Category Archives: Writer

Singer and Spoken Word Artist Dessa

Dessa (Courtesy of Zoe Prinds-Flash Photography)

Dessa (Courtesy of Zoe Prinds-Flash Photography)

Dessa (Web | Twitter) is a singer and spoken word artist from Minneapolis, MN, and also a member of the hip hop collective Doomtree. She is the author of four books of poetry including Spiral Bound (Doomtree Press: 2009) and A Pound of Steam (Rain Taxi Press, 2013). Dessa is an immensely talented artist, and if you’re interested in seeing her perform, check out her recent reading at the Walker Art Center.

The following comes from Mr. Will Moore who met Dessa when, in spring 2013, she visited St. John’s College. When asked how the famed singer responded to his request, Moore said, “She was very pleased to draw a giraffe for us.”

Dessa GiraffeWhat an eloquent story for such an elegant giraffe.

Author David Mitchell

David Mitchell Drawing a Giraffe

Author David Mitchell illustrating his cosmology.

David Mitchell (Web | Twitter) is an English author of six books of fiction including the international bestseller Cloud Atlas (2004), which you may recall was made into a film starring Tom Hanks. Recently, our paths crossed when Mitchell was in Houston reading from his latest work, The Bone Clocks (2014). If you aren’t familiar with his work, both I and the literati highly recommend it.

Following his reading, Mitchell spoke with author Mat Johnson, observing that at age 45 he’s had an epiphany: He’s not a novelist but rather a novella-ist. As with Cloud AtlasThe Bones Clock is a series of novellas that reference and situate one another to tell a larger narrative – in this case, a woman’s life from birth to death. Even though “people don’t buy novellas,” he prefers the format as it allows him the privileges of the short story without carrying on past its “natural” conclusion. (I think we can all name a few works that, like some dying animal, resists the end).

When Johnson asked if he noticed certain themes or tropes appearing throughout his work, Mitchell answered that there were two: The first was predatory and the other miscommunication. As he identified instances of these in his work, he added that every author is merely a handful of archetypes. As these stem from the author’s experiences, this limitation is not a bad thing. All it means is that one has to keep finding novel ways to orient them – through new environments, characters, and so on.

After his reading I waited around to get him to sign my copy of Cloud Atlas — and that was when I made the ask. Even though the woman behind me (rudely) groaned and, under her breath, kept telling me to “hurry up,” Mitchell drew what I regard as The Little Prince fan-fiction. I present to you: The Planet of The Giraffe.

David Mitchell Awful GiraffeAs I said to him afterward, “If your writing career ever sours, I don’t think illustrating is an option.”

Author and Essayist Sarah Vowell

Author Sarah Vowell

Sarah Vowell (Wiki| Web) is an American essayist. She is the author of six books whose covers you definitely recognize, including The Partly Clouded Patriot (2003) and The Wordy Shipmates (2009). She’s a brilliantly talented writer and for many years was an editor for This American Life. Check out her TAL stories here.

This giraffe comes from Mr. Will Moore who met Vowell when, in spring 2013, she spoke at St. John’s College in St. Peter, MN. As he put it:

Sarah was hesitant, looking nervous and unsure the whole time, self-depricating in her normal fashion — but she went with it.

Sarah Vowell Giraffe

Science-Fiction Writer Kevin J. Anderson

Strange Man with author Kevin J. Anderson

Strange Man with author Kevin J. Anderson

Kevin J. Anderson (Web|Twitter) is the author of the only set of books I read in middle school: The Young Jedi Knights series. He’s also the co-author of, like, a thousand Dune books, and among his 40+ bestsellers he has over 23 million books in print. If you’re interested in science-fiction, you’ve probably read his work.

From my diary (May 28, 2014):

Over the course of the weekend [at Houston's ComicPalooza] we saw a lot of the writer Kevin J. Anderson whose Young Jedi Knight series I gobbled up in Middle School. In our few exchanges I asked how he managed to be so prolific and he answered simply, “I’m always writing.” He then proceeded to tell me about how he dictated a chapter on his drive to the Denver airport, which he immediately sent out to be transcribed, and then spent the flight editing two other chapters. He says he averages 2-3 chapters a day. …

My biggest takeaway from my time with him came hen I inquired about his method. Before doing any writing he carefully outlines and summarizes each chapter. He compared his craft to architecture stating, “It’s like a blueprint. I’m not going to start putting up walls and a ceiling saying, ‘Oh, let’s see what happens.”

I suppose this is why I spend so much time digging parts of me out of the rubble.

Kevin J. Anderson's Awful Giraffe

This was actually dictated. And then edited on the spot. He averages 2-3 giraffes a day.

 

Actor, Writer and Greek God Kevin Sorbo

Kevin Sorbo, Greek God.

Kevin Sorbo (web|wiki) is an actor, writer, and the nicest Greek God I’ve ever met. Born in Mound, MN, he attended Minnesota State University Moorhead before he realized he could do literally anything else – and so he went west. There he became famous for the title role in Hercules: The Legendary Journey (’95-’99) and, later, as … someone… in Andromeda (’00-’05).

When I met Mr. Sorbo at the 2011 Twin Cities Book Festival speaking about his memoir True Strength, I’ll admit that I expected the worst. Even as an outsider I knew him only as “Hercules” and presumed he, like a long list of others in similar positions, would actively distance himself from the role(s) that made him famous. Oh was I wrong. Leaning on the podium, unscripted, Mr. Sorbo casually chatted with the audience, gladly answering the questions fired at him ranging from “What was it like to have a stroke – and how did it affect your sex life?” to “Tell us about Kull the Conquerer”, which isn’t even a question.

I can only imagine what kind of questions he gets at conventions.

Enjoy!

Why this giraffe has a water hose for a leg, I don’t know. (I’ll let this disability modulation slide, though, since Mr. Sorbo is such a nice guy).

John Hodgman

Author and Comedian John Hodgman

John Hodgman is a comedian and writer whose most recent book is That is All (2011). Odds are you have probably seen him on The Daily Show or may recall the fact that he played the “Windows PC” on those “I’m a Mac; and I’m a PC” commercials. If those are the only mediums you know him from, I would encourage you to check out his contributions to NPR’s This American Life, which are actually pretty good.

Recently Mr. Hodgman (wiki; Twitter) did a show in Morris, MN, and even though I was unable to make the first two hours (I had to speak at a banquet) I was able to cut the drive back a bit short and make the last 45 minutes or so. Unfortunately, after the show when I was approaching him for a giraffe, my colleague Lucas Felts beat me to the punch – and what was I supposed to do? Ask for a second giraffe?

Please.

Let’s not flood the Hodgman giraffe market, now.

He's trying to look grumpy. I just have chronic grump-face.

So I simply sunk away, thinking that I would never get a chance to share a few words with one of my favorite comedians (I was actually invited to have lunch with him before the show but couldn’t make it as I was at the aforementioned banquet). After hanging around long enough chatting with friends, I ran into someone I knew who was Mr. Hodgman’s guide around campus and he was willing to let me into Mr. Hodgman’s green room  to get an autograph.

This is the conversation as I recall it; I assure you it is neither interesting nor funny. If anything, it provides insight into how awful of a conversationalist I am (hence this website’s ability for me to BS small talk).

Closing the door behind me, I leaned in to shake his hand: “It’s a pleasure to meet you, John.” As the words slip from my lips, my inner Southern Gentleman regrets being so informal. Who am I to refer to him by his first name? It’s not like we’re friends. I’m just some dude. Now I feel like I have to overcompensate: “Uh, well … I was hoping you could sign my copy of … The Chomsky-Foucault Debate (2006).”

He looks at it for a moment, silent.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t actually own a copy of your book,” I say. It was either Chomsky-Foucault, which is actually a pretty good read, or Augustine’s Confessions.

Studying the cover, “Of course. In fact, I shall sign it in this orange crayon that happens to be lying right here.”

Yeah, we’re clearly a public school.

"Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault ... And John Hodgman"

Unable to think of an exciting question, I remembered that he had referenced in his set the fact that he went to Yale. “When you studied at your own accredited four-year institution, what was it you studied?”

“I studied literary studies, so this isn’t exactly too far removed of what I did. I don’t remember this debate specifically, but it was this kind of stuff that came up a lot.”

“Yeah, well I would like to thank you for taking the time to sign my book. Also, I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed your show … even though I didn’t feel as though there were enough Foucault references.”

Hell, there aren’t enough Foucault references in general.

“Oh ….”

“… So it goes, I guess.”

“Well, next time I’m around I’ll be sure to throw some in just for you.”

“I’d really appreciate that. It was a pleasure meeting you, sir, and I’ll be sure to get out of your hair because I know you have to fly out in the morning.”

We snap a photograph. He makes an effort to appear grumpy. I have chronic grump-face and can’t help it.

“It was nice meeting you, sir.”

“It was a pleasure meeting you as well.”

And that’s the time I told John Hodgman he didn’t reference Michel Foucault enough.

Also, it was when I realized that tea cup pigs are freaking adorable.

An Awful Giraffe Drawing by Leonardo da Vinci

Polymath and “Painter” Leonardo da Vinci,

On this Friday the 13th I thought it would be appropriate to post a particularly awful giraffe, and as I began searching my files I received an email. Innocently enough, I unsuspectingly opened it to find the most … I can’t even find the words. How does one describe the failed efforts of the most gifted polymath that has ever lived, Leonardo da Vinci? Do I posthumously congratulate him for the effort? Do I lie down and hope the nausea goes away? Do I try and mobilize Pretty Awful Giraffe-ites to contact the Louvreand have this mockery removed?

“Painter”? Yeah, and I’m Queen Latifah (I’m not Queen Latifah)

I think I’ll go with the second option and let Mr. Lucas Rayala take the wheel from here:

This well-known painting by LDV, while beloved by many in the world, is in fact a very horrible attempt to draw a giraffe.  Perhaps the worst ever.  While the neck length approaches believability, the snout is completely wrong, utterly failing to incorporate the mouth and nose in a cohesive semblance of an ungulate mammals jaw structure.  Intended to be a picture of a giraffe standing on its hind legs and eyeing a leafy branch somewhere behind the viewer, the front hooves have been mangled and forced into a crossed pattern to amateurishly fit inside the canvas space.  Also, proper giraffes are two-toed, not four (or five?!) as LDV depicts.  This beast’s habitat has been purposefully blurred in the background because LDV, despite his much-flaunted intellect, was obviously uncertain of its native environment.

I think I’m going to be sick.