Monday, October 12, 2009

Dear Shannon Hale,

I want to write like you.



I'm not even kidding. I first discovered Shannon Hale's work a few years ago while trying to catch up on my Newbery reading. As an elementary school teacher, I have a built in excuse to read children's literature. Convenient, huh? Anyhow, I read Princess Academy and loved it. So I looked up her other works on and bought The Goose Girl. I'm a sucker for a reluctant princess, for a misfit, for pretty much everything Princess Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee is in the beginning of the story. I don't want to say too much about her character here, as I don't want to spoil the story for those of you who haven't read it, but the evolution of her character throughout the book is amazing. As impressed as I remain by Hale's flawless characterization, what really leaves me green with envy is her ability to describe her character's world so it reads like a symphony.

I hate writing description. It's the bane of my existence (along with synopses, first pages, query letters, the dallas cowboys, and people who drive five miles an hour in the left lane.) Seriously, why can't you people just see what's in my head and let me ignore that pesky "establishing setting" stuff? Bah.

But Shannon Hale is a master of establishing a rich, full world without you even realizing she's doing it. She weaves all these threads together so deftly, so intricately that you, as a reader, don't even notice, and pretty soon you're staring at the whole darned, absolutely gorgeous tapestry where there was just a bare wall before. The way she turns phrases and chooses verbs that wouldn't normally go with their subjects--I can't do that. I can't even come close to doing that.

So yeah. I'm a bit of a Shannon Hale fan. I was so excited when I learned she would be at the 2009 National Book Festival in Washington D.C. Now I hate traffic and politics, but occasionally living in the D.C. area has its perks. (Oh look! National Book Festival! Perk!) I got to hear her speak as part of a panel on The Exquisite Corpse Adventure, which I may blog about another time. Very cool idea.

Additionally, I schlepped my hardback copy of The Goose Girl aaaaaaall the way down to D.C. on the Metro. She wasn't scheduled to sign books until 3 p.m., but my group had learned by standing in the Kate DiCamillo line and almost not getting our books signed (except that she very graciously extended her time another forty-five minutes) that we needed to stake our claim super early. We got in line a little before 2. And yes, I stood in line for over an hour--in the rain for the last twenty minutes--to get my book signed.

She apologized for the rain. I asked her if it was her fault. That part was probably funnier in my head, but she laughed anyway. I did have a few kids with me, so she may have thought she was signing my book for one of them. I don't know. I don't care.

She signed it,

For Timanda, who can change the world.

Hmmmm maybe. Probably not. At the moment, I'd settle for describing it.

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