Thursday, September 10, 2009

All In A Hot and Copper Sky

I haven't blogged much because I haven't had much to blog about. There's not a lot happening in Book World right now, and my day job is just kind of chugging along unspectacularly. We're traversing a little patch of late summer doldrums, noticing how much earlier today's sun set than yesterday's, getting the girls ready to return to school (their university's on the quarter system and doesn't start until late September).

Early autumn is my favorite time of year. Most people say that spring feels ripe with possibilities, but I get that little frisson more in the fall. Maybe it's an imprinted memory left over from returning to school each year myself. Or anticipation of the coming holidays; I'm already drawing up plans for new spooky effects to add to my Halloween yard. Things change and happen fast this season. You get to put on sweaters and put off mowing the lawn. And then BOOM, it's next year.
I am working on a couple of comics-related things. One is a presentation for my trip to the Toledo Museum of Art on October 2, where I'll be speaking at the opening of the "LitGraphics" exhibition that includes some original pages from Mom's Cancer plus many better pages from better artists. Right now I think about half my 45-minute talk will be on the experience of making Mom's Cancer and the other half on comics as art in general (I'm sure I'll also mention WHTTWOT, but that's not why I'm there). My aim is that after listening to me, people will go look at the pictures hanging on the wall and notice things they wouldn't have before. I can only get so deep in a short talk--I can only get so deep under any circumstances--but I think (hope) I can add some value to the museum-goers' experience.

Semi-related, I've noticed an interesting evolution in my thinking about doing talks and panels and such, which is that I'm increasingly uncomfortable with the idea. There was a fun stretch a couple of years ago when I did a bunch of them and enjoyed it very much. It's flattering to find out someone thinks you have something interesting to say and hey, if they're nice enough to ask and it might get one or two people to check out your work, why not? But the more I learn about comics and publishing (and I know gobs more than I did back then), the more I realize how little I know. I always took Socrates's "true wisdom is knowing that you know nothing" as a cute little koan that Socrates himself probably didn't really believe, but I'm beginning to think the old hemlock-chugger might've been right. I used to pontificate with great confidence, delivering all kinds of sage and helpful insight and advice. Now I think it's all distilled down to "Why on Earth would you care what I think? I don't know what I'm doing. Give it a shot and see if it works."

Fortunately, I think I can do better than that for the Toledo Museum folks. Although I can just imagine the looks on their faces if, after being flown across the country and put up for the night, I stood in front of the opening night patrons, put up one PowerPoint slide that read "I know nothing," thanked everyone for coming, and left the stage.

Man that's tempting. But no no no. So wrong!

But tempting.

Also, today I put the first pencil on paper for what could be my next book or webcomic or pile of stuff no one ever sees because I stuffed it into a drawer. I'll keep you posted on that--just wanted to mark the occasion.


Nora said...

Maybe you have said all you have to say and plan to be silent for the next decade.....NAH! I can't imagine that.

Xtreme English said...

when i was in college (back before dirt was discovered), the writer J.F. Powers came to the college of st. cucuphat (my alma mater, so dubbed by a brilliant dominican theologian who liked to play with words) to gjve a lecture on "writing." he walked into the classrom, took a sip of water, and said, "I don't really like to prepare anything for these kinds of talks. It's more interesting to me if you will just ask me any questions you want, and I'll answer them." And that's what he did. It was fun. We hardly ever got a chance to pick a real writer's brain. That's probably too free-wheeling for anyone outside of a college campus, but what's inside your mind is what your audience wants to know. Don'tcha think?

good luck...and i've discovered that asking in a DC bookstore for anyone's new book results in their ordering ONE copy just for you....there's gotta be a better way.

Brian Fies said...

Nora, why should I start now? Actually, after spending the first four-plus decades of my life in obscure silence, it comes very naturally to me.

XE, sounds to me like Mr. Powers got lucky. While you and your classmates rose to the occasion, I can just picture a bunch of kids staring back at him blankly in incurious silence, expecting to be entertained.

Cartoonist Stephan Pastis gave me some good insight once (I know, I was suprised too). He said that most people who go to a writer's talk don't really want to know anything about the writer or his work; what a lot of them really want to learn is how to do what he does and take his place. I don't know if it's true, but I've found that my better-received talks try to answer that question at least a bit.

Brian Fies said...

Oh, and someday I'll have something to say about how bookstores operate. It's

Mike said...

I've found lately that, while I enjoy my blog, I no longer have any interest in writing a column -- the formality of it makes me feel like an ass. What do I know, really, and why should anybody care? XE's suggestion may link into that, in that, while you don't have to do precisely what he did, the more informal you make it, the less you'll feel like you're pontificating instead of just talking.

And autumn is my favorite season, too. Crunchy leaves under foot, crisp apple in hand -- nothing like it. But, if you experience a frisson lasting more than four hours, consult your doctor.

Brian Fies said...

I think that's mostly it, Mike: I do think I have some interesting information to share, but I don't want to feel like an ass doing it. I like an informal give-and-take but also feel a strong obligation to my hosts to come ready and put on a good show.

"Frisson" is a good word that I seldom use because my typing fingers tend to put an extra "i" into it. Also, because using it makes me feel like an ass.