Friday, October 25, 2013

Maggie Stiefvater, Maureen Johnson, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, oh my!

I have to squee a little about yesterday's Vancouver Writers Festival events.

In the morning I got to see Maggie Stiefvater, author of The Raven Boys and Dream Thieves and Scorpio Races, all of which are brilliant and I love them.

And Maggie was funny and smart and down-to-earth and incredibly likeable. And she owns miniature silky fainting goats. (I thought maybe she was making them up, but when I got home I googled them. And apparently they exist!)

Maggie Stiefvater graffiti-ed my books!

Then in the afternoon I went to see Silvia Moreno-Garcia, a local author and a friend of mine, who has an anthology of magic-realism/fantasy/weird short stories set in Mexico, very intriguing and cool. And she was paired with Maureen Johnson, whose name didn't ring a bell, but turns out I had read her book 13 Little Blue Envelopes, and I remember it grabbed me with its characters and its quirky plot. She just released the second book of a series about ghost-hunting police in London, so she and Silvia were there to talk about spooky stuff.

I've already read the first book and it's great!

Silvia had all kinds of interesting things to say about zombies and vampires (vampires as a metaphor for sexually transmitted disease--why has no one else thought of that?!) and crazy stuff that goes on in Mexico. And Maureen told us she decided to write about ghosts because she really hates ghost tours and ghost-hunter tv shows, so of course writing a ghost book was the logical response. And they were both entertaining and intelligent and it was a great discussion.

So when I heard that Maggie and Maureen were together in an event in the evening, and there were still tickets left, I abandoned my family and went back to Granville Island, where I got to hear the most random, quirky, funny, completely unscripted panel discussion ever. (Shannon Ozirny, the moderator, literally threw away her script.)

Maureen talked about adopting a puppy from the rescue society--and we all learned that you don't mess with Maureen. She will find you. Maggie talked about racing cars (which she does)(race cars, I mean) and doing her best to get pulled over at the border (and succeeding). Maggie, by the way, owns a Mitsubishi Razer--you'll know why that's cool when you've read The Dream Thieves--and she painted a knife on the side of it! (Also from Dream Thieves, and way, way cool!) Maureen started a brilliant internet phenomenon called Coverflip (see the photos at the end of the Huffington Post article) that highlights how differently male and female authors are treated (and if you look at the covers for Name of the Star, you can totally see what she's getting at). Maggie told hilarious stories about her fainting goats. (One audience question was, "do you ever run out of ideas?" and I thought: how can she run out of ideas? she has fainting goats!)(Her answer was no, except once when she was writing a short story every month for a blog.)

Did I mention that she painted this herself?
And then, she let her fans graffiti all over it!

If you thought these were all different books by different authors, which one would you think was by a guy?

The panel wrapped up with this amazing interaction (I may not have gotten it exactly right, but this is the general gist of it):

Audience question: what do you do if you've written a first draft and when you read it it seems really cheesy?

Maggie: I think what you're really asking about is self-doubt, and how do you deal with it. Turns to Maureen. Do you ever feel self-doubt?

Maureen: Yes.

Maggie: Tilts head at Maureen, waits for more. 

Maureen: Looks innocent.

Maggie: Keeps waiting.

Maureen: What? You asked a question. I answered.

Maggie: Keeps looking at Maureen.

Maureen: Gives in. All writers feel like they are terrible. And also that they are very bad. And their work is a war crime. It causes cancer. Goes on a bit in this vein.

Maggie: Interrupts her. And they're not always wrong.

Maureen: Glares in astonishment at Maggie.

Maggie: We all write crappy stuff. I guarantee, Maureen and I have written thousands of terrible words. The thing is, you take this war crime, and you say, "I can work with this. I can make it better."

Maureen: In a throaty, gangster voice.  I'm gonna spin this shit into gold.

Brilliant words from two brilliant writers. And I was there.

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