Filtering by Tag: Goosebumps

Tampa Bay Times: Festival of Reading

Halloween is my favorite time of the year. There is no better holiday, to me, than one where we run around ringing doorbells, lugging around garbage bags full of candy, pennies, and dental floss (didn't that happen to you?), while ghoulish skeletons and vampires try to scare us.

What. Could. Be. Better?

The man. The legend. R.L. Stine being brilliant.

Turns out, October brought with it a special bookish surprise that I HAD to write about. Every year, the Tampa Bay Times organizes the Festival of Reading in St. Petersburg, Florida. This was the first year I went. I couldn't resist my friend and author JB Lynn's invitation to go with her. We both learned very quickly that even the best GPS's can't find certain streets, and that neither of us never lost our nerves as we drove down neighborhood roads and trolled through overflow parking lots.

When we finally made it, the festival was in full swing. The tiny campus of USF-St. Petersburg was packed with early risers, already in line to meet their favorite authors or attend their readings. The sheer amount of people that came out for the event was awe-inspiring.

I'm so used to not attending book events, since there's a lack of them where I live. But being able to go, and with a great friend no less, made attending this festival 100+ times more awesome.

Instead of a series of panels, the Festival of Reading schedules authors to speak for about 45 minutes, and then sign books for 45 minutes afterwards. The campus was small, but not small enough to see two authors in one hour - a huge bummer, since we ended up missing John Henry Fleming by four minutes. Yes, I counted. He had disappeared like a magician by the time me and Jennifer burst into an empty signing room.

We tried seeing Carl Hiaasen first thing in the morning, but found the ballroom to be filled to the brim with his fans. All the seats were taken. Standing room taken. And with fifteen minutes before the talk began, the room was already boiling hot. From years of going to anime conventions, I knew this was a bad sign. Rooms don't get hot so soon, so fast, at the very beginning of the day when a nice breeze was still blowing outside.

We ducked out of the room and opted for lunch instead. It was a shame, but as soon as we popped open our cold, spicy sushi rolls, we knew we made a good decision.

The morning, after all, was chilly enough to wear coats. It was glorious - I think even my coat was smiling, because it rarely gets to leave my closet - for about a half and hour. Before it got REALLY HOT outside. So we buried our coats in our bags and ate our cold lunches.

I've recently become a rabid fan of Starbuck's Pumpkin Spice Chai Tea Lattes. There it is. Oh my gosh. The autumn feels.

Re-energized, we went back upstairs after the Hiaasen fans left to listen to R.L. Stine talk.

R.L. Stine was my Reason For Coming. In the sense that, if I got to meet him during the festival, I would consider it one life goal achieved.

Like many people, I grew up reading his Goosebumps series. I used to borrow stacks of those books from the library, and never moved from the couch until I had finished them all. Between my brother and I, we owned a lot of Goosebumps books, and most of them have stayed with us over the years. Here's a photo of all the books we have now, give or take a few that I have in my room, where I'm rereading them (eh, I can't help it):

Jennifer and I settled into our seats. We were both surprised that R.L. Stine's talk wasn't packed with people, but also thrilled at the same time. It meant we wouldn't slowly bake for the next 45 minutes, haha. Stine walked around the room before the talk started, chatting with readers. When he stepped up to the podium and began to talk, I was blown away by how epic he was in his presentation. I mean, he was ridiculously funny and engaging. He shared some of his fan letters, and I was lucky enough to film snippets of that, so you completely understand what I mean when I say that we were rolling the aisles over his charmingly frank delivery.

(Videos HERE and HERE, via my Instagram).  

He shared a "true" ghost story (debatable, even by him) and talked about the new Goosebumps movie coming out soon (and how he was told he was too old to play himself in the movie, awwww). When he opened the floor for questions, a bunch of kids came up to the extra mic. I've never heard kids ask questions, despite having attended panels for years. The coolest part was that the kids wanted to know what his favorite things were - his scariest book, his favorite book to write, etc. I don't think adults ever ask those kinds of questions. 

It was hard to tear ourselves away, but Jennifer and I wanted to make sure that we had a good chance of meeting Stine at the signing. We slipped out of the room and went outside where they had set up booths for the authors (thankfully shaded for them). We ended up talking to the people in line with us as we slowly moved forward in line. And then... sooner than I thought, I was face to face with R.L. Stine! 

This was probably not my shining moment of cleverness. I asked him to sign one of my favorites of his books, and we ended up talking about it a little (more like bumbling on my part, haha) as he signed the book. He was very kind, and managed to play off my awkwardness to make us both laugh. The biggest question people asked me when I started posting these photos to Instagram was what book was it that I picked? 

It was a hard decision, but I went with ESCAPE FROM THE CARNIVAL OF HORRORS, the first of the Goosebumps' Choose Your Own Adventure books. 

Do you see the holographicness?

Do you?

It's blinding. This photo doesn't do it justice, but you would know if you ever read one of these. 

I think I've read this book every way you could. My brother, mom, and I took turns reading it out loud. Many times I cheated by bookmarking the pages so that if I got a bad ending, I didn't have to start all over again (I'm sure I'm not the only one). This book, in particular, has my favorite bad ending of the Choose Your Own Adventure series, featuring the Doom Slide. 

What are you waiting for? Go read it. 

Book Haul:

 Okay, so this time, it's not a "haul." But I did get two great books. The first is R.L. Stine's newest Fear Street book, Party Games.

I didn't read as many Fear Street books (though Sunburn is one of my favorite books, ever, but my copy is too tattered to have survived the journey to the festival). But the premise sounds intriguing. It won't be long before I start reading it. Like, probably tomorrow.

Then there's this beauty. I could not have left the festival without this extensive collection of Andrew Lang's fairy tales. The thing is, I could talk about Lang for a long time. It should probably be its own blog post. But he is my favorite fairy tale curator. I only owned one of his collections, the classic Blue Fairy Book, so finding this book that covers multiple collections seemed like a dream come true. I started reading it last night before bed, and YES, it is a dream come true. 

And one more thing: when I first saw this book sitting underneath B&N's vendor booth, I thought, my gosh, the cover art reminds me of Thumbelina's book.

IT DOES. More magic, my friends. 

Have you ever met a favorite author? what was the experience like? What about book events/festivals? I'd love to hear about it!

Puppets of Paper

I haven't seen a puppet show since grammar school. I felt this ache, this longing to sit pretzel-style and watch a story played out with strings and jangly limbs after stumbling upon an anthropologie video documenting a very cute puppet show. I remember seeing one in the distance when I was in Bath, trying to take tea with Dr. Darcy and find the glass-blowing museum before the last train back to Grantham left. There were people sitting in lawn chairs, eating ice cream despite the fact that in England the air was sharp with cold. I wanted so badly to lay in the grass and watch the puppets beat each other up with plastic clubs. But the train was calling. The train always calls.

Puppets used to scare me as a kid. But only on film. It was okay if I could touch their strings and giggle at their silly faces. I even loved, like any other little kid, any Jim Henson created creature. But I shivered and hid under a pillow if a Chucky movie or even that one scene in Steven King's Tommyknockers would come on. Even Goosebump's Slappy was a frightening foe - so much that I had to put my book face down so I couldn't see his creepy face on the cover. But when I watched the TV episodes, I liked the friendly puppet named Dennis who sounded too much like Goofy when he spoke. Cleary, it was the killer puppets that made my skin crawl. Don't even get me started on the Puppet Master Series. Those were probably the only scary movies that, oddly enough, didn't scare me.

So I've just gone from nostalgic to scary in a matter of two paragraphs. Haha. Sorry about that.

I've been daydreaming a lot because I don't have time to. So I keep stealing moments. In my dreams I'm a puppet with a paper-mache face and wire glasses, floating along by my strings in the mint-colored sky. There's a boy down below who can't float with us. His strings are tied to a hospital bed. He'll be okay; we send him delphiniums and dark chocolate and he smiles up at us. Sometimes, still, it makes me sad to recognize the distance between us. I dance harder and with more graceful wrist movements so that he might notice when he looks out his window and up at the sky.

I actually made a few puppet shows in my time in college. I have a reputation back at my undergrad home as being the resident puppet master, though I earned this title without really knowing it sat waiting for someone to come along and take it. In my freshman year I chose to use puppets in a creative assignment, by the suggestion of my professor, and she was excited enough that I actually did it that she sent word throughout the English department via trumpet. Since then I was called upon to take puppets, haha. In my last semester of college I took another class with that professor - Romanticism - and decided to bow out by way of a puppet final project. My friend and I were philosophy fans so we chose to present on Immanuel Kant, specifically on his aesthetics, which would match up well with the Romantic theme of the class. Little did we know that Kant's aesthetics were the most shaky of any of his ideas, but it seemed to go over well in class.

I had grabbed paper bags, felt, and printed giant pictures of the poets and philosopher. We worked on the script and laughed until tears poured down our cheeks. I apologize for the sound; our college was small with little choice for places to migrate to. The room we chose echoed and the people upstairs insisted in cooking in the middle of the day. The wind stole our voices when we tried to film outside. But we still had fun. Look out for Lord Byron's hanging mouth - that part always makes me chuckle.

Thanks for watching my crazy antics, haha. I hope you have a great weekend and embark on exciting adventures.

Choose Your Own Adventure!

Rainy days, car rides, or sleepy afternoons are the perfect opportunities for adventure. There were days when I would crawl out of bed with my mother's hand-quilted covers wrapped around me like a cocoon. I would run my fingers along the spines of the few books I had collected in grammar school, already bent and dirty from too much love. I could hear by brother waking up in the next room. Smiling to myself, I plucked a particular book and dashed into his room, most likely to jump on his bed and pummel him (playfully, of course), until he agreed to play a game with me.

Even for my brother, who hated to read, there was a certain type of book he was loath to pass up reading. They're called, I think, Choose You Own Adventure books or simply gamebooks. Are you familiar with them?

These are books you can't read from cover to cover. You, the reader, are the main character of the story - meaning, the whole book is written in second person point of view (incredibly impressive). Your job is to follow the directions at the bottom of each page, telling you which page to turn to next, or, even better, making you decide between two different paths. You're in the forest a night and you hear a twig break behind you. Keep walking to the cabin and ignore the noise? Turn to page 26. Pull your baseball bat out of your backpack and go find out who made the noise? Turn to page 134.

My first exposure to these types of books was through R. L. Stine's Goosebumps series. My brother was the great collector of the series... by default. He hated reading The Boxcar Children, so relatives looking for a great gift would run out and buy Goosebumps books for him instead. He didn't read them, though, unless someone did it for him, haha.

When we did stumble upon the "Give Yourself Goosebumps" series, it was hard to say no to a tantalizingly new way to play with books. The holographic cover, with it's freaky pictures, were as appealing to our eyes as rare Pokemon cards. The two of us would park it on a couch or on one of our beds and take turns reading the pages out loud. We would often argue about what page to turn to when it came time to make a decision - it was always important to choose the right page. Making the wrong decision could result in a "bad ending," meaning that you'd find yourself either transformed, trapped, or most likely dead by unfortunate circumstances. In order to avoid the bad ending, I think everyone has cheated. At least once. Cheating, meaning, holding the pages with your fingers or bookmarks so that, if you get a bad ending, you can go back and choose the right one. I'm so guilty of this. When I opened one of books in order to write this post, I saw I still had post-it notes still stuck inside the front cover flap - at the ready! Haha!

My favorite bad ending ever is from book one of the series called Escape from the Carnival of Horrors. If you somehow end up on that side of the carnival (the one with the rides, not the midway), you may end up facing the Doom Slide. You are given a series of at least five or six choices on this one. You have no choice but to pick a slide - but which one? If you choose the wrong numbered slide, you might end up sliding for all eternity! Ahh! I won't tell you which one is the never ending slide, but I will give you an idea of what happens. This is an excerpt from that page; I typed it up because I really wanted indenting, haha (and I won't cite the page number for obvious reasons):

Whew! *shivers* I was wildly scared of this ending, every time. I couldn't image what it would be like to do anything forever. My grown-up brain is wondering exactly how long it would take for me to burn a hole through my pants, and if, since I'd be sliding all eternity, I would have a butt at all by the time I died. Painful. What would happen if I decided to end it sooner, or see if I could escape somehow by rolling off or propelling myself off the slide? Would the slide just double-back and catch me as I fell, or would I fall forever? If I got bored, could I have a conversation with the voice that told me I'm doomed? This may be why I love this ending so much - it makes me think.

In researching a bit for this post, I'm shocked to discover that Stine wrote forty-two of these books. Oh my gosh. I had always hoped to collect all of these books, but now my dream is dashed against the side of a craggy cliff. I guess I should be happy with what I have:

#1 Escape from the Carnival of Horrors
#2 Tick Tock, You're Dead!
#3 Trapped in Batwing Hall
#4 The Deadly Experiments of Dr. Eek
#15 Please Don't Feed the Vampire

Judging by the numbers, you can see that we must have gotten them around the time they were first being released. Why the jump to #15? Well, I just found Please Don't Feed the Vampire a few weeks ago at a small shop. It was very exciting, haha.

On a less spooky note, I found an old book that works the same way as these Goosebumps books do. It's called The Magic of the Unicorn by Deborah Lerme Goodman. The illustrations are beautiful; I'm looking at it right now, wishing I could read it for the first time. I'm actually two books away from finishing Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, so I'm banning myself from starting anything new before then (I'm a chronic multi-reader). Because if this delay, I'll type out the blurb for Goodman's book:

"Only a unicorn's horn can purify the water in your medieval village - so you set off to find a unicorn. After a long search you meet a sorceress who promises to help you. She offers you a choice between two spells. One will give you the power to speak to animals. The other will weave you a golden net for catching magical beasts. Which spell will you choose?

If you choose to speak with animals, turn to page 44. If you choose the golden net, turn to page 49. Take heed! The realm of the unicorn is perilous. You may be burned to a cinder in a dragon's fire or turned into a tree by an evil wood-witch. Or you may find the unicorn and bring it home in triumph!"

Take heed! These books are addicting! I wish I could say I've grown out of them, or that I've put these books up for sale or sent them to another loving family in a donation bin. I would be lying. I have plans for these books, most involving sitting down with friends and traversing the scary, quirky worlds these authors have created. Now this, ladies and gents, is a worthy adventure.