What a wonderful State.

It’s a funny thing when you are a part of something and not a part of something but that thing, that you loved and helped birth but missed out on, is something that grows into something that everybody else in the world loves and adores. That’s how I feel about The State and those people who were in it.

There is a book coming out today called The Union of the State I can’t wait to read it and you should all go out and get it. I’m probably not mentioned in the book. I wouldn’t be, I was only there for the prologue. But since it’s an oral history, I thought this would be a good day to share my tiny memories of the very beginning of this comedy juggernaut and my wee hand in being a secret mama of the group.

I met most of the people in The State when I was 18 years old and I was at NYU. I had a freshman mentor, Mo Willems (you may know him from his Pigeon books) who had a comedy group called The Sterile Yak. I joined, because Mo was hysterical and brilliant and I just wanted to be close to him. Also, because sketch comedy is fun, who wouldn’t want to be funny all the time? It was in the Sterile Yak that I first met David Wain, Todd Holoubek and Craig Wedren. Maybe some others, but the time line gets fuzzy this many years later. I went to some shows and then was in one or two. But for some reason I what I remember most was doing sound with Craig Wedren for the group. Which makes no sense to me, but makes sense for him, because he is a brilliant musician. I am very bad at technical things, but I loved being in the booth with Craig. He called me Cecil Turtle, he still does when I see him, and I don’t know if it’s because I looked like a turtle or because I was so slow to understand the sound booth.

Sophomore year came around, this is Fall of 1988 now, and we were practicing and writing and improvising regularly. I remember that at the beginning of the year at rehearsal, some new people showed up, two of them being Michael Showalter and Kerri Kenney. Showalter and Kerri did a scene where they were two teenagers trying to ask each other out in a supermarket. They decided to do the scene as though they had lain down in the produce section and it was the most brilliant thing I had ever seen. I think about that improv quite a lot. I think about it when I am writing sometimes. I think about it in the produce section of grocery stores.

I remember that the Sterile Yak was getting too big. There were too many people and not everyone would get to perform. So the way I remember it is Todd and I decided that we should start a new group, which we called The New Group for lack of a better name. Also, I think I wanted to get out from under the shadow of Mo, who is a powerful personality. I think David Wain consulted with us. I just remember talking to David about it a lot. This new group and what it would be.

Todd and I booked a room in Hayden Hall, which was my dorm (maybe his as well?) and we auditioned people. We sat there and people came in and we shouted out things for them to do and I remember looking at names and scribbling down notes. Putting check marks and stars next to names. But what I remember most is that it was so obvious who should be in this new group. Because they were brilliant. If I remember correctly, that initial first group was me, Todd, Joe Lo Truglio, Mike Showalter, Michael Ian Black, Kerri Kenney, Ken Marino and Ben Garant. We started rehearsing in various dorm community rooms and booked our first show for January. There were even flyers. I remember that I was going to be in a few sketches. One of them had something to do with Charlie Brown. But then I had to quit the New Group because I had run out of money to go to college and I had to drop out of school. I never did that first show.

I moved to Montreal. I still wanted to do comedy and I tried to find a group of people in that new city to play around with, but while I found my way to a nice group of funny people, they weren’t my New Group. That group that I had helped to put together. The one filled with people who I thought were brilliant and special with a rare alchemy between them. I had made my dream group of people that I wanted to laugh and play with and then I had left them.

But, oh how proud I am to be a secret mama! How delightful it is to have had the tiniest of bit parts in bringing these geniuses together. What a thrill be a silver thread woven in that comedy tapestry. My heart bursts with pride every time I am lucky enough to catch up and run into any of them in person, or see them on my television or in a movie that they’ve done. They were all brilliantly talented when we were teenagers and they continue to make my arty heart soar whenever I see anything they do.

I love you guys! Congrats on the book and for being so amazingly kick ass in your contributions to culture. Hope to have a coffee/beer/laugh with all of you sometime again soon.

To everybody else, go buy the book now.  And go see, watch, read, support anything these people do. You will be very glad that you did.

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New Book anouncement: From publisher’s weekly/ April 1

Castellucci, Infurnari Go with Dark Horse

YA (and graphic) novelist Cecil Castellucci sold North American rights to a currently untitled Depression-era graphic novel to Dark Horse’s Sierra Hahn. The book, which William Morris Endeavor’s Kirby Kim represented, will be illustrated by Joe Infurnari, and is currently set for a fall 2014 release. The story is set in 1932 and follows, Dark Horse said, two misfits “and a relationship built during a train-hopping journey from the cold heartbreak of their eastern homes toward the sunny promise of California.”

the next big thing

My friend Jenn Fujikawa tagged me in this meme where you talk about a project you’ve been working on. She got it from our friend, the fabulous Sarah Kuhn and Amber Benson. I decided to answer questions about my newest book Odd Duck!

A little something about Jenn. She’s a cook, a nerdy girl, a sassy mom, a designer. You should totally check out her recipie blog. If you’ve ever wanted to make things like wookie cookies or princess leia cupcakes, her blog is the place to go. Right now she’s got a mochi book out. YUM.

Here are the medusa cupcakes she made for my book launch.
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The Next Big Thing: Odd Duck!

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Where did the idea come from for the book?
I think everyone I know is a little bit odd.

What genre does your book fall under?
It’s a hybrid graphic novel picture book for kids of all ages. (6 – 106) It’s written by me and illustrated by the fabulous Sara Varon.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie 
rendition?
It’d be voice actors! Because I would want an animated movie. I think I’d choose my old pal Reno Wilson to voice Chad and Jennifer Hale, from my fave video game Mass Effect, to voice Theodora. To round it out, let’s say Dave Foley, Sean Cullen and Jane Lynch for Gabe, Max and Velma.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Theodora is a normal duck, following her daily habits. Chad is a bit of a strange egg, chaotic and creative. But which of them is really the odd duck? (that’s from the Junior Library Guild page where it is a spring pick!)

When will this book be published?
It’s out on First Second in May 2013. You can pre-order it now. amazon barnes and noble powells indiebound

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I originally wrote it as an easy reader. So it was all text. Then Sara Varon came on board and we decided to throw out the words and make it pictures. Sara broke down the text and then we worked together on the pacing and fleshing out what needed to be fleshed out. All in all it took about three years.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Any book where there are two mismatched best buds.
Ernie and Bert. Wallace and Gromit. Bink and Gollie. Elephant and Piggie.
Oscar and Felix.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
Many years ago I was sitting at a dinner with author/artist Peter Reynolds. We started talking about the odd ducks we knew. I got an image of a duck swimming with a tea cup on her head. That’s when I came up with Theodora. I made everyone laugh at dinner with stories of Theodora. And what better way to ruffle her feathers then to have a new duck move in next door. . I loved the idea of Chad being loud and colorful and messy. I wanted to write a book about being okay with yourself being weird.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
What I like a lot about this book is that it really is for all ages. It works on three levels. Kids who can’t read can follow the pictures, which are adorable. Kids who can read can get more details about the story, not only in the regular text but in the asides that are in the pictures. And then I think that adults can enjoy it because because we as adults know exactly what it’s like to be a Theodora or a Chad.

Here are the other super talented people that Jenn tagged: Genevieve Tsai, Kristin Weber , Leslie Levings, Bonnie Burton

As for who I’m tagging to go next, I wanted to highlight some fantastic female writers/creators/artists that I adore and also call friends.

Jillian Lauren, Liza Palmer and Sherri L. Smith

Jillian Lauren is a sassy lady who writes non-fiction and fiction. She wrote the memoir, My Life as a Harem and the novel Pretty. She also performs. She just did a one woman show at the Edinburgh Fest! She keeps a great blog about motherhood, which I adore.

Liza Palmer has written five books. She’s emmy nominated. She’s best selling. She’s sassy, funny, plays board games and is always a good time. She wrote More Like Her, A Field Guide to Burying your Parents, Seeing me Naked, Conversations with the Fat Girl and her most recent, Nowhere but You. Chuck her books into your bag and read them everywhere.

Sherri L Smith is an award winning YA author. She wrote one of my fave historical fiction YA books, Flygirl, which won the California Gold Medal. She’s worked in comic books, has helped organize special effects, makes cool jewelery and is an all around great gal to go to a comic book convention with. Her new book Orleans is an amazing dystopian YA set in a post hurrican New Orleans. So. Good. She blogs over at the Middle Hundred.

And I’m going to back tag Sarah Kuhn and Amber Benson

LaunchPad 2011 (aka Space Science Camp)

Most of you know that I really love outer space. Almost all of my books have some kind of observational astronomy in it. My newest book, First Day on Earth, (coming out in November 2011) is a Sci Fi(ish) book. And my current work in progress, The Tin Star, is a two book series that takes place on a space station around an extra solar planet. So, you know, finding out that there was a workshop to teach writers about space science… well… I could not apply fast enough.

And so last week I went to LaunchPad 2011 (aka space science camp.) It was the most fun and brain breaking thing ever.

LaunchPad is the brainchild of astronomer and sci fi writer Dr. Mike Brotherton (Spider Star and Star Dragon) It’s been funded by NASA and the NSF and its goal is to teach writers (of sci fi) space science so that the science is correct in your fiction. (I know, right? AMAZING!)

It takes place at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. (by the way, we all know Laramie has a bad rap. But it’s a sweet cute place. Totally adorable. For example, i saw a pair of victorian boots that I am coveting and also the cowboy saloon and dancehall which we got to sneak into and look at its amazingness – including saddle seat bar stools and a buffalo that snorts smoke. I was sad the saloon was closed for summer.)

Cowboy Saloon and Dancehall. I know you are two-stepping in your mind right now.

We were there for one week. Every day we had a lecture on space science. For a space dork like me it was amazing. I learned so much.

My fave things were the lecture on Dust.

Learning about Stars. Learning about space medicine. Dark Matter. Spectrograph lab.

I even liked cosmology. (although it nearly broke me.)

We had two observing nights. I so desperately wanted to see M51 because there is a supernova in it right now. But we couldn’t see it from where we were. A stupid streetlamp was in the way and the weather was not cooperating. But we saw clusters (open and globular) Saturn. M82 galaxy. The Ring Nebula. I admit, many of these things looked like smudges. But they were very. cool. smudges.

We also went to WIRO (Wyoming InfraRed Observatory)

It was way up high on Mount Jen… Gorgeous. There was a lightning storm that surrounded us below. We could see bolts in the sky.

Lovely grad students Rana and Jessie let the few of us stay later help to open the telescope door and engage the telescope.

Dani opening the observatory doors.

Me in front of WIRO (pic by Liz)

The late night WIRO crew – Chris Rowe, Dani Wolff, Me!, Liz Gorinsky, Shelly Li (Todd Van der Mark took the pic)

I enjoyed the fine company of all of my fellow classmates. And I know that my reading list got huge. I think you should probably go read them all, too. Liz Gorinksy, Greg Fishbone, Mike Albo, KC Ball, Shelly Li, Todd Vandermark, Christopher Rowe, Stan Schmidt, Jennifer Willis, Danielle Wolff, Henry Strattman, Deborah J Ross , Shariann Lewitt, An Owomoyela , Pembroke Sinclair, Eric James Stone

And if you write Sci Fi, or long to, you should totally apply to LaunchPad next year. (And if you are science organization, (hint hint NASA and NSF) you should continue to support them.)

First Day on Earth ARC Contest + Weird Space Tales Radio Theater

Hello my lovely friends!

I’ve got five (5) ARCs of my brand new novel First Day on Earth (Scholastic, Nov 2011) to give away.

First Day on Earth is the story of Mal, a boy who may or may not have been abducted by aliens and who meets a guy Hooper who may or may not be from outer space.

So I am having a contest. A “Tales of Alien Abduction” contest.

That’s right. Send me your short (300 words) tale imagined or real of your encounter with a UFO or your alien abduction. The five most vivid, thrilling and weird tales will win an advanced copy of First Day On Earth signed by me. But wait! That’s not all! These five tales will then be crafted into a Weird Space Tales Radio Theater drama that I will record and podcast with the help of special guests! (like Grant Baccicio! Creator of the Doctor Floyd Radio Show! ) (in either all in one episode or five minisodes depending on what I can pull off).

Fun for all of us to enjoy! Radio Theater! Awesome!

The RULES:

Submit a microstory (no more than 300 words, please!) of your alien abduction / encounter with a UFO (real or imagined!) post in comments or email to misscecil@earthlink.net by July 31st

Winners will be announced mid-August.

There will be two (2)ARCs reserved for someone under 18 years old. Please make sure to state if you are under 18 / over 18. (under 18 winners will have to get permission from their parents to give me an address to receive the book)

All are welcome to enter. Yes, that means anywhere in the entire world. UFOs land everywhere!

The winners give me, Cecil Castellucci, permission to adapt their thrilling tale into a radio play that will be performed and reenacted and available to all on a fun podcast of complete radio theater delight! Winners names will be credited.

Have fun!

Also, remember, you can Pre-order First Day on Earth right now!

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Skylight Books (FYI any of my books ordered from Skylight Books are most likely signed) *

*currently the book is not listed on Indiebound or Powells, but you should totally support your local indie bookstores.

From Scholastic’s jacket copy:

A startling, wonderful novel about the true meaning of being an alien in an equally alien world.

We are specks. Pieces of dust in this universe. Big nothings.

“I know what I am.”

Mal lives on the fringes of high school. Angry. Misunderstood. Yet loving the world — or, at least, an idea of the world.

Then he meets Hooper. Who says he’s from another planet. And may be going home very soon.

SCIBA dinner

I had great fun being the EmCee for the SCIBA Children’s Book dinner. There were many lovely authors there at the dinnerand the four keynote speakers – Judy Blundell, Brandon Mull, Andrew Smith and Dr. Cuthbert Soup were charming and it is always so wonderful to hear writers talk about writing.

Because I believe in a little bit of quirky fun at these sorts of things, I made up a little “Cecil gets lost in their books” montage. So here I am, transported by their new books.   I had photo help from photographer Ben High. Oh.  And I also sang a song I wrote especially for the evening to help celebrate the awesomeness of Children’s Literature.  Yes.  A little ditty from me to you. Mary from Skylight Books filmed it for you to enjoy. Fun!

Thanks to all who came out last night.  I love you indie book stores!

Where’d you get that idea?

So many times when I go speak to writers at conferences and workshops or when I do school visits, people ask me, “Where do you get your ideas?” I have a million places where I get my ideas. But the idea for my first novel Boy Proof came from working a totally odd job. I was working for my friend Phil’s Production Transcripts company doing as a Time Coder.

At first, I thought it was a miserable job. But in the end, even the dreary can be inspiring.

Before I was writing full-time, as I try to manage to do now, I made sure to clear as many weeks as possible to write. I always tried to make it a point to live by my motto: “All Art All the Time.” This meant I took a lot of temp jobs — something that I could do for a set period of time, pay my rent, buy some groceries and then take a few weeks off to write some more.

You can read the rest of it over at aol as part of their funny series My Spectacular Odd Job.

This last week: a whirlwind!

My dear friends!

This last week of July has been a bonanza of fun! merriment! joy! good stories! fun friends! and yeah-ness!

First: Comic Con! I only dipped in and out for a quick visit. I was there with the always lovely and fantastic Melissa Auf der Maur as she was signing at Century Guild her beautiful original poster by Lee Moyer!

As always, I had so much fun at comic con seeing all my dear comics peeps. This years fun included excellent hang out time with Bill Willingham, Shelly Bond, Nate Powell, Chris Wisnia, Gabriel Ba, Fabio Moon, Jeff Lemire, Matt Idelson, Josh Dysart.

Melissa signing her poster

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Me & Josh Dysart

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Second my twin book launch! I had my shindig at the ever wonderful Skylight Books where I released my new YA novel Rose Sees Red and my first picture book Grandma’s Gloves.

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Me reading Grandma’s Gloves!

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One special thing was that since Rose Sees Red takes place in 1982 and Rose goes to the High School of Performing Arts (now LaGuardia High School of the Arts) I got some friends of mine from High School to do the reading with me. I was lucky and grateful to have from L to R Alex Desert, Kimberly Huie, John Maraffi, Rhonda Christou, Lee Coleman, Mason Bendewald & Anna Bendewald

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Thank you to all who came out! Both books now available! Order away!

And then last night, I went to the Movie Premiere of Scott Pilgrim Vs The World (books written  and must be read, by the great Bryan Lee O’Malley). And it is a truly wonderful movie that you are all going to love.

Here are me Steve, Ben and Todd.