Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Fantastic Mr. William Joyce

There are some days when my life seems truly blessed.  There are many reasons why I would choose not to live in NYC.  However, there are days when I'm really glad to be here, and this past Saturday was one of those days.

I was lucky enough to attend a book signing and talk with the author, illustrator, and filmmaker William Joyce at Books of Wonder in NYC.  I've written about this little gem of a store many times;   it continues to inspire me. Children's books authors and illustrators are my celebrities! If you haven't yet visited Joyce's website, please do so by clicking here.  You'll love it.

Joyce has written and illustrated many books, including the Guardians of Childhood series, comprising "The Man in the Moon," "Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King," and "E. Aster Bunnymand and the Warrior Eggs at the Earth's Core!" 

William Joyce, spread from "Man in the Moon"

His new picture book, where he teamed with illustrator Joe Bluhm, is called "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore." It--and the Oscar-winning animated short of the same title--was the subject of his talk.

Joyce spent the bulk of his time talking about life in Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He told an anecdote about how he observed children in the hurricane shelters, crammed with thousands of people who had lost their homes, who were able to lose themselves "in the bubble" of their imaginations when reading books that he had passed out to them.  This helped to inspire a portion of his book.  It begins when Morris Lessmore, his beloved books, and even the words on the page of the book he writes, blows away in a Wizard of Oz-style storm that upends his home and leaves him in a black and white world.  While no Wicked Witches were squashed below, below, below his home, and no yellow brick road appeared to show him the way, his wanderings led him to a young woman being carried aloft by books.  Flying books.  Flying books in color!  He followed one particular book, a flip-book animation of Humpty Dumpty, to an old house filled with these books.  Reading the books, getting immersed in a world of imagination, Morris turned to color after his world went black and white.  The house he lived in had no computer (like Joyce), no internet, no hand-held games, not even a Kindle. Just books. Books that gave color to his world.  And living there, he wrote his own book.  He lived among and in the books, took care of them, shared them with others, until he was an old man.  I won't give the ending away. 

Little did I know that we would also be able to view the movie with Joyce and his colleague, the movie's director Brandon Oldenburg, also of Moonbot Studios, in attendance.  It's a first for me: seeing an Oscar-winning film for the first time with the men who made it.  How inspiring!

Screening of "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore".  See Joyce at left.
Of course I got a copy of the book signed for my inspiration collection.  It's so great to be able to talk to the authors. 

He drew the egg with a pen for me, because I told him I am an illustrator.
I asked if it were nerdy to want to pose with the author. He replied, "Yes, but that's ok!" I own that one. I am a children's literature nerd.  Are you, too?  Don't be afraid to admit it.  Heck, embrace it! It means you have a verdant imagination and a healthy dose of innocence left.  Those two things are still in short supply.

Me and William Joyce. Amazing. Or, as my nephew would say, "Epicness!" Even cooler that a Trina S. Hyman and a Gennady Spirin book illustration are directly behind us. They are two of my favorites.
Even nerdier, but via proxy: here is my photo with a very accommodating Brandon Oldenburg. It's my geekfest photo for my little sister, an animation student at Rochester Institute of Technology.

Me and Brandon Oldenburg, posing with Joyce's "Dinosaur Bob"
 The moral of the story (of my day): keep dreaming and think big.  They thought and worked all the way to the Oscars, and won.  Thanks for a cool afternoon, Mr. Joyce, and a healthy dose of imagination.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic post Jessica! Always been such a fan of Joyce and all his endeavors! Good for you!!