Monday, May 7, 2012

Spring Concert Slap and TCAF Joy

My hectic schedule continued with our school's Spring Concert and the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. Each is worth a post on its own but since I still have several other events to prepare for, in addition to yearbook and the general demands associated with full-time teaching in a public school, I hope you'll forgive me for combining the two.

Spring Concert Slap

Our Spring Concert is an elaborate affair. I am the stage manager. I help our director, the music teacher, organize all the minor and major details that happen behind the scenes. One of my jobs involved guarding the drums. Many of the instruments my school's music teacher uses with her clubs, such as Orff Ensemble, Drumming Group, and Percussion Ensemble, are her own personal possessions. Due to the order of the acts, some of her huge drums had to be stored in the hallway by our gym, so that the performers would bring them on stage when it was time. The drums were terribly tempting for people to touch and it was my task to tell them to stop. A three-year-old was vigorously playing the drums and I said "No no, don't touch the drums".

And he hit me.

I was taken by surprise. I don't even remember what I said next. I went to take the irate boy's hand to lead him away, but I withdrew - he was very mad and in no mood for dealing with me any further. . There was a line of parents and guests waiting to enter the gym early to get the best seats and they witnessed the whole thing. The boy's mother finally came forward to speak to him - and he hit her too.

The rest of the evening went very well. The students did a wonderful job I look forward to compiling the photos taken for the yearbook layout to commemorate the event. Of course, after reading last week's post, you'll know that I'll remember that slap for a while.


TCAF has been around since 2005, if my numbers are correct, and I've been happy to do my little part volunteering to make the annual celebration of the Comic Arts a success. That's where I met my friend Scott Robins. He is the children's programming director for TCAF. His team includes the very sweet Gina Gagliano - I discovered she and I were both "virtual panelists" for an upcoming Graphic Novel Reporter column. Small world! All those great people create some wonderful events. Chris Butcher at the Beguiling is the head honcho for TCAF and they manage to attract the most wonderful comic creators to come. This year, they had a first - a day specifically for Librarians and Educators. It was a great day. Babymouse creators Jennifer and Matt Holm spoke in the morning and I received a free gift bag with lots of goodies just for volunteering to read! I was invited to be on two panels - the morning one with comic creators Kazu Kibuishi, Andy Runton, Mark Siegel, and fellow librarian Eva Volin, and the afternoon one with fellow Minecrafters and comic-friendly educators Denise Colby and Liam O'Donnell.

Morning panel - thanks Denise for taking photos for me!
Denise, Diana and Liam after our afternoon panel work.
My favourite part of the Librarian Day was lunch - not because of the food, but because of the company. The organizers ingeniously grouped educators with creators to sit together and chat while they ate. I had the great pleasure of sitting with Andy Runton, creator of Owly, and Colleen AF Venable, writer of Guinea P.I. and they were charming, witty and just the NICEST people to be with. Denise and I decided to dress in accordance with the day and our table was very supportive and encouraging.

Denise, Colleen, me, Andy's mom, Jane, Andy, Suzanne and (aah, forgot her name!)

It wasn't just Andy and Colleen. In the hall as they set up for lunch, Denise and I chatted with John Green and Dave Roman, Teen Boat creators, about childhood adventures. Kill Shakespeare teammates Conor and Anthony came by our table to admire our superhero costumes and provide us with great lines with which to tease our fellow panelist. Let me tell you something about comic writers and illustrators - they are the most generous and good-natured people you can meet. I brought my entire family to TCAF the following day. My son, who is usually a home-body, wanted to "say hi" to Andy. He loves Owly books and we read them together at night. Andy and his mom recognized me from the day before and chatted with us like we were old friends.

My kids and Andy Runton - yes, the girl's wearing an owl hoodie!
Andy wasn't the only wonderful comic artist we encountered. We spoke with Hilary Leung, illustrator behind the wildly popular Ninja, Cowboy, Bear series. We got to meet his brother and purchase the latest in the series.

The Brothers Leung and the Maliszewski siblings.
I've written about the wonderful Chad Solomon before on this blog, and about how my own silly political correctness misled me to misjudge Chad's work, and how through talking to him I realized the errors of my ways. Chad was super-friendly and my husband was impressed by a certain anecdote he told us.

Chad and my kids with his latest book.
And there was Colleen AF Venable. I met her at last year's TCAF and was so impressed with her enthusiasm, humor, and join-de-vivre that I bought a bunch of her Guinea P.I. books. My children loved them so much that, through multiple readings at night, all the characters developed unique voices. My kids planned on making a movie based on her books using their Littlest Pet Shop toys, but they've only gotten as far as drawing the movie poster, which I shared with Colleen and she loved. We waited at her booth for her to arrive and it was worth the time. She made my kids feel like rock stars, gushing over the poster they drew and conversing with them as if she had nothing better in the world to do then talk to THEM. We shared hamster voices and had a great time.

Coming to a YouTube channel near you!
Authors, illustrators - let me thank you. I'm not sure how much you realize how your personal appearances and the small kindnesses you bestow on your young (and young-at-heart) fans means. Your words and pictures inspire and delight, and when we discover that the people who create these wonderful treasures are actually nice people, it makes the world a little better. I'll never forget how Andy sang the theme song to Wonder Woman every time I ran around the audience with my portable microphone collecting comments. That made me feel, dare I say it, WONDERful. Dave Roman (husband of another favourite comic creator of mine - Raina Telgemeier) even sent me a personal note to tell me he enjoyed my panels (and you should have seen his amazing activities on Saturday and Sunday, which means it's high praise coming from a talented guy like him) and offer any help I'd ever need. Just keep doing what you are doing Dave (and everyone else). If I need a guest writer for the "Drawn to the Form" column for The Teaching Librarian, I'll know who to call!


  1. UNknown name was me, Heidi MacDonald. Can you drop me a line with your email? comicsbeat@ Have a question for you!

    Great times at TCAF btw.

  2. Thanks Heidi for clearing up that mystery. Ours was the coolest table at the event!