Saturday, August 4, 2018

Keynote: Libba Bray

Libba Bray is the #1 New York Times best-selling author of the Gemma Doyle trilogy (A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, The Sweet Far Thing); the Michael L. Printz Award-winning Going Bovine; Beauty Queens (a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist); and the Diviners series. You can find Libba at www.libbabray.com, on Twitter: @libbabray, and Instagram: libbabray.

Bray's keynote touched upon Margot Channing, "unapologetic queen bitch" (from The Story of Eve),  home economics, pattern guides, success and failures.  There was a fair amount of colorful invective and high-end cussing tied together with a freewheeling approach that I was unable to capture.

What's your brand?

Bray spoke about the "pressure on writers to be more, to do more relentless self-promotion while also churning out a book a year and occasionally showering" and the thought that words do things at other houses that they don't do at yours."

"What is it about authors and brands that makes me queasy?" she asked. And that led her to, what is the purpose of story, and what are the building blocks of story? Plot and characters, but at the heart of every book is a question. At the end, you have to know something that you didn't know before. The question makes your book come alive."

"Sometimes the question is, 'How do we bear pain and loneliness, even in seventh grade?'
Answering the question drives us through transformation."

"We are different people on the other side of the question. We have interrogated ourselves. we ourselves are changed. The questions change us."

"Brands are not there to ask the tough questions. They are here to sell. They don't have time for questions. Brands are by their very nature static and that's why it bothers me, authors thinking of themselves as brands."

"I'm not anti-business; that's why you have an agent, a publishing house, writer colleagues..."
"Let the market be the market, don't bring it into the room with you."

"Write the best, most honest book you can, then repeat."

[Fun fact: Bray wrote jacket copy for a book of unicorn  erotica. ]

Bray discussed how she stopped writing plays ("I don't know how to make it true, so I stop writing.") to writing novels via a "write night" workshop at a local bookstore. Their method of writing for 15 minutes in response to a prompt, then reading aloud, created "a safe space to take risks, away from the things that make us want to please or perform."

"I took that workshop every week for five years."

"I had confused being a successful writer with being a good one."

"I hadn't learned to write about myself."

"If writing doesn't scare you if there are no stakes, there is nothing."

"We must tell the stories within us and tell them true, now more than ever. We're living in a world with real stakes."

"We are facing the sorts of monsters that we read about in fiction. So now's the time to be the kind of heroes we read about in books."

"I believe there has never bene a more important time to write for the next generation."

"When someone asks, 'What's your brand?,' tell them, 'A commitment to craft and a deep respect for the audience I write for.'"

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