Some personal stuff intervened last week*, but I still have many, many thoughts about the Simmons conference to post. The theme was “Crimes & Misdemeanors,” and most of the authors stuck remarkably well to it. A few smart thoughts from smart people, lifted from my notes:
Many people argued that crimes (for a sufficiently loose definition) and rule-breaking are what children’s lit is based on — maybe even all lit. Without a “crime,” what moves the plot along? Where’s the growth?
Discussing his graphic adaptation of The Odyssey: Manners are the things that distinguish good guys from bad in this story: how do you treat strangers? Generosity and hospitality are prized above all; good men don’t even turn away murderers in need. Inhospitality is a misdemeanor in our society and murder, rape, and pillage are serious crimes; in Odysseus’s world, it’s the reverse. — Gareth Hinds
“Kids tend to collect, because kids are essentially powerless, and a collection is something they have control over.” — Kevin Henkes
” ‘Crimes’ push against the skeleton of the world’s structure, until the world breaks apart and is remade.” — the lovely and talented Kristin Cashore.
(This happens in pretty much every YA fantasy or science fiction, certainly. It occurs to me that this might be a distinction between YA and adult fantasy, in fact — the breaking apart and remaking of the world due to the challenging, “criminal” actions of one young person or a small group of young people. It’s a metaphor for the young adult’s own pushing at boundaries, breaking apart their own childhood world and remaking it as an adult, yadda. I can think of a number of YA counter-examples, in which the world stays basically the same. But I haven’t read enough adult fantasy to really draw any conclusions, so I’m just blowing smoke. What do you think?)
Mysteries are unique: you read them skeptically, knowing the author is trying to trick you about the Truth. “But crime fiction is idealistic” — the bad guy always gets caught and punished by good guys who think better. — Avi, who told us at dinner that his real name was Edward. “Avi” was a mispronunciation by a younger sibling that stuck. Who knew?
“When I write about crime… what I am writing about is moral ambiguity. …No one is more involved in moral ambiguity than the child. They are taught morality while living in an immoral world.” — Avi
“We excuse or mitigate characters by saying they had a hard life — might we not mitigate a person’s character by the affluent and spoiled environment in which he grew up, as well?” — Francisco X. Stork, author of Marcelo in the Real World
* Boyfriend E and I broke up. All’s well, really, but it definitely overpowered my will to blog immediately post-conference.