Heading off to Mexico for FIL, the Guadalajara International Book Fair

The day after Thanksgiving I’ll be leaving for Mexico, to help represent the U.S. at FIL, the Guadalajara International Book Fair. It’s a new trip with the State Dept.’s Speaker and Specialist Program, my first one since I was in the Middle East back in 2010. (I did do a “virtual visit” to Indonesia last year, but that was limited to a Skype interview and presentation.) After my comments regarding my 2010 trip to Bahrain, I was wondering if I was still on my country’s “good side,” but apparently I am. Bueno!

FIL is the world’s second largest international book fair (after Frankfurt), and this year’s “guest” of honor is the country of Israel. Word is that the president of Israel will be at the opening ceremony, so I’ll be sure to keep my distance from any Uzi-toting security folks.

My involvement at the festival will mostly be with FILustra, an illustrators conference held in conjunction with the book fair. In fact, I’ll be delivering FILustra’s closing keynote address on Monday evening! I’m supposed to discuss how I bring social issues into the world of comics, as well as my observations about the state of comics in the U.S. (and Latin America, if I could be so bold). Needless to say, I’m still working on putting my talk together. *Gulp!*

After FIL, I’ll drive from Guadalajara to the neighboring state of Aguascalientes, to present my work to university students there, and conduct a comics-making workshop with high school kids. Finally, on my fifth day away, I’ll fly into Mexico City and do a couple of workshops—one at a university, and one at the famous Benjamin Franklin Library for a mixed group of kids and grownups. Thankfully, I have a good go-to minicomics workshop that has proven popular with groups from all over.

I’m excited for this new travel opportunity and the chance to learn about the comics scene in Mexico. I also hope to see a few familiar faces along the way…

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The Three Rogers

For some reason, there have been three writers named Roger who have been inspirations in my life: the science fiction/fantasy writer Roger Zelazny, the baseball writer Roger Angell, and the film critic Roger Ebert—who died yesterday at age 70.

I try to make a point of letting people who’ve inspired me know it. When I was in college I wrote Zelazny (who passed away in 1995) a gushing fan letter (Nine Princes in Amber and Lord of Light are still two of my favorite books)—which he was kind enough to respond to. Some years back I also wrote Angell (who is now 92 years old) to tell him how much I relished his whimsical and lyrical baseball season recaps in The New Yorker. And in 2003 I wrote Ebert the following letter:

… I’m writing you … to thank you for all the wonderful advice you’ve given me over the years. I really value your opinions on movies and often find my tastes to coincide with your own. Most of all, though, I’m amazed at how generous a critic you are, how you always give each film the benefit of the doubt. You seem the opposite of most film reviewers, who seem to take a “guilty until proven innocent” approach! You are also obviously a person with a wide range of references, someone who has a life outside of the movie theater. And this breadth of knowledge, an appreciation of real life, shows in your criticism. Honestly, given the amount of movies you must see each week, I don’t know how you maintain such a fresh approach.

(Despite my praising his generosity, Ebert could also be quite cutting in his criticism. This is a list of some of his most memorable pans.)

In 2010, I wrote a blog post about Ebert’s illness. In it, I wrote that I looked forward to many more of his reviews in the future. Well, I got three more years. My Fridays will be forever diminished by not having a new one to read. Rest in peace, Roger.