Author, and Another Author

Luck was on my side this week because I got to see two authors, whom I’ve actually read, speak. First was Lisa See, author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, last Thursday night in Sacramento. Strange coincidences forced me to be there on the same night she was giving a talk. We traveled downtown to the library, along with 650 other people, to hear Ms. See address the audience. She told us about the research she did for her new book, Peony in Love, based a Chinese Opera, The Peony Pavilion, which was so powerful that it caused young girls to starve themselves until they withered away and died. The Lovelorn Maidens. She told us about her life growing up as a Caucasian-looking person in a Chinese family in the heart of Chinatown. She entertained us with stories of the Chinese beliefs about the afterlife. (sorry, I didn't get photos of Ms. See).

The second author was Jane Smiley, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for A Thousand Acres. I’ve read four or five of her books in the past. Fastinating person, and superb speaker. Her mission this night was to discuss the creative process. She said that creativity thrives in a state of relaxation; that usually an idea and all its components arrive together as one piece at the moment of conception. That one moment of inspiration is dynamic and compelling. Also she said that art doesn’t benefit from conformity, it needs freedom to thrive.

I need to interrupt to tell you about Tent Chautauqua, pronounced cha-talk-ah-waa. A tradition from North Dakota, actors assume the character of famous people and talk alone on a stage for up to an hour totally in character, as if they are living, without notes, off the top of their heads. Think how much preparation must go into a performance like that. The art form was revived in 1976, and the Great Basin Chautauqua is the strongest one now going.

So after the break, Ms. Smiley had eight characters, including Sir Thomas Malory, John Steinbeck, and Eugene O’Neill, on stage with her to discuss the creative process and the actors must answer as their character would. It was a lively Q&A from the audience.

Both authors astonished me with their intelligence, ease, and humor. It's a wonderful way to spend an evening. I can understand why they are compelling writers, because they are compelling women.

1 comment:

Heather said...

Jane Smiley is one of my favorites, thanks for sharing the experience, I love what she said about the creative process.