Apparently there’s a group called the “I Haven’t Read the Book” club. Love it. When it was announced that Rachel Hartman, author of Seraphina, was to be one of the guests – and hosted by Kelley Armstrong no less, A group of us all knew we just had to attend.
I hadn’t been to the Northern District location of the Toronto Library before but it’s a fantastic space. We were in basically a glass room in the middle of the library (and which I really hope was soundproof as there was quite a bit of noise coming from us throughout the evening!). We all had notebooks reminiscent of grade school at each seat and shortly after some name-tagging and chit-chattering, the discussion between Kelley and Rachel began.
The idea for Seraphina came from many sources. The world itself basically existed from Amy Unbounded, the comic books that Rachel had created previously. The first inkling of a story, however, was from the fairly traumatic experience of her parents getting divorced when she was 30. It brought on an idea of “what if you married someone who you didn’t really know?” (She adds a disclaimer that that wasn’t the case with her parents!)
Referencing the tour that she co-founded, Kelley says that Seraphina is a great YA heroine that fits into the “Smart Chicks Kick It” category. The character, as Rachel explains, is a tribute to all the smart & capable women she knows in her life. A lot of good discussion about dragons and how they can be reflective and symbolic of human interactions and emotions, like being seen as destructive or wise. Rachel then read a passage from Seraphina, before handing over the work to us attendees. We were to participate in a writing exercise. What?? oh. That’s what the notebooks were for. We had to write a passage about how humanity looks to another species.
Oh my. Some people started writing furiously, others (like myself) were stumped. I drew a blank and was trying to think of some POV that would be unique and not overdone (like a bug, or a bird). I thought of my blog, and Lost, and went with a palm tree (which made Wendy cry – of laughter!)
After some time (20-30 minutes?) we were then asked to share our stories with the group. Save for one girl at the other table who eagerly raised her hand to share first, there was an extremely shy and awkward silence that ensued with each passing moment. After nervous laughter, Chandra, Angel (via peer pressure) and I “volunteered” to read ours.
Here is my silly little passage, which I prefaced that mine and Wendy’s should have a cross-over story to it.
Through the Eyes of a Palm Tree
I’ve been standing here for so many years that I’ve stopped counting. Every day it’s the same thing, hot sand and even hotter sun. It’s pretty mundane to me after all this time but these creatures arrive in droves to bask in it. I try to figure out why they keep showing up, (I mean, what else am I going to do) but I don’t understand. Sometimes I think they want to grow tall like me while lying in the sun, but then they’ll run out into the ocean and emit loud screams. Other times these… things… take shelter beneath my large leaves, leaning against my trunk. I like that the best. Those are the times I feel needed, remembered… essential. Sometimes I’ll reward them by dropping a coconut for them to enjoy. These strange creatures seem to find delight in that. Time passes and the sun sets. These scurrying things eventually walk away, leaving me to sway in the evening breeze. Alone. At least until my friend, the sun, returns for another day.
Mine wasn’t as eloquently and poetically written as some before me, but Rachel said it’s not often you get the point of view of a plant. I’m not sure if she was teasing me at the strange choice, but I’m going to think no.
Edit: Huzzah! Rachel wasn’t teasing!
Nobody else opted to read their pieces after me, so it went to a short Q&A. Both Rachel and Kelley had great advice and words of wisdom for budding authors:
- Be patient with yourself. It takes time.
- People often feel “married” to their plot. Think of it more like “casual dating”. If something better comes along, go for it.
- Great to have writing groups to bounce ideas off each other. They don’t have to be writing the same thing as you, just that they’re writing.
- It’s hard to silence that self doubt. Just be true to yourself in your writing to stay authentic.
For Rachel, Terry Pratchett is a strong influence in her writing. She wrote YA because it’s a hopeful time of life rather than adult where, she says with a grin, it’s more a “look at the mess I made, and here’s how to fix it”. She loves the world-building aspect of writing. A place where she can set all the rules. If, for example, she were to write a book set in a high school, it would seem too constricted because it has its own rules already.
Once the Q&A was over, Kelley & Rachel sat down to sign some books for the attendees. It was such a fantastic experience and I love these intimate gatherings with a small group where you get to really chat and know the authors.
Thank you to Rachel Hartman and Kelley Armstrong, the team at Random House Canada and the Toronto Public Library and the “I Haven’t Read the Book” Club!