Monday, October 16, 2006

Go Listen to Alice -- Robin

I love hearing authors speak. Last week, Alice Sebold, author of The Lovely Bones, came to our town. We live in a small town so any news is big news. This was BIG news.

Eve and I went together and exercised our brains very hard to keep up with her speech. She’s very smart (a characteristic I admire in other people) and she tied her writing to many social issues (the war, trauma, government, more war). In her speech, she often quoted the works of Tennessee Williams and Voltaire. Eve and I sat glossy-eyed.

Finally she quoted David Lynch. “Blue Velvet!” we said to each other. Then Alice made an analogy to Axl Rose. Eve and I flashed each other that universal heavy metal hand signal with our tongues sticking out. It felt nice to participate in her speech! I was about to play air guitar when I turned around and noticed the publisher of the local newspaper sitting behind us. “Um, hi, Robin,” he said and looked away. It’s probably a good thing I quit that job.

My favorite part of Alice’s presentation was when she answered questions from audience members. One man asked her what she thinks makes great storytelling. “Be willing to disappear in your own work,” she said.

In The Lovely Bones, Alice was able to touch on so many themes (death, trauma, revenge, sex, love, heaven, God, or a lack of God). And she, as the author, disappeared from the story seamlessly. Alice said she actually stopped in the middle of writing Bones to write Lucky, the memoir of her childhood rape, so she could get all of that out of the way and not cloud the story.

It made me think of my own novel I’m working on. My main character, a 16-year old girl, discovers her own spiritual nature and finds a love for life…but not in a “the Baptist church saved me” kind of way. Sometimes I wonder what in the world possessed me to write a contemporary novel about a girl finding her spirit. But I think many teens nowadays are ready for a novel on spirituality.

And like Alice, I find I have to take myself out of the story I’m writing and draw on my own experiences, but not make it my own experience.

At the end of her speech, Alice said something that definitely resonated not only with me personally, but also with the character in my book. She said, “We are all going to die. But before we die…we live.”

- Robin


Lisa Yee said...

Sounds wonderful. Wish I could have been there!

Nancy said...

Thanks for this post. Sounds like a very interesting evening.

Disco Mermaids said...

Rock on, Robin! Yes, it was an interesting night. Although Alice has many more IQ points than I do, she was fascinating to listen to. Very, very deep.

The Axl Rose analogy was thought-provoking...made me wonder if the DiscoMermaids will evolve into "tortured geniuses" someday...where we sit in our little coffee shop writing the same lines over and over, mumbling to ourselves, while patrons sit and stare with morbid curiosity at the once-great literary icons who can't quite recapture the spark of the mermaid-dressing, running-man-dancing, heavy-partying days of the past.

Nah! That'll never be us. You two, maybe. But not me. I'm not genius enough for that to happen!


Anonymous said...

Wish I was there!

Disco Mermaids said...

Eve, I'm not sure if I'm a tortured genius, but I do often find myself mumbling lines over and over again in a coffee shop. Only it' s usually lines from "Sixteen Candles," and no one seems to mind that.

...I can't believe I gave my panties to a geek...I can't believe I gave my panties to a geek...


Anonymous said...

Are you quoting Sixteen Candles...or did you really give your panties to someone at the Alice Sebold thing?

Disco Mermaids said...

I'm quoting "Sixteen Candles."
I do have some morals!

:-) Robin

Don Tate II said...

I agree. I think theres plenty of need for a novel like this.

Steph said...

I recently went to go see "Body Worlds" in St. Paul. Have you heard of it? There is this man who has developed this process of preserving bodies in plastic. So, the exhibit is all of these plastic cadavers...dozens of them and far from being gruesome, it was fascinating..what does this have to do with what you posted? There was one quote that stuck out from the exibit. The man who had created these displays of the human body said that what stands ou the most to him working with them is that life is the exception and death is the norm...

And on a sidenote, have you read "Lucky", also my Alice Siebold? I understand it's semi biographical. Also a really fascinating book.

alvina said...

I've read LUCKY--it's a memoir, so not semi-autobiographical, but wholly so. Well, as wholly as memoirs are. Anyway, it's incredible. Painful, moving, powerful.

I saw Bodyworlds, too. Man, how trippy was that. I love that quote.

And yes, I agree plenty of need in the marketplace for a novel like yours, Robin!