Friday, October 17, 2008

Inducing the fictional dream. . . with kissing!

(Yummy yummy.)

At the library conference I attended last week, I got to hear YA author Christine Fletcher give a talk on her second novel Ten Cents a Dance (which I will be reading as soon as I read the hundred and sixtyish Cybils nominees!!), and it was a treat. Not only did she dress up in World War II era costume, with a darling hairstyle, but she talked about writing historical fiction, including the sorts of delicious small details that are what I love about historical fiction (in this case, the all-but-forgotten taxi dance halls of the first half of the 20th C), and she talked about inducing the fictional dream.

I'd heard this expression, but I haven't read John Gardner, so I didn't know exactly what it referred to. It's this:

"a true work of fiction. . . creates a vivid and continuous dream in the reader's mind--"

It's the state induced by reading in which the book essentially disappears, the black and white words vanish, and the story becomes a vivid and continuous "dream" that the reader is experiencing. Lifelong reader though I am, I guess I hadn't really taken the time to marvel at this phenomenon, but have rather taken it for granted. And it is a phenomenon, right? The fact that the brain can gobble up those printed words and spin them like magic into a fluid kind of dream state, where you're actually there. Wow. Is that not the coolest thing ever? Brain, I love you.

Anyway, thanks Christine for the great talk. You should wear your hair like that all the time! (I mentioned Christine once in my blogger conference posts -- she's the one who's living my childhood dream of being a veterinarian/writer!)

So, I indulged myself in the fictional dream last night, and after a long day of putting the final futz on this last pass of Silksinger (it's hard to let go of the last pass. It's like: last chance!!! Ack!!!), I gave in to the sofa, picked up a particular book I had just received in the mail, and read all evening, and into the night. Grinning. Swooning. I read until 2 am, deep in the fictional dream. In this dream I was a teenage girl falling in love with a wonderful boy in a glorious romantic city. And you can't read it -- nyah nyah -- because it is a manuscript and only, like, three people in the world have it. We are very Special, very Privileged people! It is the work of Stephanie Perkins, mad girl-genius and blue-striped librarian of the Carolinas, you know, the one I've told you about who comes home from her job of dealing with snarky library patrons (and fishing used band-aids and other gross things out of books) and stays up until like 4 in the morning writing? Kind of like Faulkner used to do? Yeah, her. And because of all that dedication, there is a FINISHED MANUSCRIPT in the world! And it rocks. Here it is, as arrived the other day in a box weighted with goodies:
Look: presents! And cake! Raspberry lemon-curd shortbread, actually, as pictured close-up above. YUM. The book itself is in the pink binder. And because of the pink binder, I decided to make my comments in pink ink, with pink post-its. Disgusting, I know. Too much pink! But it's really the perfect color for all the hearts and smileys I drew everywhere. This book is funny as hell, incredibly romantic and sweet, and totally saturated in teen anguish and excitement and hope and disappointment and loooooovvvve. It's a romance, and an un-guilty pleasure because it's so smart and funny, and the teenager in me wanted to slip right inside and live in the story.

(Is there a teenager in you? I've been wondering lately if that is the difference between adult readers of YA and adult non-readers of YA, if there are those among you grownups who no longer relate to or care about what it's like to be a teenager. Are there such people? I genuinely wonder. Seriously: if you are somebody in whom the teenager has been extinguished, identify yourself. I remember, when I was a kid, believing that becoming a grown-up would be as clear a thing as crashing through finishing-line tape, like there was a discreet time 'before' and time 'after.' Now I know that's not true, that nobody I know ever graduated to adulthood, but that doesn't mean you're not out there. Hellooooooo? Anybody? As for me, I'm not sure why I love reading about teenagers. I didn't love actually being one, but I love being one vicariously through books. Maybe it's the intensity of emotion, the idea of a person becoming who they are, being a crazed crucible of hormone and emotion all the time and still being expected to function.)

Anyway, I love Stephanie's book, and I am so inspired by her dedication in working such insane hours to get this draft done -- makes me feel like a slacker! Must. Write. More. One thing I loved about this book is that it is a book entirely made out of "good parts." You know what I mean? Some books, you feel anxious to get to the good parts? And other books, it's just one good part flowing seamlessly into the next good part? This is like that. With a funny, loveable heroine, a delicious boy I would love to tell you about but won't, because he belongs to Stephanie, an awesome setting, powerful attraction that makes you grin and swoon while reading, believable teens talking like teens (the smart kind I wish I was more like back in the day), including cursing (future editor of this book, whoever you may be: do not touch the cursing. I will kick you).

So. Yeah. Awesome. I am absolutely certain you will all get your chance to read this book in good time. But until then, I will continue to gloat. (Nyah nyah.) If you want to congratulate Steph, go HERE and gush about the awesomeness of Finishing a Novel. It is a huge, huge, huge feat, especially when it happens to be made out of awesome. Yayyyyyyyy!!!!

That will most likely be the last non-fantasy/sci fi I read for a goodly while. It was kind of like cheating on the Cybils, but I had to do it, and I en't a bit sorry! Now, I have so many gorgeous glorious clean (band-aid free) library books stacked on my nightstand for the Cybils, it's so hard to choose which to read next!! I just started Allegra Goodman's The Other Side of the Island, while being almost through Kaimira: The Sky Village. And I'm eyeballing Savvy and Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow and more more more. It's like choosing bon bons from a heart-shaped box. The deliciousness of all those fictional dreams just waiting to pull me in.

I loved The Magic Thief. Middle-grade fantasy, good for 8 - 12. And I'd tell you if it didn't hold up as an adult read (not all middle-grade fantasy does), but it does. The main character is a "gutterboy" thief named Conn who picks the wrong pocket one night and steals a wizard's locus magicalicus, the stone that is the center of his power. Doing such a thing should be the end of Conn, but oddly enough, he doesn't die. Intrigued, the wizard takes him on as a servant, and soon as an apprentice. The catch: Conn has to find his own locus magicalicus within 30 days or his dream of becoming a magician will be over. Meanwhile, very disturbingly, the magic is draining out of the city. Clever Conn has his own ideas as to what's going on, but of course, who listens to children? This is another book that moves from good part to good part. A quick and very satisfying read. Highly recommended.

And lastly last last, look at the adorableness of this painting Jim just did for a friend's anniversary:
The text reads: Bees Knees, the. You can see it better on Jim's blog. I think he is the bees knees. And oh, the Lips Touch cover is coming along, and it is going to be gorgeous!


Cuppa Jolie said...

Such a cruel, cruel tease about Stephanie's book! Lucky girl.

Laini Taylor said...

Jolie, you're next!! How's it coming?

R.J. Anderson said...

Just the pictures in your posts make me happy -- and hungry. Strawberry lemon curd shortbread, RECIPE PLS!!!

Also, the book sounds fabulous and it is rather unfair of you to taunt us with it, but I will forgive you because if it's that good we will all have a chance to read it one day. Besides, I would be a hypocrite to reproach you for crowing over the brilliance of unpublished manuscripts because I have been jabbering for months about Erin Noteboom's gorgeous poetic MG fantasy novel Plain Kate, which is currently haunting the desks of several important editors and will soon, I think, find its well-deserved home.

And finally, I'm so glad you loved The Magic Thief because I did too. I just finished reading it out loud to my son and he simply could not wait until the next day for another chapter -- he kept following me around demanding to know what happened next!

Q said...

"...future editor of this book, whoever you may be: do not touch the cursing. I will kick you."

Made me giggle.

Stephanie Perkins said...

(Speechless. Flabbergasted. Sort of peeing myself.)

THANK YOU, Laini. This is just the nicest, nicest, nicest most wonderful thing. Ever.

Heather said...

Lordy, I love your blog!!! It is always such an inspiration to read and makes me want to sit down and get some writing done! I am a writer/artist///// (..sometimes feel like I have a life made out of part time jobs!)
I love YA fiction too, especially historical. Its always so honest and fresh, no jaded characters with chapters feeling like they're 'filler' until the love scenes. I think YA is great because it focuses so much on emotion, and from such a pure place. Everything is new and uncertain and amazing. I totally heart YA fiction ;)

lkmadigan said...

I'm reading Christine's book right now!

And I'm envious of your enjoyment of Stephanie's manuscript. I guess I'll have to wait to read it in hardback someday! 2010, maybe?

That raspberry lemon curd shortbread looks amaaaazing.


Alysa Stewart said...

couple thoughts:

boy they had great hairdo's back then, didn't they?

LOVE the Bee's Knees.

You guys have Savvy? I thought we (the MG panel) had it. It's probably listed on both right now. I'm hoping it stays with us. I took a guilty Cybils break too, to read The Hunger Games (which wouldn't be a break for you) but I don't regret it.

Not all teens curse. I didn't. Cursing in books... has its place. Loved the Outsiders, it does a good job of cursing.

Laini Taylor said...

Hi Alysa!
There's actually not that much cursing in it, and the few memorable ones were mainly from one character. But it all felt totally appropriate.

I think Savvy should be fantasy. It has "supernatural gifts" in it. Hunger Games was awesome, wasn't it? It's up at the top of my list right now, but with so many books yet to come, who knows what will happen!

Lisa -- I am jealous you are reading Christine's book!

Heather, I completely agree with you about YA; it does have a kind of purity to it -- and not in some twee way, I mean, I can't even really express it. Will have to try to figure out what it is I love about it!

Ronald L. Smith said...

Great post Laini,

John Gardner was a great literary fiction writer. He has a wonderful book called Grendel. It's the Beowulf story told from the monster's POV.

He also has a good technique book called the Art of Fiction.

I bought your book but I've been so busy I haven't dived into it completely, but the first chapter rocks!

Cuppa Jolie said...

It's coming along, Laini. Thanks for asking. Getting so, so close. But now I strive to do just as Stephanie has and make sure it's made out of all "good parts." Love that! Want that! Will do that!

Anonymous said...

Whew, I feel like a slacker now that I've read your posts. 4 am, huh. Hmm, maybe I could try getting up at 4am and writing until the world wakes up. Slightly easier!

Christine Fletcher said...

Hi, Laini! It was so great seeing you at the conference, and hearing your presentation, too! It ROCKS, people--you seriously want Laini to come do your school visits.

Stephanie's book sounds like the exact thing I want to read right now. I don't want to wait! :)

Love Jim's painting--it's wonderfully, whimsically romantic!

Charlotte said...

viz teenager-ness--I think there are also those of us who really never were teenagers and stayed about 12, despite being married with children etc, who now read about teenagers in the spirit of discovering what happened to the others, who did make it to thirteen...

Alyssa F said...

Hello! I just wanted to stop by and say hi. Unforunately, it's the first time I've been able to stop by *embarrased shrug*. Anyway, I LOVE the pink hair in your profile. Way to go!