The Indubitable Dweeb
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June 15, 2013

School Visit: Learning Community Charter School of Jersey City, NJ

DWEEB

Do you see that picture? Seriously, folks, do you understand the ridiculously awesome thing you’re looking at there? Click on it for closer inspection. That, my friends, is the blood, sweat and tears of three classes of 5th Graders at LCCS in Jersey City, NJ. These kids were kind enough to not only read DWEEB, but also create some amazing artwork based on the book. You are looking at movie posters! Cereal boxes! Comic strips! Character profiles! And hamburgers of all shapes, sizes and dimensions! Amazing? You better believe it.

I had the distinct honor of visiting these young readers and artists last Thursday. They welcomed me into their school with kindness, questions and pizza. A special thank you goes out to the teachers and staff who invited me, especially Ms. Litman, a friend from the days of yore. LCCS is a wonderful school with kids so smart and audacious that they are demanding a sequel to DWEEB (Random House, are you listening?) and a 150-million-dollar movie based on the book…starring them:

LCCS kids

P.S. One of these kids was wearing a Keith Richards T-shirt. He should probably be cast in the role of Elijah.

May 25, 2013

Hoboken Public Library Book Festival: Saturday, June 8

HobokenBookFestival

For years, I’d been hoping that my hometown of Hoboken would hold a book festival. Of course, I could have organized one myself. But such things require gumption, which is usually in short supply after a day of writing and chasing freelance projects. Luckily, the Hoboken Public Library has bucketloads of gumption, and they probably also have some sort of mind-reading technology, because they’ve taken my idea and run with it. They’re holding their inaugural book festival to kick off the summer and I will be there reading, signing and selling The Only Ones and DWEEB. Here are the details:

  • When: Saturday, June 8, 11am-5pm (my readings: 11:15am-1:00pm; signing and selling: 1pm-3pm)
  • Where: Church Square Park in Hoboken
  • Who: Me! and these other wonderful local authors.
  • How: By hook or by crook

I hope to see you all there!

May 10, 2013

Tachair Bookshoppe Reading: Sunday, May 19

TachairBookshoppe

For years, Jersey City, a place with a population of nearly 250,000, didn’t have an independent bookstore. Tachair Bookshoppe filled the void last year and is already a fixture in the downtown community, a place where you can go to read, drink coffee, catch a musical performance, and see paintings from local artists. Tachair is Gaelic for a meeting place and I hope you will meet me there for some readings from DWEEB, The Only Ones, and (possibly), The Riverman.

  • When: Sunday, May 19 at 5:30 PM
  • Where: Tachair Bookshoppe at 260 Newark Avenue, Jersey City, NJ
  • How: Drive or take the PATH train to Grove Street and walk northwest on Newark Avenue until you reach 2nd Street
  • Why: Because it will be fun!

This world needs more places like Tachair. Like them on Facebook for even more information. And please come out and support them…and me!

 

April 28, 2013

And Then We Came To The Black Licorice

PandaBlackLicoriceI think a lot about endings. I rarely get far in a writing project if I don’t have at least a basic idea of how it will all turn out. I don’t plan many other plot points, but I need that dim beacon on the horizon. Otherwise, I’m lost. And if I’m lost, so is the reader.

I’m the first to admit that I didn’t nail the ending of my debut novel, DWEEB. Sure, it contains surprising revelations and the ridiculous moments of the book crescendo into an even more ridiculous finale, but not enough is logically or emotionally resolved. I always viewed DWEEB as an origin story. I planned it as a prelude to bigger adventures (adventures that probably won’t happen if one is to trust royalty statements). And while I don’t regret my choice of endings, I understand the disappointment that readers have when they reach the last page and say, “Is that all, bub?”

I feel the opposite way about The Only Ones. The ending, while open to interpretation, is all about resolution. Sure, there are some unanswered questions and I could tell more tales set in the world of The Only Ones, but as a stand-alone novel, it accomplishes what it set out to do. At least for me. And at least for a few other readers. People who really enjoy that book, enjoy it because of how it ends. But here’s the rub. People who really hate that book, hate it because of how it ends.

In books, the ending is everything. For that reason, books are different than music, or even movies. You can listen to a piece of music and simply enjoy the melody or lyrics. If it fades out early or comes to an abrupt stop, it’s rarely disappointing. I’ve never heard anyone say, “Well, that was a really interesting and lovely Bob Dylan song, but I can’t recommend it because I just didn’t believe the ending.”

You can also go to a movie, enjoy the heck out of it, and accept a bad ending. I’ve certainly heard people say, “Well, that was a lot a fun, even if the last twenty minutes were total hogwash. I can’t wait for it to come out on Blu-Ray!”

Obviously, a piece of music or a movie with a fantastic ending will be justly celebrated, and yet it’s not necessarily what makes or breaks them for an audience. But since a book is an investment of significant time, and since a book invites readers to linger over the final pages, the ending is everything.

The main complaint about the ending of The Only Ones is that people don’t understand it. This is something I anticipated. I didn’t want everyone to understand it, but I did want people to at least take some time to think about it. What I’ve found is that some readers finish the the book, shrug their shoulders and say, “well that didn’t make a lick of sense,” and then they throw the book at the wall.

“Oh well,” I tell myself. “So it isn’t for everyone. Neither is black licorice. And god bless black licorice for being black licorice.”

But it clearly bugs me. I wouldn’t be writing this if it didn’t. It bugs me even more when readers reveal the ending in an online review. “Hey everyone! Don’t read this book! Turns out there’s black licorice at the end! I was hoping for peanut butter cups. Heck, I’d have even settled for Necco Wafers. But it’s black licorice, people!”

To be fair, readers who enjoy the book sometimes do the same thing. “There’s black licorice at the end! What a surprise! Hurrah! Black licorice!” I appreciate the enthusiasm, but I also appreciate a spoiler-alert every now and then. Because I believe that while spoilers may attract a few new readers who will enjoy the book, or dissuade a few new readers who won’t enjoy the book, spoilers definitely steal a bit of the book’s currency. Part of a book’s value is its ability to surprise.

I just sent in the final copy-edits for The Riverman. Within a month or two, it will be falling into the hands of people who know very little about it. You might be one of those people. I can confidently say that the ending of The Riverman is more satisfying than the ending of DWEEB and not quite as mind-boggling as the ending of The Only Ones. Whether this means it will be more successful, I have no idea. Still, I hope it surprises you, and if it inspires you to throw the book at the wall or to hug it like a fresh-from-the-dryer teddy bear, then I hope you go online and air your grievances or sing some praises. But when it comes to discussing the ending, please just say one of the following:

  1. Black. Friggin’. Licorice.
  2. Holy Cow! Black Licorice!

We’ll all understand what it means.

October 3, 2012

Collingswood Book Festival: Saturday, October 6, 2012

Apparently, this week is Banned Books Week. I’ve never participated, but according to Wikipedia, it’s a week when children dress as Holden Caulfield and parade through streets lined with illiterate PTA members who pelt them with rotten tomatoes. It all culminates in a barn dance, where a bespectacled college comp lit major stands on a bale of hay and shouts, “You know who also banned books? Stalin!” And then an animatronic Stalin descends from the rafters and the Caulfields and the PTA members join together to smash the commie robot to smithereens.

Now, if you’re a book lover (as I’m sure yo are), you could participate in such festivities this weekend or…you could come visit me and a whole bunch of other great NY/NJ/PA authors at the Collingswood Book Festival. Here are the details:

Saturday, October 6
Haddon Ave, Collingswood, NJ
10AM-4PM: I’ll be signing and selling copies of DWEEB and The Only Ones
2PM: I’ll be on a panel called Reaching Out to Young Adult Readers

I attended the 2010 festival and it was a beautiful day in a charming town full of friendly people. I’m expecting more of the same!