This crowd was ENORMOUS. It could have something to do with Scott Westerfeld's presence on the panel - the Festival had a steampunk theme in honor of Leviathan - but I think it was more that they consolidated panels for the last event so that we were the only panel on the first floor of the events center. I'm terrible with numbers, but I would guess there were at least two hundred people there, filling up the chairs and crowding the sides of the space for a chance to get closer to the stage. If I'd have been a teenager, I would have done the same thing. Authors rarely get the celebrity they deserve, so I was almost a bit giddy at the feeling of so many people (young people!) at a book event.
The Alternaworlds panel included Scott Westerfeld, Maureen Johnson, Jonathan Maberry, Brian Yansky, and Rosemary Clement-Moore. Whereas the Love Stories panel was focused on love stories as a genre, this panel was much more focused on the art and craft of writing, and the craft of world building. Once again there were a lot of young authors, so the audience asked great questions about the craft of writing and I shamelessly stole their answers to share with all of you:
- Maureen Johnson talked about chasing down the "what ifs" and even threw out some Holly Black name dropping in the process. She said that Black was the queen of asking the right questions when developing a new story idea, and it basically consisted of a relentless string of questions. What if ghosts existed? How would they integrate with society? Could everyone see them? What could they physically do? What would the government do about them? The key to asking the right questions is to step back far enough to see the full scope of the picture, and then slowly drill down until you know all of the specifics.
- Scott Westerfeld had the ultimate cure for writer's block: lock yourself in a room with nothing else to do for four hours. You'll get over that block real fast. For someone whose house suffers from enough shiny distractions to captivate a kitten, I can understand the advice.
- Jonathan Maberry talked about being realistic within the fantastic. I've gone over the same concepts with my writing partners, so it was nice to get some backup from a successful published author. Even if your world includes zombies, like his, there still has to be a realistic structure to the world and how people function within it. The closer you stay to the real world - with fantastic twists - the more your readers can connect with the characters and believe the events that transpire.
Those were the highlights of the panel for me, mainly because I let two weeks go by without writing about it :). My overall feeling about the Festival, however, was that I've been missing out on prime opportunities to learn from these authors by not going to more author events in the past.