Tuesday, October 29, 2013

30 Characters Challenge is coming!

Good news for all you super-creative people out there- the 30 Characters Challenge is coming! What is the 30 Characters Challenge, you ask? It is an artistic smorgasbord of art and design that begins November 1 and ends on November 30. Each day, you create and post a character to the blog. Make a total of 30 unique and original characters in that time span- you can do two or three one day, one another day, take a day or two off- just get to 30 characters. You can collaborate with someone, you can do pencil sketches, digital painting, photo manipulations, multi-media art, photograph a sculpture- whatever and however you can create an image of an original character. Cool?
 If so, read more about the particulars of the challenge here, because you have to register to participate (if you were in last year or the year before your account is still active!
 So, ripped straight from the 30 Characters Challenge website:

30 Characters Challenge is Back!

The Challenge: Create 30 new characters in 30 days- one for every day of the month of November.
Why: Because the world needs new characters…YOUR characters!
When: Registration runs until 5 pm October 31, 2013. The challenge begins starting November 1st, 2013.
Where: Right here on at 30Characters.com
How to Register: Simply sign up here with your name and email address to be added to the 30 Characters 2013 Challengers Roster.
Returning Challengers: If you participated in the 30 Characters Challenge in either of the past two years, and would like to take part again this year, you’re account is still active! Welcome back!
Stay Connected and Spread the Word:
- Follow the hashtag #30characters on Twitter for the latest information on the 30 Characters Challenge!
- Keep an eye on your inbox for weekly 30 Characters Challenge updates!
- Grab one or more of the approved 30 Characters Challenge Banners, and post on your website.  Or better yet, create your own!
Have questions about the challenge? Be sure to read our FAQ, for everything you could possibly want to know about #30Characters.

 Do you have what it takes to meet the challenge? Then sign up, jump in and let me know you're on board for this year!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Star Wars Day- the Report!

"Anything that can go wrong will go wrong," is an adage made famous by some poor sap named Murphy (or maybe named after him) and while it is an extreme view, it is almost always true. When it comes to having a Star Wars Day, that means the chaos of the Dark Side seemed to win the day, as only one presenter showed up, leaving us with no officially costumed characters, and no Lego table. (We're good with the Lego dude again- just sorry he wasn't there!)
Greetings from an extra-friendly trooper!

 But presentation is almost as important as the content of a program and it helped save the day!

Books! Utinni!
 As people came into the Union West Library they were greeted by a 6' 3" stormtrooper cutout with Star wars music and themes playing in the doorway. Upon entering, the meeting room was ready with a Master Yoda standee presiding over the light saber duels, and a shooting range had been added! Moving into the main portion of the library, the adult side had a table filled with fiction and graphic novels, and a stoic Jawa watching over the collection.
Every kind of Star Wars book a kid could want- and Darth Vader!!
  The kids side featured meditation activities (coloring pages) and strategy activities (mazes and puzzles) at the Jedi Academy table. Lord Vader stood proudly behind the kids table of books, arranged by reading level and type (non-fiction, graphic novels, etc). Another table was the crafts headquarters as kids made Yoda ears, Imperial dog tags, and clone trooper bookmarks and pencil toppers. The dog tags were a BIG hit- we ran out! Retro Reboot was a presenter who did show up, and the display os Star Wars merchandise was nothing short of AMAZING!!!

R2 had wheels and a rope so he could get around!
 The children's department had managed to save up over 60 books, new and gently used, and we were able to give them all away with no problem. In addition, DK Publishing sent us 17 sample books from the New York Comic Con and three other Star Wars books, which means roughly 80 kids got something to read and keep!

I meant shoot a picture, Boba Fett!
 The library circulation manager told me she kept a check on the door counter and in one hour, nearly 250 people came through! Our estimation for attendance is 350+!
 This was a library-wide event, and everyone at Union West that day- manager Betsy Cullen, circ manager Nancy Thompson, children's librarian Kenzia Lett, reference librarians Marcy Scudder and Cliff Rhodes and the circulation staff Heidi North, Jakeem Royal, Chris McHugh, and Pam Booth! You guys are amazing!

Banners- a good way to show off your sponsors!

ALL things Lego!

The Duels in action!

Shooting range- I see Imperial officer material standing to the left!

Princess Amidala and mini-Darth!

The youngest clone trooper I've ever seen...
Retro Reboot had a table full of AWESOME!!

Even princesses have to wait in line!
The banner for Dark Horse led the way to the graphic novels.

Does that Jedi robe double as a Snuggi?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Count Dooku's Secret Weapon?!

 Last month I asked the kids in the Cartooning Club to come up with a new creature, character, or vehicle that would fit in with the Star Wars universe.
 One brave young man boldly stepped forward with his concept: a shark Sith apprentice! Brinton Whitecar designed "Cardon -a karkarodon who was secretly trained by Count Dooku.  He helped develop the hydroid medusa bio weapons in the clone wars."
 Take a look at the colors and way Brinton filled his picture. Also notice the action pose on Cardon. Awesome work, Brinton, and a great idea well executed (oops! Might not want to use that word around Sith!)!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Big Thanks to DK! Star Wars Day is Ready to Go!

This past Friday and Saturday, Star Wars reads Day was celebrated across the US and around the world. But- just in case you missed it- in the words of Yoda, "There is another."
 Friday, October 11 at the Union West Regional Library in Indian Trail, Star Wars Day will happen from 2:30-5:30, with lots of fun stuff going on all over the building! Light saber duels, crafts, coloring sheets, costumes, great original art on display and more!
 Helping to round out things for the event is DK Publishing, who very generously sent out an event pack that was incredible! They sent a bag FULL of Star Wars Reads Day II buttons, 17 books sampling some of the latest Star Wars fiction out there (and with a New York Comic on label on the back- very cool!),  book of punch-out paper models, a guide book to the Clone Wars cartoon series, and a book on the Jedi! But DK did more than that, too! They really seemed to be the driving force behind the idea, putting together event kits (including a Spanish one this year!), and setting up a Facebook page to network librarians and bookstores.
Big thank yous go to Rachel Kempster and Malisa Savanh from DK's marketing team for everything they did for this year's event, and to help this library with our event!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Star Wars Reads Day II across the country!

The second Star Wars Reads Day is happening at many bookstores and libraries across the country and around the world today. So if you are looking for something to do today (or looking for the droids) check out the Star Wars Reads Day page on Facebook to see what is going on near you. Also, check with your local libraries and bookstores (especially Barnes and Nobel) and even comic book shops. You're bound to find something near you.
 Even if you don't, never fear, other locations will still be doing events. If you live in Union County or the eastern side of the Charlotte region, you can get your Force on with the Union West Regional Library on Friday, Oct. 11. The fun begins at 2:30 and runs until 5:30 and is free for the whole family. Wear your costumes, too! Might as well get some added mileage out of those outfits, right?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Star Wars Day in One Week!

One week to go until our BIG Star Wars Day event!! We are excited to have so much going on that day!
Here is a run-down of who will be there and what is going on:

  • The 501st Legion- I still don't know how many will be there, or if or when they will arrive, but they have come through for us in the past and the imperial uniforms they put together are AMAZING! I have seen Stormtroopers, TIE Fighter Pilots and Biker Scouts! The 501st do all kinds of goodwill community outreach and support for charitable causes.
  • LOTS of standees of some favorite Star Wars characters! Photo ops for fans even if the 501st is late or misses out (for a really good reason, I'm sure!).
  •  The LEGO STORE will have a master builder with a table displaying some great kits and he will show you how to build spaceships and UFOs! You'll want to get some great ideas from him!
  • There will be several great crafts that won't take a ton of time to do- YODA EARS, Imperial Dog Tags, Clone trooper bookmarks and clone trooper pencil toppers!
  • There will be over 50 books -used and new- that will be handed out to kids who come dressed for the event. These aren't Star Wars books, but they are just as great, and everyone knows a Jedi should be as well-rounded in his or her education as possible!
  • Light saber duels! That's right- YOU can challenge another padawan or Jedi in a duel of skill! 
  • Dark Horse Comics, Scholastic Books and DK Publishing all pitched in and sent some excellent swag- bookmarks, buttons, posters and more! Keep your eyes open- you may get something cool!

 So there you have it. A long list of things to do in three hours on a Friday afternoon! And remember to wear your costumes (uniforms! they are uniforms!)!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Behind-the Scenes Superhero: Gina Gagliano

   There are companies and people within the comics world that I place into two categories-  the good and the bad (and the ugly are usually the bad, too!). From my experience as a librarian, accessibility and partnering for programs and events is easier with the smaller, hungrier and more artistically driven publishers. Top Shelf and Chris Staros, IDW, Boom! Studios, Oni Press, Campfire and :01 Books are some of the smaller companies who have this drive and hunger. And at :01 Books, the person who gets the books into the hands of reviewers, librarians and sellers is Gina Gagliano the Associate Marketing and Publicity Manager. I could just call her Gina and there would be a slew of artists, writers, publicists, bloggers, etc. who would know who "Gina" is.

  Along with promotion of :01 Books' new materials, Gina also advocates for graphic novels in schools and libraries and has participated in a number of webinars to discuss all aspects of graphic novels to teachers, librarians, reading specialists and even parents. I have been so impressed with Gina, that I decided to do one of my infamous email interviews. Read on to see how Gina got involved in the world of comics, what the future may or may not hold, and what her job actually entails! (Note- we also requested an approved picture of Gina, but gave her the option of not sending one. So our crack research staff- Detective Chimp- has tried to find her and brought back his "photographic trail" of Gina. See if you can find this behind-the-scenes superhero in these photos!)

Gina's workspace at :01- she's probably hiding in there...
       What is it you do, and how did you get into this job?
First Second employs four people – Mark Siegel, our Editorial Director; Calista Brill, our Senior Editor (they edit our books); Colleen AF Venable, our designer (she designs our books), and me – and my job is to do marketing and publicity.  The shorthand definition of ‘marketing and publicity’ is: make sure people know about the books that we publish and convince them to buy them.  The longhand definition runs through advertising and teachers and librarians and social media and author tours and talking to booksellers and comic book sellers and organizing reviews and interviews and exhibiting at conventions and being involved with book-related decisions that have to do with audience and how the books are presented to the public. 
                It’s a great job!
I got this job by going to a New York City book fair in Bryant Park – it was called Great Reads in the Park – and handing my resume to an editor who turned out to work for First Second’s parent company’s parent company.  I didn’t know at the time that First Second existed – this was about eight months before we started publishing books – but ended up getting hired a month later.
Gina is at lots of comics and book coventions. Look closely- you may find her in there!
          Were you always a fan of comics? What was your first comic, or the one you remember most fondly?
I’m very much part of this new generation of comics readers who started out reading graphic novels as adults (or almost) – I started reading comics in college.  I went to a small liberal arts school in Portland, OR called Reed – they’re a really wonderful school!  But they had one problem: their college library was very academic-oriented, so there wasn’t a lot of fiction to read there.  I read just about all the time, so this was starting to drive me nuts after only a few weeks – at which point I learned that Reed had a student-run comics library.  Instead of reading prose, I could start reading comics all the time – and so I did. 
By the time I graduated, I was running that library – a job I passed on to Leigh Walton, who’s now in charge of Top Shelf’s marketing and publicity. 
The first comic that I can remember reading was Neil Gaiman’s Sandman – which I pulled off the shelf because I recognized the author’s name from his prose books, since I was a huge science fiction/fantasy reader as a teen (and still am).  Delirium is still my favorite of all the Endless, FYI.
This is Delirium, for those who didn't know. (The girl- not the dog!)

      Are you surprised how comics have moved to more of a graphic novel format?
I love pamphlet comics and mini-comics, but unfortunately, they’re not very permanent – the production quality on them isn’t usually high enough that they’ll last through repeated readings.  That’s why bags and boards exist, right? 
The kind of care that’s necessary to read and re-read comics just doesn’t seem to be a place where the book-reading population is right now.  So it makes sense to me that people would want sturdier, more re-readable comics that aren’t going to fall apart if you put them in a tote bag to read on the subway on the way to work or take to school in a backpack.   

 Would :01 ever consider, or did they ever consider , offering an on-going monthly series in print?
I can’t speak to all the possible futures of :01, but publishing monthly pamphlets really isn’t something that we’re set up to do at this company.  So – maybe someday, but definitely not in the near future.   

 :01 has had digital comics, or on-line comics, that could be read for free. Is this something that will continue?
Indeed it will.  Because we do our serial comics in a run-up to publication, we don’t have any on the hook right now.  But some will be coming down the pike soon. 

 How do you find new talent? I read an article by you once where you talked about what it took to get a look from :01. Do people come to you because your name is out there?
I don’t personally do a lot of finding new talent at First Second because I do marketing and publicity, rather than editing.  But I definitely go to conventions and talk to people, occasionally look at the internet, and read lots of books, all of which are reasonable ways to find new talent.
And as the person at :01 who gets the general First Second e-mail directly in their inbox – that’s the mail@firstsecondbooks.com address – I can tell you that we got two unsolicited submissions e-mailed to us already today.  People do come to us because our name is out there – both people we’ve encountered professionally at conventions or whose books we’ve read or who we’ve asked to be part of one of our anthologies or whose work we’ve admired, and also people who are new to us. 

 Speaking of being out there, you have quite a presence with schools and public libraries through your emails and webinars. What other demographics do you go after? Some people would argue by targeting libraries and schools, you are cutting yourself out of buyers- is this true or are libraries a good way to go?
First of all, do people really say that if your books are read in libraries and classrooms, you’re cutting yourself out of sales?  It doesn’t seem all that probable – after all, the way that books get into classrooms and libraries is that the teachers and librarians buy the books.  Teachers and librarians are both awesome – they’re some of the biggest evangelical support that we get not just at First Second, but in the whole book industry.  Just think about it: they spend all their time convincing people that reading is awesome and that they should do more of it.  Succeeding at doing this successfully is their actual job.  What better people to have on your side as a publisher?
Other audiences we pursue (and you’ll be shocked to hear this, I’m sure) include bookstores and comics stores!

What sorts of graphic novels do you read? Are you a fan of superheroes or adventure or biographical? What are some new ones you have read?
Okay, pretty sure Gina is NOT in this picture!
I read all sorts of graphic novels – superheroes, adventure, nonfiction, kids – pretty much anything!  I enjoyed Rutu Modan’s The Property, which I read earlier this year – that’s a great example of a really solid adult fiction book.  And I’m currently in the middle of reading Farel Dalrymple’s new collection from AdHouse, Delusional.  Pretty much everything he does is super.
Top 3 graphic novels :01 has done, all-time. Go:
This is such a hard question, because we publish books in so many different categories – adult science nonfiction! Kids nursery rhyme anthology!  Teen paranormal! – that’s it’s really difficult to pick favorites.  Pass!
Top 3 you wish :01 could have had their label on:
I’m a huge fan of Jordan Crane’s The Clouds Above.  I don’t know if we could have published that because of the format, but it’s wonderful!  I also really love Eleanor Davis’ Stinky and The Secret Science Alliance – those are both excellent books. 
 Ten years from now, comics and graphic novels will be: bigger than ever, almost extinct, only in digital or going places that most people can’t imagine right now?
What we’re finding at First Second that every year, more and more people are starting to read graphic novels – and that more and more kids especially are starting to read graphic novels.  In ten years, I’m sure those kids will still be reading graphic novels as teens and adults. 
 Would you argue there is educational merit to comics? Can they be considered “literature?” How about “art?”
I would definitely argue that there is educational merit to comics. 
 But, the great thing is, I don’t have to argue about this now that it’s 2013!  The MLA – the Modern Language Association, basically US English professors’ annual convention – has had a track of graphic novel programming in at least their past two conferences.  The ALAN Review – the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents, basically the high school English teacher’s professional journal – regularly reviews and writes about graphic novels.  And if those two things don’t convince you, check out the IJOCA – the International Journal of Comic Art, an academic journal dedicated solely to comics criticism.

   If this lady would get out of the way, we might have been able to find Gina in this photo!
 If you made a graphic novel (maybe you are working on one right now?), what would it be about?
I’m not a writer or an artist; in fact, I don’t really have a lot of interest in being a writer or an artist.  For one thing, it’s really hard!  And for another, I have a job that I really love that’s what I want to be doing with my life – I don’t have a lot of spare time to take on the challenging, frequently-not-very-fun job of making graphic novels (or novels or poetry or nonfiction or whatever) on top of this one. 
I think that in the publishing industry – in the libraries, schools, media, etc. that surround the publishing – you encounter a lot of people who really enjoy doing what they do, but also want to become writers.  I think that presents publishing-industry people with a pretty skewed idea of what readers are like: they all want to become writers.
Luckily, that isn’t the case across the board.  There are a whole lot of people who just like reading – who like words and art on paper – and could care less about writing their own novel one day.  And you know what?  That’s wonderful.   We need those people to buy the books that we produce.  Think about it – if only the people who wrote books bought books, what would the book market in the US look like right now?   
What, in your opinion, sets  :01 apart from other publishers?
There are a few things that set First Second apart from other publishers. 
First: our parent company.  First Second is the only comics publisher with one of the major US publishers backing them.  (Scholastic Graphix and Pantheon both are part of a big NYC publisher, but neither of them are publishing graphic novels every season at this point, unfortunately.)  This means more to me, in my job doing marketing and publicity, than it probably means to our editorial team.  But what it mostly means to me is that we have an in-house sales team – and another team of sales representatives around the company – who are all employed specifically to be promoting our books.  Having these people on our side means that we have a whole active team of people across the country working to convince everywhere that sells books that graphic novels are worth their time.  First Second has excellent distribution.
What it also means (and here’s where our editorial team is also very appreciative) is that we have people at our parent company who deal with things like selling our books to other countries, negotiating book pricing with our printer, managing copy-editing, doing our e-book conversions, and even things like making sure our computers work, keeping the lights on, taking out the trash, keeping the refrigerator stocked, cleaning the office, sending out all of our mail, etc.  First Second has a staff of four; I’m so glad that the four of us don’t actually have to spend time doing any of that.
Robot, dog, but no Gina!
Second: our sensibility.  Our Editorial Director, Mark Siegel sometimes refers to First Second as “publishing books with heart.”  This is something you can especially see when looking at a book like Sara Varon’s Robot Dreams or Nick Abadzis’ Laika – but in general, First Second tries to publish genuine, sincere books that make a lasting impact on peoples’ minds and in peoples’ hearts.  That means that when we look at books to acquire, we go for books with a very specific tone, and that’s something that holds true across all of the age categories we publish.
Third: our breadth of publishing.  Here’s the easiest way to explain First Second’s publishing program: when our parent company’s publisher, John Sargent, decided that Macmillan should have a graphic novel imprint, it was because graphic novels were clearly catching on in the venues that the book industry typically sells to – bookstores, schools, and libraries.  Those are the venues that our parent company, Macmillan, also has already-established relationships with.  So when First Second was founded, the goal was to publish graphic novels for those book-loving readers who were finding books in bookstores, schools, and libraries, and get them to start reading graphic novels, too.  We’ve made a lot of effort to reach the comics-specific market, and work extensively with comics stores here at :01.  But we’re also trying to reach all the people (and all the interests) you find in a regular bookstore – nonfiction, fiction, genre fiction – science fiction, fantasy, mystery – young adult, and kids.  And when I say ‘trying to’ here, what I really mean is, we have a concerted publishing plan to reach a balanced set of readers across varied interests and age categories in every season of books we publish. 

 Walker Bean, Claudette (Giants Beware) and Maggie (Friends with Boys) in a caged death-match. Who wins? Bwha-haa-ha-ha!
Probably Maggie, because she’s older (and therefore taller!) than the rest of them.  Also, she has a ghost – which unfortunately probably won’t do a lot of good because it is not a very interactive ghost – but that is more superpowers than any of the other characters have!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Dark Horse is Awesome!

 I have said it before and I will say it again- Dark Horse is an incredible company when it comes to dealing with libraries. Many of the smaller companies like Top Shelf, :01 Books, Campfire Press, Oni Press, BOOM! Studios and IDW work very hard to get as much outreach as they can, and they are willing to work with libraries knowing that it can be a good thing for themselves as well. Among the "big" publishers (Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse- and maybe Dynamite) you typically hit a brick wall of obscurity and impenetrability except with Dark Horse.
 I bring all of this up because I was planning an event for the Union West Library and I was in need of some swag- freebies, give aways- and there are only a small handful of publishers who would be applicable to the program. I contacted the publishers- one I hit a stone wall with, another said something would be coming but would not say what or when, and Dark Horse said they had been overwhelmed by this year's convention season and still had another event to gear up for. They didn't promise me anything, but said they would see what they could do. just yesterday, a package came to the library- inside were two-sided posters, buttons and very nice Di-cut bookmarks made from similar material to our library cards! Wow! This was fantastic, and I am so pleased to have something to hand out to the kids who come for our Star Wars Reads Day.
 Thank you so much Dark Horse! You are among the real -life good guys of comics!