Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Express Yourself: a Literary Luncheon

When I first saw this week's Express Yourself topic was "What Author Would You Like to Have Lunch With?" my initial thought was that I would have to hold the meal on Día de Muertos, since almost all the writers I admire, even the ones who lived into my own lifetime, have all died; including Joseph Campbell, J R R Tolkien, Rex Stout, Ray Harryhausen, Arthur C Clarke, Robert Bolt, Ngaio Marsh, Robert Graves, Seamus Heaney, and more.

But there are two writers who are alive, whom I admire greatly, who are still alive, still writing, still in fact relatively early on in their careers, who have given many hours of entertainment to both my children and myself, and provided us with rich fantasy worlds to enjoy together. So I would have my luncheon party with J. K. Rowling and Rick Riordan. 

Most people know Ms Rowling's story and the Harry Potter saga, so I won't repeat it all here, just suffice to say from everything I have read she is just the sort of person you hope would become a millionaire authoress and I'd love to have her to tea. Like every other Harry Potter fan, there are a few unresolved questions I would like to ask.

People may not be as familiar with Rick Riordan so I'll briefly restate: Mr Riordan was a junior high school teacher, and also the father of two boys, one of whom has dyslexia and struggled with reading and with schoolwork. One thing he did love was mythology, so his father started telling him tales of modern demigods living in our world, who were possessed of powers that reflected their divine parentage, but with disadvantages. Two of these disadvantages are that demigods are dyslexic because their brains are hard wired for Ancient Greek, and most have ADHD because there's just too much energy in their brains and bodies for them to focus. Eventually he wrote the stories  down and published them, and the resulting 8 best sellers involving Percy Jackson and his fellow demigods have been hugely successful. (The 9th is due out next month, a much anticipated event around here.) What I love about these books is the cleverness, and the way Mr Riordan re-imagines the Greek Myths in the modern world, so that Mt Olympus is now at the top of the Empire State Building, and young demigods in training learn their stuff at a summer camp called Camp Half-Blood. The more recent books have even gotten into the subtle differences between Greek and Roman mythology, not something that often gets covered in literary classroom discussions of myth, let alone in works of fiction geared to middle school students.  He also has a second set of books revolving around Egyptian Mythology, also good.  He is to be credited to some extent with a revival of interest in these subjects with young people.

As a writer I have learned a lot from both authors.  Write what you know, tell a good story, trust your readers, don't underestimate or belittle them. Kids aren't spooked by epic tales of life and death, they are encouraged and enthralled by them.  For all their supposed obsessions with video games and DVDs, kids will respond to a well told story, and read through till they get to the end. Both writers often place their characters in positions of peril, yet no matter how desperate their situation, the characters always have hope to hold onto.

I'd love to pick up a few hints of upcoming literary events over lunch, but more importantly I'd like to have them both to lunch just to say thank you.  Thank you for writing such amazing stories. Thank you for all the years of pleasure you have given to me and my children that we have shared these adventures together. To Ms Rowling especially, thank you for books that read so wonderfully well aloud, reading your books to first one child and then the other is among the fondest memories I have with them.

And a writing tip or two would not go unappreciated.

This post is part of Express Yourself Weekly Meme, a group of bloggers writing on the same topic each week.Click here to see other bloggers' ideas for literary lunches.


  1. Great choices! Thanks for the info on Rick Riordan. I love to learn new things about authors!

    1. I first found out about him on an article on encouraging boys to read under "if your son liked Harry Potter he should like this too". Bought the first 3 for my son, who loved them as did everyone else in the house.