Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Of Road Trips, Kick Offs, and Thoughts on the Trail

Greetings, Lit-wirians! Mark London Williams here, joining the fray at Guys Lit Wire. I'll be here every third Tuesday over the next so many moons, and beyond.

I'm using my full moniker as my posting name, too, just to eliminate any confusion Lit-wise, or Wired-wise, since it's the same me who wrote the Danger Boy books (a series that straddled mid-grade and YA, as the characters grew older), and currently writes other columns and fulminations on and offline, concerning books, comics, politics, movie-making, and more.

So no sense pretending it's not also the same me in my own little corner (why am I suddenly referencing the musical version of "Cinderella!?") here on GLW, where I join a crew that is sharp, smart, far more caught up on their reading than I am (writing, it seems, slows that whole process down), and can doubtless teach me Many Things.

I'll be writing about books old and new here, including some of the ones that prompted my own journey to "authorship." Some of the "discussees" will be graphic novels, since I've been lucky enough to write the sporadic comic, and am currently a fairly regular reviewer of same, too.

So, let's have the fun begin, shall we?

We start, though, not with a straight out review but a dispatch from the road. (Not that we want to fill our GLW perch with such things -- this should be different from a regular "author's blog," yes?) Nonetheless, there I was, at the recent YAllapalooza gathering, a kind of in-store gathering/hoedown/happening pitting L.A.-based writers against their Arizona counterparts, all overseen by the wonderful Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix (well, yes, Tempe, on the outskirts of Phoenix, but in the West, cities tend to sprawl all over the place).

Four of us drove down from L.A. together -- me, keeping an eye out for available date shakes along the desert stretches of the I-10, with Carol Snow (YA tomes Switch and Snap), Cecil Castellucci (Beige, Boy Proof, and the terrific graphic novel The Plain Janes), and Blake Nelson, whose own Destroy All Cars received well-earned praise on this very blog.

We got there a day ahead of the event, and divvied up into a girls room and a boys room at our motel-- Cecil and Carol in one, Blake and me down the hall.

Would the "boy book" room be different than the "girl book" room, I wondered? I mean, in obvious ways? (Would it, in fact, be messier?) After all, we were all just writers-on-a-field-trip. But is there a sensibility that makes a guy-friendly story different from a gal-friendly one?

I mean, Hunger Games (mentioned in the post below) has a female lead, and that's a terrific read for anyone, so that's not the answer.

But I kept mulling the question as Blake and I wound up --stereotypically? -- discussing whether we'd be able to watch any of the NFL playoffs on room TV (our schedule didn't really allow it). I don't actually watch a ton of sports (I listen to baseball often, though, while writing), because it's so relentlessly commercialized, but often interesting "stories" develop as seasons wind down and post-seasons unfold, and the Jets/Bengals game, in particular, looked interesting.

But why was it interesting? Well, I thought, it's because at this point in the season, you don't really know what's going to happen next. The ending is unwritten (see the recent Jets/Chargers game) and somewhat unpredictable, and maybe, for boys, for men -- whose lives often do become predictable (in school, at jobs) -- these encounters with unscripted sporting events provided a tiny bit -- just a smidgen-- of adventure.

We all need adventures, of course -- the exhilaration (and sometimes fear)of the unknown, along with the comforts of the familiar.

So maybe the appeal of sports is that you can't say, with certainty, what's going to happen next.

Of course, we're living in a world like that, but maybe that's too overwhelming. But: do guys seem to respond to types of "uncertainty" -- manifested in thrillers and fast-paced stories , on the book side-- any more than gals do? If so, are they conditioned to, or wired to?

And why does it seem harder to get guys to stop whatever they're doing and sit down and read a book? (Hence the good works here).

There are no "set" answers to these questions, of course. Which is good -- that becomes another thing to explore.

And on the road, away from my own usual routines, I had a little more time to bask in them.

As for the explorations, I look forward to doing much more of that here, with you, in the months ahead.


Anonymous said...
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Bibliovore said...

Interesting! I do agree that guys often respond to a storyline with lots of tension.

But I have to mention that uncertainty in what's considered "girl" fiction, while a different flavor and often manifested in interpersonal relationships, is still as tense and nerve-wracking as whether the bomb will go off if you snip the red wire. It can still destroy your world, just in a different way.

MarkLWilliams said...

Well put, Bibliovore! Hopefully, the best stories have both.

I once had wrote a chapter in one of my "Danger Boy" books that involved my "Saurian" character gauzing over a snowy field with a shaman-in-training, looking at a flock of bison, while they talked.

Very minimalist, and I liked that chapter a lot. For more practical reasons, I eventually had to excise it, though...

The playwright in me does gravitate toward a lot of compressed time in plots, redolent with the ol' proverbial subtext...