Ten Thousand Panamaniacs


Up until about a week ago, I was pretty “meh”: on the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games coming to Toronto. I haven’t been anything resembling a sports enthusiast since age twelve, such large sporting spectacles often eat up a city’s public funds (that could often be better spent elsewhere), and everyone is a bit terrified of the logistical and congestion nightmares the Games will cause in the city. And I still largely feel that way. But two things caused me to become (slightly) interested in the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games:

1) Roller Figure Skating.

Prior to last week, I had no idea such a magical sport existed. It’s like figure skating, but on roller skates (not blades!) and not on ice. Have you ever heard of something so amazing? The sport features men and women competing in solo choreographed performances set to music, all scored by judges. Apparently, Colombia dominates this sport, which will, by Saturday night, I assume be my new favourite sport. I don’t think I’ve been this excited about sports since the Oakland A’s won the 1989 World Series. If it’s half as amazing as this, my mind will be thoroughly blown.

(I promise to provide a full report on my figure roller skating spectator experience.)

2) The associated cultural events. Including a reading by yours truly.

In addition to one hemisphere’s best and brightest athletes, the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games are also showcasing some of the world’s best artists at a series of cultural showcases called Panamania. (I would have also accepted “Panamonium.”) In terms of concerts alone, there’s an embarrassment of riches, with free shows from The Roots, Janelle Monae, Chromeo, A Tribe Called Red, and way more.

I will also be part of the Panamania, as the Ontario Book Publishers Organization is showcasing a few Ontario children’s writers at Ontario’s Celebration Zone (231 Queens Quay West) during the Pan Am Games. On Tuesday, July 14, at 11:00 a.m., you can catch readings by myself, as well as David Skuy (Striker), Loris Lesynski (Crazy about Soccer, Crazy about Basketball, etc) and Sangeeta Bhadra (Sam’s Pet Temper). I guess I should read something sports-adjacent. There is a little about curling and volleyball in the Dead Kid Detective Agency books. So, if for bizarre reasons you are free and bored next Tuesday morning, please join me at Ontario Celebration Zone (located at Harbourfront Centre, at 231 Queens Quay West), and I will gladly read to you.

Otherwise, best of luck surviving the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games!

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Wordstock Sudbury this June

Scenes from the 2014 edition of Wordstock Sudbury.

Scenes from the 2014 edition of Wordstock Sudbury.

This June, I’ll be at Wordstock Sudbury, the second-ever edition of Sudbury, Ontario’s annual summer writers’ festival. I’ll be travelling to the Nickel City (does anyone actually use that nickname?) on Saturday, June 20, to lead a young adult writing workshop, as well as speak on a panel about comics and graphic novels.

If you’re in Sudbury, please come out. They have a great series of events, including presentations by Terry Fallis (The Best Laid Plans, No Relation), Sandra Shamas (My Boyfriend’s Back), Joseph Kertes (The Afterlife of Stars), and many more. You can check the full schedule at wordstocksudbury.ca. More detail about the two events I’m part of follows:

Young Adult Series Writing – Saturday, June 20 – 10:30 a.m.– join Evan Munday, author of the two-time Silver Birch-nominated series for young readers The Dead Kid Detective Agency, as he talks writers through the considerations and unique challenges when crafting an ongoing book series for young readers. Thrill to continuity, extended character arcs, and series fatigue as Munday walks readers through his process and (hopefully) provides advice to help you write your next beloved children’s series (ideally in one of those cool boxed sets).

Not Just Pretty Pictures: The Graphic Novel – Saturday, June 20 – 4 p.m.– Once ignored as childish and crude, comic books and graphic novels have grown to become a revered art form unto itself. With massively popular works like Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth, the graphic novel is not to be ignored any longer. Artist and Illustrator Evan Munday and Rob Sacchetto sink into the ink of this one of a kind art form.

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The Great Drakes in the new issue of The Pitiful Human-Lizard

The full Hot Flaky Cakes ad, as seen in The Pitiful Human-Lizard #4.

The full Hot Flaky Cakes ad, as seen in The Pitiful Human-Lizard #4.

Good friend Jason Loo has been outshining me for years in the world of comics. He’s an extremely talented comics artist, a nice fellow, and most importantly – probably the hardest working comics guy I know. Years ago, he, myself, and about a half-dozen other Toronto illustrators were part of a comics collective called SketchKrieg! While I and many of my contemporaries have slowed down in the old comics department, Loo has gone full-throttle ahead, making a huge impact with his latest comic series (already in its fourth issue), The Pitiful Human-Lizard.

The Pitiful Human-Lizard is Lucas Barrett, a kind of sad-sack young man making a go of being a costumed vigilante in Canada’s largest city, and falling a bit short of success – both in superheroing and in his relationships. He battles Rabb the Malevolent and Johnny Bodyrocks and picks up advice from Toronto’s superstar hero, Mother Wonder. And it’s been garnering Loo some well-deserved media attention, largely from the comic book’s setting: the city of Toronto, which is organically entwined with the series. Lucas eats dim sum on Spadina Avenue and gets into scuffles outside Milestone’s on John Street.

With each issue, Loo invites a comics illustrator of his choosing to provide a faux ad for Hot Flaky Cakes – an homage to Marvel’s series of Hostess Fruit Pies advertisements – in the back matter. The only caveat: you have to come up with your own Toronto-based heroes to feature in the ad. I was fortunate enough to be chosen by Jason Loo for the latest (fourth) issue of The Pitiful Human-Lizard, and you can read my Hot Flaky Cakes ad, featuring the all-star superhero duo of The Great Drakes: Aubrey Graham and Sir Francis, together again, for the very first time. (Aside from the time-travel issue, there are other very real reasons why these two might not be friends in real life.) They face off against the Merciless Man-Spreader on the TTC, Toronto’s public transit system. Many Drake song references follow.

Do yourself a favour and pick up The Pitiful Human-Lizard issues 1 through 4 (available at comic book stores across the city). It’s the best Toronto comic book since the Scott Pilgrim series, and I say this as the writer of a Toronto comic book myself that’s not nearly as good.

Here's one of the original Hostess Fruit Pies ad that the Hot Flaky Cakes ads reference.

Here’s one of the original Hostess Fruit Pies ad that the Hot Flaky Cakes ads reference.

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Writing out of spite


Earlier this week, I was interviewed by Rene Rude over at her website, Rudes Review, which covers book, TV, movies, and games.

Here are a couple of highlights from the interview, during which I talk about Dead Kid Detective Agency series’ appendices (my favourite part of the books) and how petulant spite led me to becoming a writer. Enjoy reading about my spite, I guess? (I’m much less hateful now, I swear.)

From Rudes Review

What is your favorite “part” in The Dead Kid Detective Agency

Probably the appendix. That might sound like a joke, but I make a lot of references to earlier eras of popular culture, and so I’ve included an appendix at the back of the books so young readers who don’t know who S Club 7 or what Escape from New York is can turn to it as a reference guide. It’s really fun trying to define, say, Kraftwerk in two sentences.

Why did you become a writer?

Maybe spite? I always wrote (and drew) a lot growing up, because if you enjoy any activity or practice enough, you start to try to do it on your own, whether that be books, music, any sport. But I think the moment I attempted to get published as a writer came after working for a long time in book publishing myself. Every season I would see catalogue after catalogue of smiling author photos and thought to myself, ‘I can write a book as good as any of these smug authors!’ (Ha ha.) This was probably not true at all — most of those authors were and still are better writers than me — but it spurred me to getting off my butt and trying.

You can read more at Rudes Review.

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