I attended one session with Canadian author Brian Doyle (ashamed to say I'd never heard of his books before but I snatched up two directly after the session) which was an exciting reaffirmation of the strength and beauty in language. One of his examples was the opening to Dickens' Bleak House. You can just feel these lines rolling off your tongue:
"Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little 'prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon and hanging in the misty clouds."Doesn't it make you want to leap up and recite poetry? Or collapse on a divan and write poetry?
1. The actual subject of Doyle's talk was writing what you know, not being afraid to write from your own street and backyard, since there are stories to be found everywhere. Which is good advice at some level - though I'm all for exploration and research and widening horizons - but he also observed that even the most outlandish things can be related using familiar imagery, and that was more pertinent to my story. Everyone can relate to examples and similes taken from day to day life, and it makes the exotic especially familiar to readers if your story is set in oh, say, Constantinople...
2. Someone in the audience said something about how her 15 year old son doesn't want to read stuff like this because he finds description boring. I've heard this before (also from adults who tell me they can't read The Lord of the Rings because they find the description boring) and I haven't yet figured out why this should be so. Do these people not read from a young age and so read too slowly? Are they reading all the wrong books and not developing an ear for language? I realise that not all books are for all people but... it still makes me feel sad.
There was a lively panel discussion with Brian Doyle, Peter Carver (editor at Red Deer who, incidentally, has a handbook coming out entitled So You Want to Write a Children's Book), Yayo (illustrator), and Marsha Skrypuch (another yay! this time for Forumites!), chaired by Monique Polak.
Then lunch (with Pam Patchet - yay for Forumites again!), then a session with Peter Carver, who took us through his background as an editor and the current crop of Red Deer publications, and then a final session with Marsha, which was a great talk on historicals, research, sleuthing and much else.
And now to today - a hugely important day in history. It's the anniversary of the fall of Constantinople and of the Restoration of Charles II to the throne - Royal Oak Day!
"Before long, Parliamentarians were searching the woods. So Charles hurried into the Boscobel House garden. He quickly climbed up into the branches of an oak tree and hid..." The tree spread its arms and hid him, and he was not discovered. The Monarch's Way traces the route that Charles followed on his way out of the country.
On the writing front, I'm still 40 pages or so from completing all the edits on this round, and then I can start all over again... How's everyone else doing?