Author Michael Chabon sat down with an audience Friday night to discuss his writing style and books, kicking off the 21st annual Dogwood Festival. Daily Star photo/Craig Haupert

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Author kicks off Dogwood Fest

Published 8:57pm Sunday, May 13, 2012

DOWAGIAC — For more than an hour Friday night, audience members at the Dowagiac Middle School Performing Arts Center got to pick the brain of Pulitzer Prize winning-author Michael Chabon, who was insightful, reflective and funny during his sit-down-with-the-author session at the 21st annual Dogwood Festival.

Chabon, who won the Pulitzer for his 2001 novel “The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, spoke about several topics, including the importance of intimacy in writing, his inspiration for writing and his thoughts on co-writing the script for the 2012 movie “John Carter.”

Although “John Carter” did not perform well at the box office, Chabon said he enjoyed being part of the movie’s creative team. He originally came on to write one draft, but stayed for every draft that followed.

“I think it was a good movie and I am very proud of it,” Chabon said. “Of course I was disappointed that not only did it do poorly (at the box office), but it also become proverbial for being turkey, which is not really ever fun.

“The people that saw it seemed to like it. Unfortunately there were only 14, but I am very hopeful for the video rentals.”

Chabon said his 2002 novel “Summerland” was written primarily for his children. The fantasy novel about children who save the world by playing baseball became a bestselling children’s book.

“I have a love of baseball and when you have kids you try to look for things you will enjoy reading to them. I was looking for a book about baseball that they would like that I would like and there weren’t very many,” he said. “The initial impulse was to make a baseball story for my kids while trying to convey what I love about the game into the story.”

Chabon said his novels rarely turn out the way he originally envisions them. He spent more than five years writing “The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay” and in process cut out hundreds of pages and entire main characters.

“If you could write a novel really quickly and somehow sustain the heat of invention when it comes to you… it might be more possible but by the time you get to the end it may be years later,” he said.

Chabon said he doesn’t have a specific place where he goes to write, although he does write a lot at his home in Berkley, Cali.

“I can write anywhere I can take my laptop as long as I can put my headphones on to drown out people’s conversations I can focus well,” he said. “I find I can get a lot done on a long airplane ride.”

Chabon also gave advise to aspiring authors: Don’t be afraid to get personal.

“When you are writing, even if you are only showing it to your workshop or writers group, it ought to feel scary,” he said. “If it feels scary, that means you are writing about something that is probably shared, important or will be understood. At least that’s how it seems to me.”

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