Yesterday, a group of us from the Writer’s Den braved the USC campus and had quite the adventure at (and coming back from) the L.A. Times Festival of Books. Here are some highlights from the day:
“There will always be storytellers because we are narrative beings.”
Margaret Atwood spoke about her thoughts on writing, her past, and even her take on Canadians. When asked about her choice to be a writer rather than a biologist (like her father and brother), she said, “If I had, I would be making your potatoes glow in the dark.” But instead, she added, she makes pages glow in the dark.
Other notable quotes from Atwood:
“I’ve fallen like Alice down the rabbit hole into the world of writing when I was 16.”
“I was improperly socialized. … The Thanksgiving turkey was dissected at the table.”
“Fiction writers are better placed to tell the truth.”
“Canadians are really good at funerals.”
“What would fiction be without unforeseen circumstances and hardships for the character? … The weather is now a character in our lives, more than it used to be.”
We also had the pleasure of hearing Orson Scott Card speak. In an hour-long Q&A moderated by Aaron Johnston (Card’s coauthor of the Formic Wars novels), Card spoke mainly about Ender’s Game and the upcoming movie.
“The story is the story of Ender as someone you would follow into battle and give your life with.”
Card said that Ender’s Game was not intended for children and young teens, but as he realized, the story of Ender is one about the kids.
When speaking of the film (with other humorous tangents on his love for the theater and Shakespeare, Harrison Ford, and his prior unsuccessful experiences of getting the book turned into the right film), Card noted that Ender’s Game is an unfilmable book.
“It’s all in his head. If you don’t know what’s going on inside Ender’s head, then it’s just the story of an incredibly violent little kid. Why would you like it? Why would you care? … That’s why it’s taking this long. I mean, how long did Hunger Game take to make? 20 minutes?”
Yes, the Q&A was not without its quips. Among them:
“The rule in YA novels is the character’s age is two years older than the intended audience.
Ender was 6.”
Ender, Card realized, was appealing to kids and young teens not because Ender was a genius, but because he was isolated, yet still felt and thought the right things. “I had none of that in mind when I was reading it.”
And as for tips for burgeoning writers, Card repeated the mantra of “Faith, hope, clarity” as vital elements of the story. He also preached, “Write fast, fluently, clearly.” The readers have to believe in your story, they have to understand it.
“Get the corpse out of the house.”
Speaking of foul things, look it’s Tommy Trojan:
And of course, the trip would not be an adventure without some troubles. One of the rental car decided to stop running. A nice woman and her daughter stopped to help. but the car wouldn’t jump start. After an hour or more later, and realizing that the battery wasn’t the problem, roadside assistance came to assist us by the roadside. We’ll let you guess what was wrong.
And to end — one of the wisest quotes of the day. I present to you, the always-presentable, Lemony Snicket.
“We should all have a friend like a flashlight: utilitarian and bright.”