Writing Wisdom: Lauren Conrad vs. Katherine Paterson

In the final term of my MLIS degree, I wrote a paper on Lauren Conrad for a New Media for Children and Young Adults course.  I spent 5800 words exploring how Lauren Conrad embodies several conflicting versions of herself over various media.  It almost killed me.  It wasn’t the actual writing or the theory – it was the hours I spent with Lauren watching and reading interviews, pausing and rewinding episodes of The Hills and, perhaps most painfully, reading both L.A. Candy and Sweet Little Lies. In the midst of my LC binge, I tweeted:

Well, people, the time has come.

Whilst promoting her books, Lauren talked about the writing process: her inspiration, balancing fiction and reality, and her passion for writing.  Katherine Paterson does this too (note that I had the decency and respect not to put those two in the same sentence).  The thing is, when Katherine Paterson speaks or writes about creating fiction for young people, it is like a lobster feast.  When Lauren speaks about creating fiction, it is like the final bite of a filet-o-fish sandwich that has been left out in the sun too long.  But I’ll leave you to judge things for yourself.

Now, I know that there is nothing really fruitful that can come out of this comparison and that it is really just unfair.  After all, is anyone really as articulate, eloquent and insightful as Katherine Paterson?  No.  Not really.  She sets a bar that is higher than Mount Everest, K2, the Empire State Building, and Vancouver’s new behemouth Shangri-La if they were stacked vertically on top of eachother.  And Lauren Conrad certainly isn’t suffering as both L.A. Candy and Sweet Little Lies were NYT best-sellers.

But dang it, it’s fun to ridicule celebrities, especially when they enter the sacred world of writing for young people.  So here we go.  Note that I have culled the Paterson quotes from The Gates of Excellence and The Spying Heart which I’ll abbreviate as GE and SH respectively.  Lauren’s quotes have been mostly transcribed from interviews and I’ve provided links.

Lauren Conrad

Katherine Paterson

On truth creeping into their fiction

One of the main questions I get asked is how close these books will be to my life.  Um, I think that it’s best to write what you know.  There’s gonna be a lot of things in the books that people who, if they’ve at all, you know, followed our story will be like ‘Oh, I know exactly what they’re talking about.’

HarperTeen: Lauren talks about L.A. Candy

Perhaps the more orthodox among us would hesitate to say that it was the story that shaped the truth, but surely it has been the vehicle for the truth as long as the human race can remember.

GE, p. 57

On writing a character that resembles herself

I kind of took a girl and put her in similiar situations and kind of told my side of the story, you know, from someone like me but didn’t do, any of, you know, any of the same situations I had been in.

Teenflare.com interview

I know that the only raw material I have for the stories I tell lies deep within myself, and somehow when I go inside I find there a troubled child reaching up for comfort and understanding.

SH, p. 137

On discussing one’s own book

I just finished writing it and it is really good. I learned so much from writing book one so I think it shows in book two.

Lauren Conrad Online interview

There are real problems when a writer talks about her own books.  You can’t talk about them while you’re writing them, at least I can’t.  They’re too fragile and would collapse under the weight of your verbiage.  Once they’re safely written, but not yet published might be a good time, but you may be the only person interested in the book at that point.  And even if you aren’t, it would be grossly unfair, because no one else would be in a position to talk back.

GE, p. 123

On tackling tough subjects

I tried to tone down the truth a bit because I was keeping the demographic in mind.

Good Morning America interview

There are adults who would rather teenagers not come face to face with such agonizing home truths.  But I have never been sorry that I met my shadow when I was sixteen.

SH, p. 111

And, finally, a quote from Lauren that is so nonsensical and enigmatic that there was no Paterson comparison:

That’s one of the great things about writing is that you get to be in someone’s head, so I think there’s a lot of situations where you know, you’re going through things and it can be, you know, a little overwhelming and it’s all very new. So I think that’s more where I drew from.

6 thoughts on “Writing Wisdom: Lauren Conrad vs. Katherine Paterson”

  1. I adore this. It’s my fervent hope that a friend or minion of Katherine Paterson will come across this and forward it to Katherine herself. It’s fantastic. Also fantastic was the experience I had the other day cloistered in a very popular hipster bookstore reading your reviews in Quill & Quire! Your review was head and shoulders above the rest, as was your very simple byline stating that you had your Masters in Children’s Lit, thereby blowing those other punks out of the water.

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  2. Haha – thanks! I’m itching for a permanent full-time librarian job so that can be listed as my byline. At the time of that review it would have said something like “Shannon works part-time at three different jobs while finishing up her MLIS degree and there’s really nothing very succinct or glamorous about that.”

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  3. Thanks, VV! (that is two Vs, not a W). Holla at Lainey for me! But seriously, I gotta get on whatever hair conditioner she’s using…

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  4. I met Katherine Paterson once at the Southdale Library in Edina, MN. I think I actually said, “Your books changed my life.” And then I drooled on her and cried a little. I don’t remember. I’m trying to block it out. Great post.

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  5. O. M. G. You met K Pats!? If you got something signed, lock it up and please leave it to me in your will. She’s the reason I get up in the morning (in addition to George and Martha).

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