Monday, October 18, 2010

Boston Book Festival: The second part first

So Anna and I ended up going to all the same things, so she's going to write about the morning and I'm writing about the afternoon. So after some delightful lunch, the wind blew us back to the Back Bay Convention Center were we attended "From Page to Screen" with Dennis Lehane and Tom Perrotta with host Ty Burr. A.M. Homes was supposed to be there as well, but alas, she was sick. Ty Burr was a good host, he asked leading question and then sat back and let them talk. No interrupting. It started out with playing clips from movies that had been made from Dennis Lehane and Tom Perrotta's work. I am sorry to say I have not seen any of them accept for Election. They look really good though and it made me want to. Has anyone seen Little Children? It came out in 2006 and I don't remember it at all. It looks hysterical.

The first question Ty Burr asked was, "Can a novelist get respect in Hollywood?" Dennis Lehane felt that the writer doesn't have very much power. You only have the power to sell it to whom you want to, so you need to trust them. Tom Perrotta said you have power when you write the book, and that's about it. This of course led into a question of how do you get the people who bought it to respect the work. They both agreed that you have to work all that out before you decide to sell. Choose carefully, and walk away when you need to.

Tom talked some about the experience of writing the screenplay himself. He said it was very difficult, and collaboration really helps. When he wrote it, he didn't leave anything out, but so much of it ends up on the cutting room floor. Dennis doesn't adapt his own work and says he wouldn't want to. He just can't think in that way. He gave the example of Mystic River, where the first 50 pages of the book are really important to everything else that happens. When he first pictured it, he thought the opening was going to have to be a half an hour, and then the writers and directors figure out how to do with a symbol and it was perfect. Dennis said he would never be able to think of things like that.

Dennis told some funny stories about working with Clint Eastwood on Mystic River. Eastwood apparently said he wanted Dennis to be really involved in casting. So Eastwood would call him up and they'd have conversations that went like this:
"Who are you think for Angie?"
"Well, I was thinking maybe so and so would be good?"
"Yeah...I got this other completely different person already."
And so on. Tom said that good actors can do things you never thought they could do. He would never have picked Matthew Broderick for Election himself, but he ended up loving his performance.

Dennis Lehane is hysterical. It was fun to hear him talk, but he's totally kind of a jerk, you can tell. One of the final stories he was telling was how when he gets to go on set, there are actors who corner him and ask lots of questions about the character. Things that weren't in the book, like what they were like as children and do they like peas. Really specific things, things he never thought about. When he has to pause, he can kind of see the actor looking disgusted like they're thinking, "He doesn't even know."

We left as people from the audience started asking why no one can do Boston accents well. Which is true.

Anna and I were going to split up then, she was going to go to "Internet or Not" and I was going to go to something on fairy tales, but this point in the afternoon there were starting to be crazy long lines for everything, and a lot of the rooms weren't large enough for the amount of people who were interested. That's really my only complaint about the whole thing. They need to find larger venues. So we bailed on the Internet and headed over to the fairy tale one which was called "My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me" which didn't start for a half hour but already had a line, which we joined. This one turned out to be a total disappointment. I thought it was going to be about the genre itself, or the history or something, but it sure wasn't. It was just a book promotion for a book of new fairy tales called My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me with Kathryn Davis, Kelly Link, who had stories in the book, and Maria Tatar who's an authority on folklore and fairy tales. The host was Kate Bernheimer who edited the book and also contributed a story. The people who had written stories for the book each read a section of their story aloud. I'm sorry to say that they were all very poor read-alouders. Flat, boring, monotone. I have no idea what any of the stories were about. They might be really good. I don't know. As soon as each started reading I totally zoned out. After they all read Maria Tatar talked. At this point Anna was scrawling "Can we go?" across my notebook so we did.

This turned out to all be for the best because the last thing we were going to was "It Books: Four YA Writers Discuss What's Hot and What's Not" which despite being a stupid topic we definitely wanted to go to as it was with Noni Carter, Kristin Cashore, Kathry Lasky and Francisco Stork (hosted by Sarah Sogigian). There was already a considerable line when we got there, but never fear, we made it in.

I was delighted that pretty much each author, when it was their turn to talked said that they thought the topic was stupid (they phrased it more nicely than that) and just talked about what they wanted to talk about.

Noni Carter talked about her book, Good Fortune, which is a historical fiction slave narrative. She was very enthusiastic, and when she read a section of her book aloud, it was not boring at all. She also did not need a microphone. It sounds really good, I want to read it. She said she started writing Good Fortune when she was 12, because she was interested in her own history. Noni does a lot of talks at schools, stressing the importance of excellence through education, which is a theme in the book.

Kathryn Lasky talked about how she doesn't write because of a trend, but because she has a story that had to be told, and if it coincides with a trend that's fine but a good book is written from the inside out. Well said, Kathryn Lasky. She said there are stealth leaders of trends, and many of them started the trends decades before the trend took off. Catcher in the Rye started the problem novels. The Giver started the dystopia novels which are so popular now. Ann Rice probably had no idea Interview with a Vampire would lead to vampire obsession years later. During the question and answer it was revealed that Kathryn was originally going to write a non-fiction book about owls, but her husband didn't want to camp out to study them, and told her to write a fantasy instead. So she wrote The Guardians of G'Hoole.

Francisco Stork thinks that what makes something "hot" for him is a book that gets to be on the summer reading table at a book store. He hopes that someday his books will be there. When he writes, he asks himself what he can do to make sure this book is read five years from now. He wants to create characters that stay with you after you've read the book. During the question and answer section, I told Francisco that we had had Marcelo in the Real World on our summer reading list this past summer. He was quite pleased.

Kristin Cashore (who I love, she's so delightfully nerdy and awkward in such a charming way!) said "what's hot" is whatever is in the writer's mind. It's a very long process to get published, and if you don't love your book you won't stick with it. You can't just write something because it's popular at the moment (although people totally do, and they're usually not very good). She talked about her process of writing. Plots don't come to her, characters do. They show up and start talking in her head (she knows they're imaginary and they don't tell her to do things), she has to work harder for the plots. She writes by hand, and walked around with one of her notebooks that she's using now to write on Bitterblue, that was pretty cool.

All in all I would say the day was a success. It was lots of fun, almost everything we went to was interesting and engaging. Also, it was FREE! Yay! Did you go? You should next year.


  1. Thanks for writing about this, since I couldn't go!

    I'm not sure I agree with Kathryn that Catcher in the Rye is a problem novel. "Disaffected youth" isn't a capital-P Problem like Anorexia or Coming Out to My Parents. (Or maybe I just hated Catcher.)

    Also, there were totally dystopias before The Giver, but I suppose she might be right that its popularity was on the leading edge of the current trend.

  2. I agree that there were dystopias before The Giver, but was there one that was kid or YA focused? It might have been a first in that sense.

    Awww, you hated Catcher? I haven't read it since high school, but I remember liking it. He was pretty whinny though. I sometimes considering rereading the books I read in high school to see if my feelings have changed toward them.


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