This is my summary of MT Anderson's keynote speech at the LA SCBWI Conference, 2010.
Anderson speaks of his love of adventure novels that provide a sense of vast, untamed landscapes. Through books, we can revisit a time when undiscovered land still existed. Romance of geography and a strong sense of mood appeal to him. For Anderson, it's not so much about each individual, exciting action.
Travel your mind
There are still a range of experiences to be had in your own home town. You may create a fanciful version of an actual place. Interpose scenes onto American landscape – a stream can be a river, a house can be a castle. We can once again have pioneers. We can have forests where an ogre may lurk. Seek dreams and unexplored territories. Stories take us away from home so we can see home. We can arrive where we started and know home for the first time. We can be changed.
When we've encountered something repeatedly in the same way, it almost ceases to exist. It becomes familiar. One technique of art is to make familiar objects unfamiliar so that they steal our attention. In 'The Arrival' by Shaun Tan, the reader finds the place alien, and so is put in same position as the immigrant. We are deprived of language as the immigrant is. No words are used.
'You Killed Wesley Payne' by Sean Beaudoin offers new forms of language. We find overt play with words and overt repetition. We see things anew through new language. The image conjured demands our attention. The word 'vinegaroons' is used to refer to sailors. It is reminiscent of the words and language associated with sailors, but it is totally new. The familiar is defamiliarised – this is more powerful than creating a terms that are completely outlandish.
At the root of horror: familiar things gone strange. In 'Coraline' by Neil Gaiman, the most familiar and most domestic becomes so alien. There is a sense of the unknown – we are surprised by seeing things anew. Books can take us AWAY from what we expect.
Embrace your eccentricity
Reach those dull-town kids and show them to the door.
Anderson embraces his own eccentricity and performs the unofficial anthem of Delaware.