…why Markus Zusak is awesome. But first, this:
1. He’s a published author – this doesn’t make every published author awesome, but it wasn’t the obvious first choice so I went for it.
2. He’s Australian – which most people would have listed first, but we’re all about the unexpected surprises here at anecdotalmusings. Also, I’ll point out to you something the host pointed out about 8 times last night: Markus Zusak is a “bit of Australian Eye-Candy”. This moniker did well with the audience. Jen and I realized at this point that the majority of the audience was probably crossover from the “Twi-mom” phenomenon. We actually watched one of the moms get all touchy with Mr. Zusak which made us both quite uncomfortable.
3. He’s a really good published author – seriously. If you haven’t read The Book Thief yet you should do it right now. You don’t know how long you’ll be alive, best not waste another moment.
4. He coached Rugby. Which he called football. Also, he apparently, on occasion, wears beanies.
4. He’s one of the most engaging authors I’ve heard – I’ve sat through several readings/author appearances and they’re always slightly awkward. The audience is filled with a lot of expectation and the author, though vastly entertaining on the page, is either shy & unsure or overly confident & cocky. Neither of which breed a pleasant interaction. Markus, however, is used to speaking to large audiences of teenagers. He mentioned that at the start of his career he mostly spoke to groups of 200 fourteen year old boys who were forced into assembly rather than gym and were ready to rip him to shreds. If you’ve worked with teenagers before you know that you have to endear yourself to them rather quickly or they, rather quickly, will make your life hell.
He began the evening telling a story from his teenage years about life as the youngest child and how fortune favored him one day with the opportunity to “get his brother back” for some of his ill-treatment. The story involved hard-boiled eggs and learning to crack them on one’s forehead. It was quite funny and surprising the way the story developed. He told the story in order to provide examples for four things he felt were important his writing process. Unfortunately, I don’t remember all four, but it was a wonderfully enlightening experience. He talked about the importance of detail for veracity and distinction. He talked about knowing your audience and gearing the story toward them. He talked a lot about writing the kinds of books that only he could write and how careful he is about only including the sorts of details that are vitally important to his story.
Jen and I were both excited to learn that he writes his stories chronologically (a refreshing sort of fact since everyone seems to think writing them from the end is trendy) as well as writing out notes and working on his novels in notebooks. He was very encouraging to the students that were in attendance at the reading last night after having spent most of the day with the Tampa Prep students (I might have been a bit green when I heard about that). I love to hear authors encourage students, not only to read, but learn how to write as well. I think it’s an essential part of education. There was a really good turn out, too. Though Jen and I were the only ones that fell into the college-age/young professional category.
It was quite the fun evening. And inspiring. We’re quickly approaching NaNoWriMo. With that in mind Jen and I both are waiting in breathless anticipation to begin projects that we’re both excited to write about. Young Adult Literature is easily passed over, but if you can do it well, I feel like the community generated out of it absolutely wonderful. It’s something I’d like to be a part of some day.