Yesterday, Clif and I went to the University of Maine at Orono, where I gave my presentation Threads of Realism in Fantasy to a class about Franco-Americans and Place.
We got up very early—before breakfast as my mother would have put it. Orono is ninety miles from where we live, and we had to be there by 9 a.m.
As I’ve written previously, public speaking is not my strong point. (Damn it, Jim, I’m a writer, not a speaker.) In the past, I’ve usually had a prepared piece, which I have then proceeded to read. This time, I had resolved not to do that. Even though I had copious notes for my presentation, I was determined to make eye contact with the audience—in this case, the students.
Clif, who is a good speaker, sat in the back of the class so that he could observe me, and he told me I did just fine. I did indeed make eye contact with the students. In fact, I expect the two students who were sitting right in front of me might have wished that I didn’t have my beaming eye on them quite so often.
There were only a few minor mishaps with the presentation—I lost control of my cursor a couple of times—but all in all it went well, and despite being nervous, I enjoyed myself.
When I was done, some of the students asked me questions about how I write. Do I have an outline? Do I write certain scenes, even if they are out of order, as they come to me? No and no. I have a general plot arc in my head, and then I start at the beginning and write straight through. If something I write in chapter twenty impacts chapter one, then I change it in chapter one.
The students seemed surprised that I wrote this way, and they asked the question again, in several different ways. Each time my answer was the same, but I did add that there is no one correct way to write a book—there are different approaches for different writers.
I was asked where they could buy the book, and I mentioned a local bookstore—Bull Moose—as well as on Amazon. One student, bless her, whipped out her smart phone and ordered the book then and there.
The student and I had a little conversation about YA fantasy, and she told me that many fantasy books written for adults just didn’t appeal to her.
“I know what you mean,” I said. “In fantasy stories for adults, there is often too much sex and too much violence. In YA and Middle Reader fantasy, this is kept to a minimum, and the story’s the thing.”
“Yes,” she said. “That’s right.”
After class, the professor, Susan Pinette, invited us to come back to the Franco-American Centre. She had made soup, and she offered to make salad as well. Would we like to join her for lunch? Would we ever!
How lovely it was to sit around the big table at the Centre and eat delicious lentil, vegetable soup. Being Francos, Susan and I did a lot of chatting and laughing as well as eating. (Susan is the woman at the head of the table.)
And then Clif took this picture of Susan and me.
After tea and Susan’s delectable homemade molasses cookies, it was time to go home. It was such a good day, and I was sorry to leave.
But the end of April, there will be a Franco-American Artist gathering at the Centre, where I will probably give a much shortened version of my presentation.
I’m looking forward to going back to Orono.