Friday, May 16, 2014

Franschhoek Literary Festival: Are There Boundaries To Your Imagination?

It's kinda sad that I've been writing (officially) for four and a half years and I've never been to a literary festival. But today I set out to change that! I headed off to Franschhoek, the small but beautiful town about an hour away from Cape Town. A place filled with mainly art and food -- and, this weekend, a ton of literary-minded people.

Earlier in the week, I spoke at two schools as part of the FLF Book Week for Young Readers, but from today through till Sunday, the "proper" part of the festival is running (the part that features loads of panel discussions throughout each day where anyone from the public can come along, buy tickets, and listen (or, like me, take notes and then beg some of the participants to let me take a photo with them!)).

Not having a great deal of time (read: way behind on work!), I got myself a ticket for only one event: Are There Boundaries To Your Imagination, with Savannah and Sarah Lotz (aka Lily Herne), Louis Greenberg, and Charlie Human.

If you're interested in what they chatted about, I've listed the main stuff that stood out for me below. If you're not interested, you can skip to the photos (and drool over the giant chunk of chocolate I got from the Huguenot Fine Chocolates shop!).

Does research help or hinder the imagination?

The comment I could relate to here was that too much research could confine the borders of one's imagination. All those facts your brain becomes full of may end up constricting your imagination and prevent you from coming up with truly original ideas.

I've had people ask me what kind of and how much research I did into fae lore when writing the Creepy Hollow series. The answer is: not a great deal. I wanted my faeries to be different. Modern. Unique. I did some research so that I could use a few traditional elements (the Seelie and Unseelie Courts, for example), but I made up just about everything else.

What taboo topics have you written about?

Paedophilia was mentioned (!), but the answer that resonated with me was that genre fiction itself was almost a taboo thing to write when these authors started out. AND I TOTALLY GET THAT! When I first began writing, I was told by people in the industry that publishing fantasy in this country is really difficult. Look for an overseas publisher, they'd say. Local publishers don't go for that. They go for the literary stuff. Walk into a bookstore and head to the "South African Fiction" shelf, and what do you see? Mainly literary fiction. Which is great if that's what you're into, but what about us spec fic lovers?!

Anyway, since then, some amazing South African urban fantasy works have been published, and I'm SOOO excited for the next generation of writers in this country who hopefully won't ever have to feel that genre fiction isn't "good enough" for us to write.

What challenges have you found in writing characters that are different from yourself?

Louis Greenberg said he's always found it easy to write female characters, and when he's had to write a male character, it's been much harder for him! He he! I'm the opposite, in that I always think to myself, But how could I write from a male perspective? I don't know what they're thinking! What did make sense to me in the discussion, though, was that for most of them, writing from the perspective of a character from a different culture or race is a big challenge. I'm scared of trying that (which probably means I should try it!).

How do you deal with negative reviews?

Louis had an interesting answer based on the fact that when you're publishing the traditional route, so much time passes between finishing a book and when it actually becomes available for the public to read, that he felt he had enough distance from that book for negative reviews not to hurt that much.

Sarah: "I just cry!"

He he! Hopefully that's not entirely true ...

The cool peeps!

And yes! They let me take a picture with them! (Too bad the camera chose THAT moment to be weird! :( )

Porcupine Ridge Wines was having a special: BUY A CASE, GET A CASE. Since that would land me with 24 bottles of wine, I decided to restrain myself. (We live in a tiny cottage, remember? No space for that much wine!)

The obligatory selfie with my awesome friend who could not let me go off to this festival on my own.

I would walk much further than 25m for good chocolate!

Yay! We found it!

Keep drooling ... It's all mine! (There were a lot more ... We ate them all in the car on the way back!)


Cynthia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cynthia said...

Chocolate and books always go together. =)

That's great you got to check out the literary festival. Whenever I attend literary/writing events, I often meet many like-minded people, and it's so awesome.

In college, I once wrote a short story from a guy's perspective, and it was workshopped in a writing class. We weren't supposed to put our names in the story, and after the story was critiqued, classmates were supposed to guess who the writer was. Well, people looked to the male students in the class, and no one guessed it was me. So I interpreted that as a small success of some sort. =)

Sheena-kay Graham said...

Glad you got to go to a literary festival Rachel. Jamaica has a similar problem with spec fiction. We have so much culture to be used in fantasy but local writers don't nurture it. Plus we need to stop making literary/commercial fiction books look like literary books from school. Seriously most of the time I can't tell the difference. Which is bad. I wouldn't want a copy of Divergent to remind me of The Old Man and the Sea. You moved forward with your writing Rachel which is great. I love fantasy because I can make up my world from scratch. Research scares me. Lots of research has me running. NO. But I will do some, some is good.

Cathy Keaton said...

This town looks so quaint! I want to go walking around in it. The only place around where I live that look so cute like that is Disneyland--all fake! At least this town is real.

I love doing research, but you do have to realize that knowing too much about something could make it hard to use your imagination.

When I talk about doing research on my vampire YA novel, people assume I'm researching vampires. LOL. Why would I do that? I want mine to be original. I'm actually always researching the Roman Empire because that forms the base of my world building. Can't get too chummy with my imagination on that, unfortunately.

Elise Fallson said...

Oh this post brought back memories when I visited Franschhoek years ago, (though I was there for the vineyards and wine, lol) and I can almost recognize the street where you took some of your pictures! How awesome to be there for a library festival.... sounds like you had a great time. :)

Michelle Wallace said...

Rachel, sounds like you had a blast!
Do you know if Durban has any literary festivals?
I don't think so...
Writer In Transit