Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Alternate Realities: Bringing Fictional Worlds to Life

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I was fortunate to attend the Alternate Realities: Bringing Fictional Worlds to Life panel at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Newburyport, MA. This was one of the panels at the Newburyport Literary Festival on Saturday, April 25, 2015. The panel was moderated by Robin Brenner, Teen Librarian of the Public Library of Brookline. Avi, Myfanwy Collins, Heather Demetrios and Lori Goldstein spoke at this thought-provoking panel. All of the presenters had very insightful things to say regarding world building, writing from experience and about publishing in general.

First, authors shared some of their favorite books. Demetrios mentioned she loves Little Women and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Goldstein shared her love for Stephen King and Judy Blume. Avi enjoys The Wind and the Willows and Treasure Island.

Creating a world depends on the genre of the book that is going to be written. Realistic contemporary has a different approach than a full blown fantasy. Demetrios was able to create her worlds through sensory memory. For Exquisite Captive, Demetrios was inspired by the Arabian Nights and mentioned how sensory details are important and how culture and mythology helped create the world. She also traveled to Morocco in order add the necessary details for Exquisite Captive. Demetrios mentions how the closer you are to the character, the more you're entering the story through their eyes. You give readers a strong character to empathize with. No one is going to care about a flat character.

Goldstein approached the world building differently. Goldstein focused on what the main character is struggling with. What does the character want in life? Goldstein also wrote a book about genies, Becoming Jinn, but it is more of a contemporary fantasy. Researching about the Middle East and North Africa is crucial as well as researching names. Names have power and are important. Names will lead to other names.

Avi talked about the job of the writer. It is important to pull words of time that the reader will love today. By expressing a difference in place and time, it creates a wonderful story. The job of a writer is to make the words of a book intelligible by using language or details that are self-explanatory. If the language or details are not self-explanatory, it is the writer's job to describe such details. Avi also mentioned how historical fiction and fantasy are similar because of the laws of language. Avi describes how writers spend more time doing research and how the hard work has to appear natural within the book. He claims, "Hard writing makes easy reading. There is nothing you cannot find in books."

The panelists discussed about writing from experience and how it shaped their books. Demetrios said her father has PTSD which led to her to write I'll Meet You There. She mentioned that by having something you care about or are obsessed about, it helps the writing process. Reality TV made her angry and that led to Something Real. Goldstein touched upon the journey about helping someone who is alone. Many teens often feel alone. Subconscious things come out while writing which shapes the story. Avi talks about how you have to "take something you have done and use it. Reinvent what you didn't do and give it life."

For inspiring writers, presenters talked about the publishing industry and how to get published. Demetrios mentions how you need to write a lot. She chose to go with traditional publishing because the book doesn't just become her book; it becomes a book shared between her agent, editor and everyone who pitches in to help the book get published. Goldstein tells the audience to work on the craft. You don't need to know someone in publishing to get your book published. Often the editors will request manuscripts from a slush pile. One thing Goldstein loves is how welcoming and generous the YA community is and I totally agree. I have met so many people through twitter and eventually met some of my twitter friends in person. Avi shared how people want to write but many don't want to learn about the publishing business. He mentions how you have to learn the business side of writing because it's crucial. In terms of publishing now and before, Avi touched upon how publishing is more corporate like and more of a business. The editor/author personal relationship is not there. Publishing is very markety and more competitive than before.

After the panel, book signing occurred in the front of the Unitarian Universalist Church. I enjoyed meeting authors before spending the rest of my afternoon meandering around State Street in Newburyport. If you have a chance to visit Newburyport, MA, I highly recommend it. It's such a cute coastal town with a lot of shops and eateries.

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