Friday, March 23, 2007

Gail's Adventures In Worcester

1. Ninety percent of any author appearance is getting there. Well, I made some incredibly inept errors with some highway exits on my way to the New England Roundtable of Teen and Children's Librarians meeting. (Which I won't go into because I don't need to have the whole world know about it.) I was lost in Worcester for about a half an hour this morning. But once it was over, I didn't focus on being lost. I focused on having overcome being lost and getting to my destination still with a half an hour to spare.

Attitude is everything.

2. The conference opened with a stand-up comic, Dan the Librarian. This was a humor conference filled with librarians, after all. Dan was actually funny, and I'm guessing his traditional stand-up gigs are not limited to jokes about the Dewey Decimal System, if you know what I mean. I'm not just giving him a plug because he was able to quote from Club Earth.

3. Kathleen Odean was the first speaker. This was a great talk covering a number of things, including philosophers' spin on humor and why humor doesn't often win awards. Some philosopher (whose name I missed but who cares, right?) described humor as being involved with a sense of superiority on the part of the person who reads or witnesses the humor. I'd never thought of this, but it makes a great deal of sense. For instance, as you read this post you can feel superior to Gail, as in "Thank God I'm not her." Another philosopher described humor as springing from incongruity. That's something I have thought of and definitely agree with.

I got the impression that Kathleen and I might think about a lot of the same things. And I'm not just saying that because she mentions My Life Among the Aliens in her book, Great Books About Things Kids Love.

4. My talk went very well for quite a while. The PowerPoint presentation worked. I spoke from a podium so I didn't have to juggle my script and the device for working the projector. People laughed and seemed to really enjoy themselves for about forty minutes. But then during the last ten to fifteen minutes I really got into this philosophical stuff about why I'm into writing about situations involving the poetry of the everyday. And then I went on to discuss that it is possible to talk about humor. (Some people think you can't.) I realized that no one had laughed in a while. And then I realized that they weren't laughing because this stuff wasn't funny. It wasn't bad (I think), but I'd suddenly stopped being funny.

As God is my witness, I had a slide on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Has anyone ever laughed about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs?

Well, I did finish promptly so I didn't make anyone late for lunch.

5. Lunch. I talked with some librarians about learning to write. I met Diane Mayr, a name I know from the NESCBWI listserv.

6. Jarrett J. Krosoczka gave a great--and totally funny--talk on his work, art, and writing. This guy is charming, funny, self-deprecating, cool, and very articulate. A great speaker. I sat there listening to him, feeling totally inadequate, and I thought, Okay, Gail, your reading of Zen, such as it is, is supposed to help you in situations like this. How? Oh. That's right. Desiring things like charm, humor, cool, and articulateness (it is a word, a noun) leads to unhappiness.

You're damn straight it does.

This guy really is good. You can find lots of links to interviews with him at his website.

I hadn't heard of him. However, when I went to his blog, I recognized this image, which made its way around the Internet last month. Plus, Fuse #8 has posted about him in her continuing series on the hot men of children's literature.

Not that I found Jarrett hot, myself. No, tragically, I have reached that incredibly advanced age when I see an attractive young man (or men, since Dan the Librarian isn't half bad, himself) in his late twenties and think, What a darling boy! Come here, sweetheart! Let me pinch your cheeks. Stay right here. I'm going to go bake you some chocolate chip cookies.

This afternoon I was wondering if there was anything in my reading of Zen that would help me cope with that realization. I think not.

7. During the panel discussion I managed to plug the Cybils.

8. The book signing was one of the more satisfactory that I've been involved with. One librarian brought all his library's holdings of my books so I could sign them. I was delighted. They had at least three of my books! And it wasn't a town I lived in.

9. The trip home after an author appearance is absolutely pressure free. So long as you have gas and toll money, it just doesn't matter how long it takes. That's a good thing, because I got lost in Worcester again on my way home. I'd still be there, but I figured out how to use the GPS system in my car. In my case, this involves pushing a button that says "Home" because someone (not me) has programmed my address into the thing. Even so, I had to make some incorrect turns because I kept getting into turning lanes. Then the computer would say, "Please make a legal u-turn...Please make a legal u-turn...@#%!! it! Make a legal u-turn!"

This was one of my more glamorous days.


mbpbooks said...

Ah, yes ... the drive home, when you play your oldies and drink your Diet Coke, and remember boyfriends in the past when you did think young guys were hot instead of wanting to bake for them ... but of course they're old guys now so you think about your parents instead ... and call them if they're still around, and tell them about your talk, and they say, honey, I'll bet you were much better than you think you were, and that you changed somebody's life for the better, so it's so good you went and we're proud of you so drive carefully and call us when you make it home ...

Unknown said...

There's definitely something strange going on here. I think you must be some kind of synchronicity magnet. I just mentioned Maslow's hierarchy of needs in a comment about post-apocalyptic novels on Jen Robinson's Book Page, and then working my way down my blog reader, I came to this post. Too weird!

Gail Gauthier said...

Mitali--I didn't need Diet Coke yesterday, probably because even though I was there all day I only talked for one hour. But I've had times when I've worked in a grade school speaking four or five times in six hours when I've been so whipped at the end of the day that I had to find a place to get Coke (I don't drink coffee) and sometimes even something to eat so that I could make the hour drive home.

Sheila--I just looked at Jen's post and comments. In my limited knowledge of Maslow and his hierarchy I'd never thought of applying it to whole cultures (which is what it sounds as if you were doing). But, yes, if everyone drops to the bottom and has to struggle for food and shelter instead of worrying about whether or not they're going to have meaningful work, that's going to make a big difference for that society.

Unknown said...

Well, honestly I don't know if it can be applied to cultures, either. But it just seemed to fit.