In my own hometown of my small city by the majestic Mississippi, those of us who write, collect books, know publishing, and otherwise have a passion for literacy experienced an opportunity of a lifetime. We met Newberry-winning author Vance Vawter (Paperboy, Random House), author Amber McCree Turner (Sway, cover designed by SHREK artist of Dreamworks, + Circa Now, both by Disney Hyperion), and Barry Wolverton (Neversink, Harper Collins imprint). They told me things I wondered about: getting lucky with finding an agent after perusing Children’s Writers Market, that editors think globally and thus ask for removal of words and phrases easily misunderstood, and wait patiently for six months after submitting pages of a finished manuscript. The three panelists, together with moderator Julie Lester, agreed that big-house publishing is a strange business. Authors submit to guidelines precisely. Authors must realize the agents talk among themselves (this is scary)! In addition, a good tip came: a would-be agent who asks author for up-front payment is not “real”– an author’s agent payment comes through the publishing house when author’s first installment is paid.
McCree Turner’s chosen genre of “magical realism,” defined by her as the fine line between fake magic and “this side of heaven” magic, segways the thoughts in this essay to Daniel Wallace’s hour-and-a-half talk. In his easy demeanor with us listening, he chose to deal with an author’s ability to follow what comes unconsciously, what continues to interest, what keeps on continuing (obsessively). For example, Wallace discovered a passion in himself for glass eyes. He noticed more interest in these than any other thread possibility for his novel, except for perhaps his relationship with his father. He has collected 75 of them, and passed one around in our session. The obsession with glass eyes appealed to filmmaker Tim Burton, who cast Albert Finney as amazingly big-imagining storyteller, mixing things magic with things real. Jessica Lange was cast as his wife, together with Ewan McGregor and Billy Crudup, popular actors of many known roles. I watched BIG FISH The Movie (2003, Columbia, rt 2 h 6 min) on Amazon, and am beginning to understand more from Daniel Wallace. It will be fun to scan through the book in my hand. What do you think . . . Is it true? Some say, “The book is always better than the movie.”