Jul 20

Games & Books & Q&A: Tom Angleberger

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The next author I’m featuring in the the Games & Books & Q&A series — in which I alternately interview children’s/YA literature folks about video games and ask gamers about the books that inspired them — is Tom Angleberger.

Emperor PickletineAs anyone who’s ever folded a piece of notebook paper into a Star Wars character knows, Tom is the author of the Origami Yoda series, including the upcoming and final title, Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus. His most recent book is The Qwikpick Papers: Poop Fountain!

CB: What do you remember about the first video game you ever played?

TA: Probably Pong, my dad had it. I remember that you could create your own variant games by leaving the switches stuck halfway.

I think my first arcade game may have been Space Invaders. And my first real gamer moment was when my school got an Apple ][ and I saw Colossal Cave Adventure boot up for the first time.

CB: What games did you play the most when you were a kid? What did you love about them?

TA: I played a lot of games that now leave me wondering, why did I waste my time on that? Stuff like the Atari Raiders of the Lost Ark or, frankly, most of the Atari games.

Even a lot of computer games left me feeling the same way — possibly because I was never able to finish them. (Cranston Manor, Masquerade, The Bard’s Tale and the aforementioned Colossal Cave Adventure.) I remember a real moment of clarity after trying to swim past a shark in some dumb game. You had to work so hard to get to that shark and then it just swam right into you. That became a touchstone for me — just because someone made it, doesn’t mean it’s worth playing.

But then there were games that WERE worth playing!

In the arcade, it was Discs of Tron, Marble Madness, Joust and the sublime Star Wars (vector graphics).

And on my Apple it was Lode Runner. What a game! Not sure it’s ever been topped. 150 levels + 50 more with Championship Lode Runner. You had to run and gun (drill actually) and think.

And what I may have enjoyed the most was programming my own games in BASIC. Man, those were the days!

CB: What role do games play in your life today?

Tom AnglebergerTA: I have put serious time into early Final Fantasy games (Final Fantasy Tactics is another masterpiece), Donkey Kong Country, Tony Hawk Pro Skater (2 was my favorite), NBA Jam, various golf and racing games. And I love pinball simulators since I cannot afford my own machine. (Best pinball ever: The Addams Family by the master, Pat Lawlor.)

But aside from Words with Friends, my gaming time now is mostly devoted to one game: 007: Quantum of Solace. Michael Hemphill, my co-author on Stonewall Hinkleman, and I have been playing the two-player version of this on the Wii for years. It is surprisingly deep, we keep finding new strategies, new variations.

We’ve been playing various games together for about 15 years, I guess: Gran Turismo, ATV Offroad Fury, Dynasty Tactics, a little bit of Mario Kart and now this OO7 thing. It’s woven into our friendship.

***

I expect to continue this series through the October publication of my book Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet. If there’s anyone in the gamer or kidlit camp that you’d love to see me feature in upcoming posts in this series, please drop me a line or tweet at me or just leave a message in the comments.

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Jul 18

Modern First Library: more from Cyn, and from Books on the Nightstand

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Modern First Library

Cynthia Leitich Smith has a second guest post for BookPeople’s new Modern First Library program, and it’s about the one negative experience she’s had in the store. Check it out.

And then check out the latest episode of the Books on the Nightstand podcast, in which hosts Michael Kindness and Ann Kingman discuss which picture books they’d include in their own Modern First Library. Thanks for featuring the program, Ann and Michael!

Besides, if you like books (and I’m pretty sure you do), and you like podcasts (I know I do), why wouldn’t you want to listen to a podcast about books? I just this moment subscribed to Books on the Nightstand, and I can’t wait to hear more.

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Jul 16

Games & Books & QA: Andy Robertson

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Andy RobertsonNext up in my Games & Books & Q&A series of chats with gaming folks about books and with children’s/YA lit folks about video games is Andy Robertson. Andy is a freelance family technology expert for the BBC and The Guardian, and he runs the Family Gamer TV YouTube channel.

CB: What do you remember about the first video game you ever played?

AR: I remember playing a game on the C64 called Star Quake and Monty on the Run. They were difficult but fun and offered a labyrinthine world to explore.

CB: What did you like to read when you were a kid? What did you love about it?

Asterix 33 - Asterix and the Secret Weapon.cbr-000AR: I enjoyed reading Asterix and Fighting Fantasy adventures. I think mainly because they felt like they were my own thing that I’d found myself rather than being told to read them.

CB: What book that you read while growing up had the most influence on who you became as an adult? How did it shape you?

AR: Reading the Bible, I think, as part of Sunday school and then later in church as an adult. It offered a fascinating fabric of life captured through the years that needed substantial interpretation before you could really know what to do with it -– endless possibilities.

I expect to continue this series through the October publication of my book Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet. If there’s anyone in the gamer or kidlit camp that you’d love to see me feature in upcoming posts in this series, please drop me a line or tweet at me or just leave a message in the comments.

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Jul 16

The cover for Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet

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Attack Boss Cheat Code - May 2014
Coming in October — written by me, illustrated by Joey Spiotto, and published by POW!

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Jul 15

Cynthia Leitich Smith and BookPeople’s Modern First Library

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Modern First LibraryThis month, several of us Austin authors are guest-blogging for BookPeople’s new Modern First Library program. The latest to do so is Cynthia Leitich Smith, author of the Feral series and Tantalize series for young adults as well as several picture books, including Jingle Dancer.

Here’s a little of what Cyn has to say:

When we talk about diversity in books, we often mention the concept of “windows and mirrors.”

I ached for a mirror. Books, for all their blessings, had failed me in this regard. However, I saw Star Wars in the theater over 380 times.

For the rest, pop on over to BookPeople’s blog.

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Jul 13

Games & Books & QA: Samantha Berger

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So, we’re going author, gamer, author, gamer in the the Games & Books & Q&A series, and as you pattern-recognition aficionados out there already know, that means it’s time for me to feature another children’s/YA author.

crankensteinSamantha Berger has written picture books including Crankenstein and its upcoming sequel, A Crankenstein Valentine, both illustrated by Dan Santat (Little, Brown); the equally upcoming Witch Spa, illustrated by Isabel Roxas (Dial), and the (yes) upcoming Snoozefest, illustrated by Kristyna Litten (Dial). She has written cartoons and promos for Nickelodeon and other networks. Sam has also written comic books and commercials. In addition, she’s written movie trailers, theme songs, slogans, magazine articles, poems, TV-books, sticker books and professional books. Basically, you name it, Sam writes it.

CB: What do you remember about the first video game you ever played?

SB: I’m a child of the very first games. We had Pong in my house, and my little brother and I spent long, long periods of time playing it. It was MESMERIZING.

HYPNOTIZING.

The little DOOT… DOOT… DOOT… sound? The little light ball bouncing around the screen? I mean, you could do it for hours.

And we DID. (My first warning I could easily become an addict.)

Then Asteroids came out, and they had it in places like Pizza Hut.

Yeah it was in B & W and yeah it was basic, but somehow I was GOOD at it.

CB: What games did you play the most when you were a kid? What did you love about them?

Samantha Berger right-side upSB: As a kid, I was never good at sports. What I loved about video games was that I was good at it. And it felt sporty …

… somehow.

Even though it was motor skills and hand/eye coordination and reflexes … it felt sporty. It felt like, if you could be a high-scorer, there was no possible way you could be picked last in gym.

Asteroids and Pong were the ONLY games I was good at. My little brother would go on to beat me, nay SLAY me in Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Atari, and everything else. I died fast and often. Many quarters were lost in mere minutes. It became … a lot less fun.

I vividly remember when Dragon’s Lair came out. It cost TWO quarters to play, and the animation was very advanced at the time, and I LOVED that about it.

… but I still sucked at it.

And that was kinda the end of my affair with the Game of Videos.

CB: What role do games play in your life today?

SB: I am not a gamer and don’t play any games whatsoever. This was a conscious choice, as I felt like, without careful self-monitoring, I could easily slip into a phase of playing them ALL THE TIME, NONSTOP, and using it as the perfect procrastination for writing!

And, with social media, and on-demand TV marathoning, and my dog, friends, and exercise, I have noooooooo problem with procrastinating or getting easily distracted already. So I drew a line and told myself not to tread in such dangerous waters.

Ironically, last week’s freelance gig had me NAMING a bunch of new digi-games for Sesame Street.

I’m happy to name them, but I just can’t play them!

I expect to continue this series through the October publication of my book Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet. If there’s anyone in the gamer or kidlit camp that you’d love to see me feature in upcoming posts in this series, please drop me a line or tweet at me or just leave a message in the comments.

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Jul 10

Why Modern First Library is important to me

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Modern First Library

This month and next, BookPeople’s blog will be publishing guest posts from other authors and illustrators — first from a few here in Austin, then from others across the country — discussing why they support Modern First Library.

The first guest post is up, and it’s from me.

I thought about the issues raised by the We Need Diverse Books campaign not as an author but as a dad — and, specifically, as the dad of kids who fall into some relatively privileged demographics. I don’t want any parents out there to feel that the discussion about the representation of diversity in children’s literature is someone else’s issue. We all have a stake in it, even those who are already getting represented just fine.

Here’s a bit of what I wrote:

I don’t want them — or anyone else in their demographic — to get the idea that they’re at the center of the universe just because they happened to get born as non-poor, white, American males. Growing up with such an idea fosters a sense of entitlement that I think we’re all better off without.

How can parents discourage that sort of privileged thinking in their offspring, especially in a culture that sends so many messages to the contrary? I believe that one good way is to immerse kids early on in great picture books offering a broad view of a population that’s full of loved, valued, unique people.

You can read the rest here.

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Jul 9

Games & Books & Q&A: Tracy W. Bush

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Tracy_BushMy friend Tracy W. Bush, Audio Director at Seattle-based game developer 5TH Cell, is the next interviewee in my Games & Books & Q&A series of chats with gaming folks about books (and vice versa). Tracy has composed music for games including Scribblenauts Unmasked, World of Warcraft III, Tabula Rasa, and Dungeon Runners. For more about Tracy’s work, see his 2013 interview with joystiq.

CB: What do you remember about the first video game you ever played?

TB: The VERY first video game I played? There were a couple. But the very first one that I recall was a game where you rode a motorcycle and jumped a ramp that had buses underneath it. There was also a “breakout” type game at the army post NCO club where we were stationed in Germany. I played that a lot before we got our own Atari at home.

What I remember about the bike ramp game (which was at a pizza parlor in Kentucky) was that the graphics were pretty rudimentary, but it totally communicated the feel of what it was you were supposed to do. I mean, you had to use your imagination a little bit, but it totally worked. This also was in the mid-’70s when Evel Knievel was a big hero, so it kind of hit the zeitgeist as well. I remember that I really liked it, but I only had the one quarter, so…

CB: What did you like to read when you were a kid? What did you love about it?

TB: When I was a kid, my favorite thing to read was Asterix comics. We were living in Germany, and I had been put in a German school, but I didn’t really speak the language. I had to learn pretty quickly, and I had a German tutor. The way she taught me quickest was by reading Asterix comics with me and teaching me that way. They were full of puns and visual gags and things that didn’t translate from the original French to German very elegantly, but I really liked the stories. Also, there was a sense of them being involved in actual history, since Cleopatra and Julius Caesar were main characters, and that spurred in me an interest in history which I still have to this day.

The_Hitchhiker's_Guide_to_the_GalaxyCB: What book that you read while growing up had the most influence on who you became as an adult? How did it shape you?

TB: When I was 14 I read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Probably the most influential book from my childhood. Until I’d read that book I didn’t even know there was such a thing as comedy books — you understand that the funniest books we got in school was Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer, which were pretty dry. Hitchhiker’s was very, very funny, as well as being absurd, and that was kind of a revelation to me. That it’s OK to be funny, silly, even as an adult. Before that, I’d kind of assumed that all adults were just serious and dull all the time. That’s probably the first time I figured out that it was OK to grow up and be funny, and enjoy humor, and that it was socially acceptable to do so.

I expect to continue this series through the October publication of my book Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet. If there’s anyone in the gamer or kidlit camp that you’d love to see me feature in upcoming posts in this series, please drop me a line or tweet at me or just leave a message in the comments.

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Jul 8

My Modern First Library list

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Modern First Library

My list of contemporary picture books that I’d include in a Modern First Library is up over at the BookPeople blog. Have a look, and let BookPeople and me know which books you’d include on your list.

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Jul 6

Games & Books & Q&A: Tanita S. Davis

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A la CarteNext among the children’s/YA authors that I’m featuring in the Games & Books & Q&A series is Tanita S. Davis. Tanita is the Coretta Scott King Honor author of Mare’s War. Her other YA novels (all published by Knopf) include Happy Families, which was included on the ALA’s 2013 Rainbow Project List, and A la Carte. Her fourth YA novel, Peas & Carrots, is scheduled to be published in 2016. Tanita blogs at fiction, instead of lies.

CB: What do you remember about the first video game you ever played?

TSD: I remember that I was GOOD at the first video game I ever played. My cousins were kids who got everything on the bleeding edge of new when we were growing up, and we didn’t have video games, and they did… the first time they let me play, I smoked ALL OF THEM. They were disconcerted. I was disconcerted! Being raised very conservative Christians, we were all about the “thou shalt not kill,” and I was good at something with a GUN!? How did that happen? The game was, of course, Duck Hunt. Apparently, if you subtract mud, bugs, real ordinance and actual ducks, I am an awesome shot!

CB: What games did you play the most when you were a kid? What did you love about them?

Tanita Davis bwTSD: My cousins had Frogger — in which I was frequently flattened – Donkey Kong, and Pac-Man, of course. There was also Spy Hunter, and some race car driver game (Grand Prix, I think), where I flipped my car over and over and over again… (apparently I can shoot, but cannot drive).

CB: What role do games play in your life today?

TSD: My hand-eye coordination as a kid was fairly awful, and now it’s even worse! Every once in awhile, I’ll find an old game like Frogger and play it on the computer, or go to the arcade at the mini-golf place, and waste a bunch of quarters playing Pac-Man, but mostly I stick to thinks I can actually, you know, win. Like air hockey. I’m terrible at video games, but I like to watch others play and enjoy.

I expect to continue this series through the October publication of my book Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet. If there’s anyone in the gamer or kidlit camp that you’d love to see me feature in upcoming posts in this series, please drop me a line or tweet at me or just leave a message in the comments.

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