"It is a good divine that follows his own instructions; I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done than to be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching."
Portia, The Merchant of Venice, Act I, Scene II.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

More from Words to Burn NZATE

Keynote 2 – Owen Marshall

Sitting here in the chapel at St Hilda’s Collegiate waiting for the session to start. I’m looking forward to this. Owen Marshall spoke at conference a few years ago now, I really enjoyed it, so this will be good…

Be warned, tweebies, I may not write many notes, I am in the zone….

Owen taught in secondary schools for 25 years so he appreciates that we have given up our ‘holidays’ to be here. J

“Almost all able and committed writers are able and committed readers.”

Owen Marshall is telling us about famous writers talking about their reading habits.  And when he talks about reading he doesn’t mean a magazine, only reading a novel after you’ve seen the screen adaptation, or making time once a year on summer holiday to read the latest best seller… amen.

I like this one: Germaine Greer saying reading was her “first solitary vice, and it lead to all the others.”

Ouch: 25% of Americans have not read one book in the last year.

Meantime, New Zealanders buy more books per capita than Australians or the Brits.

Charles Dickens was more effective in effecting social change than the politicians of his day, similarly Alan Paton with Cry, the Beloved Country, or Steinbeck with The Grapes of Wrath. 

Basically an argument in favour of the power of fiction.

Fact and fiction: don’t rank them against each other but celebrate the best achievement in both. Each has its techniques, its own “aspect of incompletion”.

Off topic: I am noticing that everyone using their laptop to write notes is using a Macbook. Wonder why? (lighter, better battery life…) Remembering the conferences when my pc laptop spent most of its time in its bag because it was too heavy and/or the battery had run out.

Readers have books which evoke special emotions because of their context [to that reader] as well as their intrinsic merit.

“All true readers have books as part of the archaeology of their lives.”

Talking about how a fictional character can be more important to us than many f the real people in our lives. True.

Marshall is not suggesting that reading should be a substitute for our lives, but an enrichment, a wonderful opportunity to become a better person.  “Read in order to live.”

Q&A – Yes, agrees that it is a greater challenge for a writer to write from the point of view of a character of the opposite gender. But that some can do it very well, gives the example of Annie Proulx.

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