More questions from our game card interview:
Chris: What name do you consistently misspell?
Me: “License.” Always misspell it wrong the first time. Even just now. Don’t know why.
Want to know what question I gave Chris?
Chris and I continue our rapid-fire Q&A over the breakfast table (today’s fare: English muffins with raspberry jam).
Chris: What is one thing at which you are a natural?
Me: I’ve always been naturally good at breathing. And consuming food. I used to be a natural at being blonde, but those days have passed.
What is my question for Chris today?
Chris and I share many of the same enthusiasms. We both love writing, long walks, puns, Tex-Mex food, dogs, and board games. It is this last item that has suggested the latest format for our “Interview Across a Breakfast Table” feature. Each day from now until April 8, we are asking each other a question off of a card from either Loaded Questions or Say Anything – a sort of rapid-fire Q&A for a set period. We can’t guarantee quality or hilarity (or even complete honesty), but we can guarantee our complete commitment to this experiment – at least for five weeks.
Today, Chris chooses this question for me…
Chris: What would be a great name for an action movie?
Me: A high-octane thriller about gutsy criminals who steal a key piece of Superman’s uniform called … “The Great S Cape!”
In which my husband, Chris Barton, and I throw random questions in each other’s path…
Chris: What is the meanest thing you’ve ever done to someone?
Me: You obviously haven’t opened your sock drawer yet, have you?
Chris and I have been so busy traveling, celebrating Thanksgiving, being sick, and gearing up for Christmas that we haven’t had time to do our weekly blog interviews with each other. This week we try to catch up a bit. (You can see his slightly different version of the post on his blog.)
Chris: It seems like we were just there, but it’s already been nearly three weeks since we got back from our trip to San Francisco, where I went for research and you went for fun. Before we forget, what stood out for you about our visit?
Me: So much! The people. The conversation. The architecture. The museums. The weather. The trees, water, bridges, and sea lions. And cake. How about that cake?
Chris: That Shark Vs. Train cake was something else. And we’ve got the before-and-after photos to prove it. My college roommate’s birthday celebration — just a few miles from the location of the only baker I know making three-dimensional cakes based on any of our books — was a terrific way to end our visit. But let’s go back to the first day. What did you do when you found out that the Museum of Modern Art was closed?
Me: I did what I was planning to do anyway for part of the time: I wandered. I poked around shops and explored Yerba Buena Gardens across from the museum. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Fountain was beautiful and inspiring.
It was a great day to observe and study and think. Speaking of that, were you having some big “eureka!” moments while researching at the Museum of Performance + Design? What were your most exciting discoveries?
Chris: My biggest “eureka!” while researching the Christensen brothers and The Nutcracker at the MP+D was pretty much the same as it is every time I’m researching a nonfiction topic and make the jump from secondary sources to primary ones. (In this case, interview transcripts with the brothers and some of the dancers they worked with, programs from the first US productions of The Nutcracker in 1944 and 1949, costume designs from those productions, etc.) I’m floored every time by how much closer to my subjects that primary research gets me.
But definitely the most exciting part of my research didn’t happen in the museum itself. It happened at the restaurant just down the street where I had lunch with Nancy Johnson Poulos, who danced in the very first full-length Nutcracker, performed in the US, 69 years ago this month.
Me: Both were terrific. Both had original outlines and manuscript pages, which are always fascinating to me. Lobel’s discussion of the beloved characters Frog and Toad, and their friendship, was eye-opening, as was Neil Gaiman’s letter to his publisher about Sandman (a character he revived) and Death. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Arnold Lobel also did a lot of rough drafting and sketching in cheap spiral-bound notebooks — which I’ve been doing since I was a child. Seeing those slightly bent, yellowing notebooks under glass at the museum delighted me immensely.
You didn’t get to romp around the city as much as I did. But that day we spent out at Muir Woods was a memorable one, too. What did you take away from that special outing?
Chris: Well, for one thing, I was surprised by the lack of non-human mammals. I saw a chipmunk outside the gift shop, but that was it. The quiet of Muir Woods — once you got to an elevation above the crowds — was astounding.
There was so much world there — these giant, giant trees, with their enormous trunks dwarfing us and the sun filtering down through their tops way up high — and yet there was hardly any sound at all. And I loved that serendipitous moment when we were on our way down the trail and encountered that family marveling at a pair of sticks precariously balanced on the pointed tip of a trail marker. That was infectiously joyous, and entirely unexpected.
Then, of course, we picked up the cake and shared it with friends. For all the sights we saw and work that I got done, it was the people who really made the trip, don’t you think?
Me: Definitely. The human mammals were the best part. Jenni Holm is an award-winning author, but who knew she also offered emergency transport? She rescued us when our train left us stranded that cold night and took us out for crepes! Seeing her and meeting her lovely family was a high point.
Then, lucky us, we got to meet Deb Underwood for breakfast. I haven’t seen Deb in person in over two years, but when I talk with her it always feels as if we visit on a weekly basis. We made plans to surprise Mike Jung, another of our fellow EMLA authors, at his workplace in the Bay Area, but it didn’t happen. Fun to plan, though.
More wondrous moments came from meeting people from your past for the first time – like Miguel and Juan, Britton, and Shai. I loved hearing you all relive past times. It’s clear that you are special to them. But of course. It’s always marvelous being able to weave together the different threads of our lives and our past. You know good people.