Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Fear and Fiction, Part II

The afternoon keynote address was by Gregory Maguire, who was, simply, brilliant. Like Marans, he spoke of personal experiences; and went from making us laugh to making us cry, as he told of almost killing his brother Joe, of falling in (and out) of love, of being a parent. And all along the fears, of hurting people, of getting in trouble, of loss. It is impossible to do it justice.

Session 2 was Middle Grade Fiction.

Lois Lowry spoke about Gossamer, and the writing process; how all her books start with a character; that bad things do happen; but that all her books end happily. (This echoed Waddell's words in the morning, that a story for children (especially the very young) should have hope and reassurance, even if that doesn't reflect the reality of childhood.)

Neil Gaiman was unable to attend, but sent in remarks for The Wolves in the Walls. Mentioned were favorite werewolf stories, including Saki's Gabriel-Ernest and the werewolf in CS Lewis's Prince Caspian; and the story beginning with a child's dream.

Pam Munoz Ryan spoke about Esperanza Rising, so of course also spoke of her family, since the book, while fiction, is inspired by her grandmother's life; she spoke of "the girl who may have been her, the character withstanding, instead of conquering;" that "the ability to simply go on is often the happy ending." (She also mentioned an early love of diagramming sentences; I adored diagramming sentences.) Ryan also spoke about the letters she gets, including the critics (her book is this, her book isn't that, etc.); so again with the fear, here, how fear of what others will say cannot stand in the way of a story.

The analysts were Judith Yanof, M.D. and Nicholas Midgley, D. Psych. (and of course both had a field day with Gaiman -- wolves! In walls!) Yanof explained how these books do more than entertain; especially in the context of the child being in the latency period, when children start venturing into the world in a different way, with an unconscious sense of being separated from parents. The two biggest fears are separation from parents, and internal impulses, particularly aggression. Yanof noted how that fear appears in ER, with Esperanza losing the father and in danger of losing her mother. (In other words, all those orphan books aren't just about a way to give kids autonomy and make a good story; it's also touching on the deepest fear of this age group.) It's also why in so many of these books the child is wiser than the adult; because it's the stage when children are truly beginning to think for themselves.

Midgley also spoke of fear; and inspired by other's remarks, told his own childhood story, of an incident that he and his brother remember quite differently.

Now a break...without cookies.

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