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Alex and Robots

Alex and Robots

Alex says: "Not finished yet, but close. Superhero? Not quite, but working on it. I have sensors on my skin that track the electrical activity in my muscles. The sensors cause the exoskeleton to move with my body."

Oh, the people you meet at Yale!

My college roommate takes one step closer to kicking Iron Man’s pansy ass.

Alex Sulkowski: Mad Scientist or Disturbed Genius?

Here’s the thing about going to Yale: people always say to you, “Wow, you went to Yale. You must be some kind of a genius or something.”

Well, no, sorry, I’m not a genius. I may not even be a something. But the absolute coolest thing about going to Yale was this: I got to meet geniuses. Bonafide off-the-wall, brains-coming-out-of-their-ears geniuses. I got to hang out with them, bask in the glory of their unfettered intellects, and generally enjoy the sensation of pure awe.

One of those geniuses was a guy named Alex Sulkowski. Alex was one of my roommates for my senior year and a good friend my entire time at Yale. He’s also the most brilliant person I’ve ever known. He used to build remote-controlled tanks with video cameras and mounted water guns, then sit in our room and control the things through the TV, driving around campus and drenching people with the automated water gun. He built a robot with bulletproof skin that could detect when it had hit an obstacle and reverse direction. All kinds of cool stuff.

The best part about it? Alex isn’t even an engineer or a roboticist by trade. This is the stuff he does for fun.

Last year, Alex won a contest for designing a mechanized exoskeleton. He’s entered a new competition this year and sent me some pictures of his work-in-progress. It was so cool that I just had to share it with the world.

Attending BookExpo

From May 18-21, I attended BookExpo America in Washington, D.C. Back in the day — when I worked the dreaded Day Job — I used to attend a fair number of trade shows, but this was the first time I attended something as massive as BEA as a guest, not a Booth Guy.

Houghton Mifflin brought me to BEA to promote The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl. The first night, I was a guest at the American Booksellers for Children Silent Auction and Banquet. This was a lot of fun. ABC puts on this event as a way of celebrating independent booksellers specializing in children’s books, as well as raising charitable donations for children’s causes. It was an excellent opportunity for me to meet a lot of people in the industry, as well as a good time to touch bases with various folks at Houghton Mifflin, including my editor and the terrific people in Houghton’s Sales and Marketing Departments.

Barry at BEA auction

(<–I strike a pose the night of the ABC dinner…)

I also got to meet Catherine Gilbert Murdock and Garret Feynmann-Weyr, fellow Houghton Mifflin authors (of Dairy Queen and Stay With Me, respectively). Garret described Astonishing Adventures as being “like a shot of espresso in the heart,” which is the sort of image that really sticks with me! (Hmm, you’d think she was a writer or something…)

On Friday, I had a whirlwind day that began when some Hollywood folks grabbed me in the Houghton booth. I’ve had a couple of encounters with Hollywood people at this point, but their interest in the book still consistently catches me off-guard. It’s not even out yet!

I had lunch with my editor and we discussed some changes to my second book, Boy Toy, as well as a series I plan to write. More info on that series once it sells…

After lunch, I had my first signing. Bearing in mind that the book wasn’t on shelves yet, I had steeled myself for an hour of sitting and twiddling my thumbs. I was very pleasantly surprised to be busy almost the entire hour, with a constant flow of people coming up to me for autographs. In all, I signed more than a hundred books in that hour, a respectable number for a first-time author.

Signing at BEA

Signing at BEAI capped off the show that day with a meeting with my agent, followed by a gathering at the Goethe Institute (sponsored by the folks who run the massive Frankfurt Book Fair) and then a party hosted by The New Yorker.

Signing at BEA

I’ll be honest — a lot happened at BEA, but much of it was business-related stuff that I don’t plan to get into on the Internet. Suffice it to say, it was a terrific experience. Overwhelming at times, but terrific nonetheless.