Monday, October 18, 2010

What's Hot/What's Not, or How to Do the Boston Book Festival Efficiently

Doing the Boston Book Festival efficiently meant spending my available hour or so at a four-author event, the one at which, according to the schedule, Noni Carter, Kathryn Lasky, Francisco Stork, and Kristin Cashore would discuss what's hot and what's not.

I don't envy the speakers their subject. Their selection as participants pretty much implied that their work is hot, and it is. (To be honest, I hadn't been very familiar with NC's work, but I'm very happy to have learned enough to help it on its way to well-deserved "hot" status. I'm also in awe of the nineteen-year-old author's presence.) There wasn't much they were in a position to add. Fictional slave narratives are hot? Series about owl kingdoms are hot? Novels from the point of view of teenagers with unusual cognitive functioning are hot? Fantasies with strong female characters are hot?

There are some yeses there, but the superfluity of the question is really the point. As the authors discussed, each of them wrote stories they considered worth telling--worth spending lots and lots of effort on telling--rather than trying to follow a trend. Their work became "hot" because people saw that it was good, which it probably wouldn't have been if they'd been less invested in the work.

It's good to follow a trend if it fascinates you, and if it will still fascinate you when its popularity declines. But if a fad leaves you cold, it's not worth following.

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