Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A Booky Weekend - Part 1 DC

This past weekend was both the National Book Festival and the Baltimore Book Festival. I'm going to break them up to prevent a ginormous post.
Saturday I went with a friend to the National Book Festival. I had originally thought that there weren't a lot of people I wanted to see (since they had no representation for romance and the only paranormal was paranormal kids). But, looking back over the list I found that Gene Luen Yang was speaking, author of American Born Chinese (which now comes with two stickers).
(There were a bunch of authors scheduled to speak at four, including Mercer Mayer - who I saw as a child at the now closed Cheshire Cat Children's Book Store. However, I was pretty sure my stamina was not going to last out in the heat and wind that long.)
Yang spoke about wanting to be an animator as a child. He also had three reasons why being a graphic novelist was stupid. They are: it isn't sexy, it takes too long, and it won't make you rich. He suggested trying to hit on folks and saying first, that you are a novelist, and then (to different people) that you are a graphic novelist and seeing the differing reactions.
Yang is still working in the school system - as a computer science teacher and as a database administrator. As to the time graphic novels take, he said American Born Chinese took five years, although he was also working full time, getting a masters, getting married and buying a house.
Yang also mentioned that one of the great things about being a graphic novelist is that some time and a trip to Kinko's and - Voila - you are a graphic novelist.
He talked about how his mother, being artistic herself, had been fairly supportive of his dreams; while his father had concerns about the practicalities. Yang's father made a deal that if Yang majored in something sensible, he'd leave him alone.
So, Yang majored in Computer Science and then got a job working in programming. And then he felt the call and decided to become a graphic novelist and a teacher. (He had given up the animator dream when he found out that animation takes even longer than graphic novels, although they do get benefits.)
So, Yang started getting clippings in the mail about computer programmers and what their salaries were.
Well, so he wrote two graphic novels. And then started working on American Born Chinese which he said came from his desire to do a tale based on the Monkey King, and also to look at ethnic identity - both from the perspective of a kid growing up in the US and also with this "funny" character, so in the end he decided to see if he could do all three in the same novel.
Well, American Born Chinese was finished and published and Yang gave great credit to librarians who saw that this story would have resonance and really pushed it out there. And the Chinese Language newspaper published a story about American Born Chinese, and Yang said, since then, he has not gotten any clippings in the mail.