Wednesday, August 27, 2008


So I'm home. Back from the month spent in the house filled with memories that I imagined where Thurber's; which became the house filled with memories that are now all mine.

My name is now part of the unfinished wall behind the a/c duct inside the closet in the attic -the wall that all Writers In Residence must sign. (Lucky me - I get to have my name just below Lisa Yee's!)

It was a great month - an inspiring time - and one that I appreciate even more now that I am home and back already into the life that was always here: (school started today - which means I've made my first lunch and driven the dreaded "route" to and from the place my son groans about).

Endings are hard - as writers I think we all take them literally, looking for the perfect escape from a situation that will be full of irony or suspense or possibly full of our own deeply felt new understanding of ourselves.


My ending at the Thurber House was perfectly Thurber and all I learned about myself is - if you set off the security alarm, the Police will come! And they will not believe that you are a "writer in residence" and insist you let them in and show them that you really do have a set of keys that open the doors. Then they will leave and not let you take their picture.

But they came - and that was cool because what if the alarm had gone off because I was in trouble...or the ghost was in trouble...or because they wanted to read one of the great American humorists all alone in the quiet of the parlor?

What if?

Back to work. Back to life. Home again, home again....

Saturday, August 16, 2008


I came to the Thurber House (with clay MILO in tow) to work on his book and spent the month revising, editing, writing a few new awesome chapters and drawing over 40 cartoons to accompany the text of MILO. I feel great and now only worry how to hold on to this feeling and keep it with me as my "real life" embraces me with open arms (and bills to pay) back in Montreal!

The month flew by. And now as I pack the car that only a minute ago (it seems) arrived in front of 77 Jefferson Ave in Columbus, Ohio - it's time for MILO and me to say goodbye to the fantastic people who made my stay in the Thurber House cozy, care-free and so very productive.

Susanne Jaffe - Executive Director of Thurber House (and MILO)
You opened the door for me to have the creative adventure of a lifetime - and gave great restaurant suggestions too.

Pat Shannon - Director of Children's Programs (and MILO)
Thank you for that phone call last March when you said "YES". You made it so easy to be here. Thanks also for the clean sheets - and for reminding me to actually use them.

Meg (and MILO)
I always knew when you were in one of my camp workshops when the laughs came from the counselor side of the room. Thank you for reading (and liking!) the "work-in-progress" and for that iced espresso that was perfect.

Anne (and MILO).
I know the Ghost Story books you lent me would've been amazing -and I promise to find them again and read them once I get the courage. Oh, and the Literary picnics were a blast - thanks for saving me a real chair!

(CWIR = Childrens Writer in residence)

Anna (and MILO).
Thank you for the smile every time I entered the door - and for that wild lunch when you, Anne and I watched the cicada emerge from it's shell.

And last but not least....

Crazy Banana (and MILO)
Thank you for not terrorizing me at night when I was all alone in the big scary house. Stay cool!

I will miss you all (well, not you, Banana) and want you to know you have each added to this incredible experience that I'll always have with me.

Alan and MILO!

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Check out my Thanks to James Thurber at the THURBER HOUSE BLOG - guest-written by yours truly.

And if you're curious - the Columbus Dispatch did a story about my stay here.

More great stuff about my month here at the house to soon as I welcome my family, who arrive tonight! Yay!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


While in Columbus doing my Thurber House residency I was invited to do a book signing at the wonderful COVER TO COVER children's book store on N. High St. The store is run by Sally Oddi, and she and I had been corresponding ever since Pond Scum came out and she wrote a review of the book - so it was especially sweet to be able to finally make the personal contact!

The attendance was petite but ENTHUSIASTIC and there was planety of participation and laughter as I shared some of my new book, MILO with them! Bonus of the event was meeting face to face with Mary Lee from A Year Of Reading (in salmon shirt on right) - sadly, co-blogger Franki was out of town at a conference.

Then came the fun ritual of adding my name to their "Author Wall" - which you can see displayed behind everyone (above).

I felt honored to become part of the woodwork of Cover To Cover! And here is the message I left!

Thanks to everyone at COVER TO COVER for making my visit so much fun!

Thursday, August 07, 2008


I don't have time for a FULL post - so thought I'd share a cartoon I just did in James Thurber's attic - and the passage that goes with it from my current project, MILO.

I am not one of those “honor roll” kids, whose hand is always in the air and knows the answers without even hearing the full question. Those kids kill me because they like the sound of their own voices so much they raise their hands just to sneeze. I bet if they counted how many words they say everyday it would be in the millions because they never shut up!

(from MILO - being completed at the Thurber House Summer 2008)

Friday, August 01, 2008


above - a doodle from my sketchbook after a few nights of great sleep here (which had been impossible back home!)

Like any good story, my stay here at the Thurber House has many chapters. Each day delights me with something new that I discover here in Columbus - or an event that I participate with as part of my writer-in-residency.

(2 nights ago I met with the monthly Young Writer's Workshops held here at the house. Above, 3 of the teen writers along with Kelly, the wondrous coordinator of the group, Pat Shannon, and a table full of snacks...mmmm)

So as I said, the surprises go on and on....(more on that later) but now back to the GHOST.

I knew about the Ghost before my arrival. You see, when I was being interviewed for the residency, I asked Pat Shannon, the Children's Director of Thurber House, if my attic apartment had air conditioning (come on - Ohio in the summer gets hot! - and YES, she assured me that I'd be fully ensconced in a/c!). Then it was her turn for questions, namely "How do you feel about ghosts?"

Of course I'd heard all about the ghost that is supposed to live here. James Thurber himself wrote about the ghost in "My Life and Hard Times" with the hilarious chapter "The Night The Ghost Got In".

("I had just stepped out of the bathtub and was busily rubbing myself with a towel when I heard the steps." from "My Life and Hard Times"....and YES, that's the "TUB")

So immediately I told Pat - that I was excited about meeting the ghost and didn't tell her the part of me that was saying, "But it kind of freaks me out!"

In preparing for my visit I was also told about a ghostly encounter by last year's Children's Author in Residence, Lisa Yee. She and I laughed about it. No big deal.

Still as cool/weird/possibly scary as it sounded - I was slightly unnerved at being all alone in a big house with a spirit who had no name. I'm bad enough at parties with people I don't know - I wasn't sure I could handle being in a house with a ghost who was a stranger to me.

So when I had what I am describing as my "ghost encounter" I had to laugh - because obviously, this was a ghost who wanted me here. Who wanted me to know he/she/it was not there to "haunt" me. This ghost wanted me to laugh - and to know that a sense of humor was the aura that surrounded it!

How do I know this?

Once I arrived here two weeks ago - I set up my stuff to make me feel at home - including the GHOSTBUSTER kit my son and wife made me for my birthday this year - as preparation for coming to the Thurber House.

The kit includes:
1) a home-made Electro-Magnetic "YES/NO" ghost detection device
2) a "spy-kit" motion detector
3) one xtremely strong flashlight
4) a large photo of the Thurber house, where the two attic windows (where I live here) open to reveal a picture of me and a POP-OUT picture of the "ghost"

Now you need to know that the little attic "windows" that open up - have to be pried open with fingers to see what's behind them, much like an advent calendar.

So imagine my surprise when on Morning 3 of my stay - I discovered one window was wide open ....and which window was it?

YES! The GHOST window had somehow popped open and the ghost that my son had made to spring out was STICKING OUT OF THE PICTURE! First reaction? I'm packing up and moving into a hotel!....But then it hit me: the ghost was welcoming me to the house. The ghost was telling me he/she/it was funny. The ghost liked the present my family made. (Now if only the ghost would make me breakfast - I'd be pretty darn happy!)

So thank you Ghost for letting me know you're hip to my style. If you want to have drinks - I'm an iced coffee kind of guy!

editors note: while writing this I ran down to the car to get something and when I came back up - one of the doors to my apartment - one that I have NEVER closed in two weeks - was closed!