Monday, September 27, 2010

Highlights from this weekend


I woke up this morning with three things to check in the manuscript. Upon actually looking at it, two of them were irrelevant. But I added a couple of sentences to the last chapter. See, good thing I haven't printed it out yet! But I'm also feeling good that it's mostly standing up to my second guessing.

Otherwise, I almost forgot about the novel this weekend. Friday night I heard Children's Laureate and author and illustrator Anthony Browne open the Bath Festival of Children's Literature. Saturday I heard Cressida Cowell (HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON) and Andy Stanton (MR GUM) and also helped manage their ENORMOUS signing lines and hordes of fans. Sunday I got to play with the little kids, and helped with Where's Spot and the Peter Rabbit Puppet Show, both of which involved 7-foot high plush characters.

It was brilliant fun hanging out with the kids and hearing the talks. I also found myself thinking a lot about writing, being a professional author, and life in general.

Anthony Browne and Cressida Cowell both went to art school. They talked about what an incredible opportunity it was and how lucky they were to have it. Cowell said for a creative person, it was the most fun she could have at school. Browne talked about how most children might be encouraged to do something "with words," but how lucky he was to have a father who appreciated art and wanted him to make a career out of it. After art school, Browne supported himself for years as a medical illustrator. He talked about how much he learned from realistic drawing and how it applies to his books. Both speakers made me think about how privileged and happy I have been to spend a year of my life studying creative writing. I hope some of the parents in the audience heard this message, too.

Cressida Cowell talked about her inspiration for her dragon books. I've only seen the movie, but was entranced by the way she talked about her books. Plus all the children I spoke to, who were teaching themselves dragonese, or writing their own books, or imagining their own stories, were very convincing. So I bought the first book for myself--and got it signed!

Cowell spent large chunks of her childhood on a small, remote island off the coast of Scotland. Her family slept in tents and fished for their food. She spent her childhood thinking about people who used to live like this permanently, like the vikings. She also recalled the amazing fish her dad brought to the surface. If a fanged, five-foot eel could exist, why couldn't a dragon?

That was the "what if" question that prompted Cowell's whole series: what if dragons really did exist? After my post last week on the same topic, it was great to hear an author explain her "what if" thought process.

Andy Stanton and Cressida Cowell both had masses of fans. Cowell's wore dragon t-shirts, brought dragon figurines, and both audiences had stacks of books they were desperately hoping the authors would sign. And sign they did, along with illustrations, chatting, answering questions, and posing for photos. Stanton and Cowell gave so much of themselves to their fans. Stanton started the talk by mentioning he was sick. Perhaps he was apologizing for his low energy level, but had he never said anything, I would have never guessed. He danced, walked throughout the theatre, chatted with kids in the audience, did impersonations, screamed... Cowell had done an event that same morning, yet spent almost two hours signing books after her talk. Whenever she answered a child's question, she then asked the child what he/she thought. Kids did have to stand in line for hours, but I believe every child walked away from the events feeling they really knew the authors personally. It was incredible.

The storyteller for Where's Spot and the Peter Rabbit Puppet Show, though for younger kids, was equally amazing. The toddlers were like putty in her hands. One of my jobs was to keep children from climbing onto the stage (like a toddler mosh pit).

It was a great weekend, but I must say, I'm happy to have a quiet, child-free day today.

3 comments:

  1. I just saw in my Google Reader that my tutor, Julia, writer in residence for the Festival, has also blogged about some of these events! You can see her official Bath Festival of Children's Literature blog here: http://bathkidslitfest.wordpress.com/

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  2. Sounds like you had a great time! Yay! Have to check out the festival blog...

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  3. I definitely did have fun, even more than I expected!

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