As a hatter

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat. “We’re all mad here…”

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

I have come to the conclusion that to be a writer, you must be insane.

Writers hear the voices of people who don’t exist, spend their whole lives telling complex stories that never actually happened, and would rather see the world through the lens of metaphor than face it without a pen in their hands. This is otherwise known as the perfect formula for ze crazy.

This past weekend (April 21-22), the LA Times Festival of Books was held on my campus, so naturally, I spent a total of 12 hours meandering from author panel to book signing in a state of unmitigated euphoria. I have paid for it in severe tan lines and a sunburned hairline, but it was still one of the best things an English major could ever ask for. Most of my friends hung around the cooking stage, which was completely baffling to me… But then again, chances are that I had a crazed gleam in my eye from the overpowering scent of paper and ink, so they likely wanted to get as far away from me as possible.

I spent a good portion of my time hanging out in the YA Lit area, making me the lone college student in an army of literally hundreds of children under 10 years old. Eff yeah, reppin’ the population. Anyway, I listened to a ton of authors speak about their writing processes (these included Lauren Kate, D.J. MacHale, Libba Bray, Aimee Bender, Marie Lu, Maureen Johnson, Cornelia Funke, and many other people who should totally be more famous), and aside from them being mostly women (hmm), the one thing I noticed was that there was something a bit… off… about all of them.

Don’t get me wrong, I was fangirling so hard that I even forgot that it was about eighty degrees out, but seriously—writers are weird.

My English professor told us the other day that as English majors, we are in the business of becoming disillusioned. We are taught to dissect and interpret literature, thereby de-romanticizing every book we get our hands on. We are slowly losing our innocence… our love for the romance, the adventure, the STORY gets beaten out of us.

I wonder if that’s what makes fiction writers so bizarre. We are trying to hold onto something that has slipped away from our culture. Almost anyone can sit down and jot down the story of their lives, but to create the story of a character that exists only in your own head takes intuition that has been labeled the stuff of childhood. I heard somewhere once that the poet, the lover, and the madman are alike because they all have an excess of imagination… but better a madman than a man without art.

Anyway, the point of art is not to please the world, but to satisfy the need inside of you. When you write for someone else, it’s never as good. Hence every school essay and research paper I’ve ever written.

Also, can I just say that YA fiction is seriously underrated and misunderstood. I’m pretty sure that the whole genre is all just a marketing ploy anyway… nearly every author I heard at the festival talked about how they weren’t setting out to write “YA” novels, they were just writing the story they wanted to write. But I’ll stop myself for now; if I’m going to rant about YA, I’m going to do it properly and give it its own freakin’ post.

–Samantha Chaffin

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3 thoughts on “As a hatter

  1. deshipley says:

    Aw, man — I’ve actually read books by some of those authors!!!
    The romance of Venice in Cornelia Funke’s “The Thief Lord”!
    That line that I completely randomly loved and have never yet forgotten from Maureen Johnson’s “Thirteen Blue Envelopes”! (“Do you like coffee? Do you like *Starbucks* coffee?”) …Or was it “*love* coffee”?… Drat. Memory fails me after all. But still, I envy your day!

  2. thejaneite says:

    Oh man, Sam. I’ve missed your posts when I have no time to check this blog. I am so jealous and totally would have been fangirling with you. haha It sounds incredible. 😉 p.s. I just commented on Privateer, because after finals or whatever you’re currently doing, I want more. 😉 There’s no “please” involved. 😉

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