SO. HERE IS TAKEAWAY NUMBER ONE!
A couple of years back I was advised that reading Alex Rider would be a good thing for my writing. To read like a writer and see an action novel unfold. Because of the source of the recommndation I found the first book, published in 2000, and gobbled it up. To be so cool! Here was a teen James Bond, reluctant, teenage-y, hot, and with a family member in the spy industry. Well, yes, why hadn’t I found these before? I would have killed for a book like this, Geeze, I would have killed for a life like this…apologies to my darling parents and their wonderful upbringing, but damn if I didn’t continually try to make life less sedate.
I had not focused on the conference agenda coming into NYC.I did focus on the two breakout sessions and the intensive [more on those later] and not for a minute on the speakers. So when Anthony, [oh, please can I call you Tony :-)] Horowitz was introduced by Lin Oliver, I sat up straight. I got out my note book [which I don’t do for the inspirational ones] and I was ready.
Mr. Horowitz did not disappoint. In his dapper black suit, skinny tie, and the Brit accent of the upper crust as we have been taught on BBCA, well, perhaps he could have recited the NYC phone book and I would have noted it down, but HE DID NOT.
Yes, he was inspirational. He started writing because maybe that was what he was best at of all the choices. He wanted to be Nero–set the world on fire and in the writing he knew it was a children’s book that would do it. He wrote a lot. He wrote TV shows, screenplays, and children’s books. Then came Alex! Alex is a reluctant hero who is true to himself. Ah, to be a teenager and be true to your self. That is hard–wicked hard!
Mr. Horowitz asked for gleeful writing. Simple. Fun. And most important-True. And then he remarked that children today only experience real adventure in literature. He’s right! How many parents do let their children out to play from dawn to dusk. There is a cosseting, a cocooning, for their safety, for the parental peace of mind. And yet! What children don’t learn as a result of being tested is huge. According to Mr. Horowitz, there is not enough violence in kids books and children like violence. Life is full of violence and kids know that. That’s part of being true.
If I were in a discussion with Mr. Horowitz I would ask him about video games, and the Marvel Universe and the CGI in movies that take our breath away with their animation and their violence. About all the speculative fiction that is huge in middle grade and young adult. And, I wonder if he might say, ‘but those are not real. And kids know it.’ And he’d be right. Alex Rider is now, present, with some fantastical toys but still, now!
He said that we have a responsibility to treat this writing as an upbeat thing. To that I say, a winning thing; success, extraordinary, yes, even heroic. Write up to children, he said. Not about the ordinary, but to show the POWER OF STORYTELLING. Oh, yes!