Staying Stylish in Suburbia

The National Book Festival

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

This weekend we drove into the city for The National Book Festival. Hosted by the library of Congress, this years line-up included authors and poets such as Joyce Carol Oats, Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner), Margaret Atwood, Ayana Mathis (The Twelve Tribes of Hattie), and  U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey.

The Huffington Post described the event by saying "It's an embarrassment of riches. For those who are book crazy, this -- and not Christmas -- is the most wonderful time of the year."

So true! The festival offered the opportunity to wonder from pavilion to pavilion, meeting and hearing firsthand from a plethora of amazing authors. There were book signings and other forms of entertainment as well. Esmae particularly enjoyed the kids pavilion where she had her photo taken with storybook characters. In other words good times were had by all.

With our two little ones in tow I couldn't see everyone I wanted to but I did manage to hear the great Margaret Atwood speak. What a writer. So brilliant and such a smart ass too. I loved it! One thing I've always admired about her is the ability she has to avoid being boxed into a single genre. Likewise, listening to her speak she had no trouble going against the grain of popular thought. During the question and answer portion of the presentation the audience kept making broad assumptions and Atwood kept cocking her metaphoric rifle and shooting those assumptions out of the clear autumn sky. Pow! Pow! Pow! They fell like geese at our feet.

My favorite example of this was when an audience member asked what Atwood thought about technology making our children less intelligent. The assumption being that she would agree that time spent on the internet and away from books was a bad thing. Instead Atwood insisted that kids these days have more opportunities and motivation to read and write. If she had, for example, wanted to write a steamy vampire novel as a teenager there would have been nowhere for her to present her finished story. The only place she might have gone was the High School newspaper which would have undoubtedly rejected it as trash and called her parents in to intervene. None of her peers would ever seen her work that way. But fast forward to now and kids have a myriad of anonymous online forums where they can publish and present their work to the world. Technology has offered a way to gain immediate feedback without fear of embarrassment or thoughts of repercussions. If anything, Atwood argued, technology has driven creativity, intelligence, collaboration and inspiration to new levels. In other words it doesn't matter what you read or write, (she admits to reading everything from the dictionary to the glossies at the dentist office and has quite a presence on Twitter) as long as you are constantly reading and writing.

As a blogger I can certainly appreciate that point of view. I tend not to look at my posts as my "real writing." They are far from poetic and often less than profound in content. But regardless of whether or not I am professing my love of fashion or simply describing a moment in my life as a mother. Writing is writing. I can work on my novel on the side but to discount everything else as simply trivial nonsense would be a mistake. As writers we collect our material and fine tune our tools in different ways. Blogging and even Facebook and Twitter can provide us with opportunities not only write but to connect with readers. It is still putting our thoughts to paper after all and what better place to practice and play with our words.

All that is to say that I enjoyed Atwood's insight and opinions tremendously. It was motivating to listen to such a wordsmith in action. It was also a good reminder that she is just a person, someone who respects her craft and is dedicated to honing her skills through whatever means possible. The woman is nothing if not prolific. Apparently she's working on an opera next. Inspiring!



  1. great insight on techonology being a broader springboard for writers..

    1. Thank so much. I appreciate you stopping by to read.