12 Oct

A Texas Lone Star nomination and two new reviews for Can I See Your I.D.?

The full list of nominations for the Texas Library Association’s 2012 Lone Star award for YA books is out now, and I’m thrilled that Can I See Your I.D.? True Stories of False Identities is on it. Anyone looking for recommendations for new books for young adult titles now has a terrific place to start.

Can I See Your I.D.? has also been nominated for the Cybils, and with that nomination have come a pair of thoughtful new reviews of the book. From Not Just for Kids:

One thing Barton does particularly well is to throw the reader directly into the deception. Along with the use of the second person narration, each fraud is already in full swing when the reader joins. … While the individuals involved might have had plenty of time to plan how they were going to carry out their impersonations, the reader does not and needs to be ready to run with the situation from the get-go. Barton does take a small step back to provide some background information, but then it is back to the business at hand, which is basically, ‘will you pull this off?’

And from Wrapped in Foil:

Starting with a young man who manages to trick the New York City Transit Authority into letting him operate the A Train, to a high school dropout who serves as a navy surgeon, to a woman who passes herself off as a male soldier during the Civil War, it is truly amazing what these imposters are able to carry out. In fact, reading the book might entice someone to give it a try if Barton hadn’t included so much information about how stressful it was to pretend to be someone else. In many of the examples the deception was not voluntary, but a response to a desperate situation.

25 Sep

In which I identify a bunch of YA titles about identity…

I spent this past Friday in San Antonio at the regional Library Resource Roundup. Highlights of my day included:

Meeting Adam Gidwitz, the Brooklyn-based author of A Tale Dark & Grimm. Adam not only gave the keynote address — he also gave me a lot to think about (starting with, “How can I make the audience laugh as much as he did?”) as I prepare for my own keynote at a similar event in Waco in November. During an informal Q&A (as opposed, I guess, to the rigidly formal Q&A sessions the librarians have come to expect from children’s authors), Adam discussed the eye-opening usefulness of a certain screenwriting guide. Well, that same guide — Save the Cat! — happens to be the very one I’ve been using to help me out in rewrites of my current manuscript, so I knew he was good people, even if he did set an unwelcomely high bar for keynotes.

Hearing Viki Ash of the San Antonio Public Library — and chair of the 2012 Newbery Award Selection Committee — explain the process for choosing the medal winner. Understanding better how it all works makes me all the more hopeful that I can be in the room in Dallas this coming January when the latest crop of ALA winners is announced.

Debuting my new presentation, “Can You See Their I.D.’s?”

When we’re teenagers, we’re all trying on new identities, we’re all on an adventure, and we’re all at least a little bit off. Author Chris Barton brings those three elements together in his YA nonfiction thriller Can I See Your I.D.? True Stories of False Identities. In this presentation, he’ll discuss how books — from the comic to the tragic — with characters in the throes of identity crises can better equip teen readers to deal with their own.

As part of the presentation, I provided a couple of reading lists. Why, here they are now:

A Pretty Thorough List of Books for Young Readers Written in Second Person
Barton, Chris – Can I See Your I.D.? True Stories of False Identities
Benoit, Charles – You
Jenkins, A. M. – Damage
Lynch, Chris – Freewill
Montgomery, R. A. – Choose Your Own Adventure 1: The Abominable Snowman

A Highly Selective List of Books for Young Readers With Identity As a Major Theme
Barton, Chris – Can I See Your I.D.? True Stories of False Identities
Bjorkman, Laura – My Invented Life
Cannon, A. E. – The Loser’s Guide to Life and Love
Cottrell Boyce, Frank – Cosmic
Fletcher, Ralph – Also Known As Rowan Pohi
Larbalestier, Justine – Liar
Perkins, Mitali – First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover
Sonnenblick, Jordan – Zen and the Art of Faking It
Tashjian, Janet – The Gospel According to Larry
Ziegler, Jennifer – How Not to Be Popular

Which titles would you add to either list?

08 Sep

2011 Texas Book Festival Q&A

Q: Did they announce the lineup today for the 2011 Texas Book Festival, to be held in Austin on October 22-23?

A: Yes

Q: Am I on it?

A: Yes

Q: Am I at least as excited about the other authors who will be appearing as I am about my own participation?

A: Well, let’s see — the lineup includes Jay Asher, Mac Barnett, Libba Bray, Doreen Cronin… And those are just some of the children’s and YA authors up through “C” in last-name alphabetical order, at which point I start to get the vapors. So, you tell me.

Q: How might one go about seeing the entire list?

A: By clicking here.

Q: What if someone wanted to see a Marc Burckhardt-designed Texas Book Festival poster with a flaming horse?

A: In that case, they would click here.

Q: Could I have been any more delighted by the writeup you received, including a description of Can I See Your I.D.? that says it “acutely captures the breathless suspense of the long-con,” praises “the fun of I.D.‘s unconventional storytelling,” and concludes that “After a while, you can’t imagine telling the tales of deception and white-knuckled suspense any other way”?

A: Nope.

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!