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John Irving

National Book Award

John Irving: I was a moody kid. I was an aloof kid, I kind of kept to myself. I think that an early sort of pre-writing indication that I had the calling to be a writer was how much time I liked to spend alone. I wasn't anti-social. I had friends, but I didn't really want to hang out with them after school. What I saw of them at school was enough. I needed to be in a room by myself even before I was writing, just imagining things, just thinking about things. If there was a weekend with too many cousins or other people around, I got a little edgy. I think the need to be by myself, which I've recognized in a couple of my own children, is one that was respected by my grandmother, with whom I lived until my mom remarried, as I told you, when I was six. And I was fortunate to be in a big house, my grandmother's house, and there were lots of places to get off by yourself and imagine those things that I didn't know. And I find -- I'm 63, and my capacity to be by myself and just spend time by myself hasn't diminished any. That's the necessary part of being a writer, you better like being alone.
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John Irving

National Book Award

When I was still in prep school --14, 15 -- I started keeping notebooks, journals. I started writing, almost like landscape drawing or life drawing. I never kept a diary, I never wrote about my day and what happened to me, but I described things. If I had known how to draw, maybe I would have drawn hundreds of pictures of my grandmother's garden, but instead I wrote sort of landscape descriptions of it. I think that was what was so compelling to me about those Dickens and Hardy novels. Just the lushness of detail, the amount of description, the amount of atmosphere that is plumped into those novels. It's like nothing you read today, except from those writers who are essentially 19th century story tellers themselves: the Canadian, Robertson Davies; the German, Günter Grass; Garcia Marquez; Salman Rushdie. Basically old fashioned 19th century plot-driven story tellers. Among my contemporaries, I still like the old fashioned ones. Some exceptions, to be sure. I mean Graham Greene is such a good story teller that I forgive him for being as modern as he is. But I was never a Hemingway person. I never understood that. Moby Dick, there was a story. The longer, the better. I remember kids who were reading Moby Dick in a class and would be just complaining about, "Do we have to know everything about the whaling industry? Do we have to read about the blubber and all the rest of it?" I couldn't get enough of it, you know. I couldn't get enough of it.
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John Irving

National Book Award

John Irving: The foremost advice I'd give them is that they better read everything they can. They better read, read, read, read, read. They better read as many good books as they can. They better put the literature of the world into storage somewhere, because they're going to need it. The truth is, if you get to be a writer -- especially if you get to be a self-supporting one, which means you get to write all day, nothing else gets in your way -- if you get to do that, what happens is you'd rather be writing than reading. I'm not a good reader anymore because I write all the time. Literally, all the time. Well, I'm glad. I feel lucky that I was a good reader as a kid, because I don't know when else I would have done it. I'm not embarrassed that I'm not much of a reader now, because I'm not slacking, you know. I write seven days a week, I can write eight hours a day. Not everybody can do that. I couldn't do that 20 years ago, but I can do it now. Twenty years ago, when I wasn't writing screenplays concurrently with whatever novel I'm writing, I was a better reader. I used to read a lot of things when I was between one novel and not yet started in the next. But now I'm never between things, because when I finish a draft of a novel, I go immediately to one or two or three uncompleted screenplays. I just go back and forth. There's always something on my desk. There's always something I can be writing, and I'd rather be writing than reading.
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Sir Peter Jackson

Oscar for Best Director

I was beginning to get interested in film, but that came through watching Thunderbirds on TV, a British TV show, Thunderbirds. When I was about five, our parents got TV. When I was five, I remember it arriving in the lounge in a cardboard box and Dad having to screw the wooden legs into the set, this old black-and-white Philips set. So from five, I had TV, watched Thunderbirds, was really captivated by the fantasy elements, and the TV show has lots of models of spaceships and interesting sort of gimmicks and gadgets. It's a great TV show, very, very inventive and imaginative. The next thing that happened really is seeing King Kong, the original King Kong, when I was nine, and that film really accelerated a burgeoning interest in special effects, models and films. I could make models quite well.
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Sir Peter Jackson

Oscar for Best Director

I got interested in stop-motion animation as a result of King Kong. Ray Harryhausen's films, two: 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts. They're all stop-motion. We move the figure one frame at a time, and my camera didn't have a "one frame" button. I could only just squeeze the trigger and squirt off two or three frames before I had to move the puppet, and then another two or three frames, so very, very jerky animation, since it was very imprecise. But anyway, this was all sort of fueling me. I wanted for a long time to be Ray Harryhausen's assistant when I grew up, and help him do stop-motion animation. Didn't think about directing films at this point in time. I just wanted to do special effects.
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Sir Peter Jackson

Oscar for Best Director

I'm here because I'm a film maker and I want to make films, and that's been the way I felt almost since I was born, and I've never really thought about doing anything else, and so I had -- my parents supported me, and that support is really important, and I often think how many people out there have failed to achieve in later life because they didn't get that support from their parents when they were young.
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Donald Johanson

Discoverer of Lucy

Donald Johanson: There is a tremendous amount of romanticism which surrounds going off on expeditions to remote parts of the world and camping in tents, and living in a desert and struggling with all of the trials and tribulations that one encounters. But, I think that what really intrigued me was the fact that I felt that this was and still is really, a science, a form of inquiry, which is still in its infancy. That there were so many things yet to be discovered, that the science itself would have, in my lifetime, still lots of surprises.
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Donald Johanson

Discoverer of Lucy

My father, my real father died when I was two years old so I never knew him. He was a barber. He was a barber in Chicago. My mother had no formal education whatsoever. A very, very bright woman, very intelligent women, but a women when she was 16 years old living in Sweden, decided that the place where things were happening was the United States. It wasn't in the old world as it was called. It wasn't in Sweden. She wanted to be part of the new world. She borrowed money from her father. She didn't speak any English. She left Sweden and came to the United States, landed in New York City and got a job in an ice cream parlor. Learned English, then went back and got the man she wanted to marry, who was my father. Once my father died, in 1945, my mother had a very difficult time financially. She spent her career being a domestic, being a cleaning lady. She earned enough money to support the two of us, and to assist me in my attempts to go to college. So there was a tremendous work ethic, which she had, and had a tremendous influence on me in terms of, if you want to do something, you can do it. There really are few obstacles that are going to prevent you from doing it. She was a very important role model for me, for very different reasons.
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