Michele Regenold, Writing for Kids from the Boondocks

A blog about writing for children and the quest for publication.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Lecture: "Solving the Mystery of Literary Detective Fiction"

I was still feeling crummy last Tuesday morning by the time my lecture rolled around, but when a faculty member asked how I was doing, I told her I could fake it for 45 minutes. The number of people at my lecture was reasonable considering it was 8:15 on the last day of the residency. There were maybe 25 students there and several faculty.

Possibly because I wasn’t feeling well enough to get really excited, and therefore speak too fast, I spoke fairly slowly. I used PowerPoint slides to augment what I was telling people. This was partly to give them something to look at besides me and partly a way to help visual learners.

I started by pointing out the broad nature of mysteries and then zeroing in on detective fiction in particular. I compared the 2 main kinds of detective mysteries--the classical/puzzle mystery (think Miss Marple) and the hard-boiled/noir mystery (think Sam Spade). Then I compared detective fiction for kids and teens and got into specifics about how smart choices about setting, point of view, and character all help create literary detective fiction. I used examples from Wendelin Van Draanen's Sammy Keyes series, Nancy Springer's Enola Holmes series, and Philip Pullman's Sally Lockhart series.

Lots of people were taking notes. Afterward, several complimented me on the “clear, succinct” information I presented. I was glad to hear that because I was a little worried that it wouldn't sound coherent to people who aren't as familiar with the topic.

One faculty member, David Gifaldi, who's a former 5th grade teacher, told me I was a natural teacher. I laughed and thanked him, but I don't agree. I felt well prepared and I'm experienced at speaking to adults. I also spoke from notes instead of reading my lecture. So maybe those things combined gave him that idea. Certainly, I was flattered.

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