The second panel I went to on Friday included panelists John August famous for the Arlo Finch series. Sayantani DasGupta famous for the Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond series. Kwame Mbalia famous for the Tristan Strong Novel series, and Claribel A. Ortega famous for her book Ghost Squad. The panel was moderated by Soman Chainani famous for his The School for Good and Evil series.
They discussed the differences between portal fiction vs. pure fantasy and how they as a group seem to prefer portal fiction such as Narnia and the Wizard of Oz books in their youth because it gave them a sense of being part of the story. They thought that was probably part of the reason they wrote portal fiction. Chainani asked the authors about how their own cultures or upbringings affected their writing.
John August talked about pulling from his days in scouting to create an adventure, and he wrote the book set where he grew up because he’d never seen any books like what he was looking to do set in Colorado. He also liked the idea of the adventurer being able to leave the scary thing for awhile and go home to bed. That in that sense the portal wasn’t something you had to spend all your time through.
Sayantani DasGupta talked about the immigrant experience being its own form of a portal, someone who was an immigrant could access two or more space at once, she used the metaphor of the strings on a guitar. Someone who was an immigrant could operate on more than one string, while people who didn’t have that upbringing couldn’t even see that there were different spaces.
I also liked how Claribel A. Ortega talked about the importance of traditions in her stories and how myths and old sayings were things that needed to be held on.
The panel also went over parallel universes vs. wish fulfillment. Chainani asked the authors what they considered their work. I particularly appreciated Kwame Mbalia answer who said wish fulfillment, but basically just the world as it should be if it weren’t so dumb. He made a great point.
The two best pieces of advice that came out of the panel were one from Kwame Mbalia was to use all five senses of the character when writing and that helps ground the writing for the reader.
The other I’m not sure who said it, but it was the the more specific your writing is the more universal. I believe it came up when Sayantani DasGupta was talking about writing Bengali folklore, she said she’d never seen it written, but she said allowing herself to feel authenthic enough to write the story made the story universal by her putting in all the little details that only she would know.
Finally one more piece of advice they all said to tell yourself the story and it becomes true, I think that in concert with the universality comment make for some powerful advice.