OMG Pat Rothfuss!

Yesterday I attended a reading, Q&A, and signing with one of my current favorite writers, Pat Rothfuss, author of the Kingkiller Chronicles. (Squeeeee! I do not often “squee,” but….squeeeee!) It was a great time. First of all, it was at my favorite local library, the Roseville library, which was awesome. Secondly, a few of my friends from Fest (namely, former Hardtack Jack members Jon and Chris, and Chris’s wife Rae) were also attending. I went to a thing! With people I know! From Fest!

There were several cool things that happened, aside from the fact that it was a reading/Q&A/signing with one of my current favorite writers. The first thing that was cool was that Pat came out about 20 minutes before he was scheduled to talk. Holding a stack of index cards, he announced that he wasn’t “officially here yet,” but that we’d be doing some Q&A, and that he realizes that “some people might be introverts.” So he passed out the index cards, for those who might want to ask a question but not shout it out in front of 300 people (and there were about 300 people there). I didn’t have a question, but I was so impressed that he addressed the introversion question head on, and took steps specifically to make the event introvert-friendly! Much appreciated, Pat!

The second cool thing that happened was that one of the questions he read was “What are your favorite words and what words do you dislike?” The word he liked was “incarnadine,” which is indeed a lovely word. But the really cool part was that the word he doesn’t like was “utilize.” He basically said it’s a synonym for “use,” and the only reason to say “utilize” instead of “use” is to sound smart/important/fancy. Ha! This was awesome because I had this conversation with someone just the other day and had come to the same conclusion. Awesome. I told him this while he was signing by book, and he seemed genuinely amused and impressed that we’d had this same thought process, which was cool.

Another cool (but sort of weird) thing that happened was this: When I entered the library and got in line to buy my copy of The Name of the Wind (having previously only owned it on Kindle), I started talking to the woman behind me. We continued talking as we went to sit down, so naturally we sat down together (also next to Chris and Rae). She told her her kids’ uncle was coming to meet her. When he showed up, his kids were with him, and I recognized his daughter right away, and subsequently, him– they used to live 2 houses down from me. Small world!

The reading and Q&A was a cool thing, too. Aside from the content itself, it was a great social activity for an introvert. I got there and chatted with like-minded people (okay, mostly people I already knew, but not entirely) for a while. We had a built-in topic of conversation. Then, we all sat together and listened to Pat read and answer questions. Then we all talked again while in line. A socially acceptable hour-long break from talking at a social activity! Fantastic!

A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words

A coworker put out a call on our office intranet recently asking about people’s favorite souvenirs from abroad. This was my contribution to that question… I liked it, so I thought I’d cross post it here. (By the way, I love that in French, “souvenirs” means “memories.”)

 

When I was little, my parents did a lot of traveling due to my dad’s job with Northwest Airlines. They brought many cool souvenirs back for me– I remember a wooden cow from Denmark (I think) and a big stuffed panda bear from South Korea (no, not China, strangely). The souvenir I remember the most, though, was a book from Japan, written in Japanese, in the traditional style (back to front and bottom to top). My mom used to “read” it to us by looking at the pictures and making up a story to go with it. It was something about a man who drops a rice cake into a hole in the ground inhabited by some sort of gnomes. To this day, I have no idea  what the story was really about, but I still remember it very clearly.

As an adult, a friend of mine who works in the children’s publishing industry got me interested in collecting children’s books, often gifting me with picture books for birthday or Christmas. Integrating the hobby with my love of travel, I began buying children’s books as souvenirs when I visit other countries (and anywhere, really). This began way before I had any children on the way, and I did worry for awhile that I’d never have anyone to read them to… but I still bought them, because if nothing else, I enjoy them myself. I love going to a bookstore and looking through the fun, colorful books, trying to pick out something with an inkling of the country’s culture. When I’m in a country where English isn’t the majority language, I typically look for books in the local language.

My collection has grown to be rather significant over the years, so it’s impossible to pick just one favorite. Instead, I narrowed it down to four:

1. A book of Russian fairy tales… in Russian. I love the intricate illustrations and the way the Cyrillic script looks. Even with some knowledge of Russian, I can barely read any of it, but that doesn’t really matter.

2. Les chose cassées d’Octavio (Octavio‘s Broken Things). A story about a boy who can fix anything with glue, nails, wire, etc, but who has to learn how to mend the sad heart of the girl next door.

3. Grandma Joins the All Blacks. From New Zealand, obviously.

4. An Strae Beagán (A Bit Lost). I thought it was originally written in Irish, but I recently saw it at a bookstore here and learned that it was apparently written in English by an Irish author and translated into Irish… kind of a bummer, but still a cool book. It’s about a little owl who gets lost and can’t find his mother, so a friendly fox takes him around to all the different forest animals and asks, “Is this your mommy?” Each time, the owl replies in the negative, and describes an aspect of his mother not met by the current animal. “That’s not my mommy; my mommy has big eyes!” So the fox takes him to see a frog. It goes on like this until the owlet does indeed find his mother. And then they all eat cookies. Happy endings for all.

My collection to date includes books in French, Spanish, Russian, Irish, Danish, Japanese, Hmong, Catalan, and of course English (hailing from France, Red Balloon Bookstore, Moscow, Ireland, Copenhagen, Midway Books on Snelling and University, Hmongtown Market in St Paul, Barcelona, and Australia/New Zealand/the US, respectively). Looking for books has taught me some things, as well– for example, I wasn’t able to find a book in Swahili in Tanzania, or in Spanish on Cozumel. I didn’t look that hard in Tanzania– perhaps in Arusha City I’d have found something– but my spouse and I spent a lot of time wandering around Cozumel’s main (only) town, San Miguel, looking for a bookstore. It didn’t exist. All of the librerías we learned about from the phone book or natives were actually paper supply stores. We did visit an actual bookstore in a larger town, but the only books in Spanish were obviously translated from English, and completely devoid of Mexican culture. (Which, admittedly, does say something about the world in and of itself….)

The average children’s picture book contains about 500-1000 words. They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, and while I love to take pictures while abroad, I think it’s worthwhile to bring words home, too.