Category Archives: Random Musings

Jack Fry 2004?-2016

Sad day. Our loyal pitty Jack passed away today due to complications from cancer. He was a terrific companion and a stelar example of his much maligned breed.

We didn’t pick Jack out. He picked us. Sort of. Someone dumped him on our property and here in Hays County, TX they euthanize all pit bulls. We couldn’t let that happen. When we first got him he had issues because he had clearly been abused. But he matured into a mellow fellow who rewarded our trust with his own.

He was the most expensive dog we’ve ever owned.  One rattlesnake bite and a broken leg from trying to fly out a second story window add up.  But he was worth it.

He also inspired the single most popular series in the Over the Hedge comic. We did a 2-3 week installment on a harmless puppy pit bull (Verne and RJ spent the series up a tree). The outpouring of appreciation from pit bull owners the world over was astonishing. I received at least a dozen photos of pit bulls sleeping with babies.

Jack has left a hole in Kim’s and my heart. We’ll miss he dearly. At some point we’ll get another dog. And we’ll almost certainly get another pitty. He or she have some big paws to fill.

Bye, Buddy.

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My Acceptance Speech for the Denise McCoy Legacy Award

The Denise McCoy Legacy Award goes to the best humorous children’s book of the year. Past winners include Lois Lowry (The Giver), Jeff Kinney (Diary of a Wimpy Kid), Tom Angleberger (Origami Yoda), Tommy Greenwald (Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading) and Jarrett J. Krosoczka (The Lunch Lady).  The late Denise McCoy was a beloved Albany NY bookseller who loved children’s books. Her friends and family give this award every year together to honor the best in humorous children’s literature. 

Thank you so much for honoring me with Denise McCoy Legacy award. Thank you to Lynn Derry and Tom O’Brian, the 15-Love program and of course all the Albany area librarians that chose to honor Odd Squad King Karl. I’d also like to thank my publisher, Disney-Hyperian, my fast-talking editor Lisa Yoskowitz and the hardest working man in show business, my agent: Dan Lazar.

It’s humbling and a little surreal to see my name along with past recipients like Lois Lowry and Jeff Kinney. When I sit down to write I don’t think about awards all that much. A little. Maybe a little more than a little. Okay, I wrote this speech two years ago. Thank goodness you’ve saved me the embarrassment of never being able to give it.

I am not a natural writer (or cartoonist for that matter).  It does not come easily for me. I come from the self-loathing school of writers. As Alain de Botton said, “Work finally begins when the fear of doing nothing exceeds the fear of doing it badly.”  It’s a fear based business for me. I fully realize this is not healthy. Two years of therapy have convinced me it’s not healthy. Despite that I procrastinate. I waste time. I play Candy Crush.

Why do I struggle? After all, this is supposed to be a FUN job. It’s better than almost any job I can think of. Maybe not as much fun as being Beyonce, but a lot more fun than being Donald Trump.

I think I struggle because writing is rewriting. It never comes out fully formed or even semi-formed. It comes out ugly and stupid and unfunny and just plain bad. I once did a presentation where I showed the first paragraph of King Karl from the very first draft to the 25th.  I’ve only done that presentation once. It’s too embarrassing. And boring. No one really wants to see how the sausage is made. I’ll give you an example. I was fortunate to sit on the sidelines and watch the making of a 70 million dollar movie based on the comic strip I co-created. It’s not pretty. They made that movie twice. Once with Jim Carrey as RJ and with a completely rewritten script with Bruce Willis as RJ. About six months out from release it was just okay. The bones of a good movie were there, but it hadn’t quite gelled. Then, with the pressure of a deadline, it got better. Then, a lot better, And finally it came together and turned out to be pretty darn good. The point is you can’t tell when you’re watching the process (or you are the process). And that’s terrifying.

So, you’re wondering… Mike, if it’s so horrible, why do you do it?  Four reasons:

  1.  I do it because I have to.  It’s a compulsion. I would (and have) done it for no money.
  1.  I do it because it’s hard. It uses all of my abilities. It pushes me to do my absolute best. It gives me an opportunity (but not a guarantee) to succeed.
  1.  I do it for the “mystery, the surprise, the thing you don’t know you don’t know.”  Writing is one of those pursuits where the whole can add up to more than sum of the individual parts.  It’s like the movie, Shakespeare in Love. Whenever there was some conflict with the staging of the play that would then be somehow miraculously solved, a character would stare dumfounded at the producer (Jeffrey Rush) and he would say, “It’s a mystery.”  There’s a moment when creating something when it goes from the thing you want it to be, the thing you hope it can be to the thing it is. It suddenly and mysteriously flies. All on it’s own. When that happens (and it doesn’t always happen) it’s a beautiful reward.
  1.  I do it for for the best review I’ve ever gotten.  A ten year old girl once wrote. “I read each Odd Squad book four times.  That’s my review.”

Writing children’s books is an honor and a privilege. As difficult and tortured as I make it sound, in the end it’s worth it. I get to create something out of nothing. I’m like a magician, except the first two dozen times I reach into the hat I pull out a beet, or a potato or a dry-cleaner ticket or a coupon for nasal strips.  Eventually, I find the rabbit. And it’s beautiful and perfect and Publisher’s Weekly says “it’s circuitous story line and over the top characteristics can get in the way of the points Fry tries to make about friendship, bullying and outward appearances.”

This is when the rabbit looks at me and says, “Publisher’s Weekly can kiss my furry ass.” And I smile. Because even though I pulled him out of thin air. I had no idea he could talk.

How cool is that?

Thank you again for this wonderful award.

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The Naughty List Cover Reveal

NaughtyList_cComing 9/22/15 from Harper Collins. A twelve year old girl who’s boycotting Christmas accidentally gets her little brother on the Naughty List and travels to the North Pole to get him off.

Special thanks to Rick Farley, Harper Collins Art Director, for help with color, shading, perspective and all that stuff I paid no attention to in art class.

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Praise for Odd Squad: King Karl from School Library Journal

From the August issue of SLJ:

Gr 3-7–Much like Jeff Kinney’s “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books (Abrams), comic strip creator Fry’s latest series entry brings readers a middle school student low on the totem pole, with harebrained schemes that play out through a mix of text and imagery. Lead character and narrator, Nick, also has an astronaut who often appears in his reflective comments, acting like a blend of a conscience and a parent, reminding Nick that his ideas usually look better on paper than in practice. In this installment, Nick and his best friend, Molly, both members of the school’s “Safety Squad” (part hall monitors, part crossing guards), begin to worry about him, but not because Karl owns a talking bird who wears a top hat and spends much of his time talking to sea monkeys. Instead, they worry that a “secret” group, known as MELZ (after their school’s namesake Emily Dickinson) is recruiting him and not them. Nick also worries about state testing; caring for his grandmother after she “breaks her butt” dancing with her boyfriend, the school janitor; and his maybe crush on Molly. The story is a humorous blend of outrageous and believable. The content is young and the text simple, making this most likely a better fit for upper elementary students than for middle school.–Sarah Knutson, American Canyon Middle School, CA

Check out the first four chapters of Odd Squad: King Karl by clicking on the link to the right.

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Bouncing Across Suburbia

oh130924Rules and Hammy? Seriously, RJ? How long have you been in this strip? PAY ATTENTION!

Yes, I know I’m yelling at a fictional character I created which means I’m sort yelling at myself.

But myself doesn’t yell back which means I’m mostly sane.

Mostly.

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High Midnight in the Texas Senate: A First Person Account

A friend of mine was at the Texas State Capital last evening and sent me his first person account of the aftermath of Senator Wendy Davis’ filibuster of Senate Bill 5 severely limiting abortion rights in Texas as the Republican majority attempted to pass the bill before the midnight deadline.

Every species of of the genus human had been packed together by the hundreds, then the thousands, in the hallways outside the Chamber for hours, until the air was thick with Texas sweat. For a time, people sat, then it became too crowded. The circus was multi-dimensional, with cheerleaders leaning out from the upper balconies to whip comrades below into a frenzy. A young man with glistening dark skin pulled off his “Rick Perry Sucks” shirt and waved it at the crowd, inciting the bulls and energizing the metal-studded emissaries of the Socialist Workers. More and more and more state troopers arrived. 

 Word leaked from inside the Senate chamber that a little old lady had been arrested for refusing to give up her seat when the lt. gov. ordered the galleries cleared, but in pauses between chants, the crowd could sometimes hear defiance still shouted from those same galleries inside the now-locked-down Chamber. A small knot of leaders urged patience and relative calm, over-riding the occasional call to storm the barricades from young back-benchers. Then, at something like 11:45 p.m.,  Democratic senators texted aides to Cecile Richards and the state party chair, who we were standing next to us, that the Repubs were forcing a vote. Passions were high because the Pharisees had just rammed through bogus points of order that ended the Wendy Davis filibuster on the flimsiest of pretexts. From inside the chamber someone asked supporters to turn up the noise, to be so loud that it would make it hard to vote — and the roar became a deafening howl that rose to an impossible pitch, then rose again, louder and still louder, echoing off the walls of the rotunda from four stories of packed partisans. I believe Orwell or Hemingway would have translated it as “No se pasaran [They shall  not pass],” though it’s possible that not everyone there was ruminating on the vagaries of the Spanish Civil War. 

In front of me, my daughter and her friend, shook fists in the air and chanted, “Whose house? OUR house.” Directly behind us, hung an oil painting of Ann Richards. Then the vote came down, two minutes after the session legally ended at midnight, and those less informed of parliamentary procedure were introduced to the power of the chair. But even now the argument continued, since among the woes of the modern age are computer date stamps on electronic voting machines, which marked the bill passed as of the next day, mocking the lt. governor’s physical stopping the clock and his ruling that the bill had made the deadline. “Hell no, we won’t go,” chanted the crowd. The Senate argued on. A chief protagonist for the bill, an aspiring Jesse Helms in the making, complained loudly that it was unfair to have to conduct business “with so much ruckus.” And back against the wall, the image of Ann Richards smiled, ever so faintly. 

Senate Bill 5 was indeed rendered moot when it was discovered the time stamp for passage read 12:02 AM.

It was not pretty and it was not decorous.

It was wonderful.

 

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2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 120,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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