Great Writers Inspire seeks to build collections of materials on great writers that can be used and reused in the future, all compiled from open content resources.
We will be tweeting (@writersispire) and blogging live throughout the Engage Event, so keep your eyes on your screens.
The Engage Event kicked off with the group sharing and discussing their favourite book (everyone brought a copy along). I brought two, because I am a cheater: Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, and Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac (both plays).
Another attendee expressed reluctance to name a favourite book. “It’s like having a favourite child; you might have one, but you shouldn’t say it aloud.” When it’s selected to be shared with strangers as an ice breaker, part of what feeds into the choice is how one wishes to be perceived.
Creating a spiderweb of the connections between our great works yielded some intriguing discussion:
Ulysses and Hamlet are both rife with internal monologue. The Color Purple, A Passage to India, 1984 would all ignite political consciousness, and the former two both demand evaluation of a culture different to one’s own. Waiting for Godot, Cyrano de Bergerac, Ulysses, and Hamlet all contain elements of metatheatricality. And of course, a crowd that attends a workshop on great writers must love writing, and enjoy in-jokes for those who love words and language embedded within texts.
But the biggest common denominator is that all the works selected have some reflection on the human condition: these are stories about people.
One of the interesting questions I was asked while discussing the books we all brought along with us today was whether or not a writer is only great if he or she has produced multiple great books. I was reminded of what my father said to me when I was ten years old and he gave me a copy of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time. I was a huge fan of the Harry Potter books, and he said, “I’m going to give you this book, but imagine for a moment that J. K. Rowling only ever wrote one book. That’s Harper Lee.”
And he was right: To Kill a Mockingbird is an incredible text, but we’ll never know what Lee could or could not have done had she written another book. Is she a great writer, or did she simply write a great book?