October 19, 2009
Contest and Guest Blog: Read Beyond Reality
Among other things, I have two essays due this week, so I wouldn't expect my current posting track record to improve. To make up for it, I have a treat: C. Leigh Purtill discussing her short story writing, Teen Read Week, and offering a signed hardcover of LOVE, MEG.
Also, I'll be at the Austin Teen Book Festival this Saturday. Hopefully I'll be able to check out a camera from the Fine Arts Library and share videos of the panels with ya'll.
Not long ago, I wrote a short story called “I Brake For Whales.” A tale of conservation gone horribly, terribly wrong, it’s about a guy who takes increasingly drastic steps to save the planet with his Prius. It’s not anything like my published works, LOVE, MEG and ALL ABOUT VEE, both bildungsroman for teen girls.
And it scared the heck out of my husband.
Now, don’t get me wrong: my husband is a tough guy, a real manly man who likes to read horror stories, watch zombie movies, and play gory videogames on line with his friends. It’s just that he never expected his wife, the woman who wrote two very girly books, to have such dark thoughts in her head. Had the story come from the pen of Stephen King or Dean Koontz, he would have expected the creepiness and little bit of blood but certainly not from me!
Scratch the surface of any writer and you’ll find a reader underneath and what that reader may truly enjoy could be at odds with what he or she writes. I, for example, have always loved reading science fiction and fantasy books by authors like Ray Bradbury and Robert Heinlein and Shirley Jackson and Douglas Adams. When I began writing screenplays, I naturally gravitated toward telling stories that had a particular Twilight Zone-ish bent to them. I loved writing scripts that had O. Henry-like twists at the end, things that made you go, “Oh wow, that’s cool!”
So when I had the idea for what I called “my Prius story,” it didn’t bother me that it had a disturbing element or two. In fact, I liked how disturbing it got. And I wanted to write more stuff like it. So I did. A few months later, I wrote a short called “Murder Weather” about what happens when the temperature outside heats the brain inside. It’s not as disturbing the first one but it certainly doesn’t flinch from an ending. And once again, my husband got a little creeped out by my willingness to go that extra mile to entertain.
Real readers enjoy reading. They enjoy the story, the dialogue, the transportation to another world, another life, another worldview. I don’t entirely trust someone who claims to never read horror or crime fiction or romance or fantasy – or YA. Why wouldn’t you want to explore new paths with new people regardless of the genre they’re in? I am the literary equivalent of Anthony Bourdain: I am willing to read just about anything you put in front of me. I may not like it but I’ll try it.
And I think that’s the most important thing to take from an annual event like Teen Read Week: be open to all kinds of books, all kinds of stories. Try a short story or two. Sample an e-book. Creation is creation, whether a character is a sweet fifteen year old discovering her family roots or a middle-aged guy who’s willing to do anything to reduce his carbon footprint. This TRW, be willing to go beyond your own reality.
Want to read that disturbing short? Check it out on my website, http://www.leighpurtill.com/ or Scribd: I Brake for Whales.
I’ll get “Murder Weather” up there soon. In the meantime, read some of my favorite books for some more inspiration to get Beyond Reality:
The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson
Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury
The Shining, Stephen King
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert Heinlein
I haven't read LOVE, MEG, but you can read my review of ALL ABOUT VEE. But here's your chance to read it:
Comment on this blog with the title of a favorite horror story.
Get a bonus entry by linking to this contest.
The contest ends with Teen Read Week 2009, on October 24.
Other open contests: Cirque du Freak pack, Nancy Holder pack