Friday, January 24, 2014

Inspiration and heroes

My daughter, Caity, was thrilled to meet one of her
favorite authors, Laurie Halse Anderson,
last Monday at Oblong Books.
I like to talk about inspiration from time to time. What inspires me? Nature. Music. The fun of discovering the unknown. Other writers. Art. This past Monday I went to a special event at Oblong Books in Rhinebeck to see Laurie Halse Anderson. The evening was presented by the Hudson Valley YA Society (providing some of the THE BEST established and up-and-coming authors in YA today) and the store was the most packed I've ever seen over my two years+ of attending various functions. As I sat alongside my teen daughter, I realized not only was I a fan of Laurie Halse Anderson, she had become a real-life literary hero to me.

Inspirational? Heck yeah! She was down to earth, candid, had an immediate rapport with her audience and also had us laughing.The author spoke of her writing journey, how she began writing picture books when her children were young, submissions, rejections, and how she started writing YA. This fascinated me (and I bet everyone else in attendance). Laurie told us she awoke one night to a girl crying and she went to check on her daughter who was fast asleep. But she heard the crying again. Those cries, she soon discovered, belonged to Melinda and she began writing Speak in the early morning hours while the house was quiet.

Laurie Halse Anderson signs some of our books.
I won't go into too much detail in case some get the chance to hear this author speak. I found her messages and her passion for writing, for teens, and reading, incredibly moving and admirable. My daughter does complain about some of the books she has to read for English class, calling many "boring" and how she can't relate to them. Something Laurie Halse Anderson said last Monday night has stuck with me. She said it's not a question of teens NOT wanting to read, it's what they're given. "Teens don't want to read books that suck." How many of us, irregardless of age, can attest to that? 

I certainly can and as a kid I was a voracious reader. I read from my stack of library books and whatever I picked up at home. Gone with the Wind, The Godfather, Flowers In the Attic, Lucky--I was a sponge. My library card was bent from too much use. When I was old enough I started going to bookstores just so I could look at and touch the bindings and covers and dream. But I also remember thinking that many of the books I had to read for school just weren't doing it--they weren't satisfying me. Reading became a chore, a mundane task, and that saddened me.

Getting back to the author event, I'm so glad I went. Laurie Halse Anderson is not only an excellent writer, poignant, poetic and raw, she is an advocate for reading, for books, for schools, for causes and for teens. In my eyes, she in no longer just an author, she's a hero.

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