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If you missed Tuesday’s “The Final Word on Final Words” salon, you missed the following: the discovery that Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters) is gaga about happy endings, Mario Acevedo (author of the Felix Gomez vampire-detective series and more) is gaga for Eleanor Brown and blue humor, and David Wroblewski (The Story of Edgar Sawtelle) has a stunning collection of Lady Gaga tunes in rotation on his IPod. The oh-so-gaga-worthy William Haywood Henderson (Native, The Rest of the Earth, Augusta Locke) is not at all gaga about a certain angsty me-generation novelist who killed off his main character in the final paragraph, causing Henderson to literally throw the book across the room in disgust.
There was no disgust on display amongst the panelists or the attendees of the event at the Denver Civic Theatre, however. The esteemed panel discussed what makes a good ending, why endings sometimes disappoint, and shared experiences about struggles with the endings to their own novels. Brown admitted that her fondness for happy endings led her to tie things up a bit too neatly and that she was tasked with unraveling a few threads before her novel was published. Acevedo discussed the challenge of ending books in a series, particularly when writing under contract and strict deadlines (oh, to have such problems!). Wroblewski felt that tragic endings were fine, but hopeless endings were not. Henderson reiterated that every page and paragraph of a novel should earn the ending. In general there was agreement that the ending should give the reader a new understanding of everything that came before. Where does the ending begin? On the first page and the first sentence of the book, said Wroblewski. Everyone agreed with the common wisdom that an ending must be both surprising and inevitable, but also that it was a difficult thing to judge in your own work. Wroblewski suggested that a writer should write the ending that scares him. Henderson agreed and also said that sometimes the right ending will cause a writer to go back and re-write the rest of the book. That’s scary on a number of levels, in my opinion.
Finally, I don’t think anyone in attendance will ever forget Wroblewski’s stunning presentation (with audio aids and handouts) of the writing wisdom of Lady Gaga. I cannot possibly describe it justly and so I will not try, but I will tell you that raucous laughter and chair dancing ensued. If this is any indication of what future salons will offer, I would recommend that you reserve your spot now. Upcoming salons include “Praise Be! Poets on Poetry” this weekend and “What’s Fiction For?” next week. Who knows what wild, new thing we’ll discover from the great writers in our midst?
Full schedule available in handy grid form here: Lit Fest Schedule.
Finally, let me end by quoting Lady Gaga as channeled by David Wroblewski: “Show me your teeth, teeth, TEETH, TEETH!”