Thursday, June 30, 2011

My first signing EVER

Last weekend, as part of my real job as a librarian, I attended the ALA (American Library Association) Annual Conference in New Orleans. It was really quite an exhausting and busy trip, with sessions and workshops most of both days, so I barely had time to take in any of the sights of the city.

However, my publisher Tin House Books did have a booth in the exhibitor's hall and they invited me to do a signing on Sunday morning from 11am to noon. The book is still at the printer, but they brought quite a few copies of the blad (which stands for "book layout and design" and is basically a heavily abbreviated [like, only 6 to 12 pages] version of a book - I am guessing that a blad is sort of the art book version of a prose ARC, which stands for advanced reading copy), a huge stack of those gorgeous promo postcards they made up (thanks to the Tin House intern Vanessa who tirelessly collates, bands and stickers these together!) and a bunch of their Fall catalogues with one of my drawings on the cover.

I was really not sure at all what to expect. I mean, I've worked a lot of years in bookstores and I have seen a lot of author events. Some have been heavily attended and generated some fantastic discussion. Others have been just the author and one or two friends or relatives who lived in the area, sitting uncomfortably in a field of empty folding chairs and trying not to feel embarrassed for each other. I was a bit terrified that the signing would end up being just me sitting there and talking to my wife and the people from Tin House, but I vowed to do the best job I could.

And man, it was CRAZY! I mean, not crazy like huge lines of people snaking down the long aisles of the exhibitor's hall, but crazy like there were actually people there waiting for me when I got there. It blew me away. It was such a wonderful experience and every single person I met was truly, genuinely nice as well as interested in the book.

So let's see, I got to meet Deborah Jayne, one of the people at Tin House who handles publicity and marketing. I've exchanged many emails with her, but she was incredibly cool in person. As soon as I sat down and got started, I got to talk to two really sharp librarians from Minnesota who had been waiting for a bit for me to arrive. I probably tormented them with too many questions about how bitterly cold I imagined it to be in Minnesota, but they were really good sports and we talked all about the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Zak Smith and his art, how I ended up using all those found pages and different media, and so on. I even had the chance to draw an extremely quick and rather rough portrait of Captain Ahab on notebook paper for one of them. It really started things out well.

In no real order, I also got to meet Amanda, another talented artist who has a site called Tumbling Elephants and who I believe has a day job at either Tin House or for Publisher's Group West (I'm embarrassed I can't recall).

I finally had the chance to meet Matt Dembicki, an artist and cartoonist whose name I feel like I've been seeing for years now. Matt is a regular at Columbus, Ohio's S.P.A.C.E. (Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo) and he actually has copies of my the very first comics I ever made and xeroxed myself, Spudd 64, which was really cool to find out. Oddly enough, in spite of how many times we've been in the same room, this is the first time I've ever really met him. He must have bought those "Spudd 64" comics when my wife was at the table and I was wandering around at S.P.A.C.E. Anyway, Matt is a great guy and he just edited an absolutely fantastic anthology of comics called Trickster...

...which you can and really should pick up right away. It's a beautifully produced book, and the art and the stories in it are really quite astonishing.

Matt took a few photos of my drawing pictures and talking to people while apparently gesticulating wildly, so I am thieving a few from him...

(I am drawing a whale on the back of someone's postcard here. You can see the blad right in front of me, with the old book cover design. Also, a stack of the promo postcards, the Tin House Fall catalogue, and my trusty Hello Kitty inkpen case. I never go anywhere without that thing.)

I also got to meet a friend of Daryl L.L. Houston and still hope to meet the man himself some day. There was someone there from Publisher's Group West, a few reps from Bookforum magazine...I'm sure I am forgetting some people. But man! It was way more than I expected, and in just an hour. Maybe people really are getting interested in this book!

I want to thank Tin House, Deborah Jayne, intern Vanessa, and everyone else who put this all together and shipped it all out from Portland to New Orleans so I could hang out for a bit. And most importantly, I want to sincerely thank everyone who stopped by and talked to me about the book. You've really helped me get off to a great start, and it was wonderful beyond belief to talk to people face to face instead of just through email.


  1. I was super-stoked when I read that you would be there, and I alerted my friend post-haste. I was thrilled when she let me know that she was able to stop by. I'm glad the event went so well for you (but not surprised).

  2. Thanks so much for coming by the booth for signing! It was so fun to have so many people excited about your book all weekend at ALA!!!

  3. It was great to meet you and hear the story about your book! And thanks for checking out my new blog!!!

  4. Sweeeet! Thanks for relating this experience.

  5. That's my arm in the photo of you drawing the whale! You drew that whale for me! I am one of the "sharp librarians from Minnesota," and thanks again for drawing Captain Ahab for us. We are going to frame him and put him up in our school library. I'm so looking forward to your book coming out. Congrats and it was lovely to meet you. That ALA exhibit hall was pretty great, wasn't it?

  6. Wish I could have been there. I'd like to hear more about the mythology photo (35mm) project mentioned in the other blog but I couldn't connect to your email link (my computer is a dinosaur). My email is

  7. Daryl, your friend was quite cool and a pleasure to talk to. Hopefully you and I will be able to meet face to face one of these days.

  8. Deb, it was really fantastic to finally meet you. I don't quite know why, but the book really finally began to seem real. And everyone was so nice, which was awesome. I hope I get over my jitters by the time more events roll around.

  9. Amanda, it was a pleasure to meet an artist like yourself. I hope to see much much more of your work in the future, so keep at it!

  10. Buck, in so many ways, this blog is a record not juct of my illustrations for the novel but everything that happens surrounding it as well. I actually go back and re-read some of these entries, just to remind myself it all really did happen.

  11. Kali! First, that is a remarkable and awesome name. Second, please send me a photo when you finally get old Ahab framed and hung. Like many librarians, the school library was a real sanctuary for me growing up, so I am deeply honored to know my art will have a home in one. Hopefully one day I will finally make it up to Minnesota and the Walker Arts Center and perhaps our paths will cross again.

  12. Michael, thank you for the kind words. I will send you something soon. It's a difficult thing to frame up, but I'll find a way.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.