‘Wicked’ author to speak at writers’ conference

  • Gregory Maguire Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 4/25/2019 2:10:43 PM

Aspiring authors and writers of all kinds will gather Saturday at St. Anselm’s arena for the annual 603 Writers Conference, hosted by the N.H. Writer’s Project.

The keynote address this year will be presented by Gregory Maguire, a Massachusetts author best known for Wicked and other fairy-tale retellings such as Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Lost and Mirror Mirror.

Maguire said during an interview Monday that he would inevitably talk about the traumas of characters in archetypal fairy tales help us to recognize our own traumas.

“We are thrilled to bring an author of this breadth and depth to our conference to speak with our New Hampshire writing community,” said Masheri Chappelle, NHWP Board of Trustees chairwoman, in a statement. “This keynote address will be one of the highlights of our packed agenda.”

Aside from writing, Maguire does a lot of public speaking. He’s sure it’s been more than a thousand times, maybe even 5,000.

“I’m delighted to be able to come” to the conference, he said. “I’ve been well supported in my career.”

He said that spending time with aspiring and novice authors is a way to pass on the encouragement he has been shown in his more than 40 years of writing.

As for his advice, Maguire said the simplest advice is the easiest to give and harder to follow.

He borrowed from Ben Shahn’s The Shape of Content, summarizing it as “don’t tune anything out” or “listen to everything.”

Maguire said to listen to baseball on the radio even if you don’t like baseball. If you don’t like gospel music, listen to gospel music.

“Don’t decide that anything is beneath you,” he explained. “Embrace it all.”

Other advice he offered could also be a challenge: Writing in childhood is a boon to adult writing.

“If you’re already an adult, think like a child,” he said.

Maguire started writing stories in grade school. His father was a journalist and step-mother a lover of poetry. The library became a haven for him since it was one of the few places they would let him go on his own.

“I started writing as a kid out of boredom,” Maguire said.

His last word of advice was to imagine the book you’d most like to read. What would the perfect book be? The perfect book doesn’t exist, but you can create it for yourself.

Despite his experience, he still gets the jitters when sending off a new novel.

“After 40 years, I still bite my nails to nubs waiting to hear,” he said.

His latest has the working title, “Swan Brother,” and is inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen tale The Wild Swans. In the original, a princess must knit shirts of nettles in silence in order to rescue her 11 brothers cursed into being swans. But she is prevented from finishing one sleeve of the last shirt, so the last brother is made human with a swan wing. Maguire’s book is about the brother who remains with a swan arm.

The conference will also include three slots of workshops from a memoir writing session to session on self-publishing and pitching to publishers.

Writers who have a finished work they are looking to publish had an opportunity to sign up for a pitch session with a literary agent. Those sessions are now filled.

Registration for the event opens at 8 a.m. with the welcome at 8:45 a.m. on Saturday at St. Anselm’s Sullivan Arean in Manchester.

Tickets are $165 for New Hampshire Writers Project members, $185 for non-members, and $95 for students. For more information, visit nhwritersproject.org.

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