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Friday, November 17, 2006

James Patterson speaks to NCTE!!


I am sitting in the convention hall and have decided NOT to take notes, but rather to blog my impressions. First of all, I think I should have scoped out the Opryland hotel a little earlier. If I had, I would have found out that there is very little breakfast food in this place. I must have some food anxiety, because I am constantly worrying about when I will get some and where I can find it. I need to be at a 9:30 session, which means my next opportunity for food will be in three hours.
Our president-elect assures us that she does know how to spell “complete.” I do, in fact, feel reassured.
What I really enjoy about these things are the introductions of the people who are introducing the people who are speaking. The introduction of James Patterson includes waxing poetic about what a great audience we are (in contrast to the students in our classroom: we want to be here, we enjoy the “phrasing of a well-written sentence,” etc.) James Patterson also had 31 rejection slips before winning the Edgar award for best first mystery novel. He averages 4-5 books a year and 18 of his last books have been best-sellers. I find these ideas astounding. This man is a blockbuster writer—just imagine the dedication it must take to be that prolific. I feel taxed just posting my notes from the conference, let alone writing novels at the rate he does.
James proposed a program called “No Child Left on Their Behind” in response to the idea that our students are watching so many hours of television. He showed us an ad where students watching a video claim, “This is a really good book.” As if students are watching so much television that they don’t know the difference between reading and watching television.
I keep smelling the stench of garbage and, upon investigation ,realize that the double doors next to which I have parked my laptop are the double doors leading to the dumpster. Hmmm. Time to move.
James was in a psychiatric aide to work his way through college and this is where he met Robert Lowell, and the author of Girl, Interrupted, both of whom were patients while he worked there. John Copeland was also there. It was this cast of zany characters who first inspired him to write, if only to document the wild and crazy things they said. It makes me wonder about patient privacy: should he be telling these stories of these people?
He was told to “stay away from fiction” as an undergrad. He was told to write fiction as a grad student (perhaps a comment on the state of undergraduate education?)…eventually he gets on the best-seller list, even though it took a while (no one actually showed up to his first book signing). When the New York Times listed him as a bestseller, he thought this was a misprint and went to the store to check it out. He watched as a young woman picked up his book, read the back, and began to walk away with it. Then, to his dismay, she stole it!
Hollywood stories: loves Morgan Freeman. But on the set, the novelist rates somewhere below the caterer. The highlight, it seems, of working on Along Came a Spider, was when he was asked for an autograph while at dinner with Morgan Freeman, Clint Eastwood, and Monica Potter, among others.
He likes that he sells more books than ANY other author in the world. He feels most gratified by the fact that his fans will tell him that he got their friend/spouse/child reading again.
All in all, a pretty interesting talk…although I must admit that I left early in order buy some tasty vittles. One upside of the searching for food: I ran into some of the undergrads from Janet’s class who recognized me as I stuffed my face full of peanuts( I know, I know: peanuts for breakfast!). I felt like a celebrity!

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