Archive by Author

Gee Whiz, Giant News!

15 Dec
A still from the new show!

You guys! THIS is the reason I haven’t had any new books out in a really long time!

For the past three years, and mostly from the comfort of my own home, I have been writing, producing and even narrating a three-episode animated adaptation of my book, El Deafo, for Apple TV+! And now it’s almost here! Check out this cool trailer:

My co-writer and co-producer is my very good friend, the one and only Will McRobb! Yeah, that Will McRobb — the one who co-created one of my all-time favorite shows, The Adventures of Pete & Pete! (Check it out. It’s one of the funniest and weirdest shows ever created.) Will showed me the ropes and then let me be in the driver’s seat, always lending his talents and expertise and support along the way. Will and I are so excited to share this production with you.

I signed on to do this show because it felt like an opportunity to present, on the powerful medium of streaming, a deaf person who uses a hearing aid to help them hear (like me). When I was a kid watching TV and movies as a kid (and sometimes even as an adult), the few deaf people portrayed (the ones wearing hearing aids, at least) were often objects of ridicule, the butt of the joke. Sometimes, even the hearing aid itself got mocked. This show felt like my chance to share, as authentically as I can, a deaf character who is also a real person, with all of the same ups and downs, hopes and dreams — and goofy crushes — as everyone else.

There’s so much to tell you guys! And where to start? Well, it’s directed by Gilly Fogg of Lighthouse Studios in Ireland. Gilly guided the animators to stay true to the look of the book, while encouraging them to give all the characters these incredibly nuanced performances. Gilly also did all the voice directing (of me, too), and what a treat it was to watch her in action! She’s such a bright talent, and a wonderful friend, too. I actually made a lot of new friends at Lighthouse, and the entire team (I think I counted 133 names in the credits!) is to be commended.

The kid version of me is played by Lexi Finnigan, a new young actress who is also deaf (she uses cochlear implants to help her hear). This was Lexi’s first experience acting, and she really aced it. She sounds authentic because she is authentic (and still a kid); in fact, all the kids in the show (and there are a lot of ‘em) are voiced by actual kids. Yay!

Pamela Adlon (you might know her from Better Things, but to me she will always be Dolores from Grease 2) plays my mom… Jane Lynch (from everything) plays my teacher, Mrs. Sinklemann… and Clancy Brown (Rawhide from Buckaroo Banzai for fellow old-timers) is gym teacher Mr. Potts.

Katie Crutchfield (more famously known as Waxahatchee) wrote the beautiful theme song as well as two other fun songs for the show…and Michael Andrews (who composed the music for Freaks and Geeks, my favorite TV show ever), scored the episodes, giving everything a gorgeous seventies feel that will warm even the coldest heart.

And oh yeah, the sound design: Just like the book uses speech balloons to illustrate what I hear and don’t hear, you’ll hear the sounds of the show almost entirely from my point of view. Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van Der Ryn of E2 Sound (they did A Quiet Place, y’all!) worked tirelessly to grok what we were trying to do, and then did a fantastic job making it happen.

None of this would have happened without the amazing support of the team at Apple TV+, particularly that of Tara Sorensen, head of children’s programming at Apple, who never stopped believing in this project, and who really, really listened to all that I had to say. And there are so many, many people (you won’t believe the machine that is streaming TV) who have been working long hours to make the show (and me) look really good. I’m truly grateful for their time and talents.

For the folks who lovelovelove the book: yes, the show is different in a lot of ways, but Will and I worked tirelessly to make sure that the heart of it is all there. And I think you’ll love how wild the El Deafo fantasies get! I hope you’ll see it not just as a companion piece to the book, but as something to genuinely enjoy on its own terms.

This is my own unique story, and it’s important to me to repeat what I say in the Author’s Note at the end of the book: I am an expert on no one’s deafness but my own. But we are all experts on what it’s like to feel different from everyone else, and to be lonely — and so my biggest hope for this show is that it will be good company to anyone who needs a friend.

I hope you’ll check it out! Premiering Friday, January 7th!

Another deep dive into Chapter 20 of El Deafo!

23 Nov

Folks, it’s the penultimate video of this series!

Can you believe that I’m on the next-to-the-last chapter in this series? (That’s what penultimate means — “the next to the last.” It took me years to learn this. Doesn’t that extra syllable make penultimate sound like it’s even better than ultimate?) Anyway, it’s taken me much longer than I thought it would to make all these videos. I kept getting distracted by various bits and bobs, and was not always able to provide video content every Monday, as I had hoped to do. But here’s chapter 20…and hopefully, next week you’ll see the FINAL VIDEO of the FINAL CHAPTER! WOWZA!

What I can’t believe is that we are still in this pandemic. I started this series back in March at the pandemic’s start, thinking for sure it would all be over by April or May. Nope. We’re still in it, and if anything, it’s not looking too pretty. BUT there are some promising vaccines on the horizon, and I’m hoping everyone will have access to those before too long.

Meanwhile, I hope you are all staying healthy. Are you looking forward to eating something yummy on Thanksgiving day? I am! I’m making a big ol’ meal, complete with sauerkraut and onion pie. Yum. Really!

And now back to this chapter: It’s about how Mike and I carried out Mike’s lovely plan of using the Phonic Ear hearing aid and microphone to fool our teacher, Mrs. Sinklemann. You’ll find out what’s true and what’s fudged (but only slightly), and you’ll also hear a little bit about what I was like later, in high school (because I talk a little bit about my first car). Why am I talking about my first car? Watch the video to find out!

And oh! There’s more footage of me running my mouth while the patient Mike Miller tries to get a word in edge-wise. Painful for me to watch. (And doubly painful for me to caption — conversations are impossible to get right, so hopefully I got most of it for those of you who rely on captions, as I do.) I think I’ve said this before, but I would be a terrible, terrible host on a late-night TV show. I’d never give the guests a chance. So rude. I think my New Year’s resolution is going to be to hush up and let others say what they want to say. No interruptions!

And finally, you’ll see that the Not-a-Zit™ remains firmly on my forehead. What IS that thing?

Since it’s almost Thanksgiving, I’m reminded of how very thankful I am to each and every one of you. You guys are awesome.

Here’s a link to the video:

Have a wonderful holiday, and please stay safe! XOXO!

More El Deafo deep divin’!

16 Nov

An Inside Look at Chapter 19 is now up on YouTube!

I’m not sure if anyone has been sitting on the edge of their seats whilst waiting for the next installments of these videos, but if you have, my sincere apologies for taking so long to post a new one.

Like most of you, I’ve been so distracted lately: Coronavirus, election, excellent TV, upcoming holidays, stress eating.

Nonetheless, I’ve managed to complete another deep dive. This one explores chapter 19 of the book, in which Mike Miller experiments with the Phonic Ear and microphone, trying to figure out just how far its range might go.

Turns out, the microphone went a looooong way back then: a distance of three blocks from our houses on Broad Street — a whopping half a mile! I was able to hear and understand Mike (as he spoke to me while wearing the microphone) until he got to Brooks-Byrd Pharmacy…which, believe it or not, is still standing…and the lovely young people who work there are still making those delicious citrus-ade drinks that the place is famous for. Well, famous for that — and for prescription drugs! It is relatively unchanged since my family moved to Salem in 1976, and it’s still run by a Brooks — the son of one of the original owners. It’s a pretty storied place, and I hope it remains standing forever.

Anyhoo, it’s an exciting chapter, as it marks the first time that Martha starts really talking to me again after what seemed like forever and ever…and I also find out exactly why Martha hadn’t been talking to me for so long.

If you watch the video, you’ll find out whether or not the overheard conversation between Martha and Mike really happened…and what else? You’ll also get a glimpse of a red mark on my forehead. Is it a bug bite, or something much worse? A ZIT!?!?! You’ll also see a little bit more of my conversation with the always polite and patient Mike Miller, who was probably exhausted from my non-stop chatter…

Here’s the video:

Thanks, as always, for tuning in and for being awesome. While you wait for the final two chapter installments to appear on YouTube (sooner rather than later, I hope!) check out the new superpowered edition of El Deafo, with its shiny updated cover and lots of groovy extras at the end.

Stay safe everyone! XOXOXOXO!!!!

Happy book birthday…or maybe it’s more like: Happy book re-birth day!

13 Oct

El Deafo: The Superpowered Edition is here!

I’m excited to announce that TODAY is the official release day for the re-release of El Deafo, now with extra goodies included at the end! It’s the same book that some of you know and some of you might even like or even love…with photos of family and friends from long ago, as well as cool information about how the book was made. Plus some sweet fan mail, too!

Here’s a video where I tell you all about it!

And yep, I still have three more “deep dive” videos to make for the final three chapters of El Deafo. I promise I’ll post those soon. Just gotta get my act together first, ha ha ha ha ha.

Many thanks to Abrams Books and Susan Van Metre for making this edition of El Deafo possible (as well as the original El Deafo), and especially to my readers for your many years of kindness and support!

Stay well everybody!!! XOXOXO!

It’s up! A virtual exhibit from the Carle Museum!

30 Sep

Now & Then: Contemporary Illustrators and their Childhood Art

I was honored to be part of this wonderful exhibit at the Carle a while ago, which was curated by amazing author/illustrators Grace Lin and Jarrett Krosoczka. And now, the museum has made it virtual so that all can enjoy it. So much talent in this exhibit, and it’s wonderful to see what that talent looked like when it was just starting to bud. (My own favorite is Barbara Lehman‘s “Giant Fried Egg Machine,” drawn when she was 12. Holy moly, it’s amazing! I am a HUGE fan of her work. Just, wow. EVERYONE in this exhibit is SO GOOD.)

My own contribution was a drawing made when I was recovering from meningitis in the hospital in 1975. It ties in quite nicely with El Deafo, as you’ll see if you check out this fab exhibit!

Woohoo! A deep dive of El Deafo’s Chapter 18 is UP…

28 Sep

…and my next guest needs no introduction!

Gosh, it’s been forever since I posted my last Inside Look video. Lots going on — mostly, my parents are in the process of selling my childhood home (they’ve been there for 44 years!) and they’ll be moving out before too long. It’s the same house that’s in El Deafo, and what a privilege it was to grow up in a big old house like that. So while it’s been great to be able to help them, I’ve gotten a little behind on my El Deafo videos. Alas!

However, this particular video is worth the wait, because GUESS WHAT? I did a Zoom interview with the one and only MIKE MILLER!!! My childhood crush!!! I mean, how many people get to interview their first crush!?!? Not many, that’s how many.

We had a great time catching up. Mike told me all about his life now, including cool stuff about his career and his family; we also talked about how I found him in the early days of working on the book, and the ways in which our memories line up (and don’t line up). Sometimes the interview is awkward because I KEEP INTERRUPTING the poor man. He was very nice about it but I think I would be a terrible talk show host, good grief. I’m ashamed of my manners. I guess I was that excited to see him again. You’ll see! (And yeah, this interview was definitely cleared my lovely husband, Tom Angleberger!)

Our stroll down Memory Lane took us not just past Chapter 18, but also past Chapter 16 and the Curly Pencil Incident. You will hopefully be as riveted as I was, hearing his take on this moment and various other moments featured in El Deafo.

Here’s what Mike looked like during those El Deafo years:

And here’s what he looked like right before he moved away:

Want to know what he looks like now? You’ll have to check out the video to see! Spoiler alert: he grew up to be a very handsome (and kind) man.

I hope you’ll enjoy it! I still can’t believe it, myself. So much fun. But grab some popcorn and a drink — it’s a little longer than usual!

A deep dive into TWO chapters of El Deafo is up!

31 Aug

Today’s video is an in-depth look at chapters 16 and 17. I lumped ’em together, partly because chapter 17 is so short, but also because chapter 17 is a direct continuation of what happens in chapter 16.

Chapter 16 is one of my very favorite chapters in the book. It’s the “Curly Pencil Incident,” and the way it plays out in the book is very, very close to how I remember it playing out in real life. It’s funny how an event that surrounded something so small and truly inconsequential — like that curly pencil — can be a traumatic and life-changing event in a young life. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, a curly pencil is really nothing. But you never forget those big feelings, nor the people that trigger those big feelings. And you never forget those kids — like my friend, Mike Miller — who are kind enough, and brave enough, to stand up for you. What a great kid he was!

Chapter 17 is a bit of foreshadowing, laying out the pieces for what’s to come later in the book. If you’ve read the book, you know what “Quiet Math” is, and you also know how scared I was of getting my name written up in Mrs. Sinklemann’s apple. Just thinking about it today makes my stomach hurt a little bit. I hate to be in trouble with anyone!

So, kids: keep your name out of the apple (another way of saying, behave!) — and I hope you’ll enjoy this video!

A deep dive into Chapter 15 of El Deafo is up!

24 Aug

Ah yes, one of the (many) moments of reckoning of my young life: the breakage of the Phonic Ear’s microphone by my former gym teacher, “Mr. Potts.” (His real name is pretty close.)

As most of you know, there are a lot of good — and even great — teachers. But there are also a few clunkers, too. Mr. Potts was a clunker! For all you teachers out there reading this — especially P.E. teachers — a little bit of kindness goes a long way. Also, I hope that paddles with holes drilled in them have been banned, because those things are just plain wrong.

So yes, in this video, I talk about Mr. Potts “accidentally” breaking my microphone (I use the quotation marks because he didn’t show much remorse afterwards).

You’ll find out more about what it was like to go four to six weeks at school without my microphone (sheer agony!), and you’ll also learn how my mom stepped up to make the wait a little less long. She’s amazing.

And finally, I talk about the dreaded flexed-arm hang, which is one of several events that kids back then (and maybe even now) had to do in their attempts to acquire the coveted Presidential Physical Fitness Award patch.

I only got this patch once in my entire school career, as I am not widely known for my athletic prowess. You’ll find out from reading the book and from watching the video that I did get this award — but not without the stars lining up in such a way to make it possible. Question: is it cheating if you don’t tell your gym teacher that he recorded the results of an event incorrectly, and in your favor?

I hope that after you watch this video, you’ll find yourself a pull-up bar and try to beat my personal best: 64 seconds!!!

Thanks so much for watching. Here’s the video!

Episode 2 of the In-Betweeners is up!

17 Aug

That’s right! A new conversation between amazing author/illustrator Jessixa Bagley and myself is up on YouTube! And we talked for a solid hour, so I’ve made this a 2-parter. Watch Part One now, Part Two later, and then call it a day!

In this episode, called “Invisibility,” we talk about situations that make us feel invisible — a feeling that many share, I am sure. It’s particularly pronounced if you feel like you live between two worlds, and don’t really fit in either.

Apologies in advance: I say a bad word — the dreaded H-E-Double Hockey Sticks — so if you watch this with your kid(s), tell them that I’m sorry and explain that the emotion of the moment got the better of me. Sometimes those words slip through! Also explain to them that I tried hard to edit it out in YouTube studio, but I guess I’m more of a Luddite than I like to admit.

It’s so much fun to talk to Jessixa. As serious as these conversations can be, we sure enjoy making each other laugh. That’s been the best part — finding out that even though we look different and have had different life experiences, we have so much in common, too. Humor is a great uniter.

Here are the videos. Enjoy!

Thanks so much for watching. I’m hoping to get my deep dive into chapter 15 of El Deafo up soon!

Now up: A deep dive into Chapter 14 of El Deafo!

10 Aug

Chapter 14 is the shortest chapter in El Deafo — only 5 pages! Or is it 6? It’s all about the moment I got my glasses. In the video, you’ll see a picture of me with my first pair…and a picture of me with my round pair — the pair that inspired the one and only Mike Miller to tell me that I looked like John Lennon. Fun — but short!

So, because this chapter is so short, I decided that now would be the perfect moment to talk to El Deafo’s colorist, the amazing David Lasky.

David Lasky is a comics genius (you can check out his work here), and the fact that he agreed to color my book still surprises me to this day. His color choices, and the shadows he drew (all by hand, on paper!) added so much extra depth to this book.

David’s own work, especially his graphic novel with Frank M. Young, The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song, is astonishing! Check it out if you can. (His work is also available for sale on Etsy; I myself own this sticker, which now cutely resides on my laptop!)

As you’ll find out, David and I have known each other for 30 years! We go way back, and I’m glad we do.

Here’s the moment when David told me that he USED A MOUSE to color El Deafo. Talk about old school!

And here’s the video. Enjoy!!!