Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lauren Oliver Day, the recap

Yesterday was World Read Aloud Day and as part of my day, I got to hear Lauren Oliver read the first few pages of Pandemonium out loud.  This was after Lauren announced that she had just received word that Pandemonium was a New York Times Bestseller (which it rightfully should be).  This was the icing on the cake of the day that came to be known as Lauren Oliver day in my home. 

Many of you know that yesterday was my first book store visit (I know, I know) and it turns out - they are exactly like library and school visits.  Miss Oliver was charming and kind and a delight to hear speak (so if you have the opportunity, definitely invite her to your school or library).  She talked a little about herself and her journey as a writer, she answered questions, and then she read the first 5 pages of Pandemonium to us.


Teens coming out to see Lauren Oliver
Part of #the2012project
Lauren knew she wanted to be a writer at a young age and tried writing her first full length novel in her Freshman year of high school.  She assures us this did not go well.  It was interesting to hear Lauren speak of fan fiction, I often wonder what authors think of this practice but she is all for it and says that fan fiction was how she began practicing as a writer; she particularly liked to write continuations of the CS Lewis and Redwall series, until she realized that they had enough sequels to go around.  In college Lauren says she has the dubious honor of writing a 1600 novel that had not one ounce of plot anywhere in it; not one single thing happened.  It would seem that *something* would have had to happen in 1600 pages, but she says no.  Whether or not this is a true story remains to be seen, but Lauren is charming and funny as she tells it.  She is indeed a gifted storyteller.

Radical Empathy.  I loved this term.  Lauren Oliver said that reading asks us to have radical empathy, which is exactly what I am always saying about teen fiction but without the awesome descriptor which I am now totally stealing.

While traveling the road of her early career Lauren learned that all great literature is about one of two things: love or death.  If you have read Before I Fall (which you should), you know that she has covered the death aspect.  So in the Delirium trilogy Lauren sought to explore the notion of love, not just the love of a man and a woman, but familial love: the love of sisters, the love of a mother and her daughter.  If you have read Delirium and Pandemonium (you have read it, right?), you know that love is the theme.  And she explores it with depth and feeling and the observation of a soul who sits on a street corner and wonders what life is like for the people who pass her by, which it turns out she does. As a writer, she makes it a practice to try and really practice walking in someone else's shoes so that she can tell there story.  There are parts of yourself in every character, but in order to be a good writer you must go beyond self and your story to tell many stories.  You must understand people and how they think and feel.

When asked by an audience member what advice she would give to aspiring writers, Lauren talked about describing a scene.  She used the familiar mantra "show don't tell", and then discussed how to do that.  She then went on to discuss how people never fully live in the present moment but they are also thinking about the past and future as well.  Every day we have multiple thoughts about our pasts and futures and good writers bring that internal dialogue into the story. How a writer does that helps us to understand the character.

I am not a fiction writer, just a reader.  But to me, to be able to put words on a page that resonate within someones soul would be a dream come true.  Words have the power to move.  As a young Lauren, she was particularly moved by the words of Agatha Christie and if she could be any writer that is who she would choose.  Although she reads mystery fiction, Lauren does not consider herself to be a genre writer and, if you are familiar with her work, you know that she has tipped her toes in the water of various types of writing with much success.
My fave preteen, Lauren Oliver, & me
Without a doubt, last night was a glorious evening for me.  The whole family joined me on this adventure because I wanted them, especially my preteen daughter, to be a part of a moment that meant so much to me and to hear an author talk about what it meant to be a writer and how they went about practicing their craft.  Even if one never aspires to be a writer, it broadens your mind to learn about the life and craft of others so that you, too, can develop that radical empathy.  (See, totally stealing it.)

Highlights of Lauren Oliver day:
We wear school uniforms here in Texas, and when I went to pick up the preteen from school it turns out she packed a dress in her bookbag to change into to go meet Lauren.

Then, she asked why we didn't just have Lauren over for dinner.

In the car ride there, the Little (age 3) said she was thirsty and asked if Lauren Oliver was going to have some water for her.  Don't worry, we got her some water.

I got to meet and hang out with some other book lovers and we sat around and shared our passion for books together.  That never stinks.

Why was I giddy as a school girl to meet Lauren Oliver? Find out what I thought of Pandemonium here and read how it moved me in ways that few pieces of literature has.  And I read a lot.

4 comments:

  1. I'd love to hear her speak. Her writing is absolutely brilliant and moving. Glad you had a fab experience!

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  2. Sounds like it was a great day for you!

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  3. What a fabulous event!! I've never met an author at a book store, but it sounds like a blast. I love that your daughter got to go too! Now it's just a shame that you didn't get to have her over for dinner :) Thanks for sharing all of the details!

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  4. If you ever get the chance to go see her, I highly recommend it. Thanks for sharing the day with me :)

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