We began today by thinking about TV, the favorite medium of the protagonists of today’s book, An Accidental Adventure: We Are Not Eaten By Yaks by C. Alexander London. On the Symphony Space stage, we each wrote our own commercials for a variety of impractical products, including a human-sized highlighter, butter on a stick, and a hat that dispenses toilet paper, just to name a few.
Next, we met with C. Alexander London who shared with us his “secrets of storytelling” and sources of inspiration. Like several of our previous visiting authors, Charles told us that his children’s books were influenced by his own experience of being a kid. The Accidental Adventure series tells the story of a brother and sister who, though they would like nothing more than to stay at home and watch TV, end up having crazy adventures because of their parents’ jobs as professional explorers. Alexander told us that as a kid he, too, was a bit of a couch potato in spite of his adventure-loving parents, that he loved TV and video games much more than reading. However, he explained that all of those things ended up being ingredients for his books, showing us that writing can allow us to reflect on our own experiences and use them to create something new.
After his presentation, we had a lot of questions, such as: Are you actually an explorer? The answer, it turns out, is yes. He has indeed traveled the world as a journalist, librarian, and scuba diver, and he shared with us stories of volcanic eruptions, tropical bug bites, and travels through war-torn regions where there was absolutely no TV.
To learn more about what inspired Charles to write his book, we all traveled downtown in the afternoon for a visit to the Rubin Museum’s collection of Himalayan art. We Are Not Eaten By Yaks takes place in largely in Tibet, and Charles told us that while writing his book he would come to the Rubin to do research and study pieces of art that sparked his imagination. We took a brief tour of the galleries and learned about Tibet’s fascinating artistic and religious traditions. Charles drew our attention to the many symbols found in Buddhist artwork and pointed out the way in which art, like literature, can be a form of storytelling.
With that in mind, we each picked a piece of artwork that interested us and used it as inspiration for a piece of writing.
The results were very imaginative and included stories about a deity with a past life as a down-and-out gambler, the difficulties of meditating at school, and the pros and cons of having multiple pairs of arms and legs.
All in all, we had a great time today learning about the cultures and experiences that inspired this author and can’t wait to read the next installments of his Accidental Adventure series!