Sunday, January 29, 2006

Book signing: Jonathan Stroud

A nice crowd of fans listened to Jonathan Stroud at Blue Willow Bookshop as he described how the idea for his Bartimaeus books came about.

He asked the kids what the "typical" wizard looks like and drew one as they added to the description. Then he had them to describe the "opposite" of that wizard. They came up with young vs old, carrying a briefcase/cell phone/Starbucks vs a wand, a suit vs robes, etc. When one of the kids added "evil" as the opposite of "good," Stroud modified it to "morally stupid." Looking at the photo, I noted the word "politician" was listed below as an occupation. I thought that was an useful modifier to "morally stupid."

He read the passage from The Amulet of Samarkand where Nathaniel summons Bartimaeus for the first time after setting up the scene with another illustration. Hearing the author's voice is always a thrill for me.

He offered to answer questions and was pleased, I think, to have real fans of the books asking questions dealing with amazing
minutiae about the stories. Inevitably one kid asked the pointless question, "Where do you get your ideas from?" OK, I admit to a small moan and wail when I heard this question. If authors had a nickel for every time they hear this question, they could retire in grand comfort and never write another word. Stroud was gracious.

Editorial comment follows:
Plea -- Yes Virginia, there are such things as STUPID questions. Thoughtful questions take time to develop and deeper thinking than the wish to hear one's own voice. Chris Crutcher has written very eloquently about "Students and Questions." This is a skill that can be acquired with preparation and thoughtful teaching. It also helps if you have actually read the book(s.)

My entling asked if Gladstone was really buried at Westminster Abbey. Stroud affirmed that he was and described a visit to Westminster Abbey where he walked around and through the statues of statesmen and notables which gave him the idea for the sequence of events in The Golem's Eye.

He was very kind and talked to each person as he signed their books. With my daughter he shared some pictures of his characters that had been drawn by kids in Japan . They were Bartimeus à la "manga."

He drew a little "demon" along with the inscription for the kids. I asked him if he ever worried about tendonitis from book signings (Brian Jacques has to wear an arm brace and cannot personalize books anymore) and he shared that book tours were not the problem but the hundreds of books he signs at the publisher's warehouse before a release were very hard work.

When I asked if he reads for fun when he is on the road and he commented that traveling afforded him rare personal time to read for pleasure. Since he does not read fantasy while he is writing and having a 2-year-old child keeps him busy on the home front, he was thoroughly enjoying reading Ursula Le Guin on this current book tour.

He was a very witty and thoughtful speaker. I enjoyed his sense of humor (which he was going to need as he had minimal time to cross Houston in rush hour traffic to get to the next signing on time.)


Kelly said...

Wow, great summary and editorial comment, Camille. I enjoyed this greatly.

Don Tate II said...

I know the kids so enjoyed that! The drawing sessions always go over big with the kids! I'll speak for a half an hour, then when I pull out my markers, the kids come alive.

Camille said...

You are so right, they zero in as soon as someone starts drawing. I often resort to sketching on the overhead when I am having trouble getting a class settled down. I just start drawing and they get so quiet it is spooky.

BTW, I really have enjoyed reading your blog.