Friday, November 27, 2015

Author Jory John

You know the drill. Every Friday, an author or an illustrator drops by to finish my sentences. This week's special guest is Mr. Jory John. We chatted about cake, cake, and more cake. I wrote the words in orange, and he wrote the words in black. Thank you, Jory! 


The idea for I Will Chomp You! came to me while I was eating some cake. (You’ll find that cake plays a pivotal role in this story.) In fact, that’s generally when I do my best brainstorming and writing. I can think clearly, as long as I’m shoveling something into my mouth. But it’s not all just sweets and empty calories, my friends. In fact, I’m currently finishing Mr. Schu’s sentences while eating a steady combination of green olives, pickles, Cheez-Its, and — because the Cheez-Its weren’t enough to satisfy my insane cravings — some actual cheese, which ends with the way more appetizing letter-combination “ese,” rather than the much less appealing “z-Its.” An important distinction.



Bob Shea’s illustrations are amazing! Man alive and holy crow. Just the absolute best. So hilarious and beautiful and dynamic and fun to look at, all at once. I’ve been a huge Bob Shea fan for years. (I call myself a “Bobhead,” which is kind of like a Deadhead, without all the traveling around and endless drum jams.) I honestly remember the first time that I saw Bob’s Dinosaur vs. Bedtime. I was teaching writing at 826 Valencia— a nonprofit educational center in San Francisco — and one of the interns asked me if I’d read this new picture book that we’d just added to our library. I sat at my desk and proceeded to read it — twice, in fact — and laughed many times, and immediately promoted that particular intern to executive director. Later, I bought all of Bob’s backlist for my own personal collection, and set them alongside my Shel Silversteins and my James Marshalls … and all the other hilarious greats. I will tell you this: I didn’t ever think that I’d get the chance to collaborate with Bob Shea on a book (let alone two, wink wink! hint hint! nudge nudge! check back with us next year!), and I’m still amazed that it even happened. He’s also just such a swell guy to be around. We’ve gotten the chance to hang out in person a couple times, and I feel like we share a pretty similar sense of humor. (Or, if we don’t, he’s good at faking it.) 


You should read I Will Chomp You! at breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, snack time and second snack time. That is, you should read it at ALL the important meals, when ALL the most important reading is done. You should also read it at bedtime. And wakeup time. And midday time. And every birthday, yours and otherwise. You should read I Will Chomp You! any chance you get. That is, if you DARE! Muhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Etc. But yeah, read it anytime, really. Besides, what is time? It’s a big question. And please don’t tell me that you subscribe to that common misperception that your life is moving, second-by-second, in a linear direction, that the past is gone and the future hasn’t yet occurred. Because, if I only know one thing, it’s this fact: Every moment has already happened and every moment will always be happening. You can send a message to your younger self if you simply move the pen-atoms fast enough and put enough stamps on the darned thing. So, I guess what this ultimately means is this: Don’t worry. You will read I Will Chomp You! when you happen to read it, and guess what — you’ve read it, already, even if you haven’t. My point couldn’t be clearer. 


My favorite cake is ALL cake (except for carrot and things with other vegetables or nuts). Is that too general? It is? OK, I’ll try to be more specific: My favorite cake involves some sort of vanilla icing and rainbow sprinkles. I’m a sprinkles fanatic! In college — and this is completely true — my student newspaper (I was a columnist, cartoonist and editor, which is a triple threat in the college-newspaper business) awarded me something called “The Rainbow Sprinkles Award.” I’m pretty sure that I’m the only person to win that particular honor, ever. In fact, I think it was created for me and then it quickly vanished when I left. Now that I think about it, I don’t know what the heck that award even was. Sure, I ate plenty of frozen yogurt that semester, topped with rainbow sprinkles … but, in retrospect, the award seems fake. Then again, that didn’t stop me from proudly displaying it above my desk. “Oh, that?” I would say, when people noticed it. “That’s my Rainbow Sprinkles Award. Yeah, I got it for … um … writing. Or something.” I also like angel food cake quite a bit. 


Mr. Mac Barnett and I met in the fall of 2004. The temperature outside was a steady 51 degrees. It felt like it was going to rain, but it was one of those misleading Bay Area weather patterns where the clouds wouldn’t budge. I remember that the crows were acting strangely, that day, as if they knew something I didn’t. I watched them closely, but tried not to make it very obvious. They knew that I knew, and I knew that they knew that I knew, but nobody could prove anything, nor did we try. In any case, our (Mac and my) first real conversation actually happened inside Pixar Studios, in Emeryville, California. This seems untrue — like much of what I’ve said, already — but it’s the exact opposite: it’s true. Pixar was hosting a benefit for 826 Valencia, by showing the movie The Incredibles (a small, arthouse film that you’ve certainly never heard of) with all of the proceeds going to student programming. Mac and I were working the event as reps for the aforementioned 826, and also McSweeney’s, which is an independent publishing house, then located under the same roof. We were wearing name tags that night at Pixar, so I knew who he was, immediately. “You must be Mac,” I said, with a wink and a nudge and a shove. Our first conversation was (likely) about pranking and that’s (likely) why we decided to collaborate, exactly ten years later to the moment (this is a rough estimate), on a book about two pranksters engaged in a prank war, which we called “The Terrible Two.” 


Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about my relative inability to finish sentences without going off on endless, pointless tangents. In fact, this whole exercise reminds me of a story. It’s an epic story, filled with a huge cast of characters. But we probably ran out of space a long time ago. After all, this is the Internet. So I’ll tell you about the “Lemon Hurling Incident” the next time we do this. Intrigued? So yeah, you should have asked me about the Lemon Hurling Incident. Oh, and I think I forgot to mention our new picture book, I Will Chomp You!. You should have asked me about that, too. 
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Borrow Jory John's books from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

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