By this point, I look at TCAF as less of an event and more of a permanent holiday, a joyous, uplifting free carnival that I can celebrate with friends, with family, or alone. (And in particularly lucky year, all three.) As with any experience that shifts from event to tradition, there are bound to be years that are better than others. I’m happy to report that this year’s TCAF was one of the best I’ve ever seen/attended/taught at.
Teachers Conquer Assorted Fears
I started a day early. For the second year in a row, I signed up for Librarian and Educator Day – a PreCAF with my fellow edu-nerds and a few fun creators. Last year I merely absorbed it in a state of bliss, but this year when the call went out for programming suggestions, I wrote about my own desire for a lesson swap. One of the programmers (and acquaintance of my brother—aren’t they all) wrote back to offer me the chance to participate in suck a panel. Game on.
This meant that I spent the last precious week of my in-class vacation/student teacher season bashing out a presentation on what I’ve done in the classroom with comics. I was able to bring in a lot of what V had done last month with Scott Pilgrim, and we generally had a blast assembling both the talk and the associated Pinterest board.
(It was a running joke while she was in the classroom that I had been able to avoid the obsessive whirlpool of Pinterest before V had made up a class assignment joining Pinterest and King Lear, and now I was only able to communicate with her via the site. In truth, I was playing with it when she asked me what all the TCAFuss was about, and the laziest thing to do was to put together a board to answer the question. Eventually the two of us curated it into a place to share ideas and striking images.)
The talk happened the day after she finished her placement, but she was so enthusiastic about the idea that she drove down from the Hammer to listen in and help me hand out pre-printed website address stickers. World’s Best Student Teacher, meet the World’s Worst (Student) Teacher! I think you’re going to get along just fine…
(Aside: my dad has an extensive stash of office supplies, so when I found myself in need of labels I went to him. He supplied me with a size perfect for a hard disk, earning my mockery…and yet it is a very useful size. Take that, modernity.)
I also dragged Amelie & Bonhomme from school to attend, both of whom later claimed to enjoy themselves. I don’t know what I like better: being a comicbook missionary in education or showing off to my colleagues; that day I didn’t have to choose.
The first talk was by the Tamakis, a powerful writer/illustrator team of cousins who are touring This One Summer. I was very drawn to their previous book Skim, and would often pick it up while I was supposed to be supervising the library, but when I sat down to finish it I got very uncomfortable with the relationship between the main character and her groovy English teacher. It’s not that the story was unrealistic or exploitive – on the contrary, it was sensitive and well-told – it’s just that I can’t read about a teacher kissing a student without several warning klaxons going off in my head, drowning out other thoughts. That’s professionalism for ya.
In any case, I was fascinated by the talk, and on what it’s like to work in comics from the perspective of a playwright and a professional illustrator. It’s not a secret that comics can tell a story differently than other media; I’m interested in the idea of the medium being attractive to people who might not be fans but who understand that what they have to say is best served through comics. They’re also really witty, they have good energy together, and they were warm and fun to chat with when I got my book signed.
I didn’t expect to see them again, as they were featured guests and I just don’t have the patience for long lines any more (especially when I was so spoiled with all the access on Friday), but we ran into each other again on Sunday when I wandered by their signing table. I was supposed to be on my way to where Mason was feeding Maggie a cookie in a futile bid to keep her from causing a ruckus, and I happened to be toting around Maggie’s copies of Nursery Rhyme Comics and Fairy Tale Comics, collecting signings from artists I didn’t know (last year I did known artists; time to branch out). Thus armed, I was able to stop again and ask nicely for an autograph on the FTC. While Jillian signed and sketched, she asked me what Maggie thinks of the stories, and which ones she likes best. Since we haven’t made much headway with FTC, we looked at NRC instead, and I pointed out the images on which Maggie comments: kittens with pie all over their mittens, a baby swinging from a ladder in the shoe house, party guests throwing desserts at Georgie Porgie.
“I think she likes mischief,” Jillian concluded. Well-spotted.
Stacy found us on her way elsewhere, and was drawn in as well when Mariko complimented her on her outfit. It pains me to admit that I can’t remember what she was wearing exactly, just that there were frills involved, and the whole thing reminded me of something Old Scott used to sing to her à la the Producers: “it’s springtime for Goth girls in Canada.”
Mariko opined that “once you dye your soul that colour, it doesn’t wash out,” a sentiment that perfectly captures how I feel in my post-clubbing life. I fannishly asked if I could write that down, figuring that one day I would need to make a t-shirt. It so happened that I had already jotted down a quotation from Maggie Atwood earlier in the day, as she was on the CBC talking about utopia and her wise and only slightly-inscrutable wisdom belonged in my powerpoint on the topic.
When I mentioned the other quotation, we started to talk about Maggie’s hardcore sf novels. It’s interesting to me, because I often hear her having to defend science fiction to a literary crowd, and she really knows her stuff. “She’s not a tourist,” I said. Jillian added that her husband is a fan of hardcore sf and he respects the Atwood. Mariko, however, refused to join the love-in.
“But…the Handmaid’s Tale,” I countered. “You can’t say you didn’t like the Handmaid’s Tale.”
“Oh yeah. If you don’t like the Handmaid’s Tale, you’re not a feminist,” she returned. We talked about how little she is, which I believe Mariko termed, “squirrel-size, like you can just put her in your pocket.” I told my Margaret Atwood story from the Basement Review, of seeing her open with the Sadies and, three acts later, hoping fervently she was gone as nude Guerilla Girls pulled boas from their lady parts to the tune of L7’s “Shit List.”
“Margaret Atwood invented that!” Mariko scoffed. “No one did that before Margaret Atwood.”
The second speakers on Friday were Lynn Johnston and Raina Telgemeir, an experience I recounted here. My own presentation went fairly well. My fellow panelists were superstar teen librarian Robin and prolific writer J. Torres, who drew more of a crowd than I would have. I think I talked too much, and the networking idea has yet to develop, but at least we put it out there, and I learned a lot from the other two. (I kind of want to live near Robin’s library. It sounds so awesome.)
The other two panels were on diversity and the coming fall line-up (feat. Stacy! “I didn’t know you were going to be here!” I babbled. “I didn’t know you were going to be here!” she answered.) I learned so much at both panels, and filled so many notebook pages with my frantic jottings that I was exhausted by the time they released us.
When the day was over, I insinuated myself into the Zingcar with the goal of getting a ride to Sage’s school. I think I was pretty babbley at this point, so it must have been a relief to let me out so that they could go home to rest while I got on with finding the way home through public transit, eating barbequed chicken with Sage (who is known by the staff, who wanted to know where his mommy was), and most of all, fighting the desire to just sit down and read my new comics. Home was welcome. I needed rest for the next two days.
Took Children and Friends
Sarah and Leo stared out as geek friends, or rather, as friends of my friends who knew them from geekery. As their family has grown, we often get together for parties, fruit picking or hanging out at the beach – normal people stuff. I tried to get them out to TCAF last year, but it didn’t work out, so this was their first experience as a family. I had promised them chillout times, author meetings and lots of kids content; TCAF took care of all of those things admirably on my behalf. We also had a large, chaotic and freewheeling lunch at a Pakistani buffet nearby, a place where we could order enough cheap food that the kids could get full, if they ever stopped moving.
Our biggest joy came from the kids room, which was downstairs this year (a significant improvement over the previous set-up on the second floor, as there was open access and no capacity problems). I usually spend a few hours in the kids area watching programming; this year it was a completely immersive area, with programming at the back, crafts at the front, a signing table for featured guests, and some of the most popular children’s creators ringing the room. This set up meant that one of us could watch the kids while the other made brief, tentative forays into the crowded world beyond, and if we had to leave the library for any reason with the kids, we could make a beeline back to the kids’ area without getting too swept up in the other displays.
I’m pretty sure that Maggie and Sage would be there still if we hadn’t dragged them away. Maggie did all the crafts, and Sage was mesmerized by the authors who came in to draw and read aloud. We ended up buying him three new books, all of which he now reads on his own time at home. Maggie was a little less friendly to Jon Klassen, but I promised him that I would keep telling her who had drawn a little funny dog in her book, so she would smile the next time.
I didn’t spend as much time hanging out with Zub & Stacy this year, mostly because I was fully occupied by the children’s area but also because the line to get into the second floor was long and slow (see above, re: capacity). But the line became a blessing when I ran into Death, as we were able to chat without interruption or distraction. (Except that we were in a library, and we kept reading the titles to each other. We’re both litnerds, so we can’t help that distraction.)
My other big excursion into the main area was to check out “Hip Hop Family Tree,” a book that the author presented on Friday as part of the Fall titles. I was intrigued by what he said about the book: that people were reading it who didn’t normally read books, who didn’t know what the index was. I was fascinated by his meticulousness, that his first volume only covers up to 1981, and the second 82-83. Mason is a classic hip hop fan, and I had read “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop” a few years back on his recommendation, so this seemed like the kind of thing we would both be into. And the physical book itself is a gorgeous specimen: huge, yellowed, with classic comic colours and tonnes of info crammed into the narrative boxes.
The greatest thing about this book is that he gives lists and footnotes so we can go deeper. And you can’t read comics about music without going to the Internet and finding the songs. After we brought it home, I decided to use the discography as the track list for an epic 4-CD birthday present for Mason. I learned how to make CD covers out of cardboard, I colour copied pictures from the book, and I Mod Podged it into one gorgeous package. I also made a YouTube playlist, because I was pretty obsessed for awhile. Good thing the second version isn’t due out till fall; I’d never do anything else.
Told Chantler, “Amazing Fishbabe!”
TCAF always falls on Mother’s Day, which doesn’t bother me in the slightest as my mom hates this holiday and thus expects nothing of me. Plus, I always have my kids with me anyway, so why overthink it? Mason, God bless him, doesn’t let my indifference bother him and always makes sure the kids do something for me. This year, thanks to V and her taste of Pinterest, I have started to collect ideas for a knitting mermaid tattoo. Because he’s awesome, Mason secretly commissioned such a thing from a local artist we admire, and gave it to me at the show on Sunday.
by Scott Chantler
I love it so much.
When I passed by Scott Chantler on the way out, I thanked him for doing such a wonderful piece. (He really went over and above a typical commission.) His only comment was that he wanted to do one a bit sexier, but Mason wanted the focus to be on Mother’s Day. We can only dream of what the sexy mermaid might have been knitting.
Towed Car At Finale
On the last day of TCAF, Blake and Maggie wanted to stay with my parents, so we took Sage and dropped him home partway through the afternoon. As the show wound down, we decided to have dinner across the street before we went home (it still counts as a date!) We got a window seat, and we spent dinner listing to instrumental, vaguely Asian music and watching exhibitors pack up their cars with crates of unsold books and prints. It was like being in the credit sequence for TCAF.
Unfortunately, when we walked back to the Pakistani restaurant where our car was parked, our car was no longer parked there.
I’m forgetful. I’ve done the thing where I can’t remember where I parked, and I have to wander around the parking lot. I’ve done the thing where it’s dark, and I can’t remember how far up the street I went to find a spot. But I have never returned to find my car completely gone. And the worst part was that the police sub-contract the towing, so we had to call three lots before we found the one where the Lassitude was impounded. (The other worst part was that panic was interfering with my ability to remember my licence plate. Pro tip: impound operators are not patient with a vague description of your car’s colour and dents.)
Once we found the car, I was able to calm down. We took the subway and a cab to North York, politely paid the fee, and gratefully retook possession of the car. Lesson learned, Toronto parking.