Writers commonly go on tour to promote their work, which seems to make sense — although a number of very good authors who I’ve seen over the years are not adept at it. In a way, that also makes sense — if you spend much of your life sitting alone in a room with imaginary people floating through your head, the real world might be difficult to negotiate.
Charles Bukowski, in his novel Hollywood, seconds my point when he notes, “The best part of a writer is on paper. The other part was usually nonsense.”
Maybe ‘nonsense’ is a key part of the equation. I’ve enjoyed videos found online of the very wacky Christopher Moore, rambling away in public, and my favorite author, seen in person, has been Carl Hiaasen. He spoke at a book fair in South Florida many years ago, in a big tent somewhere out by Lion Country Safari, west of West Palm Beach. (Remarkably, this dim memory of mine turns out to be from April 1994, vouched for by this newspaper clipping online.)
Anyway, Hiaasen in person turned out to be smart, funny, as likeable as his novels, a combination I haven’t run across again until today, when The Flying Pig down the street, one of America’s finest bookstores, brought John Scieszka to town. Scieszka, a former grade school teacher who primarily writes for children, had an even more difficult assignment than Hiaasen at the book fair, because his audience ranged in age from younger-than-first graders to retired elementary school librarians in their 60s or 70s.
Despite this challenge, he easily charmed everyone; a comic book version of one of Scieszka’s public appearances in 2004 (with his frequent illustrator Lane Smith) gives you an idea of what went on. (You also can watch him, in a more formal interview setting, in this series of short videos.)
If you’re not familiar with Scieszka’s work, you should be. (My son Ezra, who started out as a really big fan of Jon’s and now also is really big, especially was/is fond of The Time Warp Trio.) If you have your own (or are a) young man around the house, also check out Scieszka’s ongoing literacy project, Guys Read.