years ago now, though, so I’m not holding out much hope. It is definitely much cooler in my memory than it could have possibly been in real life, though.
Last Tuesday, we drove north to AWP. This required us to drive briefly through New York City, but the passage was painless.
We spent Tuesday night with my mom in Andover, north of Boston. Wednesday morning, we drove downtown to the Hynes Convention center. Our destination: the loading dock. When you are hauling an entire van load of books, the front door does not suffice.
We schlepped our various boxes, tubes, and miscellany upstairs. Our booth looked so lonely when we got there.
And so I immediately set up our brand new Bobbledy signage, if only to set a cheerful tone that might buoy our spirits through the hours of booth setup.
Little by little…
…and bit by bit…
…a cozy and colorful space emerged.
We did our best to be welcoming.
And we tried harder than we have in the past to be clear about what it is we do.
Though the matter was complicated by the arrival of Bobbledy.
Still, we were pleased with how the booth looked.
And so we headed back to Mom’s. The weather had already started to turn.
The next morning, we decided to be economical travelers and take public transportation into the city. The first leg was the commuter train.
As we headed south, the snow began to fall.
The second leg was the subway, or the T, as it is known in Boston.
The convention center was a nice space with a vaulted atrium above the escalators.
There were lots of people there. Most of them writers, though at least one illustrator was in the house.
And an excited one at that.
Commerce was fairly rotten our first day. Our booth was tucked into the loneliest corner of the convention hall, and it took a while for anyone to find us. Thankfully, the people who did find us are among our favorite.
The wonderful, inimitable Amy Letter of Drake University.
The pensive, dashing Joshua Wolf Shenk, nonfiction writer extraordinaire, and the person who wrote the four-part Slate series about our collaboration a few years back.
And these guys, who distinguished our booth with snappy threads and literary verve.
And a kid. And his dad. They stopped to read each and every one of the Bobbledy Books.
And Emma Sovich, longtime friend and Editor of the Black Warrior Review.
Though I love her taste in shirts, I find it astonishing that she agreed to be seen with me, considering the state of my hair.
And Edward McPherson, writer, gentleman, and, as has been previously discussed, the hottest thing at AWP
Of course, there was some commerce as well. We bid a teary farewell to our homebrewed version of Ten Thousand Stories, a title that has graced the table of each and every book fair and convention we’ve ever attended, but which will soon have to be retired on account of the Chronicle version coming out next fall.
At the end of the day, we were tired, but not defeated.
Outside, snow was beginning to fall.
We headed north again to sleep.
The next day, the blizzard was on.
We decided to drive in (having discovered that the public transportation option actually cost more than the exorbitant parking fees at the convention center). For a while, we had the roads to ourselves.
But then we had to share it.
On day two at AWP, the crowds got thicker.
In part because people who had seen the booth the day before were telling their friends to come by and revel in the idiocy.
The highlight of day two was when Bobbledy club member Quentin came by to share his poetry with us.
He had written two poems for us and did an impromptu reading in the booth.
And they were amazing. AMAZING! I wish we could take a shred of credit for his creative genius, but we get the sense that his poet of a mother might have something to do with it.
We were honored with a visit from Andrea Martucci, friend and managing editor of Ploughshares.
We got a second visit from Joshua Wolf Shenk, whose rugged good looks warrant a second heaping of praise.
We got a visit from the poet (and all-around amazing person) Nicelle Davis, who was dressed as a poetry hustler, her coat covered with fur-lined “poetry pockets,” each filled with a poem by a poet who had not been able to afford to come to AWP this year.
It was a lovely, creative gesture. And I can honestly say that I have never had so much fun reading a poem.
Day three was even busier than the day before. The Book Fair was open to the public, and lots of people came by to see our stuff.
We tried to be as flexible as possible when it came to accepted modes of payment.
But I am relieved to report that there are still only three children in this family.
The highlight of day three was not the blistering sales, but an all-too-brief visit by none other than James Franco.
I’d like to tell you that he bought one of everything and kissed Robbi on the mouth, but that would not be true.
So long, AWP. For another year, at least.
Yesterday, we drove from Chestertown to Andover, a town north of Boston. I have it on good authority that this is how Iggy spent the day in our absence.
It makes me sad to think of her there pining, but it makes me glad to know she’ll be there waiting when we get home.
In the mean time, we’re heading to the Hynes Convention Center today to set up our booth for the AWP Bookfair. It will be a long and trying day of schlepping and stacking and arranging books and banners just so.
It’s also exciting though. We have two never-before-seen titles to put before the world. We have old friends to see and new ones yet to meet. Or so we hope. No matter how many books we sell, the real fun (and value) of these shows is the connections we make.
In the mean time, if you see Iggy strolling miserably on Queen Street, please give her an encouraging pat, and let her know we’ll be home before long.
Look out, literary world.
Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
We have been neglecting you for the past few days, it’s true. We’ve been lost in the maelstrom of planning and packing that precedes every book show or convention we attend. Tomorrow morning we head north for our biggest show of the year, the three-day Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference, which is being held in Boston this year.
At most shows, we have a six-foot table. At AWP, we have a 10′ x 10′ booth. This means more space to fill, more books to make, and more signage to design and produce. This year, we have the added challenge of trying to fold Bobbledy into the Idiots’ space, somehow trying to create a booth that is able to accommodate both children’s books and stories that touch on such heady subjects as farting chipmunks and nose picking nuns.
To introduce Bobbledy to the literary set, we decided to go big, literally. Robbi designed a vertical banner, and we had it professionally produced.
But wait, there’s more. People approach our booth from two directions, and so we created another banner for the other side of the stand.
Robbi has promised that she’s going to stand by the banner just like that for all three days of the conference. In a cherry red bikini. If people try to talk to her, she’s going to pretend she knows only Swedish.
Although I wrote most of the copy on the banners, I cannot take credit for the “hay, hay, hay.”
That was all Robbi.
We also got a Bobbledly red table covering…
To complement the Bobbledy purple table runner Robbi designed and we had printed.
We think we’ll set up the Bobbledy table a little something like this.
Yes, there’s a sneak peek at the cover of the next Bobbledy book, Archipelago, which we had printed in time for AWP, but which won’t be going out to club members until the first of April.
Getting ready for these shows is a huge pain in the apple. Our studio becomes an open sore of boxes, bins, stacks of paper, assorted plexiglass stands, and the sundry bits and pieces that must be organized and packed before we hit the road.
Every year, Robbi has the fun yet tiring task of designing and producing new signage. She prints it on oversized watercolor paper and mounts it on foamcore.
The texture is pleasing and the colors are rich. Here’s our Bobbledy display. Robbi is frowning because she just spent 15 minutes putting it together and the panels are reversed.
But look, she is now happy because the panels are in their proper place.
And here is our display for the baby trilogy and onesies. There’s so much to look at in the conference hall. We have to compete to catch the eye.
Here’s the current state of affairs, the growing pile of boxes by the door downstairs. First thing Tuesday morning, we’ll pile them in the car and set out for Beantown.
For now, it’s time to sleep.
On Wednesday, we got up early and drove to Massachusetts. Hearing it was rather cold up there, we stopped in Middletown for hats and gloves.
We stopped again somewhere along the New Jersey Turnpike to get a bite. Kato loves nothing more than the hot air blowers.
We stopped in New Lebanon, New York, about a half hour shy of Williamstown, to see if the little jewelry store where we had Robbi’s wedding ring made 10 years ago was still there.
As it turns out, it was, and the very same woman who helped us back then was behind the counter.
It’s a nice little place run by a husband and wife. I love this old sign on their porch.
When we finally got to campus, we were greeted by the usual propaganda.
Robbi took a moment to revel.
It was cold. It was very, very cold. The kids were all cozy in their new hats and gloves, but I was hatless and gloveless and feeling very put upon as we posed by the Williams College sign.
Robbi (hat but no gloves) somehow managed a smile.
We got gelato.
And took a walk across campus to visit my old colleagues in the admission office.
We got in our car and drove up Stratton Road.
When the time came, we headed to Parkesy (the new student center) to get ready for our talk. We set up a table of books.
And got the technology in order.
Eventually, a few students started to show up. About five minutes before we were set to start, there were only a few people there. But then, as the clock struck 8:00, another crowd rolled in, and suddenly we had a packed house.
Or mostly packed. We did our talk, and people listened and laughed. When we were done, author Jim Shepard and sculptor Amy Podmore joined us for a panel discussion.
We answered students questions about self-promotion, publishing, getting started with creative careers, how to get from here to there. It was a lot of fun and an absolute honor to share the stage with Jim (who was my professor and remains one of my heroes) and Amy, who was always great supporter of Robbi’s during college (especially when Robbi was working on her thesis).
This event wouldn’t have happened without the wonderful Ashley Weeks Cart, a Williams alumna of a more recent vintage than ourselves. She works in the Office of Alumni Relations. It was she who had the idea for the Williams Map and who asked us to create it. It was she who gathered support and funding to bring us to campus. And it was she who patiently sold books after our talk while we chatted with students. She’s the best. And if you enjoy beautiful photography, the pleasures of parenting, and the artistic/crafty lifestyle, I encourage you to check out her blog.
While we were in town, we stayed with our dear friends Gina and Michael. We stayed with them because we don’t get to see them very often and enjoy spending time with them, but we also stayed with them because Alden is deeply in love with their son Garcia.
Alden and Garcia have only spent a few days together throughout their lives, but they are like peas in a pod. Alden talks about Garcia constantly, and apparently, Garcia does the same. Two weeks ago, I made the mistake of telling Alden we that we would soon be visiting with Garcia, and every fifteen minutes or so since then have had to answer the question of how long it would be until we left for his house.
These two just plain love each other. It’s a beautiful thing to see.
Kato likes Garcia just fine, but mostly, he’s interested in Garcia’s piano.
On Thursday, we headed back to the college for an Office of Career Counseling-sponsored lunch with students. At Alden’s request, we stopped by the snack bar for some more gelato. I had to snap a photo of the honey bun display for all of you nostalgic Eph alums out there.
While Robbi and Kato spent an hour or so being studied by a group of psychology students, Alden, August, and I hung out in the Paresky Great Room.
August was all smiles. He still has no interest in walking, but he has recently learned how to wave .
While we talked with the students, we ate Hot Tomatoes. For those of you who do not know, it is perhaps the finest pizza known to man. Reason enough to drive 8 hours, I say.
It was good to be back at Williams and a real honor to be there as an invited guest. Strange to think that the 15 years since we walked across the stage at graduation has brought us to a point where we have something useful or interesting enough to share with the next generation.
When we were done with our meeting, we drove home. It was a beautiful day.
By the time we hit Newark, it was getting dark.
Kato loves airplanes, and as we drove down the stretch of I-95 that goes by Newark Airport, he pointed them out, one by one.
It was a good trip. Too short, perhaps. But life is busy these days. Thanks to everyone who made it happen.
And here’s a shout out to Emelda and the girls in Poker Flats.
Today, we are driving north. Our destination, Williams College, where we will present this evening to a group of unsuspecting students. We can only hope they have the sense to take our questionable advice with a grain of salt.
If you are in the Williamstown area and are interested in seeing Robbi and me tell our story in approximately 300 goofy illustrated slides, we’d love to see you.
But if you can’t make it, this about sums it up the gist of our talk:
Yes, that is Robbi doing coke off of Julia Roberts’ bare butt.
To our credit, we strongly advise students not to try this at home.
The show takes place in Paresky Auditorium (in the basement) and starts at 8:00pm. Writer Jim Shepard and sculptor Amy Podmore, both professors at Williams, will be on hand to temper our remarks with actual wisdom.