Hello, everyone! I hope you’re having a fantastic day! Recently I was contacted by Eventbrite, the largest self-service ticketing platform in the world, to write a post as part of their effort to promote local event-planning. Eventbrite works with people to find and plan successful, fun, and exciting events in their areas. If you would like to check out their services, you can do so by visiting their conference management page.
I ultimately agreed to write this post because I love the prompt that I was given: What would my dream book conference panel look like? Who would speak and what would they discuss?
At first thought a few obvious names popped into my head, such as J.K. Rowling, John Green, and Maggie Stiefvater. However, after some thought I realized what would be even more incredible than speaking with these contemporary authors: hearing from those writers who can no longer voice their opinions. In particular, I would be interested to know what fueled their writing, how often they drew on their own personal experiences, and perhaps what their views would be on a few contentions modern-day issues.
Another aspect I’ve thought about when constructing my ideal panel is representation; in other words, whose voices haven’t been heard as loudly or clearly as those of others throughout history? With this in mind I’ve decided to create a panel of women writers in an effort to gain a clearer, fuller, uncensored understanding of their perspectives. There are many women writers whose views would be fascinating to hear more about, but for the sake of this post I have only chosen two:
Born in 1873 in Virginia, Willa Cather led a life of remarkable independence and achievement. Not only was she a gifted writer (as her novel My Ántonia can surely attest) but she was also a very interesting person in the way that she bent gender norms of the time period. Defying the traditional role of women as dutiful wives, Cather never married and managed to financially support herself through teaching, editing, and the publication of her own writing. Even more intriguing was the way she adopted masculine dress and hairstyles as well as a masculine point of view in much of her fictional work. The majority of her close friends were women and it was rumored that she had sexual relations with Edith Lewis, with whom she lived for nearly forty years.
Though I wouldn’t want to pry too pointedly into her personal life, I would love to hear her answers to the following questions:
- Did you purposefully set out to play with gender norms and identities in your writing or was it something that was incorporated naturally as your characters developed?
- What was it like to live so independently during a time when women were viewed as always being dependent on men?
- Any advice for modern women trying to do the same?
- What are your thoughts on current debates surrounding sexuality and gender?
Since reading Gone with the Wind over the summer I’ve been eager to learn more about the author of this hefty tome. Born in 1900 in Georgia, Margaret Mitchell (also known by her pseudonym Peggy Mitchell) wrote primarily as a journalist and published only a single novel during her lifetime. Largely inspired and influenced by the Civil War stories of her older family members, Mitchell turned to this tumultuous time period when she decided to write a novel while recovering from an ankle injury. However, despite its immense popularity among readers of the general public, the novel has been frequently criticized for perpetuating issues involving race relations through its portrayal of African Americans and the Civil War South.
Needless to say, I’d be ecstatic to have the opportunity to ask this influential writer the following questions:
- Did you draw on your own life experiences and those of your relatives a lot while writing Gone with the Wind?
- In what ways, if any, is the character Scarlett O’Hara a reflection of yourself?
- Did you ever want to write another novel?
- What is your response to the criticism your novel has received?
- Was your intent to entertain? Educate? Both? Neither?
- What are your thoughts on current race relations issues in the United States?
That concludes my bookish panel! It may seem short, but I would much rather have time to go in-depth with these two women than only be able to hear a few words from a large group of authors. Big thanks to Everbrite for sparking this fun and interesting discussion!
What would your dream book conference panel look like? Who would speak and what questions would you ask? What do you think of my bookish panel? Have you ever been to a book conference panel in real life? Let me know in the comments section below!
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