Friday, April 30, 2021

"Thirty Minutes Over Oregon" illustrator's mom witnessed Pearl Harbor attack

To my surprise, I only now realized that I had not yet shared here a startling behind-the-scenes fact related to Thirty Minutes Over Oregon: the mother of Melissa Iwai, the book's illustrator, was walking the hills of Honolulu on December 7, 1941...and witnessed the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

That infamous attack provoked the also infamous Doolittle Raid in April 1942, which then provoked the lesser-known Lookout Air Raids in September 1942, which are the focus of the book.


I have explained that I requested to work on this book with an illustrator of Japanese descent out of respect for the culture at the center of the story. (I hit the trifecta because Melissa is also super talented and super nice.) 

Also, our collaboration parallels a central theme of the book: reconciliation. Melissa and I never quarreled, and therefore never reconciled, but I mean reconciliation in a broader sense: people of different heritages coming together in harmony.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

“The Creators of Batman: Bob, Bill & The Dark Knight”

Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman (2012) was the first published biography of Bill Finger. To date, two more have been released (one in Spain in 2014, the other in Brazil in 2019, with an English edition in the works).

The third is the first since mine to be initially published in English—and in England. Due later this year, it is called The Creators of Batman: Bob, Bill & The Dark Knight, by British writer Rik Worth.


I’ve not yet gone through the prose book in its entirety, but what I have read reveals a strong grasp of the material and some thoughtful insight, such as this (taken from pages 88-89 of a still-being-edited draft):

When looking at history, we reduce people to the events in their lives. It is easy for us to see Finger as an uncredited and unfairly treated creative who struggled to make ends meet. From this, it is easy to assume he was a perpetually unhappy man. But the truth is anecdotes and historical events only ever offer us a small glimpse of how people really felt. We can extract parts of their personality from this evidence, but we can’t fully understand what it is to know them. Likewise, we may be tempted to define Bill Finger by the actions of Bob Kane, but this reduces them both; boiling them down and diminishing the complexity of their relationship and identities to characters neatly fitting into a narrative with an over-arching theme. We want to define a life though some recurring pattern we spot, but a tragic life doesn’t mean the person who lived it spent their days in tragedy. People aren’t all good and they aren’t all bad, neither are they all exuberance or misery or indifference. They’re all these things through the course of their time on earth.

I hope to weigh in more after I’ve read the finished book.

The ninth and final chapter is a humbling look at my efforts to get Bill credit, and yet again my last name and Bills predilection for puns align:


Congrats, Rik, and thanks for helping spread word of Bill Finger’s legacy.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Keynote for Pennsylvania School Librarians Conference 2021

On 4/15/21, I had the privilege of delivering the 1.5-hour opening keynote for the Pennsylvania School Librarians Conference…from my basement office. Shoeless.

Such are our times.


Sometimes your work and a conference theme just understand one another.


I’m lucky that my story is so twisty that it holds attention whether shared on stage or by screen. Because we are now all members of Zoom Nation, I tell viewers (AKA audience members) to think of my talk not as yet another yammering head in a box but rather as a very low-budget Netflix film. I don’t know if that makes the experience more palatable for anyone, but I want them to know I empathize. 

The conference organizers kindly shared with me the feedback I received. A sampling by category:

GENERAL

  • “What a tremendous presentation! Absolutely brought tears to my eyes. We learned some excellent strategies for teaching primary source that we can all incorporate into our lessons.”
  • “What a story! I was a fan of Boys of Steel…but what a change Marc made [for Bill Finger’s] legacy. I will share with my students for years to come.”
  • “I love how he used his investigative skills to uncover the truth. Great speaking skills! I’m playing the recording for my husband.”
  • “Marc is a great storyteller! So inspiring!”
  • “I loved Marc’s tenacity and positive attitude!”
  • “Being able to hear from a terrific author, I didn’t realize how deeply I had been starved of that, and it helped breathe life into my library soul.”
  • “Marc’s depth of knowledge and passion for his writing and books is impeccable.”
  • “This entire presentation was amazing!”
  • “This was so good!”

BRINGING ME TO THEIR SCHOOL

  • “I just LOVED this keynote! I can’t wait to figure out how to get Marc to present for my school.”
  • “Would love to have Marc speak at my school!”
  • “Fascinating. I would love to host an author visit at my school and feel this is such a great story for all my students to hear.”
  • “I loved Marc’s strategies for conducting research and I hope to be able to have him do a school visit with us in the future.”

TAKEAWAYS ON RESEARCH

  • “This presenter was a research all-star. I can use his examples of deep research to inspire students to keep digging for information.”
  • “His research experience was incredible. Something students would love to hear about.”
  • “I teach research skills to high school students and one of the most important attributes to be successful is perseverance. Marc’s story is a perfect example of this.”
  • “Marc’s talk is a great public service announcement for the research cycle/process!”
  • “I will share his ideas with the MS and LS librarians. I will use his examples of research and use of primary sources in my instructional classes. Good for advisory groups!”
  • “I would love to use your story to teach students that the internet is not the only resource.”
  • “Demonstrating his perseverance and commitment to finding the truth through primary source research can serve as a great role model for our students.”
  • “Ask questions now—you don’t know if you’ll ever get the chance to again.”

TAKEAWAYS ON OTHER EDUCATIONAL TOPICS

  • “I have SO many ideas to utilize Marc’s story to teach my students more about intellectual property, the value of personal story, the importance of credit and honesty, and the power of each individual person.”
  • “Marc gave excellent ideas on lessons about truth and history, intellectual property, and the power of research. Even though I teach HS students, I think discussing the stories he uncovered can be a great lesson.”
  • “I already ordered Marc’s book. It can be used to teach copyright, research skills, ask questions you can’t Google, letter writing, and persistence. I will suggest this book to my teachers as a mentor text.”
  • “I would love to share with my students Marc’s story about the importance of proper credit. Such an impactful message!” 
  • “I am planning on using his book with a lesson on plagiarism for my elementary students.”
  • “Teaching people to speak up for injustice is part of being a good citizen.”
  • “I had never considered evaluating credit to see if there was an error that needed correction.”

THE POWER OF A SINGLE VOICE

  • “The idea that there is always truth to be told. That one person CAN make a difference. And that we all need to speak up when the truth is not out.”
  • “The story demonstrated how one person can make a difference in history.”
  • “There is so much from this keynote that can be utilized in my work. This is such a wonderful example of the impact one person can have.”
  • “It was a wonderful message about every voice having power and learning how to use your voice for good.”

“WHAT INFORMATION WAS OF GREATEST VALUE TO YOU?”

  • “Can I say all of it? I particularly enjoyed Marc’s passion for the project, the way he connected with the community during the course of his research. I’m not sure he realized what a part of the story he has become by inserting himself into the journey as our guide. The narrator is a strong voice that keeps the story alive. We are all stories, and I thank Marc for sharing his and Bill’s.”
  • “This was one of the best keynotes I have heard!”
  • “I was in awe of the entire story.”
  • “Marc had such a passion in his presentation that was infectious.”
  • “A captivating, real-world example of the research process for a book that was relevant to adults and children alike.”
  • “The author’s story was very inspiring.”

Thank you again, PSLA!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

“The Nobleman Cause”

I’m only now learning of a lovely article about my work that was published in Comic Book Creator #14 in 2017: “The Nobleman Cause” by Richard J. Arndt.


Belated thank you, Richard!
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