Saturday, August 3, 2013

Mac Barnett Keynote: What You Need To Know About Making Books For People Who Are Often Shorter Than You and Sometimes Have More Trouble Tying Their Shoes

Mac Barnett giving his keynote to a packed ballroom

Mac Barnett is the author of some remarkable picture books, like Extra Yarn (which won a 2013 Caldecott Honor and the 2012 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Excellence in Picture Books), Oh No Not Again! and the middle grade Brixton Brothers mysteries.

Lin Oliver introduces him as "smart, quirky, funny and contemporary."

Mac starts off his keynote by reading to us from his picture book Guess Again?  He has the room laughing - and proves that he is indeed smart, quirky, funny and so of the moment -- setting up our expectations and making us laugh when we're wrong!

"Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth" - Pablo Picasso

Is a quote Mac has been thinking about a lot.  He even has a ven diagram about it, truth and lies as two circles that overlap -- and that center where they overlap is art, or what he likes to call WONDER.

He tells us about discovering that sense of wonder when he worked at a summer camp and he would tell extraordinary stories with cliffhangers to the campers -- stories that would go on for an entire week.  He's making us laugh again, and tying it all into a discussion of the suspension of disbelief.

Mac speaks about the tutoring center 826 LA (for which he's on the Board of Directors) and how the store in front, "The Echo Park Time Travel Mart" sells products across time, like robot emotion chips.  Their broken slushie machine has a sign that says "Out of Order: Come Back Yesterday."  He explains how the store is like a "book in three dimensions" and how that is linked to his creative process of writing picture books.

He's discussing meta-fiction, and tells us the incredible story of how there's a hidden offer inside his book, Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem, to get your very own blue whale.  Some kids (very much kids like Mac was) actually send away for the whale, and in return they get a letter from a Norwegean law firm explaining that there's been a customs delay in delivering their whale, but offering a phone number that they can call to leave their whale a message.  Some of them call, and after some whale sounds, they hear a beep, and they leave a message!  Mac plays us the adorable phone messages that one child, Nikko, left for his very own whale, Randolph.

Not an actual photo of Randolph, who is not an actual pet of an actual child reader... but on some amazing, wondrous level, this is absolutely Nikko's pet blue whale, Randolph.  Look, Randolph is even smiling (and perhaps burping at the same time - he really enjoyed the soda Nikko sent him.)

Mac shares his wonder at how he gets to do something "weird and strange and bold and experimental ...and have kids accept it into their lives."

He challenges us to experiment ourselves because "childhood is, by nature, experimental."

It's an inspiring talk - and Mac's books in the conference bookstore are sure to sell out!

1 comment:

  1. Guess Again is one of my all time favorite picture books.
    Mac is indeed quirky, contemporary, and clever.