Friday, October 5, 2007

Alex Sanchez: Notes From A Reading

Today I'm going to change things up a bit - and give you the FIRST (drumroll...)


Last night I had the great good fortune to see Alex Sanchez

He read from his new book, "The God Box" at a Different Light Bookstore in West Hollywood, CA, and answered lots of audience questions.

I'll post on his book on Tuesday, but I thought his reading and the answers he gave were so juicy and interesting, it deserved a spotlight of its own.

When asked about the re-writing process,
Alex quoted Leonardo Da Vinci's famous line "Art is never finished, only abandoned" and he laughed about how he could keep revising the same book for the rest of his life. At some point you have to say you're done with it.

How does he keep from being too topical or trendy so his stories have “shelf life” but still feel universal?
Alex discussed the funny inversion of how the more specific you are with your characters and your detail, the more readers can identify and the more universal your writing becomes. That’s something it took me years to figure out on my own: When you try to write “universal” it ends up being so general and washed out, no one can ground themselves in it. It doesn’t sing off the page at all.

He shared that he’s gotten better at not mentioning specific music groups or trends that will time-out, but that the changes in technology were unexpected. In his first book, “Rainbow Boys”, the guys are listening to cassette tapes. By the second book “Rainbow High” (what’s supposed to be later that same school year) they are listening to CDs! He laughed that in the third book “Rainbow Road” they should probably be listening to MP3s!

Alex talked about sequels,
How the characters in his books seem to come to life for his readers, and he gets many requests to continue their stories. He shared the advice of his editor: It’s great to fall in love with the characters, but you need a NEW story. It’s not just about having a new plot – you have to figure out how are the characters growing emotionally and changing? What’s their arc of emotional transformation?

Why did he write “The God Box?”

Alex talked about how he needs some aspect of himself in it so he can feel passionate about the book he’s writing. He also shared some really heart-wrenching e-mails from Teen readers (just the content, nothing to identify who wrote what) mainly about their struggles with being Gay and Christian. He realized that while he can’t go and individually rescue these kids, he CAN write his books.

On Bible Study Clubs and Gay Straight Alliance Clubs:
Alex regaled us with the ironic story of the religious right’s fight to have Bible Clubs in public schools – how it went all the way to the Supreme Court where they won the right to have their clubs. When Gay Straight Alliance Clubs started to form, the religious right said, hey, no way! But it was their OWN fight to have Bible Study Clubs that made the law defend the right of students to have Gay Straight Alliance clubs! Isn’t that great?

Alex talked about so much more to the crowd of Adults, some Teens, even a public school librarian!

I’ll share just one last anecdote from the evening.
Alex spoke about librarians – how his vision of them has evolved to recognize that they are really outspoken free speech champions. He shared that often he’ll hear from librarians that they find the Gay and Lesbian titles mis-shelved in their stacks. And then they know that someone is too scared to check it out – they’re reading it in the library, and leaving it in a hidden spot so they can go back and finish it when they can. I’m pretty sure almost every librarian in that situation leaves that book right where it is.

I hope you get a chance to read “The God Box,” (the chapters he read aloud sound amazing) and if Alex is going to be somewhere near you to give a reading, check it out.

I'm glad I did.

Happy Reading and Namaste,



Rita said...

Excellent write-up. Thanks for sharing this, Lee!

The mis-shelved books anecdote--wow.

Anonymous said...

I adore Alex's work, Lee. Thanks for posting this write-up. Sorry I'm reading it three months later!