CLA’08-1: Opening: Chabon/Waldman

The conference was opened by CLA’s president Monique le Conge.


Then the keynote speakers Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman were introduced. The official title of their discussion was “On being writers“, but in reality they mostly talked about what it means being married to a writer. Chabon is the Pulitzer Prize winning of author of many novels including “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union” and “The amazing adventures of Kavalier and Clay“. His wife, Ayelet Waldman, is an author on her own right, having written 9 novels so far.


They shared many stories on stage. The discussion was mostly built around the instances when crisis helped them, made their writing and cooperating skills stronger. Chabon shared how difficult it was for him to finish a novel, and how her relationships flourished together with the completion of the book. Ayelet talked about how her wedding promise to his husband and his family was that she would never become a writer. (Partially because Michael’s first wife was an author as well, and Ayelet was a corporate lawyer.) And how this promise unraveled and how she found her own voice. We learned

  • that Ayelet’s signature technique of conflict resolution is bursting into tears,
  • how many rewrites it requires to produce a movie script from your own book (15, but then it will not become a movie, like it happened with Kavalier and Clay)
  • how the cost of health insurance is Ayelet’s chief financial worry when contracts are getting towards the end of their life cycle (Michael does not worry about money),
  • how Ayelet’s essay on motherhood and sex became prominent piece she is identified by (when it was reprinted form an obscure anthology in the New Yorker),
  • how Oprah is your best friend for 48 minutes while you are on her show,
  • how to abandon a book idea on placing Madame Bovary I the Silicon Valley, when the editor tells you it cannot contain an affair,
  • how failure is more frightening the more children you have (they have four),
  • how “plotwalks” help to iron out difficult plot situations,
  • how royalty check have the amount in parentheses before you “earned out.”

For those of you who liked The Yiddish Policemen’s Union I have good news: The Coen brothers are planning turning it into a movie. Chabond and Waldman seemed passionate, knowledgeable and likable people. I enjoyed their conversation full of humor and the ease they behaved on stage with each other and with the audience.

John Ward was taking visual notes on all general sessions. He is a visual thinker, so his notes are visual representations of the talks. He posted on his website the charts/notes he made. Here is the one from the Chabon/Waldman session.

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