Saturday, February 20, 2010

Writing Conferences

Four days at the San Francisco Writers Conference left me with a need to process all the information for the next few days. But by Friday, I was back to revising my novel, Hada, incorporating as much as I could from what I had learned.

Highlights for me this year were workshops given by Ransom Stephens, Donald Maass, and Penny Warner. Ransom has a new book out, The God Patent, and Penny's new one is How To Host a Killer Party. I'm looking forward to reading both after the Ann Patchett marathon I've been on.

All of Patchett's books give the readers a new setting, new characters, and a new story that one thinks can't possibly be better than the last one. Again and again, she never disappoints. After Bel Canto, Run, and The Magician's Assistant, now I'm in the middle of her first novel, The Patron Saint of Liars. Then I'll come to the last one left to read, Taft. I'll miss her writing style, but I'm happy I have Ransom's and Penny's books to take me to their worlds.

The best decision I made in 2009 was to allow an hour or two a day to read fiction. When someone said writers need to read, they were absolutely right.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett

Sabine, the main character in Patchett's novel, muses about cities compared to her hometown, Los Angeles: "Los Angeles, she felt, was maligned because it was misunderstood. It was the beautiful girl you resented, the one who was born with straight teeth and good skin. The one with the natural social graces and family money who surprised you by dancing the Argentine tango at a wedding. While Iowa snuggled through the bitter knife of winter and New York folded in crime and the South remained backwards and divided, Los Angeles pushed her slender feet into the sand along the Pacific and took in the sun."


Ann Patchett's Snow

Ann Patchett's Bel Canto kept me glued to the pages until I finished it...a memorable read. The last few weeks I've enjoyed her Run. Very different characters, setting,and plot than Bel Canto. I'll comment on Run in another entry since I loaned it to Ariana who was attracted to the characters' names: Tip and Teddy.

I'm now reading Patchett's The Magician's Assistant a totally different story from the other two books, yet equally a page turner. Three hour reading sessions fly by. I feel I know Sabine and all the characters...I'll never forget them, just like I'll never forget Tip and Teddy.

Sabine is the Magician's assistant, and her story takes place in Los Angeles and Nebraska. Patchett compares those two settings in a way that puts you in whichever place she is talking about. Los Angeles, where it is never late, and Nebraska in winter when it's late as soon as the sun sets. In one scene, Sabine, who has lived in Los Angeles all her life, visits Nebraska for the first time, talking until after midnight to the sister of the man she loved. Patchett has Sabine realize "It was past being late. Even the snow had given up. There was no time like this in Los Agneles. It was never this late."

"Even the snow had given up." I lived in Wisconsin until I graduated from high school and I can feel the snow giving up.I know snow, but when Patchett uses it as a character in this novel, I've learned to appreciate snow in a new way. It enhances Sabine's story, it compliments the moods and actions of the main characters. Along with snow comes all the boots, puffy jackets, and the smell of scarves as the snow melts on them in the kitchen. Snow provides a depth of sensory experiences that refreshes us and digs us deeper into the story because it brings us right there in Dot's kitchen. Sabine doesn't know it yet, but snow is contributing to her healing. We know that on a feeling level, not because Patchett says so. She's just the master telling us a great story.