When You Reach Me
October 16, 2009
Last night, we hosted author Rebecca Stead and her editor, Wendy Lamb for the latest installment in our YA NOT? series (a literary salon for not-so-young adults). They have the sort of editor-author relationship that makes us feel good about being in the book industry. This business is all about relationships, in many ways—our relationship with our customers, an author’s relationship with hir readers, and so on—but it all starts with the author and the editor. As they discussed quite a bit last night, every editor approaches each author a bit differently. And the approach that Wendy and Rebecca have taken together is, much like Rebecca’s books, magical and impressive.
Some highlights from their conversation last night:
—Rebecca talked about this TED talk with author Elizabeth Gilbert about inspiration, and mentioned an ancient idea that inspiration is a matter of “catching the serpent.” You have to reach up to grab it, and if you get its tail, you can reel it back in and make something with it, but if you miss it, it’s gone forever.
—Wendy, on how authors are like dogs: “Some authors are work dogs. They just keep working and working and working on a book until you just want to take it away from them before they mess it up. And other authors are like companion dogs. They need you to sit next to them and call them to see how they’re doing.” And Rebecca? Well, Wendy said she’s a lovely combination of the two.
—Rebecca, on why she writes for kids: “I love that children are still at a point where they are thinking about the big questions of life and trying to figure things out. They’re not jaded yet. I don’t think it would be possible for me to write for a jaded reader. I guess I can write for kids and adults having a mid-life crisis: people who are open to thinking about big ideas and wondering about life.”
—The best mail Rebecca has gotten in response to her latest book, When You Reach Me, is regarding a small idea in the book that she didn’t think most people would notice. She discusses the idea of a veil, that we all walk around with this invisible veil in front of our faces and go about our day, but every once in awhile it lifts up, and suddenly we can see the bigger picture, see the connections, and feel some peace about the way things are. “A surprising number of kids are writing to me to tell me how much they identify with that idea. Which I think is very encouraging!”
Those are just a few snippets from last night’s conversation, which we loved almost (almost!) as much as we adore When You Reach Me and First Light. What about other folks who came out in the blustery rain? What was your favorite part?