Going to Ursula K. Le Guin's author event was like a blast from the past for me. Not only because I have seen her before, but because her author visit was so much like the author readings of old. When I first moved back to the Seattle area from Tulsa, OK, I was thirsty for literary entertainment. I so wanted to be smart and well read! I enrolled at Shoreline Community College, I joined a book group and I went to author readings. Most of the readings were from authors I didn't know, but I didn't care. I saw Ursula Hegi and Arthur Golden before I even read Stones from a River
or Memoirs of a Geisha
. There was a certain cadence to author visits then--they were definitely "readings." The author would read a chapter of their book, then answer a few questions from the audience--who were usually older folks with a lot of writers looking for tips--then sign books at the end of a very long line.
I have recently started going to author visits again and without even noticing the difference, been very happy with the changes that I have seen. Authors are not necessarily reading passages of their books at the beginning. Scott Westerfeld
did not read ANY of his book to the audience at all! He just answered questions--it was more like a lopsided conversation. Other authors are doing theirs more like a lecture, giving information or background, talking about their subjects with enthusiasm and using their books as punctuation marks. I also like that the audiences have become more diverse--young and old, fewer writers asking their usual ~groan~
questions about how the author came up with a plot or how they do revision. Read a frickin interview why don't cha? Or better yet, one of the many books that authors write about writing: Steering the Craft
Ursula K. Le Guin read a section of Powers
then answered those ~groan~
questions. Despite the celebrated book of the evening being a YA book, the youngest people I saw there would have been freshmen in college (aside from the smaller children being hushed in the corners). When I asked what inspired her to write a series for young adults, she told me that it was her agent's idea--they told her it would be easy to get teens to read anything. That is when I really groaned... It really isn't! They are picky! Le Guin is just lucky that she already writes amazing books! I did like hearing her and I enjoyed the poetry she read as well. I have read almost every book she has written and loved almost all of them. I keep her short stories around for when I am feeling stressed out and need a little literary pick me up. But man, is she behind in the author visit times...
And yes, I do realize that most of my complaints aren't caused by the author. She is awesome. Maybe it is just that the same people go to see her every time and ruin it for the rest of us? My main point is that I appreciate those authors that are doing more with their time, thinking innovatively and attracting more than the traditional fan.
Labels: author visits, Book Reviews