September 07, 2005

Conference Recap

I had the good fortune to attend a couple of talks at the Sun Valley Writers' Conference this summer. Very cool. Here is a little recap of a couple of the talks I saw (three weeks after the fact... oh well):

1. David Macaulay writes books about how things work (The New Way Things Work), and how they were built (Castle, Cathedral, Pyramid) . I've never really taken much of an interest in this sort of book, but his talk was interesting, and his drawings are really cool. He spoke about how, after September 11th, he was compelled to write/draw his book Mosque as his attempt to bring some understanding of a Middle Eastern culture's religion - through their architecture? Hmm. It sounded good at the time but I'm not retelling it well. Anyway, he says his books are about "making the amazing accessible." By breaking down the bits and pieces of the processes of building something so awe-inspiring as a cathedral or a mosque, he shows us what "people like us" are capable of. We are often awed by grand religious structures, whether or not we actually practice that particular religion, and he thinks it's largely because we get to see the overwhelming beauty and grandeur that has been wrought by "regular people."

2. Have I mentioned my new imaginary boyfriend Billy Collins lately? I am so charmed by that man. I don't know what it is. At any rate, I went to hear him talk about travel in poetry (conceptual travel - not travel to, say, other countries or what have you). A few points I found of interest during his talk:

- The "suddenness" of poetry. You read a poem, you finish it. With prose, you become immersed in the story for some time, but a poem just sticks its head in your door and then leaves again. "What are you reading?" never refers to a poem.

- Poetry is required when prose (or other media) does not work to convey the thought or emotion. And poetry is physical - the form matters.

If you're interested in poetry at all, I recommend picking up Billy Collins Live, a recording of one of his readings given in NYC. It's nice, simple, funny. Bill Murray does the intro, and he is a silly, silly man.

3. Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson have collaborated on a children's book called Peter and the Starcatchers. It's a prequel to Peter Pan, and it's pretty cool because you learn how Peter learned to fly, and how he got involved with the pirates, etc. I saw a talk with them which was pretty much them being jokesters about how they met and became friends. More silly men.

But it was interesting to hear about how they worked on the book together - I have wondered, once in a while, how two authors collaborate on one book. First, they decided that Dave Barry, being a humorist, would focus on the funny or benign characters in the book, and he would write the chapters which dealt mainly with those characters. Ridley, being an author of thrillers, was assigned the eeeevil characters. So they wrote their drafts, and then they would "ping-pong" the chapters back and forth to each other via e-mail, and each of them would have the chance to edit and contribute to each chapter.

Anyway, I thought that was pretty interesting. Then they broke out their guitars and sang a spiritual about Tupperware.

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