Saturday, May 31, 2014

Jarrettown Elementary and the Justice League of Avengers

At my last author visit of the 2013-14 school year, I was greeted by the Justice League of Avengers. 

Apparently they've upped their Superman quota.

(Calling Jarrett J. Krosoczka: Jarrettown Elementary is in Dresher, PA. And while you’re at it, I’d also hit up Jarrett Middle School…in Honolulu.)

My host Jennifer Ruiter could not have capped my speaking season with more infectious enthusiasm. The school is lucky to have her on board, and I can say the same about the other educators I met there.

After Jennifer took a few photos of the group flexing, she said “Now let’s do one with the flash.” To which the Flash responded “I’ve been here all along.”

Friday, May 30, 2014

Full video of "Batman at 75" panel at the Paley Center

Kevin Conroy, Chip Kidd, Kevin Smith, Michael Uslan, and I were told that only a three-minute clip of our 5/5/14 panel would be posted.

But we were then surprised with the whole thing.

Thank you to Travis Langley for recapping Bill Finger highlights of the panel, some of which I am restating here:

  • 37:00 Whitney asks the question that leads me to talk about Bill.
  • 41:30 Michael honors Bill in this year of Bills 100th birthday by introducing granddaughter Athena Finger, who was in attendance.
  • 54:00 Marc discusses what Bill belonging Charles Sinclair gave to him.
  • 1:00:00 Audience questions begin. The first person asks Marc about the most surprising thing hed discovered when researching Bill.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

“The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra”: my first funny picture book

I’m several miles above thrilled to announce my first funny picture book...which is also my first fiction picture book...AKA my first ficture book (though not my first book to mention the chupacabra).

The 5/23/14 announcement (the chupannouncement, if you will…oh, you won’t?) from Publishers Marketplace:

Boys of Steel author Marc Tyler Nobleman's The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra, in which a twitchy herd of goats sets out to scare off the legendary chupacabra, a monster that allegedly eats goats—and only goatsonly to find that neither their own bravery nor the chupacabra's actual cravings are what they were expecting, to Nancy Paulsen at Nancy Paulsen Books.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

“Survivor”-themed 10th birthday party

Twelve kids.

Nine challenges.

Four hours.

One Survivor!

Yes, the girls had to vote each other out. And were great sports about it, as the photos and three short videos below illustrate.

The background:

My love of the TV show Survivor led to my daughter’s love of
Survivor which led to a Survivor-themed 10th birthday party. Knowing this would be rather involved, I started planning it soon after her 9th birthday.

I wondered if it would be upsetting (to the girls, the parents, or both) if we retained the elimination aspect. But I believe in honest competition and facing fear and teaching young people how to lose gracefully. So we kept in voting out (though we did not allow forming alliances, not that there would have been time anyway).

I told the girls that they are friends first, Survivors second. I said that being voted out is a compliment—it means others think you are good enough to beat them. And believe me, every girl wanted to win.

I asked them to think of other games they love to play with friends (chess, Uno, Monopoly)—and asked them to think of how they feel when a friend wins. Then I asked them to imagine if those other games allowed you to get rid of your competition. They understood...and seemed to like the prospect.

It was game on.

How it worked:

  • The Survivors were asked to come in white T-shirts, shorts with pockets (in case they found the hidden immunity idol), and sneakers.
  • Soon as they arrived at 5 p.m., they ate hot dogs and hamburgers (we spared them rice) while I showed them relevant clips from several episodes of Survivor:
  • an introduction (how the competitors meet and start the game)
  • a merge
  • a food challenge
  • an endurance challenge
  • a tribal council
  • To form two teams of six, they randomly drew buffs (either blue or orange bandanas). They each got a matching Survivor sticker (blue = water, orange = fire) and a nametag. (As in real Survivor, not all the players knew each other beforehand; it was a mix of friends from school, the neighborhood, ballet, etc.).
  • They had five minutes to come up with a tribe name (my only parameter: the name could not be an English word) and draw a tribe banner using only different shades of their respective tribe colors.
  • With Survivor music playing, they entered the arena with titters and a few jitters.
  • Some challenges were for immunity and reward, and some just immunity.
  • It went challenge, tribal council, challenge, tribal council…no down time.
  • Players voted out could participate in most subsequent challenges (it was a party), but they could not win rewards or vote at tribal council.
  • They merged at eight players, at which time they dropped their buffs and had five minutes to apply tribal face paint.
  • The party was scheduled to start early enough so most of the challenges were in daylight but late enough so that the last couple—and, most importantly, the last tribal council—were in the dark.

We experienced two setbacks while setting up and two mishaps during the game.

The setbacks:

  • Two hours before the Survivors arrived, we discovered that a squirrel had gnawed a hole in the hose connecting the grill to the propane tank; my wife shrewdly duct-taped it so the young Survivors would not starve as their adult counterparts often do.
  • An hour and a half before the Survivors arrived, as I tested the two eight-foot planks that the players would have to cross, one snapped under my weight; I rushed to the nearest hardware store for a replacement.

The mishaps:

  • One player fell when the plank slid out from under her; luckily the grass underfoot was soft and after I repositioned the plank, she got right back on.
  • One player cut her lip while trying to catch an ice cube in her mouth (for a challenge).

At least no one was medically evacuated. And no tears, only cheers
of support, for their teammates when voted out as much as when giving their all.
The photos/videos: 

Competition site. Note bricks along fence. 
They will come into play soon.

Tiki torches and team mats.

Tribal immunity and individual immunity. Both from Guam.

Tribal council. Bonus: a window.

The voting slips and box.

Rewards included Survivor bandanas, a Survivor board game, 
Survivor-inspired adventure novels for kids thanks to 
my generous author friend Chris Tebbetts
a book I wrote called Vanished, an LED light stick (three colors!), 
shampoos/lotions (thanks Holiday Inn or Homewood Suites), 
and for the Sole Survivor, the DVD of the complete season of Survivor Palau.

Gift/reward bags and Survivor music.

The hidden immunity idol (AKA Field Day medal).

Can you find it? (One of the girls did even though I 
forgot to announce it!)

Survivors watching Survivor.

The orange (fire) team.

 The blue (water) team.

Me as Jeff Probst explaining Challenge #1: strategy. Each team stands
on an island (i.e. bedsheet); first team to flip its island 
without any player stepping off wins.

The second tribal council.


Challenge #2: giving/following direction. Callers guide 
blindfolded teammates in picking up five team-colored flags 
scattered across yard; first team to return all five of their flags 
to its mat wins.

Challenge #3: balance/aim. Survivors must walk a plank holding a cup of water 
and toss as much of that water as they can into a container; 
once all team members have crossed, 
team whose container holds more water wins.

Challenge #4: puzzle. First team to complete a 100-piece rainforest puzzle wins.
Twist: teams did not know till piece #99 that piece #100 was
hidden somewhere in the yard.

Blue team finished first (it took 18 minutes); look hard and you 
might notice the gap for the missing final piece they are off searching for.

Can you spot it?

Testing the hidden piece they found.

After four group challenges, the tribes merged and 
took a break from the game to apply face paint.

Merged and merry.

Merged and menacing.

Merged, menacing, and approaching.

Challenge #5: courage/mind over matter. The dreaded food challenge.
Dish #1: a dill mustard/relish combo. Most ate it.
Dish #2: vegetarian caviar (seaweed). Some ate it. Some gagged.
Dish #3: crickets.

 Technically crick-ettes. (But still crickets. And three ate one!)

Eating caviar.

Revealing the crickets.

Challenge #6: strength/endurance. Hold out two bricks (five pounds each) as long 
as you can. I now know five pounds is a bit too heavy for 10-year-olds.

Challenge #7: dexterity. Toss snowballs (saved in freezer from winter) 
without dropping or crushing.

Challenge #8: memory. Survivors must arrange up to seven island-themed pictures 
(anchor, canoe, castle, palm tree, shell, turtle, volcano) 
in the order I just showed them. I started with three images; all four Survivors 
aced that and the next round. Winner remembered six.

The final three.

In the excitement, I did not photograph the winner (above on left).

6/17/16 addendum: Survivor-themed 12th birthday party.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

“The Odd-Shaped Object,” an unpublished 1968 picture book

As a child, I vividly remember poring over an unpublished picture book manuscript in our family’s possession; I was especially captivated by the multicolored rug that plays into the story (but that was not The Odd-Shaped Object of the title).

The author/illustrator (whose day job was elementary school teacher) saved not only the original art but also notes for the cover letter…and a rejection letter she received in 1968.

Four years later, she would have a son who would grow up to go through similar experiences.

Eleanor Nichols, the editor who turned down my mom before she was my mom, worked at McGraw-Hill for 30 years, retiring in 1990 and passing away in 2000.

I love you, mom, for being my ongoing creative influence and so, so much more.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Hands Across America - 28th anniversary

On 5/25/86, I supplied two of the hands in Hands Across America. 

Somehow I managed to drag my dad and sister there, too; we must have taken the train from New Haven, CT, to New York City. I was in middle school yet I remember almost nothing about this momentous event. Even the photos are not triggers.

Product placement.

The actual holding of the hands.

My sister and father.

Throng of people crossing street in distance, with rest of area deserted.