Saturday, July 18, 2009

Vermont College of Fine Arts - GOOD AND EVIL DAY!

Well, the Saturday night party is in full swing down in Noble Reading Room - Hawaiian Theme this year, so quite a few people have leis and grass (plastic) skirts, flowers behind their ears. There's a photo wall - palm trees & surf in the background, props to hold (surfboard & beach ball) while you get your photo taken with friends.

It's a little comic relief & a chance to relax after our themed special day of "Good and Evil' - Tim and I started off the day with a "duel" of sorts, Tim in white shirt, me in black, with quotations exchanged - everyone from Alexander Pope to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to John Milton to Mel Brooks (yes, that's quite a range!!) And then it was time for one of our special guests to speak - Nancy Werlin delivered a very heart-felt examination of her experience, over the years, with the book JANE EYRE, describing for us how she read it at 20 (and was annoyed when Jane left Rochester after his deceptions) compared to how she read it in her 30's and 40's - finally able to appreciate the need of this young woman to grow and get strong. Is Rochester actually a villain? It's an interesting idea to contemplate. Nancy was very gracious about staying up at the podium and answering many, many questions about her latest book, IMPOSSIBLE - and she was brave enough to say that she wrote the story she wanted to write, without thinking about audience. It came from her desire to explore the idea of real evil, not evil that is mitigated in some way by a villain's sad background.

Later in the panel discussion led by Louise Hawes, Stephen Roxburgh said he prefers the idea that evil is nuanced and complicated, that heroes often battle the evil within themselves, that as an editor he looked for stories that offered up these kind of complications, such as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - two sides of the same person - that interests him. Deborah Noyes agreed, and held her own in the discussion - all three of our guests seem tremendously articulate about literature, with Roxburgh flat out brilliant and funny about the way he thinks things through and talks about ideas. Both Deborah and Stephen feel that pure good and pure evil are boring - they want characters that mix it up.

We had a writing break - the challenge was to take one character from a list of Good Guys (Dorothy of Kansas/Oz, Charlotte of Charlotte's Web, Jo March, James Bond and Harry Potter) and one from a list of Bad Guys (Vito Corleone of The Godfather, Goldilocks, Darth Vadar, Cruella DeVille, and The Cat in the Hat) and write a scene where they interact. We got wonderful contributions, with volunteers coming to the microphone to read their pieces.

In the evening, Stephen Roxburgh delivered a less theme-oriented (well, I guess Evil publishing conglomerates qualify!) lecture about the future of publishing - it's obvious he feels passionate about changing our thinking - he's pitching a new business model entirely, focused on print-on-demand, profit-sharing (as opposed to advances for authors) and e-books. A hard position to take in front of a room full of blossoming writers (not to mention that many are librarians, teachers and prior booksellers. I need to buy Stephen's lecture to listen to again and sort out whether I see any room at all for the traditional independent bookshop and the books-on-the-shelf library. )

A busy busy day.

Must get back to the party - luau time! More tomorrow. I'd love to tell you about Shelley Tanaka's lecture. But luau....


  1. Thank you, Julie! Thanks so much for all of your hard work on the "Good & Evil" Day. I'll never forget your opening sequence with Tim. So lovely to spend time with you at the residency. Your friend & fan, Cyn

  2. Right back at you, Cyn! Whenever you're near, I get a little hit of your energy and feel like I could do anything (including write fiction....) Now, if I could just bring you home with me......

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