My wife and I recently had a new baby, which means I have momentarily become terrible at organizing my schedule. Case in point, a few weeks ago, I had a Skype visit planned with the great Eric Carlson (@buffaloteacher), a Minnesota teacher who has read Peter Nimble to his class for the last three years. I love Skyping, especially for teachers as awesome as Mr. C! Here’s a picture I drew of him last year as a zombie:
So this year we had our annual Skype visit lined up, and Mr. C had his class all excited. Witness some awesome pictures they drew in preparation:
But on the day we were set to Skype … I FORGOT ABOUT IT ENTIRELY!1
Mr Carlson’s class was very forgiving, but I felt like I had to make it up to them.
So when we had our visit the following week, I added a little “punishment” for myself. I spread out a whole bunch of food from my fridge along with a bowl and spoon 2. After each kid asked a question, I let them instruct me to put one ingredient into the bowl and promised to eat it at the end. Here’s what it looked like:
I had promised to eat the entire bowl, but when push-came-to-shove, I could barely get down a single (heaping) spoonful … I may have even thrown up in my mouth a little bit while saying goodbye.
All in all, I’d say it was an AWESOME Skype visit!
Just a quick announcement to say that Peter Nimble was shortlisted for the 2014 Sequoyah Book Award–confirming my long-held suspicion that Oklahoma readers have great taste!
For the next few months, I’ll be offering FREE SKYPE VISITS to schools in Oklahoma. If you’re a teacher in OK and want me to Skype with your students, please send me a message.
I was featured in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review this Sunday. For those interested, you can read my interview here. The photograph is of me sitting in the local Argentinian coffee shop where I wrote the first draft of Peter Nimble back when I was in graduate school.
I’ve recently had a lot of readers/teachers/parents write me to ask about biblical allusions in Peter Nimble. Among them was my Trib interviewer, Rege Behe, who couldn’t help but notice the similarities between baby Peter in his floating basket and baby Moses in the reeds. That led to a pretty fun conversation about biblical tropes in literature (which are ubiquitous).
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Auxier draws on fascination with children’s literature for ‘Peter Nimble’
This week, Peter Nimble hits bookstores in Merrie Olde England! It’s being published by Scholastic UK, and it looks 100% awesome. As you can see, Scholastic decided to go with the US cover art — which I wholeheartedly support. Even better, they added GOLD FOIL to the logo.
Gold foil, people!
To celebrate, I’m running a special giveaway for UK readers. Winners will get a signed copy of Peter Nimble with a hand-drawn illustration/inscription inside. All you have to do is the following:
3) Leave a comment on this blog with a link to your post/tweet
That’s it! Follow those steps and Bob’s your uncle! Now get Tweeting!1
- Fine Print: Entrants must be from the UK; I will be selecting two winners by using a random.org number picker at midnight on January 31, 2012; Winners will receive a hardcover copy of Peter Nimble with a custom illustration. ↩
A lot of friends have expressed disappointment that they were unable to attend my launch party in August. Well, good news! The fine folks at Pittsburgh’s own Penguin Bookshop are throwing a Peter Nimble book party!
The event will be on Saturday, Dec 17th from 1-3pm. There will be hot cocoa, cookies, readings, games, and more! If you live or know anyone who lives in the Pittsburgh area, please tell them to come! I’ll also be using this as an opportunity to introduce the community to my school programs — so those of you who have been dying to see some costumes and yo-yo tricks would be advised to come!
At long last, PeterNimble.com is live!
The site is the result of some work by me and a ton of work by the brilliant Amanda McPherson (who also designed The Scop)! At PeterNimble.com, you’ll find everything you’d ever want to know about the greatest thief who ever lived — including reviews, an illustration gallery, interviews, event photos, and an awesome “mischief!” page for aspiring delinquents!
Also, if you’re so inclined, I would love for fans to Tweet the word by clicking here!
I wanted to post about what I learned while cutting the book trailer for Peter Nimble. In part this is a way for me to make a document that I can refer to the next time I am foolish enough to try something like this. Much of what I learned is fairly technical — stuff only another person animating in Adobe Flash would want to know. I’m aware that most people don’t need those details, and so I’m limiting all the computery stuff to footnotes, which you can read at your own peril.
FIVE THINGS I LEARNED FROM MAKING MY OWN BOOK TRAILER:
It’s Advertising, not Art
I originally saw this trailer as a chance to highlight some of my favorite illustrations from the book. So instead of writing a script that properly introduced the story, I wrote something that tied together images that may-or-may-not have been essential to the premise … the result looked pretty but was fairly meaningless to viewers who had not already read Peter Nimble. I eventually scrapped this concept in favor of something that could draw in new audiences — After all, a book trailer is advertising not art.1
Measure Twice, Cut Once
As a writer and artist, I spend a lot of time stepping back and surveying my work mid-process I’ll print out pages to read aloud. I’ll photocopy a drawing and look at it upside-down. I believe this is a valuable practice in the making of art. In book trailers, it’s a huge waste of time. That didn’t stop me from doing it: as soon as I would create a rough image for the trailer, I’d scramble to insert it (half-finished) into the video to see what it looked like. I wasted a lot of hours going back and forth between Photoshop and Flash in order to make little tweaks. It would have been much smarter to discipline myself and only switch programs when I had completely finished my task at hand.2
Simple Is Better
I sort of went overboard creating distinct animations for each part of each object. That shadow of Peter walking past the window had seventeen moving parts — it took me three straight days to get it not to resemble a lurching zombie. Looking back now, I think I could have gotten away with moving a still image across the window (shadow puppet-style). Instead, I labored far too long over something that is only on screen for a few seconds.3
I have very little success writing when I am near distractions (I’m looking at you, Internet!). This is because every time I pull myself out of a story, it takes me a lot of time just to get back in. When I first started started learning Adobe Flash, I was cramming so much new information into my head that stepping away for a day or two was like hitting the reset button — I’d sit down to the computer having forgotten everything. If I had really kept my head down and barreled through the trailer, I think I could have finished this whole thing in three weeks. As it was, with all the the stopping and starting, it took me over two months.4
Consider the Cost
It is an absurdity of our age that a person with a hole in his sock will spend less in buying a brand-new sock than he would in buying needle and thread to darn the old one. Book trailers might also fit into this category. I spent almost two months learning Adobe Flash and animating the video. Between software, music, and voice over, I shelled out about $900 — and it could have been a lot more if my composer and actor hadn’t been kind enough to give me “friends and family” discounts! This is still well below market rate, but when I add to it my own time investment (est. 200 hours), an outside book trailer company starts to look like a worthwhile investment.5
I wanted to make my own trailer because I figured it would (a) be fun and (b) learning Flash would empower me to make trailers for subsequent books. Much of it was fun, and I am indeed now capable of making my own trailers … but it was also a pretty big investment both in time and money. Also, a lot of frustration.6 There were also logistical costs: in the perfect world, the trailer would have come out in mid July, not last week.
So was it worth it?
You tell me …
- Know your medium: what looks good in print does not work for video. I spent countless hours pixel-editing illustrations in Photoshop only to have them look grainy and jagged in Flash. It wasn’t until I gave up and started re-drawing images from scratch using a softer brush, lower dpi (150), and Gaussian blur that images started looking smooth in Flash. ↩
- Don’t export your art until you’ve optimized it for Flash. Also, take an extra five minutes and add a solid light-gray layer beneath your image so you can erase any errant pixels/lines obscuring the transparency — take you time with this last step because otherwise you’ll have to go back to Photoshop do it again. (and again, and again). ↩
- Learn how to use a “boning tool” … which is designed to make puppet skeletons easier. As it was, every time I made a minor adjustment to Peter’s body, I had to re-animate every one of his limbs to match! ↩
- Adobe Flash is a ridiculous program that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Just because you know things like Illustrator, Photoshop, and Final Cut, do not think that knowledge will apply to Flash. For that reason, I was incredibly dependent on my one-month subscription to Lynda video tutorials, which do a marvelous job of walking even the most clueless user through Flash. ↩
- If I do this again, I will make a point of paying to upgrade the RAM on my Macbook Pro from 4gb to 8gb … as it was, I had trouble keeping both Flash and Photoshop open at the same time. ↩
- One last tip (gripe) about Adobe Flash: I couldn’t export my 24fps video without getting all sorts of awful “artifacts” in the final product. Many hours of experimentation and Googling taught me that if I exported at 1/2 the frame rate, I could speed it back up in another program (iMovie, also terrible) without problems. ↩
You may recall that I went on blogging hiatus a few months back to complete the illustrations for Peter Nimble.1 One of the wonderful things about drawing for days on end was that it gave me time to listen to all the audiobooks and podcasts I’d been putting off. One of the best things I listened to during this time was Katie Davis’ Brain Burps About Books.
Brain Burps is a podcast dedicated to the world of children’s literature — every week Katie has marketing tips, business talk, interviews, and book reviews. I listened to every back episode of Katie’s Podcast (nearly 50 hours!) while drawing one particularly frustrating picture. To my mind, this will always be the “Katie Davis” chapter:
So imagine my delight when Katie Davis asked if she could interview me for her show! We had a great time trying to conduct a conversation in post-hurricane conditions. Among the topics covered were inspirations for Peter Nimble, the importance of rules in a magical world, and our mutual love of the movie Jaws.2
Anyone interested in entering the world of children’s literature need only to listen to Katie’s show to learn the ropes … any why not start with my episode? Check it out!
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Peter Nimble & His Fantastic Eyes book trailer:
Neat, right? The music was done by Aaron Roche. Narration was read by Sarah Zimmerman. The video took me a little longer to finish than I had hoped. This was mainly because I had to learn how to use Adobe Flash from scratch. The good news is that I learned lots of valuable lessons for the next time I make a book trailer, all of which I will share with you in an upcoming post!
In the meantime, I would love it if you Tweeted the word about this trailer!
I’m sure regular Scop readers are getting sick of all my recent publicity-style announcements about Peter Nimble. In that spirit, I am going to restrain my gushing about last week’s book launch party to the footnote at the end of this sentence.1 Instead, I want to focus on one question that came up during the Q & A from blogger/teacher Monica Edinger.
Monica wanted me to discuss how I had patterned my narrator after the narrator in JM Barrie’s Peter Pan.2 Though flattered by the comparison, I didn’t agree with her point. I wasn’t able to sufficiently respond to her at the event, but I did follow up with an email, which I’ve excerpted below.
My Three Reasons that the Narrator in Peter Nimble Is Different than the Narrator of Peter Pan:
Barrie gives his Narrator a special vocabulary. If the digressions of Peter Pan indicate that the Narrator is spinning his tale, his language enforces it. More than once, Barrie uses opaque terms that have no grounding in the real world. A perfect example of this would be Mrs. Darling’s “kiss,” which never really gets explained. That’s because there is no explanation beyond its offhand use. Unlike the teacherly essayists of the 18th century (and, I would argue, Peter Nimble’s Narrator), Barrie’s Narrator isn’t interested in sharing/defining this special vocabulary with his readers.
Barrie’s Narrator sentimentalizes childhood. While Barrie isn’t afraid to let his child characters get a little bloody, he still maintains an infatuation with their innate innocence reminiscent of the Romantics. Even in calling Peter Pan “heartless,” there is a sense of longing in the Narrator’s voice … children are to him pure in a way adults will never be. I would argue that in the Narrator of Peter Nimble, we may find affection toward our young hero, but never adoration of the level that Barrie uses for Peter Pan… the Narrator of Peter Nimble, for example, would never suggest that Peter or Peg contains something special that adults like Professor Cake do not.
Monica was kind enough to respond. While she agreed with my above points, she also thought I was ignoring one major similarity in our writing — specifically how both our narrators are able to move between character perspectives. I’ve reprinted Monica’s excellent response below (with some minor edits).
Monica’s One Gigantic Reason That I’m Wrong:
When reading Peter Nimble I noticed the omniscient narrator as a character, breaking through here and there to explain things … I became extremely aware of this sort of narration due to Philip Pullman.3 Philip speaks of his narrator as a sprite, a character who can flit all over the place. I did think you did that as did Barrie … isn’t your narrator in that tradition of being able to be in different places, inside the minds of different characters, etc.? This is what Philip finds so fascinating about the omniscient narrator and me, too.
And just like that, I’m forced to completely reverse my opinion on the subject! Going through the book, I realize that a narrator that shifts perspectives is a pretty rare thing, and other than Barrie, I can’t think of another early author that does it. Well played, Ms. Edinger.
And she’s not alone! This very same topic came up last week in an interview with author Kate Milford … and my response was similarly dense.
What’s the moral of this story?
Never trust a writer to talk about his own book. He’s an idiot.
- Holy crap, it was AMAZING! We had about 90 people show up … which is a lot more than they had chairs for! I got a chance to meet so many wonderful readers, and reconnect with old friends. We gave away Peter Nimble t-shirts to everyone who asked questions. There was also a birthday cake, which was delicious! (I even forced the people to sing “happy Birthday” to me!) The biggest treat of all was that my father, who had just had emergency surgery in DC, checked himself out of the hospital that morning so he could show up and surprise me — I may or may not have cried upon seeing him. For those interested in seeing some pics, you can go here, here, or here. Also, Adam Silva did a great rundown of the event here. ↩
- I have a well-documented love for Peter Pan. Betsy Bird outlines a few Barrie connections in her School Library Journal review. Also, I talk about the relationship between one of my main characters and Wendy Darling in this interview with Bookpage Magazine. ↩
- Yes, she is on a first-name basis with the man! For those who are interested in the subject of the “sprite” narrator, I’d advise you to check out Monica’s very-excellent post on the subject here. ↩