Summer rolls on

The days are blurring into each other, which is disorienting and cool. On today’s list – go over copyedited manuscript of TWISTED, pay bills, answer email, research, get hair done, return some stuff to Old Navy, register self and a couple willing victims, I mean family members, for Saturday’s Harborfest 5k. I am not a fast runner, but I am touchingly earnest. I make no time predictions – the goal is to finish without needing medical attention.

I just read the Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick. It was good, but not exactly what I was hoping for, because half of the book focused on King Philip’s War, which took place 50 years after the Mayflower landed. I learned a lot of fascinating things about King Philip’s War, but that’s not why I picked up the book. I also read Tim Green’s new book, Kingdom Come. He has a good eye for detail, but a couple plot twists seemed silly, and I really didn’t like the crappy description he gave Pulaski. Right now I am reading Dark Tort, by Diane Mott Davidson. I love this series so much. It’s nice to be back with familiar characters.

Some year I am going to be able to take the summer off and just read, like when I was 11.

Another stack of papers moved!

Whew!!! As of this second, I have finished writing all of the articles I promised to write for people over the last six months. I now take a holy vow: No More Articles. It’s hard enough to stay on top of family, books, speeches, mail, and life. I do not have enough brain cells for articles.

Next project? Write the speeches I have to give this fall. Then it will be back to book writing.

I had a fun time speaking at Cornell on Wednesday. Gorgeous campus. The highlight for me was spending time in their Rare Books & Manuscript Collection before I spoke. Cornell houses the papers of E.B.White, author of Charlotte’s Web, etc.

I often point to Charlotte’s Web as having the best opening line in children’s fiction: “”Where’s Papa going with that axe?” asked Fern.” It was with profound joy that I discovered that White struggled through many, many different opening lines and scenes – several of them clunky – before he hit on that magical combination of immediacy and suspense. If revising over and over again was something that even E. B. White had to do in order to make his writing sing, then I feel better.

Thanks, btw, to kramtark and the other folks who came to hear me at Cornell.

ftjoshua wrote: “Do you think it is “right” or “fair” for Hollywood to make changes without the author’s consent? I understand the author usually signs away the rights to film, and that an author who doesn’t is less likely to have a film made of her book. But in spirit, do you agree with this practice?”

If you don’t sign away the rights, you won’t be offered a contract; plain and simple. Directors don’t want book authors bossing them around. Is it right? Is it fair?

To answer those questions fully, you should learn a little bit about screenplay writing. Screenplays are the scripts that are used to shoot a movie. There are standard requirements about screenplays – the length of time each page takes to shoot, etc. Many novels have complicated structures with layers of sub-plot and characterization. It is impossible to cram all of that detail into a 2-hour movie. Then you get into budget issues. SPEAK was made on the barest-bones budget imaginable, and it cost one million dollars. No producer is going to take on a project that comes with an author attached who will insist on seeing a fully-accurate representation of her book on the screen because it will bankrupt the project.

Is it right? Is it fair? No, but life is not fair. Life is just life.

Summer mail and a speech

From the mailbag:

Kelley writes: Dear Laurie Halse Anderson or Whoever-Reads-This,
Just this spring (2006) I saw the movie Speak aired on Lifetime. It was an amazing movie. It insprired me to find the book and read it. On my way to a small vacation, I read and finished the book within a couple hours. I couldn’t stop reading it. I had a question, though, because I didn’t understand something. In the book, at the end when Melinda tells her teacher about what happened, it is different in the movie. In the movie Melinda tells her mom. I was just wondering why you decided to use the ending of Melinda telling her mom in the movie, but in the book she tells her teacher. I know that it may seem like a stupid question, but it has been nagging me for a long time. So, if you have the time, could you please answer this question? Thank you for your time.

Good catch, Kelley. You’re right – that is the major difference between the film and the book. It was one that I had no power over. When an author signs the contract that gives permission to make her book into a movie, she gives up all control over the story itself. The director has to make the choices (and changes) that will make a good film. (This is why watching a movie made out of your favorite book can be a disappointment.)

There is one aspect of this change that makes sense to me, though. The book is a strong first person point-of-view story. We see the world and the characters through Melinda’s eyes. That is part of why her parents come off as such jerks; she is a depressed 14-year-old who doesn’t have the maturity to understand the struggles her parents are going through.

The movie is told from the third person point-of-view. (Most movies are.) In the film, you get a clearer sense of the problems that the Mom and Dad are struggling with, and also that they are trying (awkwardly) to reach out to their daughter. I think this makes the movie ending work.

I’m off to Ithaca today for an adventure in a special library and to give a speech at Cornell. (Scroll down for my listing.)

I wish I could go to Comic-Con. Are any of you going?

Promised Renaissance Festival post

I am waiting for a large, graphics-heavy file to load, so I will try and use the time effectively and tell you why we are Ren Faire geeks.

Because it is fun.

BH and I went to one of the earliest Sterling Renaissance Festival a million years ago when we were teenagers. Sterling is medium-sized, smaller than Maryland or Pennsylvania, but that means you don’t have to battle hundreds of people to get to the front of the turkey leg line. The location is about 10 miles west of Oswego, which makes it about a half hour from our house. The prices are reasonable, the people are kind, and it is my favorite way to spend a summer day,

Wait, you don’t know what a Ren Faire is? Research and read.

What do I love the most? The atmosphere.

Imagine a forest with a high canopy. The ground is covered with mulch, the shade is cool. No poison ivy. Turn a corner and see barrels planted with flowers. Look down the lane and see people walking hand in hand, little kids running ahead, giggling. You can smell the woods and the food cooking. You can hear music; a harp, a mandolin. In the distance, you hear bagpipes, and then the roar of the crowd as swords clash and horses gallop. Everyone is relaxed. There are no arcade games, but you can try your luck at throwing axes or hitting a target with a bow and arrow. (You can also ride a camel or an elephant.)

As you wander through the forest, past the games, past the artisans with their crafts displayed, past tempting food, you can’t help but relax. At least I can’t. BH and I are among the 10-15% of attenders who dress up in period appropriate garb. It is our one true vice. (We were married in our Ren Faire clothes.) Our favorite shop is the Needle Fairy, though I just got an outfit at Wolfstone Kilt Company. I have a long blue skirt that I wear with a white chemise and red brocade bodice. He has a linen shirt, fancy pants (don’t know the proper name of them) and a jacket (again, I can’t remember the right name for it. He looks hot in it, that’s all I care about.) The clothes are very comfortable. We would love to buy period-appropriate footwear, but that is too expensive right now. We will be going back to the Festival on the 30th – I’ll try and get pictures of us dressed up.

If you are looking for adrenaline rushes, screaming children, blaring music, obnoxious people, then do not go to a Ren faire. If you want to relax, dial life back to a simpler time (if only for a couple of hours), then it is the place for you.

(edited to add) Have you ever been to a Ren Faire/Festival? Did you like it, or were you a scornful, world-weary cynic who mocked everyone? Any recommendations about other Faires/ Festivals to visit?