17 Nov

Goodbye, YALSA! Hello, ILF and B&N!

There’s nothing better than a crowd of librarians and authors to remind me how lucky I am to be in this line of work, and to inspire me to keep on writing and earning my place among this bunch.

This past weekend, Austin hosted the annual YA symposium of the Young Adult Library Services Association. I participated in the Saturday evening Book Blitz — in which authors seated behind stacks of publisher-donated books get blitzed by librarians snagging their share of signed copies — as well as a Sunday-morning panel discussion including (left-to-right in Paula Gallagher’s photo above) Jonathan Auxier, Lisa Yee, Andrew Smith, moderator/organizer/wrangler Kelly Milner Halls, Bruce Coville, and Laurie Ann Thompson.

It’s going to be a full week, as I’ll also be speaking at the Indiana Library Federation’s annual conferenceShark Vs. Train is a winner of the Young Hoosier Book Award — and then reading Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! at a Barnes & Noble back here in Austin.

If you’re interested in hearing me talk for, oh, 27 minutes and 59 seconds, but won’t be making it to either of those events, I’m happy to offer a third option: this podcast interview that author Jason Henderson recorded with me last week. Enjoy!

07 Sep

Games & Books & Q&A: Kelly Milner Halls

Ghostly EvidenceYou know that saying about great minds thinking alike? Good. Then I don’t have to repeat it here. But I will point out that among author Kelly Millner Halls‘ next projects is a video game book — a history of them, called Game On — and let you draw your own conclusions.

While we wait for Kelly’s gaming book, we can enjoy her latest one, Ghostly Evidence: Exploring the Paranormal (Millbrook Press). Booklist says of Ghostly Evidence, “This engaging selection takes a nonsensational, rational look at aspects of the paranormal: ghosts, haunted locales, ghost hunters, and supernatural hoaxes. Incorporating personal accounts from both believers and skeptics, the author presents balanced coverage, exposing obvious frauds and deceptions alongside occurrences that defy rational explanation.”

We can also pass the time by talking with Kelly about her own gaming experiences in this latest entry in my Games & Books & Q&A series.

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

KMH: As a teenager, I watched my mom save all her quarters so we could go to the pizza parlor to play Pong as a table top game and Pac-Man in a traditional arcade cabinet. We spent hours burning through those quarters — even more when a real arcade opened in our town. I was hooked. Video games would never be absent from my life again. But what really sealed the deal was getting one of the first NES in 1983 as a new mother. When my first daughter couldn’t sleep, Mario kept us company and stole my heart. It was ON!

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

KMH: Because I’m old (*smile*), I cut my teeth on pinball, then the very first video games like Space Invaders, Asteroids, and Donkey Kong — the Golden Age of classic consoles. But my mom bought the first Atari system for herself, so I explored all of those games early on at home. I followed the same pattern with my kids, visiting arcades to play Centipede, Frogger (thank you, David Lubar), Primal Rage, Ms. Pac-Man and the lot. My daughters have literally never known life without video games.

I loved competing with myself — trying to beat my personal best every time I played. Carving your electronic initials as a high scoring player was nice, but beating your own score was better. And video games spirit you out of your own world and into an alternative universe. While you play, you don’t have to think about anything but the game. And that can be cleansing, in healthy doses. Besides, it’s FUN. I also played tennis everyday, and I found that if I was frustrated with a parent, a class or a teacher, I got the same opportunity to safely vent my feelings on the court AND in the games. Also healthy.

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

VideoGameConsoleKellyKMH: Today, my daughters play video games — my oldest, Kerry, plays casually; my youngest, Vanessa, plays with absolute devotion. We own just about every console and hand held systems, plus MANY, many games because Vanessa has worked for GameStop for years. We play for fun, for research, or for family connection. Some contemporary games are story driven — expansive games like HALO or Red Dead Redemption, Final Fantasy or Assassin’s Creed. Even Chrono Trigger is story driven. To me, those game experiences are very much like good fictional books. Some are driven by gore, like classic horror movies, games like Left 4 Dead or Dead Rising. Others are just good solid fun like Mario Kart, Castle Crashers, Pokemon, and Rayman. No matter what game we play, we play as a family, so it’s a bonding experience. And that’s what I love most about video games — they really can serve to strengthen a family.

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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.