Thursday night, I was lucky to spend an evening with author Jodi Picoult in Toronto. The venue was a small theatre with about 200 other fans.
Jodi started the evening by giving a reading of her new book, Leaving Time which was released on October 14, 2014. She read two chapters of the novel, each narrated by a different character and was a very dynamic and engaging reader. The audience was spellbound, listening to her enthusiastic reading.
After the reading, she discussed the research that she did regarding elephants, including a visit to an elephant sanctuary. Many of the true elephant stories have been incorporated into Leaving Time although some identifying information may have been changed. She learned interesting facts including that each elephant has unique ridges on their ears, just like humans have individual fingerprints. She described heart-wrenching stories of abuse suffered by elephants in captivity and how elephants bond for life, never leaving a sick or infirm elephant behind. Jodi described how a shocking 38 000 elephants are killed every year for their ivory and how poaching supports criminal elements and terrorism and she suggested charities such as the Sheldrick conservation and Tusk Trust.
Following the reading and the knowledge exchange on elephants, Jodi sat down and answered questions from the audience. It was like sitting with her in a living room. She was open, engaging and funny. She talked about how when she is writing she feels like she “a medium, watching a movie that only she can hear” and that she “worries” about certain characters. Even though she does not write sequels, she does tend to bring characters back in other novels.
When asked about her writing style, she described her routine which includes a run or walk with a friend while she “gossips”. After a shower she spends a couple of hours answering emails – she clarifies that she, herself, answers ALL fan mail, which is quite amazing! She starts her writing by reviewing what she wrote the day before and then keeps on writing. One tip that she imparted was:
“You can edit a bad page but not a blank page”.
Like many leaders, she attributes her success to “working really hard and having good fortune along the way.” She was a big reader as a child and told how she read Gone with the Wind at age 13 discovering “a whole world made out of words”. She had teachers who encouraged her and worked with many amazing writers along the way and has now written 23 books including a young adult book Between the Lines which she co-authored with her daughter.
The evening ended with a book signing and a chance to greet Jodi and have a picture taken with her. Stay tuned for a review of Leaving Time (which is my December book club read).
Susan, Jodi and Laura