San Diego Comic-Con 2017

San Diego Comic Con logoThis year was my fourth year at San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) and while it was a good experience overall, I’m getting a little cranky about it. Here’s the highs and lows of my personal experience. For SDCC news, I recommend io9.com.

My experience this year was very much affected by my physical state on Saturday and Sunday, especially Saturday. SDCC is all about attitude and my attitude was grumpy. The lines seemed longer and the atmosphere more tense. Every time I tried to sit down or even stand still some staff person told me to move, which was infuriating (credit where due – when people did NOT keep moving the resulting bottlenecks were horrific). Having survived Saturday, when I was in rocky shape, I advise one and all to keep careful track of your energy levels and be kind to them. Have an exit plan ahead of time. Eat some fiber and protein. One thing SDCC does do well is provide a lot of free water. DRINK IT ALL.  This is your vacation, for God’s sake. You should enjoy it, even if that means that you miss some stuff because you are taking a nap.

 

me, looking fed up an exhausted, sitting under a "no sitting" sign

 

Even though I spent this year in an extremely cranky fibro fog, I still had some wonderful experiences. My daughter was able to get into an autograph session with the cast and creators of Steven Universe and later we went to a panel with Rebecca Sugar, the creator of Steven Universe, and the show’s co-developer, Ian Jones-Quarty. I loved hearing about the background of the show, but more than that as a parent was so grateful to cast and creators for being incredibly warm and kind towards my daughter. I am also grateful to the creators of the show for making something so incredibly positive, feminist, and inclusive.

I heard a lot of people give advice about succeeding at visual arts, at comics, at cartoons, at acting careers, and at writing, and all the advice was the same regardless of the medium. Keep going. Work every day. Practice. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Engage with your audience. Above all, remember that an idea is no good if you keep it in your head. Rebecca Sugar told us that she writes her doodles for new show concepts on scavenged paper scraps so she won’t have to feel bad about messing up a nice sketchbook with bad first drafts. Whatever it takes to give yourself permission to get those awful first drafts after you, do it and then finish your work!

the meeseeks from Rick and Morty!

Can Do! Pic is blurry because we couldn’t stop laughing long enough to hold the camera steady!

You’d think it would be hard to make friends in a crowd of 100,00+ people, but personally, over the years SDCC has become less about the panels and more about the friendships. I had so much fun hanging out with people know and love. I think the greatest benefit of conventions, whether large or small, is that they help people form smaller, intimate communities of support, understanding, and a lot of laughter.

The most mind-blowing aspect of my SDCC experience has been growing from an observer to a participant. I was honored to moderate the panel “Embracing the Romantic.” Rebecca Zanetti, Jessica Cluess, Stephanie Perkins, Anna Todd, Christina Hobbs, and Lauren Billings. We had so much fun talking about the importance of romance, our favorite couples, what makes a romance compelling, and how much science fiction and fantasy fans and romance fans have in common. Thank you, ladies, for a delightful experience!

It's Cosplay Repair Guy!

And thanks, Cosplay Repairman, for the bobby pins!

San Diego Comic-Con is what you make of it. It can overwhelm you unless you set up strict self-care rules for yourself. You can have a feminist, inclusive experience that celebrates people of color and LGBTQIA readers and creators. I come away from SDCC heart warmed and inspired and ready for battle every year, but I deliberately choose the panels that will foster those emotions. You can have a thrilling experience centered around big budget movies or you can have a slightly more calm, but still thrilling, experience centered around comics, authors, and artists.

A Visit From Bonnie Burton

Bonnie BurtonHey everyone, we have a visit today from Bonnie Burton, author of Crafting With Feminism. You can find my review of Crafting at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.

We asked Bonnie about crafting, feminism and her new book:

 

What is your favorite form of crafting, and why?

 

I have a soft spot for making puppets. There’s something extra rewarding about making a craft that will smile back at you. So I try to add a puppet or two in every craft book I write. For Crafting with Feminism, I made finger puppets for icons such as bell hooks, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and more.  For The Star Wars Craft Book there’s an Admiral Sackbar bag puppet, Chewbacca sock puppet, Cantina patrons finger puppets and Bith Band spoon puppets.

 

What makes crafting a feminist endeavor?

 

Crafting is at its core a DIY act. You’re using artistic skills like sewing, crocheting, knitting, felting, quilting and more to express yourself. Feminism is about expressing the need for men and women to be treated, paid and respected equally. When women’s rights — or any human rights — come under attack, we fight back in protest. And at protests, that’s where you’ll see everything crafted from DIY signs to pink knitted pussy hats. Crafting is empowering on multiple levels.

 

You’ve been very involved in Star Wars in several capacities. What do you think people need to learn from the Star Wars Franchise?

 

Star Wars teaches us that tyranny has no chance of surviving when brave individuals band together to fight injustices. Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo and Chewbacca fighting against Darth Vader and the evil empire can serve as a real-life reminder that no one should stand by when they see a leader become poisoned by his own addiction to power. Star Wars also is a great story about friendship, believing in one’s self, chasing a dream and putting one’s trust in the underdog. Everyone gets something different out of Star Wars when they need it most.

 

Can you give us a sneak peek into your upcoming October release? Any hints about amazing artifacts? And will I ever find a plush niffler?

 

My upcoming book J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World: Movie Magic Volume Three: Amazing Artifacts features information on everything from wands and racing brooms to other enchanted objects and magical devices. I explain how myriad artifacts used in the Harry Potter films and “Fantastic Beasts” were lovingly designed and crafted. It’s a fun book for fans of J.K. Rowling’s imaginative worlds that have been recreated on the big screen. I learned a lot about the level of artistry it takes to craft some truly magical props.

Cover of crafting With Feminism

 

Between the Lines Book Club: In the Garden of Beasts

between the lines book club logoIt’s hard to believe that it’s already August, yet here we are. Our book this month is In the Garden of Beasts, by Eric Larson. This non-fiction book tells the true story of American Ambassador William E. Dodd and his family during their service in Berlin. The year? 1933.

The book was well-reviewed. The New York Times said,

“In the Garden of Beasts” has the clarity of purpose to see the Germany of 1933 through the eyes of this uniquely well-positioned American family. There are hindsight-laden books that see the rise of Hitler as a parade of telltale signs. There are individual accounts that personalize the atmosphere of mounting oppression and terror. But there has been nothing quite like Mr. Larson’s story of the four Dodds, characters straight out of a 1930s family drama, transporting their shortcomings to a new world full of nasty surprises.

The Telegraph says:

Larson writes history like a novelist. As in his last book, The Devil in the White City, he sets a small cast of private characters against a backdrop of tumultuous public events.

We’ll be meeting in person to discuss this book at Arden Dimick Library on August 26, 2017 at 10:30AM.

By the way – one of our books this year was The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown. One of our sharp-eyed book club members found that PBS will be airing a special on the real-life rowing team profiled in the book.  The special, called The Boys of ’36, will air on KVIE World channel 6.3 on August 4 at 5pm and 10pm. You can find more information at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/boys36/

Between the Lines Book Club: Interviews with Tracy Chevelier

between the lines book club logoWelcome to Between the Lines Book Club! Our next in-person meeting will be at Arden Dimick on July 22, 2017 at 10:30AM. Our amazing librarian Kerri will be leading the group as we discuss At the Edge of the Orchard, by Tracy Chevelier.

Chevelier primarily writes historical ficiton, which involves a lot of research. In this interview with NPR, she describes eating apples and planting her own apple tree.

On fivebooks.com, she talks about her favorite trees in fiction and why apple trees and Sequoias are so important to her story.

Finally, here’s a lengthy radio interview about At the Edge of the Orchard from The Book Show. Enjoy!

Between the Lines Book Club: William Lobb

between the lines book club logoWelcome to Between the Lines Book Club! Our next in-person meeting will be at Arden Dimick on July 22, 2017 at 10:30AM. Our amazing librarian Kerri will be leading the group as we discuss At the Edge of the Orchard, by Tracy Chevelier.

One of the main characters in the second part of the book is William Lobb, who was a real-life botanist. Lobb’s first plant-collecting venture was on behalf of James Veitch, of the famous Veitch Nurseries in England. Lobb set out for South America in 1840 on a gruelling trip that lasted until 1844. It is probable that, among other things, Lobb brought England the secret to making gunpowder from sodium nitrate (before that it was made with potassium nitrate).

Lobb’s next trip was from 1845-1848, and involved South America again. In 1849 he went to North America where he made the trip to Calaveras Grove that plays such an important role in the book. The grove was first discovered by a hunter who was chasing a bear (not the other way around?). Lobb took measurements of the Giant Sequoias, collected seeds and seedlings, and headed back to England early so as to be the first to bring the samples to England. Veitch was thrilled and made a lot of money from the find, since Sequoias quickly became popular with wealthy English gardeners.

Lobb became increasingly strange and frail. He died, probably of syphilis, in California in 1864. Perhaps fittingly, a google search of his portrait only shows pictures of plants, especially the Monkey Puzzle Tree, the Sequoia, and the William Lobb Rose.

William Lobb Rose

 

Interdependence Day May Have Been Silly But It Sure Was Fun

IMG_0708.JPGThis year on the Fourth of July, Sacramento celebrated its first Interdependence Day. The idea was to celebrate July 4th by celebrating “equity and inclusion,” two concepts I am ALL ABOUT. So off we went to Southside Park in Midtown Sacramento.

As a day of celebrating equity and inclusion, this was not what I’d call an effective event. It was mostly a mix of New Age and Eastern Philosophy inspired booths and practitioners. There was a shortage of booths focused on registering voters, disseminating postcard for people to write on about fair and affordable housing, protecting health care access, protecting the rights of immigrants, and other practical interests that disproportionately affect people of color. On the other hand, I had multiple opportunities to buy items the “Om” symbol on them.

On the other hand, as a self-care day, I couldn’t ask for better. I had a free chair massage and walked a labyrinth made of tape. I danced onstage with a funk band. Speakers recited poetry about the Muslim Ban while a group of women did singing therapy (you lie down and they sing over you). Once The Midnight Players kicked in, people danced on the dance floor. A group of old ladies waved their arms under a tree and a group of belly dancers shimmied under another tree. I started the day with one kid, acquired two more, lost both of them, and eventually regained the one I had started with (this is the math of parenting teens, who practice self-care by ditching their parents and running all over the park while laughing maniacally).

The Interdependence Day Festival represented the worst and the best of middle-class liberalism in Sacramento. There was a lot of cultural appropriation as well as some cultural appreciation and a lot of grey area in between. There was a focus on reading chakras and animal oracle cards instead of providing practical assistance and advocacy. Most of the attendees and vendors were white, although the longer the event went on the more diverse the attendance became.

IMG_0768.JPG

Making the Mandala (photo by http://photobombinc.wixsite.com/photos/)

However, this festival represented something Sacramento is very good at, which is a specific kind of joy. As the day went on, the event became much more racially diverse, and everyone seemed happy and relaxed. We have a lot of parks and a lot of trees and during the summer there  are outdoor movies and concerts in almost all of them, not to mention the year-round farmer’s markets. Any outdoor event involves toddlers and dogs. There will always be at least one barefoot twenty-year-old and at least one barefoot seventy-five year-old dancing to the same music. Middle-aged moms shake their bootys while teens congregate in corners and check their phones. Someone is wearing tie dye, someone is blowing bubbles, and someone is selling gelato or ices.

As an atheopagan/skeptic/hippie, I’m always going to have a weird reaction to the trappings of the New Age world, but I can’t deny that the chair massage I had was heavenly. As a white progressive who spends a lot of time online, I think all these white people reading chakras is problematic but the Mandala that people took turns creating sure is beautiful. I have no idea what people of color make of all this, but everyone seemed to be smiling.

Bottom line – this is late news as the Fourth has come and gone, but basically I’d much rather spend the next Fourth at the next Interdependence Festival instead of at anything involving eagles and beer (unless it involves live eagles – that would be cool). But next year, I’ll bring some postcards.