Friday, April 22, 2011

Half Pint Ingalls

Wendy McClure read from her new book, The Wilder Life, at the Book Cellar last night. This reading was different from other book readings I've been to because we churned butter and had a bonnet contest. People love their Little House! I was enamored with Anne of Green Gables when I was a girl, but hearing Ms. McClure's stories about her experiences trying to relive some of the Ingalls family's adventures made we want to read the entire series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. In addition to being an author, Ms. McClure is also a children's book editor. She spoke about the voice used in Ms. Wilder's books and how it is just right for children. Rose Wilder Lane, Ms. Wilder's daughter, also wrote some stories for the series (much later) but did not capture that same special voice found in her mother's writing. It's a tricky thing, and so important to the overall tone of a book. Ms. McClure's voice is engaging and humorous, and I'm looking forward to diving into her book next.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Neil Himself

I went to a Rufus Wainwright concert once and didn't know anything about the opening act. He was a pianist like Rufus and he got onstage and sang and played and within five minutes had the whole audience in on it, singing and laughing with him. It was Ben Folds and by the time he was done, no one wanted him to leave. That's kind of what happened last night when I went to go see Neil Gaiman. He had an opening act, too, who had the audience in stitches within about 30 seconds. Chicago author James Kennedy warmed up the crowd, and by the time he was done introducing the guest of honor, he'd won everybody over, including Mr. Gaiman (himself) who said that he'd been introduced a lot of times, but that was "the best." I won't paraphrase the introduction besides mentioning that according to Mr. Kennedy, bees wrote all of Mr. Gaiman's stories. It's probably best just to watch it here.

The reading was at the Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago, a beautiful setting. Close to 1,000 people were there and I was lucky to be sitting up front and close to the pulpit where Mr. Gaiman spoke.

He has a lot of fans. I'm not sure how many authors have an actual fan base. They might have readers who like their writing, but having hard-core fans who want to know your every move just doesn't happen for most authors. This fan aspect of Mr. Gaiman's career is almost as interesting as his writing. He read excerpts from Neverwhere, the One Book, One Chicago selection, and then he answered a dozen questions, many about other projects and what's going to be turned into TV or films. I liked his answer to the question about the difference between writing fiction and writing a script: "This is what it's going to cost" is the response to a script, which leads to changes to fit a budget. Cost constraints aren't a problem for writing fiction or creating a graphic novel. It's only a matter of ink.

After the Q&A I introduced myself to James Kennedy, because as it turns out, he used to work where I work. He was extremely gracious. It's heartening how generous writers are in helping out other writers who are trying to get published. It's one of the reasons why I love going to events like this.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Everyday Magic

Kate Bernheimer and Lydia Millet came to Harold Washington Library to talk about fairy tales (part of One Book, One Chicago and the Chicago Humanities Festival), a subject I'm interested in because my YA novel is a modern-day fairy tale. Ms. Bernheimer noted that some of the prominent writers whom she approached to contribute to her volume of fairy tales turned her down because they didn't want to be associated with writing a fairy tale. Apparently, they are not taken seriously enough, or they are just stories for children... derivative works that are unoriginal. Thankfully, though, there is a fairy tale revival happening. Fairy tales are returning to their darker roots. Perhaps it's because we've all grown up with Disney versions of fairy tales, she noted, and artists are now responding to them with resistance. I related to this point; in my writing, I veered in the opposite direction of the princess being made complete or saved only with the intervention of a prince. Ms Bernheimer read "A Cageling Tale" from Horse, Flower, Bird and Ms Millet read her story "Snow White, Rose Red" from My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me, two stories exemplifying how fairy tales are more than child's play.