Saturday, June 26, 2010

Day 2: The Speakers

We got to see some wonderful speakers today, so here's the run-down:

Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor
The first speaker I saw today as part of the Auditorium Speaker Series was Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor. They talked about their upcoming book, Traveling with Pomegranates, a memoir that they co-wrote. Sue Monk Kidd mentioned that one of the things she's always asked about this book is if she and Ann are still speaking to each other, which she found very telling about mother-daughter relationships. She quoted a bit, from Adrienne Rich and a fabulous one from Lillian Carter: “Sometimes when I look at all my children, I say to myself, "Lillian, you should have stayed a virgin." Hee.

It was actually Ann's idea to write the book together. She had been working on a memoir, but found she was only telling half the story, so she asked her mother if she would write it with her, and Sue agreed. Ann talked about the difficulty of writing a true memoir. There has to be a willingness to be know, not a need for shock value.

Sue Monk Kidd spoke about the changing relationships of mother and daughters. They both talked about the turning point in their relationship: after Ann graduated, they went on a trip to Greece together. They were not as close as they once were, Ann was an adult now, and they hadn't yet formed an adult relationship. Meanwhile, Sue had just turned 50 and was, for the first time, struggling with the idea of her own mortality. The book focuses on these different threads of transitions in their lives.

Both Sue and Ann read excerpts from their sections of the book, it alternates by chapters. It was an enjoyable talk, and the book sounds good too!

Sir Salman Rushdie
The second Auditorium Speaker we saw was Salman Rushdie, who has a new book coming out in November, Luka and the Fire of Life. He had written Haron and the Sea of Stories for his first son, and when his second son, who was born much later in Rushdie's life (he was 50), was old enough to realize this, he demanded a book be written for him too. So now it has.

Rushdie talked about the difficulty of writing a sequel. He compared it to Lewis Carroll. Lewis Carroll was successful with Alice in Wonderland, but was in a very different place when he began work on Through the Looking Glass. Rushdie liked what Carroll did with Through the Looking Glass. He didn't try to go back and rehash what had already been done. It was the same main character, but everything else was new. And Rushdie felt he was in a similar situation. Haron was well received, and now, many years later, he was returning to that world. And he was in a very different place in his life.

Rushdie said letting his son read his manuscript was wonderful. Children are very honest. When he was unsure about his villain, he was concerned he was too scary, he let his son read it and was relieved that the villain was his son's favorite character!

Also, fabulous quote: "No one wants to be Luke Skywalker. He's a pathetic little drip. Darth Vader is the cool one." Well said. Rushdie was a great speaker. And another book that I want to read!

Fantasy and Science Fiction Panel
This was not part of the Speaker series, but I'm really glad I found out it was going on! It was great! The authors on the panel were Dom Testa, Jane Lindskold, Cory Doctorow, Cherie Priest, and Brandon Sanderson. AND we got a bag with a book by each of them when we walked in! All sorts of awesome.

Each author spoke individually. Dom Testa really wants a flying car that will fold up into his briefcase (a la The Jetsons). He spoke about how science fiction inspires scientific discovery. Science fiction writers use their imaginations to come up with things that don't exist yet, and then later, sometimes many many years later, they do. For example, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World is probably the first mention of test tube babies before it ever occurred to anyone that such a thing could be.

Jane Linskold told a really nice story about her elementary school library. She hated spelling and math, and refused to try hard in them. Her teachers got together with her parents and tried to think of something that would motivate her. The only thing they could think of was to threaten her with not being able to go to the library any more. It worked. When she brought up her grades, she was made an assistant librarian. She spoke about how librarians are so important, because they push people to try new things, and encouraged us to continue this practice. To not just give a kid another book like the one they've just read, but to try and steer them to something completely new they would never pick up themselves. And that push to find new things is what fuels science fiction writers.

Cory Doctorow talked about how science fiction doesn't actually predict the future, but rather comments on the present. He gets the ideas for his books by reading the newspapers and finding something really strange and interesting and pretends it happens in several years. And if it becomes well know later on, well then it looks like he predicted the future!

Cherie Priest was really funny and charming but kind of scattered, which she warned us about as soon as she got up there. She described herself as a feminist, nerd marry-er and a gamer. She talked about all sorts of thing, and a bit about steampunk, the genre she often writes in. She said steampunk is what happens when Goth discovers brown. Hehe.

Brandon Sanderson talked about the aversion some people have to fantasy. He said people are always asking him to sum up his book in a sentence, but that doesn't work so well for fantasy. As an example, he summarize The Lord of the Rings: Furry footed British guy goes on a journey to throw a ring into a hole. And the hole is really far away. Not super appealing. He was starting to talk about escapism, and how he doesn't write fantasy for "escapism" and that's not why he reads it either, but unfortunately we had to go so we could get to the Opening Session with Toni Morrison.

Toni Morrison
So it turned out that the first 45 minutes was acknowledging all the sponsors of the convention and giving out some awards. I know the sponsors are very important. Without them we wouldn't be having all this fabulousness, but we were a little cranky because we totally could have stayed to hear Brandon Sanderson AND gotten all our books signed by the authors. Sigh. Oh well.

So Toni Morrison finally came out. And it was sort of wonderful. I was so excited to see her, even though we were really far away. It didn't matter. She began by saying she didn't really remember life before she could read, and her sister taught her. They would spell words out on the pavement with stones. One time, they tried to copy a word they found written on a wall..f...u...and their mother came flying out yelling at them to wash it away. From that she learned that words were very powerful things.

Morrison became a library page, a very slow one, since she would read everything as she was shelving. True that. I think we all did. She read her way through the children's section quickly enough, but there wasn't any YA section yet, it just went from children to adult, and there never seemed to be the kinds of books she really wanted. And that's why she decided to write, so she could have those kinds of books.

She began writing children's picture books with her son, who is an artist and musician. They do retellings of Aesop's fables. They both didn't really like Aesop's fables, with morals that seemed to say, "don't be good, don't be kind, you'll pay for it." Morrison's son would have the ideas, and then she would make them happen. I haven't read any of her picture books, but I like how they sound so I'll have to check one out.

She ended by talking about the future of libraries, how she loves the old ones, but also embraces the new. She likes her ipad, but doesn't like reading everything on it, because for some books she likes to make notes, or underlines things. She ended with, "I'm grateful for the libraries of the past because that's mine, but I'm eager to help secure the future, because that's mine as well." It was awesome. We were all little choked up actually.

A good day! And more tomorrow!

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