Monday, August 29, 2011

MWF 2011: Why I Read


From the MWF Program: Why spend your time reading when there are so many million other things you could be doing? Maggie Stiefvater, Kate Grenville and Nick Earls share how reading has inspired them, and reveal their favourite classic and new books.


My first session at the Festival! I met up with Megan in the Atrium before the session and
As usual, I have taken paper notes (in my almost unreadable shorthand) and have attempted to decipher them below. Where quotes are used, I have done my best to use the most accurate wording possible.

    left to right: Kate Grenville, Nick Earls, Maggie Stiefvater and Paula Kelly.

  • The session was chaired by Paula Kelly, the Reader Development and Programs Manager at the State Library of Victoria, who began the session with a fantastic quote: "behind a great writer, a great reader is present". Each author spoke for about five minutes (except for Nick Earls!) about their love of reading, before a panel discussion lead by Paula about their reading history and habits.

  • Maggie Stiefvater spoke first - she informed us that she is not someone who cries at movies or while reading, except upon a second reading of The Time Traveller's Wife (which turned her into a snivelling, snot-bubbling mess). Maggie decided she wanted to be the author who ruins someone's day and loves toying with the reader's emotions.
  • Nick Earls spoke extensively about his early reading loves (Enid Blyton's The Famous Five, Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons books and Richmal Crompton's Just William stories) and the impact these had on his writing throughout the 80s (when he moved onto Kafka and Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Peter Carey). It was Spaulding Gray's Monster in a Box, however, which had one of the biggest impacts upon his writing and was responsible for his perception of voice. Nick shared a very funny story about running into Spaulding Gray whilst in New York City, but being unable to tell him about the impact he'd had on Nick's life. About reading, Nick said that it "makes me a better writer, but still me".
  • Kate Grenville described herself as a "greedy reader", and spoke of her reading habits growing up (particularly growing up in a time without access to television, computers and the internet). Kate also discussed both the similarities and differences in consumption of books, film and TV. Whilst all are character driver, emotive and are about story-telling, Kate spoke of the way that television is designed to reach the widest possible audience, include paid advertising (TV) and is required to keep people in an "accepting mood". Fiction, however, has less cost involved (there isn't the same financial pressures as in film - where huge costs are laid out and expected to be recouped to be deemed a success), allowing fiction writers to take greater risks.
  • All of the authors were asked about reading as children and the impact their families had on their reading. Kate shared a lovely story about her brother teaching her how to read at the age of four. Maggie's mother used to read to her, but as a teen she turned to her father's reading preferences for inspiration. Nick's mother used to make up stories for him and his sister.
  • The authors then spoke about their preferences as readers/writers and what they value or place the most importance on. Both Maggie and Nick stressed the importance of character, with setting and plot coming second to this. Kate shared a great quote from Stephen King and spoke about starting with a character and a situation as the basis for her writing.
  • The group discussed the benefits of reading: Nick said "my mind is larger from reading", whilst Maggie spoke of learning how to be a hero and developing a sense of morality from reading. Kate bought up the idea of making time to read (like me, Kate prefers to read before bed) and mentioned that she plans on getting an e-reader!
The session was very interesting and seemed to go by very fast - the next thing I knew, Paula was calling for audience questions and it was all over! Megan, who was sitting next to me, was an absolute whiz on her adorable netbook and live-blogged during the session, so be sure to read her post.

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