Enough of the educators who were at ALAN/ NCTE ‘16 have asked me for the transcript of my keynote there that I’ve finally decided to post it. Here it is, give or take.
This is going to be about heroes.
I’m going to tell you three stories about heroes and bravery, and then I’m going to tell you how all three of those stories could be told differently.
Nowadays, I find myself a professional storyteller. A maker of heroes. I spend my days putting swords in stones, monsters under beds, ghosts in attics. I have learned that often the difference between a hero and a villain is merely the narrator I choose for the lens of the story. I have learned, too, that the difference between a horror and a romance is sometimes as simple as where I choose to begin the story. A tragedy and a comedy can convey the same events — the difference is in how you tell them.
I’ve also learned that this isn’t just true of the stories I write. It’s true in the story I’m living. The first hero I ever built was myself.
So. These three stories. I’m sharing these three stories about heroes because I want to talk about how the most important stories we tell are the ones we tell about ourselves. Those who have the power and wherewithal to change the narrative of the events around them are the ones who will change the future. Those who have the guts to say “that’s not my version of events” when they hear someone else telling their story are the ones who get to own their own story.
Here is story number one: I drove down to NCTE from my home in Virginia on Saturday. It was supposed to be about a seven and a half hour drive but it turned into a ten hour trip because of Atlanta traffic. Because of my car’s tiny gas tank, I ended up stopping for gas three times. Each time I pulled into a station, a thing happened, the same thing that’s been happening every time I park my car in a public place for the past month. I’ll get out of my car and swipe my card at the pump, feeling like there are eyes on me. I plug in my zip code and put the fuel nozzle in the car, and as I do, I’ll see that the eyes are attached to a motorist or a pedestrian who has paused to stare at me. By the time the tank is full and I’ve gotten my receipt, I’ll discover that they’ve made their way over to me. The conversation goes pretty much the same way every time.
Yes, And might i Add that colloquial irregularities occur frequently in any language, And since you and the rest of our present company Perfectly understand my intended meaning, being particular about the distinction Between "CAN" and "MAY" is purely pedantic and arguably pretentious.
Tragique Histoire d'Hamlet, Prince de Danemark (1899). Alphonse Mucha (Czech, 1860-1939). Poster. F. Champenois, Paris.
Sarah Bernhardt played the male hero in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Mucha stresses Hamlet’s relationship with the ghost of his murdered father, whose figure looms in the background, stalking the ramparts of Elsinore. Hamlet’s obsession with death is emphasised by the inclusion of the drowned Ophelia in the poster who lies decorated with flowers, in the coffin-like panel at Hamlet’s feet.