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Chris Barton writes about Chris Barton's writing ... and other, more fascinating elements of the world of children's book publishing.
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1. In which I talk with Katie Davis about gaming, writing, marketing, and 85 or so other things

Podcast Archives - Author Katie Davis  Video Marketing for Writers

I’m a few days late to the party, thanks to my participation in the YALSA and ILF events, but I’m happy this morning to share with you this recently recorded interview I did for Katie Davis’ kidlit podcast, Brain Burps About Books.

In addition to discussing Shark Vs. Train and Attack! Boss! Cheat Code!, Katie and I talked quite a bit about my email newsletter, Bartography Express, which I wrote about earlier this year for Cynsations. And in fact, while I was listening to our interview, I was actually putting the finishing touches on this month’s edition.

The November edition includes, among other things, a Q&A with K.A. Holt and a giveaway of her new book, Rhyme Schemer. If you want to receive this issue in your very own inbox and get in the running for the giveaway, you can sign up on my home page.

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2. Goodbye, YALSA! Hello, ILF and B&N!

There’s nothing better than a crowd of librarians and authors to remind me how lucky I am to be in this line of work, and to inspire me to keep on writing and earning my place among this bunch.

This past weekend, Austin hosted the annual YA symposium of the Young Adult Library Services Association. I participated in the Saturday evening Book Blitz — in which authors seated behind stacks of publisher-donated books get blitzed by librarians snagging their share of signed copies — as well as a Sunday-morning panel discussion including (left-to-right in Paula Gallagher’s photo above) Jonathan Auxier, Lisa Yee, Andrew Smith, moderator/organizer/wrangler Kelly Milner Halls, Bruce Coville, and Laurie Ann Thompson.

It’s going to be a full week, as I’ll also be speaking at the Indiana Library Federation’s annual conferenceShark Vs. Train is a winner of the Young Hoosier Book Award — and then reading Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! at a Barnes & Noble back here in Austin.

If you’re interested in hearing me talk for, oh, 27 minutes and 59 seconds, but won’t be making it to either of those events, I’m happy to offer a third option: this podcast interview that author Jason Henderson recorded with me last week. Enjoy!

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3. Researching, writing about, talking about and — yes — playing video games

Recently I was struggling to remember the name of the YA novel I had read that got me all choked up at the very end, but then I realized it hadn’t been a novel at all. It had been…

…a video game.

But which video game? Ah, for that piece of information, you’ll need to check out Laurie Ann Thompson’s interview with me about how I researched and wrote Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet.

AttackBossFaces

Laurie and I also talked about our gaming experiences, including the ones that led me to dedicate the book to a childhood (and lifelong) friend of mine.

And I disclose which letter of the alphabet provided the biggest challenge. If you think you know which one it was, go see if you guessed right!

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4. Get caught up on Picture Book Month

PBMLOGO2014-CHAMPION-371x300

My post on “Why Picture Books Are Important” went up on the Picture Book Month blog this past week — but my insights are just one-ninth (at most!) of what’s been shared so far by a host of authors and illustrators.

If you haven’t stopped by yet and enjoyed what Arree Chung, Robin Preiss Glasser, Kelly Bingham, and others have had to say on the topic, what are you waiting for?

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5. A much closer look at The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

John Roy Lynch final cover

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers is offering quite a generous preview of the picture book biography by Don Tate and me that’s coming in April 2015.

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch is the true story of John Roy Lynch’s 10-year transformation from teenage field slave to U.S. Congressman during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Just yesterday, I got to see full-size printed pages of this book for the first time. I’ve never been more proud of anything I’ve written, and I can’t wait for you all to be able to see the whole thing.

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6. Who you’ll find in Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet

AttackBossFaces

I absolutely love this peek at the characters that illustrator Joey Spiotto created for Attack! Boss! Cheat Code!

But, man, is it tough being a dragon.

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7. Picture Book Month starts tomorrow!

PBMLOGO2014-CHAMPION-371x300

I’m excited to be featured in Picture Book Month this year along with a host of other authors and illustrators. My spot on the calendar comes next Thursday, Nov. 6, but throughout the month the picture book champions will include:

Aaron Becker
Kelly Bingham
Sophie Blackall
Arree Chung
Anna Dewdney
Johnette Downing
Ame Dyckman
Jill Esbaum
Carolyn Flores
Lupe Ruiz-Flores
Robin Preiss Glasser
Deborah Heiligman
Marla Frazee
Stefan Jolet
Kathleen Krull
Rene Colato Lainez
Loreen Leedy
Betsy Lewin
Ted Lewin
Brian Lies
Kelly J. Light
Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Alexis O’Neill
Sandra Markle
Ann Whitford Paul
Aaron Reynolds
Judy Schachner
Linda Joy Singleton
David Schwartz

We hope you’ll join us in this celebration of the print picture book and all it does for readers and families.

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8. Some things I learned from writing Shark Vs. Train and Attack! Boss! Cheat Code!

Attack Boss Cheat Code - May 2014

SharkVTrain_FINAL

I’ve got a new guest-post at Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Cynsations blog on the roles my kids played (and they roles they didn’t) in the creation of my picture books Shark Vs. Train and Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet.

Here’s a smidge of what I say:

Every book is an opportunity to navigate that territory in the middle, between what we adults want and love and think we know and what those kids want and love and think they know.

Through my experiences with Shark Vs. Train and Attack! Boss! Cheat Code!, I’ve come to appreciate just how much room there is to maneuver through that middle ground.


To read the rest, please visit Cynsations

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9. Mr. Schu reveals the cover of The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

John Roy Lynch cover tease

Over at his blog Watch. Connect. Read., librarian John Schumacher has unveiled the cover of my spring 2015 picture book biography, The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers).

So please go, feast your eyes on Don Tate’s artwork, and enjoy a few words from me about the unusual journeys of our subject and our book alike.

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10. Writing advice? Don’t take it just from me — take it from…

…all of these folks, too!

Tom Angleberger
Artie Bennett
Judy Blundell
Nick Bruel
Michael Buckley
Bryan Collier
Barbara Dee
Bruce Degan
Ame Dyckman
Marla Frazee
Robin Preiss Glasser
Deborah Heiligman
Victoria Kann
Alan Katz
Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Peter Lerangis
Gail Carson Levine
Brian Lies
CJ Lyons
Florence Minor
Wendell Minor
Marc Tyler Nobleman
Matt Phelan
Peter Reynolds
Judy Schachner
Eric Velasquez
Jane Yolen

We each helped author Katie Davis celebrate the 200th episode of her Brain Burps About Books podcast by chipping in some writing advice. I especially enjoyed Brian Lies’ tip for writing in rhyme, but who knows whose advice will be most helpful for you?

Check us all out and let Katie know what you think!

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11. A new title for my next* next book

For a decade now, I’ve had a book in the works about Willam, Harold, and Lew Christensen, the Utah-born brothers who had a huge influence in the development of ballet in the United States. Among their many contributions are the first full-length production of The Nutcracker in the US, in 1944.

And for pretty much all that time, this project — which will be published by Millbrook in fall 2015, with illustrations by Cathy Gendron — has gone by the name Pioneers & Pirouettes.

But no more.

As of this week, my Christensen brothers book is called…

The Nutcracker Comes to America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition

You would think that, after knowing the book by one title for so long, it would be hard to switch to a new moniker. But in this case, nope.

I love this new title — the book itself has changed over the years, the story it tells has shifted, and this new title fits perfectly what this book has become.

RIP, Pioneers & Pirouettes. And long live The Nutcracker Comes to America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition!

*As opposed to my next book, which is still called The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, the picture book biography of a young man who in ten years transformed from teenage field slave to US congressman. The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch will be published this coming April by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, with illustrations by Don Tate.

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12. Scenes from the public debut of Attack! Boss! Cheat Code!

Thanks for capturing these moments, @msphillipsclass!

The Q&A after my debut reading of Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet at the Texas Book Festival today included the following questions/exchanges/assertions:

***

First Girl: Why do boys go crazy for video games?

Me: Same reasons boys do, I guess.

First Girl: I go crazy for TV.

Second Girl: I go crazy for video games and TV.

***

Boy: Why did you write a book about video games? They turn your brain to mush.

***

Third Girl: Even if you don’t like video games, you can still read the book.

***

I can already tell that I’m going to enjoy the heck out of school visits for this one.

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13. Bartography Express for October 2014, featuring Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet

How many copies of my new book, Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet, am I giving away this month to subscribers of my monthly newsletter?

Three.

How many opportunities do readers have between now and November 1 to help me celebrate my new book?

Two.

And how many illustrators of Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! participate in this issue’s Q&A?

One.

(OK, so, that one was easy, since there’s only one Joey Spiotto.)

That’s an extremely high-level summary of what you’ll find in this month’s Bartography Express. If you’re not already receiving Bartography Express, click the image below for a look. If you like what you see, click “Join” in the bottom right corner, and you’ll be in the running for this month’s giveaway.

20141020 Bartography Express

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14. Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! review in Gifted Homeschoolers Forum

GHF resource-review-11-240x300

I’m so delighted this morning to see Pamela Price’s review of Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet added to the list of resources offered by the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum (GHF).

Here’s GHF’s description of what they have to offer:

With all the resources available to homeschool families, finding the ones that best fit our gifted and 2e kids can be daunting. Who better to help than families who have tried, tested, and reviewed the actual resources with their own kids? GHF has put together a list of reviews from real gifted and 2e families, so that you can find the resources that work for you.

And here’s a bit of what Pamela (author of How to Work and Homeschool) had to say about the book:

Living on the fringe of the gaming world until I became a parent of a very sandbox game-oriented kid, I knew just enough game lingo to pass as “not totally clueless.” Thanks to Chris, I feel more versed on the basic terms, and I really wish that we’d have had a book like this when our kiddo was younger as he was just starting out with the vocabulary. The vibrant illustrations reflect a few decades of games so there are visuals evoking everything from Mario Brothers to Minecraft–making it a charming gift for game fans of all ages.

Thanks, Pamela!

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15. Make art, celebrate video games, win a book!

Joey Spiotto contest

Joey Spiotto, the illustrator of Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet, has got a kid-friendly, art-loving, videogame-celebrating book giveaway going on.

He’s taking contest entries via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

I understand that I’m disqualified, but you may know someone eligible — maybe even a classroom or library full of eligible someones…

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16. Why, yes — it has been a while…

CISYID to ABC

It’s been three and a half years to the day since the publication of my previous book, Can I See Your I.D.?, and today also brings the release of my new book, Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet.

It was not my intention to go so long between books, and according to my publishing schedule I’ll be making up for lost time in the next year and a half. That said, you probably didn’t even notice the gap — heaven knows there’s lots else in the world more worthy of your attention.

But I noticed, and I appreciate the patience of my wife and family, my agent and editors and friends.

And I especially appreciate all you readers out there who let me know in the meantime how much joy you were getting out of Shark Vs. Train and The Day-Glo Brothers. I’m so glad to finally offer proof that there’s more where that came from.

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17. And in between our sets, we can swap hair-care tips

2014 TBF schedule

After the Texas Book Festival in Austin on October 25-26, I’ll be able to add “Opened for Ziggy Marley” to my resume.

Remember, parents: You’ll want to arrive early at the Children’s Tent to see Ziggy. Probably, like, 30 minutes early…

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18. How to Succeed in (the Kidlit) Business Without Really Crying

carol-leifer-book

I was back at Cynsations as a guest blogger last week, sharing my thoughts on a new book that’s now become my go-to gift for graduates — but which is also quite relevant to those of us in the business of making books for young readers:

[W]hen I heard comedian and TV writer Carol Leifer (“Seinfeld,” “Modern Family”) on a podcast several weeks ago talking about the attitudes toward professionalism and creativity that have come in handy during her four-decades-and-counting career, those reflections sounded to me like they could have come from an experienced, successful children’s/YA author.

And when Leifer mentioned her new book, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Crying: Lessons From a Life in Comedy, I suspected it was one I should read.

I’ve now read it twice. Let me tell you: Its applicability to the kid lit career that I and so many of my friends have chosen far exceeds my expectations. Plus, it’s really funny. You should read it.

Seriously — whatever your professional or creative path, this entire book is worth your time. But in case your not-yet-finished reading pile resembles mine, I’d like to share some of the especially resonant parts of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Crying…

You can read those selections over at Cynsations.

Thank you, Carol Leifer, for writing such a helpful, enjoyable book, and thanks a bunch to Cynthia Leitich Smith for giving me the space to share some of my favorite lessons from Leifer’s book.

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19. Comment on Games & Books & Q&A: P.J. Hoover by Chris Barton

I’m glad you like it, Keri — it’s been a blast to get book folks and game folks to talk about the time they’ve spent in each other’s worlds.

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20. Comment on Games & Books & Q&A: P.J. Hoover by Chris Barton

You’re so welcome, P.J. — I really appreciate your enthusiasm.

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21. Comment on Games & Books & Q&A: P.J. Hoover by Keri Rabe

As a librarian and a gamer, I love it when authors add another dimension of their work in game form! Great input from P.J. Hoover, and cool segment on your blog, Chris!

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22. Comment on Games & Books & Q&A: P.J. Hoover by P. J. Hoover

Thank you so much for featuring me today, Chris!

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23. Games & Books & Q&A: Rachel Simone Weil

partytimehexcellentI’m really pleased to be joined in this installment of my Games & Books & Q&A series by a video game historian, and by the creator of NES games and glitch art under the alias Party Time! Hexcellent!, and by the curator of computer museum FEMICOM, and by an organizer of Juegos Rancheros, a monthly indie games event here in Austin, Texas.

Bringing all of those folks together would have been a lot of work on my part, except for one thing: they’re all the same person, Rachel Simone Weil. Rachel took time out from her latest batch of projects to answer a few questions via email about games and books she’s loved, and I really appreciate it.

CB: What do you remember about the first video game you ever played?

RSW: It’s perhaps not strictly a video game, but the first electronic game I recall playing is a handheld LCD baseball game by Konami called Bottom of the Ninth. The graphics were on par with those you might see in a calculator or alarm clock — not terribly sophisticated — but I found the game to be quite fun and to have a good replay value. I never really outgrew the game, either; it continued to be fun for me as I got older.

If you’ve ever played an old LCD handheld game, you know that the motion of images on screen is not fluid. In Bottom of the Ninth, after a pitch was thrown, the ball would rapidly pop in and out of predetermined places to suggest movement. Each time the ball populated a new position on screen, the game would produce a little beep. Audio cues became incredibly important in knowing when to take a swing. The sound of those successive baseball beeps is still firmly implanted in my mind.

CB: What did you like to read when you were a kid? What did you love about it?

First Dictionary of Cultural LiteracyRSW: This is a hard question to answer because I consumed books so rapidly as a child. I enjoyed some traditional children’s literature (Madeleine L’Engle, Judy Blume), as well as poetry, classics, teen magazines, religious texts, guides to rocks and minerals, knock-knock joke anthologies, books about fortunetelling and witchcraft, comics… just about everything!

As odd as it sounds, the books I remember reading the most were encyclopedias and dictionaries. I had a copy of E. D. Hirsch’s A First Dictionary of Cultural Literacy that I read to the point of it completely falling apart. I even read through a thesaurus cover to cover once! I had a general love of words and language that carried over into adulthood a bit; before beginning my research and artistic practice in video games, I worked for a number of years as a book editor.

CB: What book that you read while growing up had the most influence on who you became as an adult?

sophiesworldRSW: Around the age of 12, I read an English translation of Sofies verden (Sophie’s World), a Norwegian novel about the history of philosophy. There were two things about Sophie’s World that left an impression on me. The first of these was the way in which the novel blended fiction and nonfiction, entertainment and learning (“edutainment,” if you must). It appealed to my weird, thesaurus-reading sensibilities but had little dashes of mystery novel and Alice in Wonderland thrown in, too.

Secondly, Sophie’s World was my first introduction to philosophy as a subject matter, and I found it so interesting that a conceptual problem could be considered through different frameworks or ways of thinking. In the book, Sophie’s teacher, Alberto Knox, makes it a point to note different philosophical approaches throughout history: “Socrates would have thought X was the solution, but Kant would have argued that it was in fact Y,” for example. This was radically different than the kind of thinking I encountered in school: one right answer, one knowable fact at a time.

Through my current work with video-game development and FEMICOM Museum, I am interested in the destabilization of knowledge and history and facts, and I suspect that Sophie’s World has played some role in seeding that interest.

***

I expect to continue this series through the publication later this month of my book Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet. (I suspect that this book will appeal to a few of those reluctant readers we just discussed.) If there’s anyone in the gamer or kidlit camp that you’d love to see me feature in upcoming posts in this series, please drop me a line or tweet at me or just leave a message in the comments.

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24. My appearance on the Travel Channel’s Mysteries at the Museum

This is a bit belated, but I appeared this past Friday night on an episode of Mysteries at the Museum on the Travel Channel. Here’s a taste:

Why me, and why this program? One of the subjects I profiled in Can I See Your I.D.? True Stories of False Identities was serial impostor Ferdinand Waldo Demara Jr.

CAN-I-SEE-YOUR-ID-cover
In my book, I focused on this Massachusetts-born high school dropout’s exploits as surgeon “Dr. Joseph Cyr” in the Canadian navy during the Korean War. But when Mysteries at the Museum needed someone to speak — on camera at the Texas Prison Museum — about Demara’s stint working for the Texas prison system under the name “Ben Jones,” they went for some guy in a purple shirt calling himself “Chris Barton.”

I’ll post a link to the full episode when it becomes available online.

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25. Boing Boing, Polygon, The Escapist, and N3rdabl3 on Attack! Boss! Cheat Code!

Attack Boss Cheat Code - May 2014

Boy, has there been a lot of coverage of Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet these past few days. It’s all been great to see, and you can see for yourself at Boing Boing

My 11-year-old daughter, an ardent gamer, was familiar with more of the words in Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! (e.g., griefer, instance, mod, sandbox, unlockable) than I was, but we both appreciated Joey Spiotto’s cute and colorful illustrations that accompanied the terms.

and Polygon

Here’s a new book, gorgeously illustrated, that takes a lighthearted look at the lexicon of game culture. Ostensibly aimed at kids


The Escapist

Hoping to give parents, children and curious would-be gamers alike a new tool to learn about gaming and its wider culture, author Chris Barton wrote Attack! Boss! Cheat Code!: A Gamer’s Alphabet. Due to release later this month, it combines common gaming terms and lingo with colorful illustrations by artist Joey Spiotto to create an introductory book that people of all stripes can learn from and enjoy.

and N3rdabl3:

It’s an adorable take on ABC’s and will likely be a must-have inclusion to the library of any gamer’s new-spawn.

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