BULLETIN BOARDS & DISPLAY : Banned Books Week 2013!

     This post is quite tardy. The library has been very busy. But better late than never, right? Banned Books Week 2013 was September 22-28. I had the library all decorated to support intellectual freedom, and I did presentations about censorship and intellectual freedom for 6 eighth grade English classes. They were all very attentive and polite, and had great questions and participation. Their teacher had them all check out books that had been either banned or challenged, which made for some interesting research coming up with about 200 titles that fit the bill and were currently available in our library.
     She gave them an assignment to read their challenged/banned book and take a stance on whether they agreed or not with the book being challenged or banned, and why. Of course she leaned heavily toward influencing them on the side of intellectual freedom.
     I really liked how the teacher made it very clear in her paperwork for the students that banning a book means removing it from an entire community so that NO ONE has access to it.
     I felt it was totally worth the effort on her part and my part. I loved that the teacher wanted to do such a thorough exploration of a subject that's near and dear to my heart. It gave me the opportunity to talk about my own personal experience with censorship. It's great to see teachers who recognize how important it is to teach kids about the issue, and make sure they understand all the complexities of it. It's not simple or easy.
     I ended up having some great conversations with students regarding the reasons (so-called and real) why some people try to ban certain books. Sometimes it was difficult to find the info, which was also a nice research challenge. ;)
     Here are some pics of what I put up in the library for Banned Books Week, 2013.

There's that comic I drew a billion years ago when I worked in the junior high library...

Detail of the "Library Key"

I like this poster.

I like this poster, too. Those robots are cute AND open-minded.
     "Think for Yourself and Let Others Do the Same" poster available from ALA HERE.


My publisher, Dan Vado, who never wears ties, at the SLG booth
          The day before I set off for a 2-day stint at ALA Midwinter I said to my husband, "Okay, I don't want you to think you're not welcome or that I don't want you there, but I think you would be really, REALLY bored.  This won't be like Comic-Con where there's something for everyone.  This will be LIBRARY in the butt and up the ass, LIBRARY wall-to-wall, no escape from LIBRARY," or something to that effect.
          He quickly decided to fore-go the trip.  I was relieved, because I knew I would want to stay until the bitter end both days, and would be unsympathetic to cries of, "I'm bored, I wanna go home!"
          I drove all the way to San Diego and back by myself both days like a big grownup boy.  I did not get lost, I did not cry.  I listened to the new Duran Duran album in my truck, then Courtney Love & Hole, then a Eugene Mirman comedy CD.

          At the convention I helped Dan, my publisher, work the SLG Publishing booth.  He explained that this was a "trade show," so we weren't really going to be selling anything, it was all about promoting new books, and giveaways to get Librarians excited about stuff.  (Nobody digs free shit like Librarians)  
           Speaking of free stuff, I am obviously a LIBRARY SUPERHERO because I returned home with 190 free books for the school library.
          It was a pretty small booth, but looked very nice, and we were right next to the Disney/Hyperion booth.  Because we're BFFs.  Anyway, at the SLG booth we ended up giving away 250 copies of "The Royal Historian of Oz" #1, and I signed most of them for lots of really nice, gracious people.  I used a green Sharpie a friend gave me, because that's appropriate in an Emerald City kind of way.

          I ran into a bunch of people I knew, such as two Librarians from my school district, some friends of friends who are big Oz fans, a bunch of people who work in the same public library where I had my first job as a Library Tech, and even a girl who saw a presentation I gave in Chapman University's Leatherby Library a few years ago.
          As well as signing my own comic book I was trying to be helpful by giving out SLG catalogs and hyping the other cool books they publish.  I made little tags for some of the books to catch the discerning eyes of Librarians.  Things like:

"Reviewed in BOOKLIST and Publisher's Weekly!" for Elmer by Gerry Alanguilan

"Listed in YALSA's Top Ten Great Graphic Novels For Teens!" for Pinocchio Vampire Slayer by Higgins and Jensen

"By Printz Award-winner Gene Yang!" (for some graphic novel I can't remember the name of now, but it's done by Gene and some other dude)  Gene won the Printz for American Born Chinese, which really is a great book, and deceptively simple until you get to the end and see how it all ties together so cleverly. 
This one is not published by SLG, but I GUESS that's okay...

"GIRL POWER! (Strong Female Protagonist)"  for Shadoweyes by Ross Campbell

"First graphic novel sold in Rock & Roll Hall of Fame!" for Punk Rock and Trailer Parks by Derf

          Gentle reader, wasn't that nice of me?  To help promote these other fine works of graphic novel goodness?  I think so.


*     John Shableski hung out at the SLG booth a lot.  He's the sales manager in charge of selling graphic novels to the book market for Diamond Previews, which is a really big deal if you know anything about comics, because they're THE distributor for the comics industry.  He was wearing a baseball cap that said, "LIBRARY" across the front of it, so I was nerdily jealous of that.  It came from the nice guys at "Unshelved," and although they didn't have any on hand, they said they'd send me one.  They did give me a little "Intellectual Freedom Fighter" ribbon to put on my convention badge.

*     I was signing comics for some people, and I noticed the guy who was next in line looked kind of familiar.  When he was asking me some very nice questions about Royal Historian and I was signing his copy, I noticed his name tag said "T. Jefferson Parker."  I was like, "Dude!  You're T. Jefferson Parker!  My mom and I went to one of your book signings, like, 15 years ago!"  In case you don't know, he's a very successful mystery writer.  Turns out he's really nice, too!

*     A serious-looking young man in professional attire got all excited when he noticed my name badge, and said, "You're Tommy Kovac!" in exactly the same way I had said, "You're T. Jefferson Parker!" earlier.  It was very flattering, and he was super nice.  He's read all of my comics, and even most of my zines!  I gladly signed a "Royal Historian" for him.  I really hadn't expected to run across anybody THAT familiar with my stuff.

          Since it was just the two of us running the SLG booth, Dan and I had plenty of time to talk about stuff.  He's trying to appeal to the Library/Education market as much as possible, and had this great idea to create study/discussion guides for some of SLG's graphic novels. He was talking about wanting to come up with a template, and I said excitedly, “Well, Dan, I’ve already DONE that for you!”  
          I grabbed a copy of my Skelebunnies graphic novel collection, which he had UNDER the table, because apparently it's so vile and naughty he was afraid it would spook the Librarians.  (It probably would)  I showed him the very last page, which is a “Teacher’s Guide To Using Skelebunnies In the Classroom.”  He seemed surprised, and admitted that he had somehow missed seeing that when we published the book.
          As he read it, he noticed that even though it's obviously a parody, I play it off very seriously.  
          By the next morning he had already started one for “Elmer,” using my Skelebunnies parody as a real template.  And you know I love that.

          We went to dinner Saturday evening after the convention hall closed down, at a funky little Chinese restaurant & bar.  Dan almost choked to death on this horrible Korean steak with kim chee. Violently coughed up a ball of it, and had to EXTRACT it from his throat with his fingers, the fermented cabbage (kim chee) making it look like he was giving birth to a Lovecraftian tentacle god through his mouth. Hideous. He was humiliated and kept apologizing, and I couldn't stop laughing. I told him that was the greatest gift he could have given me, to embarrass himself so in my presence.
(this is exactly what the coughed-up Korean beef looked like)

          In the lobby outside the convention hall they have kiosks set up at intervals where you can quickly grab something simple like a Diet Coke, a cookie, a cup of self-serve coffee or whatever.  The keyword is "quickly."  They're super stripped-down versions of Starbucks and Mrs. Fields, staffed by distracted teenagers and exhausted non-English speakers.  Little more than wheelbarrows with fancy umbrellas.
          My point is that you can't expect quality or service.
          I had scoped out a Mrs. Fields kiosk just outside the convention hall door from the SLG booth, so once in a while I would trot out there, ask for a Diet Coke or a cookie, and be on my merry way back to the convention.
          One time I ended up behind a birdlike, slow-moving librarian with frizzy hair. She was hovering in front of the kiosk with her awkward bags and purse, making it hard to tell if she had completed her transaction, or was just confused, or what.  What I did know was that she was in the fucking WAY, and I wanted to just get my Diet Coke and zip back into the convention.  
          Finally "Frizzy" began fumbling in her purse with some wadded up dollar bills and paid the poor kiosk worker, but not until after she had thoroughly questioned the total.
          Then Frizzy moved over to keep a keen eagle eye on the kiosk worker making a hot chocolate for her.  I was tapping my foot, checking the time, wondering how many free books I was missing out on.
          "Excuse me," Frizzy whimpered.  "Excuse me, is that my hot chocolate you're making?  Because it doesn't look very chocolatey..."
          The kiosk worker glared at her.  I glared at her.
          "Did...  Did you only put ONE packet of chocolate in?  Because it looks very light.  I like mine to be very chocolatey.  Do you think you could put another packet in?"
          The kiosk worker explained calmly that they only use one packet per cup.  That's just what they do.
          "Oh, really?  Only one?" Frizzy continued to whine.  "Because it just doesn't look very chocolatey..."
          Not really knowing what to say, the tired kiosk worker just handed the cup over, slowly, in silence.  Frizzy slumped away, and I was glad she didn't get more than her one allotted chocolate packet.


          Later in the conference, a creaky gray-haired man staggered over to the SLG booth and asked what we published.  We tried to explain "comics" and "graphic novels" to him, but he seemed slightly bemused, and mostly uninterested.  (Let me also mention that Dan has been in business with SLG for 25 years now.) The geezer turned his nose up at us as he began to lurch in the other direction, and quipped over his shoulder, "Well...  Hope ya make it."


          I just returned from a very cool trip up to SF for APE.  Got to sign comics for fans at my publisher's booth, and hang out with cool people, spoke on a "Queers In Comics" panel discussion on Saturday, and was interviewed by my publisher Dan Vado at the "Spotlight on Tommy Kovac" panel on Sunday.  There is so much amazing artwork to be seen at APE, so much DIY coolness, I just love it.  Tons of stuff you'll never see anywhere else, and you certainly wouldn't find in a chain bookstore, or even most comic book stores.
          Dan says he might have an SLG booth at the American Library Association's Midwinter Conference, which is in San Diego in January.  He's never exhibited at a library con before, so this would be sort of experimental.  He wants me to come down and sign for a day.  I'm so excited I can't stand it.  I'm nerding out.  I totally love ALA and it would be awesome to have an excuse to go, and especially to get in for free, which I'm assuming would be the case if I'm appearing as a creator.  Anyway, I certainly hope that happens.
          I know there would be lots of interest in a very hip publisher like SLG, since most libraries and library workers have now realized the importance and validity of graphic novels as literature.  Lots of librarians are just looking for help in building their graphic novel collections.  And I told Dan that those librarians buy SHITLOADS of library- and book-related T-shirts, totes, and any other library-related stuff they can wear, carry, or otherwise affix to their persons.


          BANNED BOOKS WEEK is September 26th - October 2nd.  I have a lot of cool stuff to display for it.  Last year it occurred to me that since I'm (unfortunately) in charge of lockers and combination locks, I might as well use some of the wayward locks in my displays, with an "Unlock Your Mind" theme.  I went a little nuts with it this year, and used copies of pictures of locks, blown up big, to form all the letters.  (The metal hook part was what I used for the letters.)  And I used a picture of a brain on pink paper to dot the "i" in "mind."  Isn't that adorable?
I was quite proud of this idea
          The bulletin board also included the dates (at first I put the 6 upside-down, but don't look at that!), a nice quote from Ben Franklin, and a bitchin' "Censorship causes blindness: READ!" poster.
The main bulletin board

Banned Books Week SIMPLIFIED
          I made this Banned Books Week comic strip when I was working at a junior high school with "less intellectual" students who needed a LOT more explaining before they began to grasp the concepts involved.  It was frequently painful (for us), but we just kept on trying, because it's important.
          In case you can't read the dialogue, it goes like this:

BOY:  I don' get it-- Are we banning books?!  Is that a good thing?!

GIRL:  No!  Banned Books Week is about exercising our FREEDOM to read.

GIRL (continued):  It's about CELEBRATING all the wonderful books that some people are trying to keep us from reading, just because they don't like the IDEAS expressed in them.

GIRL (won't shut up about it!):  Libraries believe in protecting INTELLECTUAL FREEDOM!

BOOK:  I'm just a lil' book with some BIG IDEAS!  Don't ban me just 'cause you don't agree with me!

GIRL:  Save the books!

BOY:  Read an "endangered" book today!

"Censorship reflects a society's lack of confidence in itself"
          In the circular glass display cabinet we displayed books from an American Library Association list of the most frequently challenged and/or banned books.  I scattered some opened padlocks on the shelves, and there are two signs on the back side, explaining the display.
          The first sign reads, "Some people are trying to keep you from reading these books...  These books have been challenged and/or banned from school and public libraries across the nation."
          And the second one says, "Celebrate your freedom to read!"
          The cabinet is unlocked, and I encourage students to check out any books they find interesting.

The Library Key!
          This is a close-up of my favorite part of the display, the "Library Key" which I made from clip-art and blue and chartreuse paper.  Isn't it fancy?!  It's symbolism, get it?  Because the LIBRARY is the KEY which unlocks your MIND.  Duuuude...

          I have one more (very wordy) hand-made poster about BBW, which I direct students to if I don't have time to explain it myself, or if I'm too frazzled and tongue-tied to be coherent about it.  I put it on red, white, and blue paper to make sure kids get the message that there's nothing un-American about intellectual freedom.  Here's the text of it, which I got mostly from the American Library Association, and paraphrased:


          Banned Books Week emphasizes the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one's opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them.


          A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group.  A banning is the removal of those materials.  Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove materials from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.

          The positive message of Banned Books Week:  Free People Read Freely is that due to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, students and other concerned citizens, most challenges are unsuccessful and most materials are retained in the school curriculum or library collection.