About 3-4 years ago I was applying to Masters programs. I knew I wanted to write fiction and specifically for teens/YA. I applied to a nearby, prestigious school's MFA program... and got in. But they promptly told me I would have to write for adults, not children.
I was very discouraged and frustrated because I didn't see the difference in writing for adults versus writing for teens. A good story is a good story. Good characterization is good characterization. Good pacing is good pacing. Good writing is good writing. I just wanted to study writing, to grow, to learn, to hone my craft. However, I didn't want to be forced into writing for a particular audience. And I certainly didn't want to take classes with a faculty that was so elitist and narrow-minded. I didn't know what I was going to do because I had to take classes close to my job, and that limited the schools I could apply to.
Around this same time, I read Graceling. I absolutely LOVED the book, and promptly went online to look up Kristin Cashore. In her short bio, I read this:
During my stint in Boston, I got an M.A. at the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College. (Thank you, Simmons, for the scholarship that made this possible!) Grad school almost killed me, but I felt a lot more alive than when I was almost being killed in college. The Simmons program is stupendous. It got me thinking and breathing YA books. It got me writing.I immediately went to Simmons' website, began reading, and probably started glowing a little. I requested more information about the program... but I did not end up going to Simmons. Just two years into my teaching career, I was reluctant to leave when I had just received my tenure. Simmons would have required that I move to Boston, and I wasn't ready to do that. (Though some days I do wonder what my life would be like with a degree in hand by now as a Bostonian and without the stress the past three years of teaching has brought me.)
Someone at Simmons e-mailed me and suggested I check out Hollins University (because it was closer to where I live and also because their program could be completed over 3-5 summers). And here I am now, 24 credits into my MFA in Children's Literature and I couldn't be happier with my choice.
So that's why I indirectly credit Kristin Cashore with leading me to my graduate degree. I honestly don't know if I would have discovered that there were Masters programs in Children's Lit out there... had I not read her bio.
One thing I hate about book signings: you never have time to tell an author everything you want to say to them. There's people behind you in line and you're being moved along. But... if I was an author... I'd like to hear how I've impacted people. Not just sign my name for an hour.
My solution to this problem: I wrote Kristin Cashore a card and handed it to her when I got my book signed. Worked great. My card looked like this:
We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives. —Dan ZadraAnd I wrote her more-or-less the story I told you above.
Inside: Thanks for making a difference.
Now, as to what Kristin spoke about at her talk/signing:
She read two excerpts from Bitterblue, which got me quite excited to read the book :)
She then had lots of pictures of her manuscripts and stressed how difficult writing is and how failure is a huge part of the writing process. She told us how Bitterblue is the most difficult book she's written. She showed us pictures of handwritten pages with huge sections crossed out. She showed us the 700 page first draft. She showed us pictures of the piles of paper that would be the seven drafts Bitterblue went through.
Kristin then went on to answer questions from the audience. She got all the typical questions:
- Where do you get your names from?
- Do you want Graceling to be a movie?
- Would you want to have input in the movie production?
- Who would you want cast in the movie?
You tend to hear a lot of the same questions at these things. Probably the most interesting question was about the feminist influences in the books. Kristin spoke a bit about how her strict upbringing and experiences with sexism probably influenced how feminist ideas have manifested themselves in her books.
She was very humble and so clearly LOVES WRITING. I really enjoyed seeing her in person, and think she's a very cute and inspiring young author.
My final words to Kristin were:
"I love how you write about strong women. And men who like strong women."