19 May

Can I launch my “I.D.”?

Yes, apparently.

Last Saturday, Austin’s favorite indie bookseller BookPeople hosted my launch celebration for Can I See Your I.D.? True Stories of False Identities. Here’s a recap of what we did:

The party was scheduled to start at 7 p.m., which in my experience means that a sufficient crowd had gathered by 7:10 for us to get rolling. Until then, there was much mingling, donning of the 30 pairs of Groucho Marx glasses I’d bought, and applying of “My Name Is” tags filled out with “Inigo Montoya,” “Cleopatra,” “Marc Zuckerberg,” etc.

To fill the time before the presentation started, audience members were encouraged to write down and submit their own tales of first-person fakery (“When I was about __ years old, I pretended to be/masqueraded as/tried to convince someone that I was ______________________________”) in return for getting into the running for one of three giveaway copies of the book.

As folks arrived, I pointed out the “conceptual beverages” — one dispenser containing a clearish liquid and labeled “Looks like watery lemonade to us” and another containing a bright blue liquid and labeled “Probably something blue-tasting.” The latter was just water with blue food coloring, while the former contained purported blueberry flavoring that some said tasted more like bubblegum or a Yankee Candle but which regardless got across the concept (I hope) of things not being what they seem.

Then BookPeople’s children’s-events coordinator extraordinaire Mandy Brooks —

— welcomed the crowd and introduced yours truly. “Chris Barton” approached the podium —

— and thanked the audience for their support of his previous two books. He then mentioned how glad he was that, unlike his previous launch parties, the attendees for this one included his best friend from high school, Dallas journalist “Jason Sickles,” seen emerging here:

At this point —

— “Jason” suggested to “Chris” that, since Can I See Your I.D.? is about false identities, perhaps it would be fun and fitting for them to switch roles for the rest of the night.

Thusly switched, “Chris,” or the author, or me, or whoever I am read excerpts from the Keron Thomas and Ellen Craft chapters of the book, was interviewed by Jason (or “Jason”) about subjects I considered but did not include in the book, my research process, writing in second person, and my shift from picture books to young adult.

After that, I chose the winners of the giveaway, which included one erstwhile would-be horse, one former 19-year-old who for reasons unfathomable to many of us had represented himself as being 21, and a not-quite-legit fairy princess whose ruse failed “when my wings fell off.”

A few questions were answered, a few books were signed —

— and off we all went into the night.

10 May

Swatting at imaginary flies, and more from my agencymates…

My fellow clients represented by the Erin Murphy Literary Agency have continued hosting me on their blogs lately in celebration of the recent publication of Can I See Your I.D.?, and I’ve enjoyed their hospitality a whole bunch.

See for yourself at Ruth Barshaw’s Ellie McDoodle blog (featuring the sketch above and several others), Penny Blubaugh’s blog (“What inspired you to take on the topic of false identities?

”), and Jean Reidy’s A Totally Random Romp (“If you could assume the identity of any literary figures who would make it to your top 5?”).

30 Apr

Where else I’ve been this week: Rasco From RIF, Cynsations, fakecrap.com

It’s been one busy week for Can I See Your I.D.? and me. In addition to the interview with Peter Salomon and the AuthorBuzz giveaway, there was this review of the book by Carol Hampton Rasco, president of Reading Is Fundamental:

It is a reading experience that held my attention to the end; and young people to whom I have given the book report they could not put it down until they finished it! Some have even admitted they really don’t like to read, but these were little stories that made them want to read more about those clever people…and that is yet another gift you have given readers, especially the reluctant ones we often face, Chris Barton! Thank you.

You’re welcome, Carol!

I also wrote about Can I See Your I.D.? and Shark Vs. Train in a guest post on the wonderful-beyond-words Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Cynsations:

They’re both pretty indicative of the sorts of writing I like to do — unbridled silliness on one hand and carefully researched truth-telling on the other. And both lend themselves to school-visit presentations that I personally find to be a whole lot of fun — roaring GRRRRR! and CHUGRRR-CHUG! for the former, and for the latter recounting the story of how 16-year-old New Yorker Keron Thomas (nearly) got away with impersonating an A train motorman for three hours.

I also spent some time on fakecrap.com — not in any sort of official authorial capacity, but as a shopper for giveaways (see above photo) for my May 14 launch of Can I See Your I.D.? at Austin’s BookPeople. If you’re one of the first 30 people there, well, if the disguise works, we’ll have no way of knowing…

28 Apr

Say hello, congrats, and “Can I see your I.D.?” to Peter Salomon

As if Peter Salomon‘s week wasn’t busy enough — what with him selling his first book and all — he kindly found time to post this interview with me about Can I See Your I.D.? True Stories of False Identities

Thanks, Peter! And congratulations! And, while I’m at it, here’s to you for the terrific post you wrote Monday when you made your big announcement…

11 Apr

Speaking of university-sponsored children’s literature conferences…

What’s more fun than making a list of these? Attending one of them.

I was in author heaven last week, first with a couple of terrifically productive days in Natchez, Mississippi, and Vidalia, Louisiana, researching my upcoming picture book biography The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, and then rounding out the week at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg for the 44th Annual Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival.

Wonderful hosts. Terrific speakers, including Derek Anderson, T.A. Barron, Phil Bildner, David Diaz, Gary Schmidt, and Roger Sutton. (And those are just the ones I caught in their entirety: I missed Joyce Carol Thomas entirely and quite reluctantly had to leave for the airport partway through a sidesplitting story from Carmen Agra Deedy.) Marvelous food (and plenty of it). And a tour of the amazing de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection.

One of the other Hattiesburg highlights was seeing, for the first time, hardcover copies of Can I See Your I.D.? True Stories of False Identities, which officially goes on sale this Thursday. My own box of author copies arrived in Austin while I was gone, along with the nifty bookmarks I’ll be giving away this week at the Texas Library Association conference.

Here’s a peek, along with a hope that if I didn’t get to see you last week in Mississippi, I’ll get to see you this week in Texas!

03 Apr

Booklist calls Can I See Your I.D.? “thoroughly researched and grippingly presented”

Here’s a bit of what the American Library Association’s Booklist magazine has to say about my new book, which officially hits the shelves a week from Thursday:

“Barton … has assembled a rogues’ gallery of con artists, impostors, and pretenders from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. … Barton uses a second-person voice to draw readers into every sketch, ending each one with a wrap-up: ‘What Happened Next?’ Hoppe’s black-and-white line drawings lend a gritty comics quality to each story, and a bibliography lists articles, books, and movies about each subject. Thoroughly researched and grippingly presented.”

I’m expecting two special Can I See Your I.D.? deliveries this week: My box of author copies, and a box (or two) of bookmarks smashingly designed by Sarah Rehm. As much as I’m looking forward to having those hardcovers in my hands, those bookmarks are really something else — I can’t wait for the chance to give them away at the Texas Library Association conference here in Austin next week!

21 Mar

A starred review from PW for Can I See Your I.D.?

This sure was a fun one to see. The Publishers Weekly review, in part:

“In 10 impeccably crafted profiles, Barton (The Day-Glo Brothers) shares the stories of individuals–many just teenagers–who adopted false identities for amusement, profit, or survival. … The use of second-person narration is very effective, allowing readers to assume the identities of each individual. Barton’s prose captures the daring, ingenuity, and quick thinking required of each imposter.”

You can read the rest here.

05 Mar

Heck, my mother should know…

…that I’ve been published in The Horn Book!

The absolutely stellar March/April special issue focusing on “Fact, Fiction, and In Between” includes contributions from Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Erica Zappy, Matt Tavares, Marc Aronson, Steve Jenkins, Elizabeth Partridge, Monica Edinger, Tanya Lee Stone, Laurie Halse Anderson, Andrea Davis Pinkney, Candace Fleming, Katerine Paterson, Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, Margarita Engle, Deborah Heiligman, James Cross Giblin, Viki Ash and Thom Barthelmess, Marthe Jocelyn, Steven Herb, Leonard S. Marcus, Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer … and me.

Here’s a bit of my short essay “Your Mother Should Know,” about a last-minute twist in my research for Can I See Your I.D.? True Stories of False Identities:

By the time the U.S. Navy got around to fulfilling my Freedom of Information Act request, I’d forgotten that I had requested it. But even though my text for Can I See Your I.D.? was finished, I couldn’t help but take a look at the documents pertaining to one of my subjects, serial impostor Ferdinand Waldo Demara Jr.

One document referred to “a letter from [redacted] dated 14 August 1944, in which she requested information concerning the whereabouts of her brother, Ferdinand S. [sic] Demara, who had been A.W.O.L.”

This was trouble.

And as if that wasn’t enough to liven up my week, I received the First Big Review of Can I See Your I.D.? from Kirkus Reviews:

Barton’s use of the second-person point of view gives these stories dramatic tension and a sense of immediacy. Hoppe’s graphic panels enhance this effect. … Teens in the thick of creating identities themselves will find this riveting.

April 14 is the book’s official publication date. I’m starting to get a wee bit excited.

27 Feb

Discuss amongst yourselves

Just this morning, I’ve published the initial version of the discussion guide I’ve put together for Can I See Your I.D.? True Stories of False Identities, my YA nonfiction title coming this spring from Dial Books for Young Readers.

Below is a bit of what you’ll find in there. There’s also an excerpt from the first chapter, a set of discussion questions, and a Q&A about the book’s origins, the research I did for it, my use of a second-person narrator, etc.

I’d love it if you’d take a look and let me know what you think. Like I said, it’s an initial version — so much of what there is to discuss about this book hinges on the actual discussions that actual readers will have, so I plan to revise and update the discussion guide in the months ahead.

Dear Reader,

What would make you pretend to be someone else?

For my subjects in Can I See Your I.D.? True Stories of False Identities, the
reasons were many: They wanted to make it in Hollywood. They didn’t want
to be killed by Nazis. They wanted to escape from slavery. They didn’t want
to go broke. They really wanted to drive a subway train. And so on.

This is a book about identities both false and true, because all of these
people pretending to be someone else were, at the same time, truly
themselves on the inside. I believe that’s a theme that a lot of readers can
relate to, but especially young adults.

During adolescence, “Who am I?” is neither an idle nor an uncommon
question. I hoped that my researching and telling these ten stories would
help both me and my readers understand the reasons a person would assume
a false identity, the specifics involved in pulling off such fakery, and the
psychic toll taken by that kind of deception.

And to give you, the reader, a feel for that experience, I wrote Can I See
Your I.D.?
in a way that puts you in each subject’s shoes – that gives you, for
a few pages, a new identity.

I hope you’re up for that, and that this book gives you lots to think about, and
lots to discuss. Most of all, I hope you enjoy it.

Yours (truly!),

Chris