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1. Short and brief and to the point…

In truth, I have more time for writing right now than I have had in a long time. This scares me. It scares me because the more time I have for something, the more I fear wasting it. And the more I fear something, anything, the less productive I am. So instead of spinning off into […]

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2. Primal Questions, Uneasy Answers

Fairy tale author and scholar Kate Bernheimer on “Surviving An Adult World in Fairy Tales, and Real Life.”

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3. What’s in a Fairy Tale?

I’m very proud to announce the first instalment of my new column at Luna Station Quarterly. The column title is “What’s in a Fairy Tale.” My first essay is “Dark Side of the Fruit,” which takes a closer look at the evil queen’s poisoned apple. LSQ has a brand new format. I hope you’ll stop by […]

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4. Wild At Heart

The sentimentalization of bears began with “Teddy’s Bear,” that cute and cuddly version of the powerful predator that was first manufactured following President Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt’s refusal to shoot a malnourished and frightened she-bear who had been tied to a tree for him to “hunt” at his leisure. It’s a fascinating story, one that I […]

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5. Wee folk, not twee folk

From the wee folk of long ago (fairies, leprechauns, pixies…) to Hans Christian Andersen’s Thumbelina, and to Mary Norton’s The Borrowers, sentient beings of very small size have fascinated, delighted, and horrified us, but they never fail to capture our attention. In writing this piece I discovered there are far more books about wee folk […]

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6. Pure Joy

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7. “No Sidekick Gets Left Behind”

 

 

Photo by maria17/istockphotoIf you read my Huffington Post article “Unfrozen: How a Disney Movie Gave My Daughter Hope,” then you know that I have no prejudice against Disney movies. Indeed, I love a great story whether in book, ebook, or movie form, and the great Disney movies have as much power to heal or inspire as any other.

Thank you to Maria Tatar, John L. Loeb Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures at Harvard for posting a link to Ron Suskind’s astonishing story of his autistic son Owen’s journey back to the land of neurotypicals through speech development and emotional resonance as learned by watching his favourite Disney movies, repeatedly, over many years. “No sidekick gets left behind” is a quote from Owen, an example of one of the first sentences he ever spoke. Suskind has a book coming out and the linked article is an excerpt. I promise that if you read this article, you will feel better for having done so. If not, write me and we’ll talk.

“Reaching My Autistic Son Through Disney”

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8. Lots of News

I have two new publications, two days in a row! And some wonderful news about a good friend.

scrollydivider
The first is an article about my fantastically courageous daughter and her struggle with Tourette Syndrome. Just click on the image below to read the article at Huffington Post.
Photo by Tyne Hagey

Photo by Tyne Hagey

Adults and children with TS have an everyday kind of courage that is usually only found in fairy tales. For more information about Tourette Syndrome, please visit the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada.

 

scrollydivider

My short story “Fire and Ice” has just been released at Luna Station Quarterly. Click on the image below to read this story about an elderly woman whose accident launches her into another realm.

Luna Station Quarterly

 

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 Dianne Young’s wonderful picture book Dear Flyary is a whimsical window into the life of Frazzle Patzer, a being from the Glank Quadrant of Merfatil who speaks English sprinkled with a patois of made-up words direct from the author’s quirky imagination. It is the most fun reading aloud you will ever have. Dear Flyary has been nominated for a Saskatchewan Book Award. Congratulations, Dianne!

DEAR FLYARY by Dianne Young

 

 

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9. Hair

crazy hair

Between the ages of five and ten my best friend was, compared to me, wealthy and sophisticated, fashionable, and fully aware of her superiority. But the worst of it was her beautiful, shiny, straight, long and, most importantly, manageable dark brown hair. Her hair looked good, smelled good, and was carefully tended by her doting mother. I, on the other hand, had hair that my mother referred to as “impossible.” The deeper problem was really that she thought I was impossible, but that’s a story for another day.

I’m going to talk about hair. I’m going to talk about girls’ and women’s hair because I have yet to read a fairy tale that mentions the prince’s hair, or the wizard’s hair, or the miller’s hair, etc. If you have heard of such a tale, please let me know. I know that boys today dye their hair and spend time styling it in a way that hasn’t been seen since, I don’t know, since the 18th century let’s say, for argument’s sake. But they aren’t really doing it for the girls in their lives, in my opinion. It’s more of a banner—an announcement and/or pronouncement for the benefit of other boys. Girls wear their hair as a banner, too, but it goes much deeper than that.

Never shall a young man,
Thrown into despair
By those great honey-coloured
Ramparts at your ear,
Love you for yourself alone
And not your yellow hair.

But I can get a hair-dye
And set such colour there,
Brown, or black, or carrot,
That young men in despair
May love me for myself alone
And not my yellow hair.

I heard an old religious man
But yesternight declare
That he had found a text to prove
That only God, my dear,
Could love you for yourself alone
And not your yellow hair.

("For Anne Gregory" by W. B. Yeats)

In the years since I parted ways with my gloriously-haired friend I have learned that I do, indeed, have unmanageable hair. The color was, once upon a time, quite lovely, though I didn’t know until it snowed over prematurely. My hair grows forward, has a cowlick in the back (think Dennis the Menace), and is impossibly thick yet fine. If my friend’s hair was a perfectly tended rose garden, mine was the thatch of crab grass best annihilated with noxious chemicals. Rapunzel, I was not. Nor was I a Rapunzel wannabe. Though I tried to be fairly presentable, I was grunge long before it was a trend. And yet, to my surprise, even though I think I know better than to reduce a woman’s essential being to the state of her hair, when I set out to write a new fairy tale, I find that I am obsessed with the hair of my female characters.

When I say I am obsessed with the hair of my female characters, I don’t necessarily mean that I write about hair obsessively. But I do get excited when I imagine their hair and work to remind myself that I shouldn’t make a big deal of it (because I don’t want to consciously promote stereotypes). The point is that I want to make a big deal out of their hair and have to force myself not to do so. What is really going on here?

On a certain wall in my house hangs a framed print of a painting by Terri Windling. It is called “The Green Woman” and it shows a youngish woman with eyes cast downward. She has beautifully structured bones and a graceful neck. But her most striking feature is her hair, which is all plant matter: saplings, vines, and leaves. This image of hair so alive—it is alive!—thrills me. And because nearly every shampoo commercial has a woman whose hair is “alive” (moves supranaturally?), I know I can’t be the only one who feels this way.

I recently watched Disney’s Aladdin for the first time in a long time. It has a special place in my heart since it was the very first video I ever purchased. I watched it for the first time with my first-born child. When I realized that my final-born child had never seen it, I was aghast. As we watched Aladdin, I paid particular attention to Princess Jasmine’s hair. Her hair is alive! It has a mind of its own. The ponytail really is a pony’s tail. And Disney’s version of Pocahontas has hair that responds to the elements, even when the princess does not. Can you name a Disney princess whose hair is not fully alive, responsive, with a charisma all its own? (And in the case of Disney’s Tangled, the heroine’s hair is an adjunct character.)

Hair, especially female hair, isn’t just dead keratinized protein kicked to the curb to make room for living cells, it is “a source of magic power or mana.” (The Interpretation of Fairy Tales by Marie-Louise von Franz, p 179)

A check of mythology and folklore reveals the following: hair is 1) vitality (Samson), 2) transformation (Sif), 3) deadly power (Medusa), 4) life (Nisus, King of Megara), 5) sacrifice (Berenice and Ptolemy), 6) connection (calming the Inuit Sea Goddess Sedna by combing her hair), and 7) life-affirming power (Luthien, in a folktale created by J.R.R. Tolkien). I have no doubt this list is incomplete, but I do like the number seven.

There are far more examples of the significance of hair: it is sacrificed in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, and E. Nesbit’s Melisande. Hair figures prominently in every version (direct and derived) of Rapunzel, of which there are more than can be listed here, though Zel by Donna Jo Napoli is one of my favorites.

Ironically, while preparing this piece, a member of my family cut nine inches from her gorgeous ginger hair and donated it to the Canadian Cancer Society wig banks via Pantene’s “Beautiful Lengths” program. I’m very proud of her, but I sure do miss her hair. When did I become Mother Gothel? I must have skipped that memo.

Lest, dear reader, you believe this to have been a pointless exercise, I offer you this: self-proclaimed hair shaman Anthony Morrocco, “…after more than four decades of travel, research, and experimentation…”, developed the Morrocco Method natural hair care system. On whether or not one should blow dry hair, Morrocco advised the following:

If we compare our hair to the leaves on a tree, the sprigs on a bush or the petals on a flower, we can easily understand the sometimes fragile yet also resilient thing that our hair is. Petals, sprigs and leaves are strong enough to withstand weather such as pounding rain and windstorms…but apply concentrated blasts of hot air to any one of them and they will wither and NOT return to their original state. Dear friends, consider your hair to be the living thing it is…much like the flower petal and leaves you see in nature, and treat it as you would them.

The Hair Shaman meets the Green Woman. I sense a fairy tale coming on, through my roots.

flowing hair

 

 

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10. The Secret Life of Trees

Photo By Janice Hagey-Schmidt

Photo By Janice Hagey-Schmidt

I had to share this amazing photo of a rather surprised looking tree growing in Placerita State Canyon, California. It was sent to me by my sister who is a regular hiker there.

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11. ABITA by Shoko Hara

Abita from Shoko Hara on Vimeo.

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12. “The Girl Who Followed the North Star” by Katherine Langrish

“Every microcosm, every inhabited region, has a centre; that is to say, a place that is sacred above all.” –Mircea Eliade

Take the North Star, the staff of life, and the sacred centre (axis mundi, perhaps the forerunner to the Christmas tree) and and what do you have?…a beautiful story by Katherine Langrish, posted on her blog Seven Miles of Steel Thistles for your enjoyment, and mine.

Read “The Girl Who Followed the North Star” here.

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13. Leonora’s Disposition

Just out!

Kind of a Hurricane Press has published an anthology of poems and flash fiction with the theme of ekphrasis–a writer’s reaction to a work of art. In my case I wrote a piece called “Leonora’s Disposition” as a reaction to “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik,” oil on canvas by Dorothea Tanning, 1943. The anthology is called In Gilded Frame and is edited by A.J. Huffman and April Salzano. Click here for the free digital version, or here to purchase the print version.

Dorothea Tanning’s stunning work of art can be viewed here.

Here’s the first paragraph of “Leonora’s Disposition” to, hopefully, whet your appetite:

Leonora’s mother despised Leonora’s disposition, slouching shoulders and dark hair that resolved into knots at the least provocation, so much so that her constant pining for a model child, unable to be fulfilled in the usual manner, moved her husband to hire a manufacturer of waxworks.

In Gilded Frame

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14. Go slow, and carry a tin truck.

I’m currently catching my breath following a whirlwind year of taking care of business during which I was constantly busy, physically sore, out of touch with my imagination, and missing more dog walks than I care to count. I have been pulled back to a quieter sort of life because I need to attend to the well being of a close family member, and so the fact that I now have more time on my hands in which to think, muse, and perhaps create is a good thing, but it has come about because of a bad thing. This is the Tao of life, the up and down, back and forth, black and white, concrete and abstract, thinking and intuiting, building and destroying…the same old drill; nothing new.

While trying to catch up with the self I was before my crazy busy year began, I thought that beginning to re-read some of my favorite articles from the Endicott Studio archives would be a good start. This is when I found out that Midori Snyder is in the process of moving Endicott Studio and the Journal of Mythic Arts to a new home. In Midori’s words:

I have been a bit preoccupied lately as I have a looming deadline to get the Herculean task of transferring over 10 years of Endicott Studio and Journal of Mythic Arts files from one website to another. Terri and I have had one foot on two platforms for the last five years and it’s time to consolidate the archives on one site. It will also potentially set us up should we in the future decide to return to publishing a new version of the Journal. So, it’s worth — a money saver, a chance to clean up the dead links, update art, and author bios, Terri’s awesome reading lists and recommendations.

I am hugely grateful to Midori Snyder and Terri Windling for their award winning writing and editing. At times I’ve feared that this body of work will one day vanish from cyberspace, and I don’t know how I would live without it. Good luck, Midori, and thank you for preserving and perpetuating this gift!

Doll's house window

And while adjusting to this quieter life, I’ve mused on the things that brought joy a long time ago, like doll house furniture, papier maché, collage, tin toys, dogs, horses, flowers, trees, reading and writing…

In attempting to balance priorities, I like to hear how other people do it. The following is from “The ‘Busy’ Trap” by Tim Kreider for the New York Times:

Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done. “Idle dreaming is often of the essence of what we do,” wrote Thomas Pynchon in his essay on sloth. Archimedes’ “Eureka” in the bath, Newton’s apple, Jekyll & Hyde and the benzene ring: history is full of stories of inspirations that come in idle moments and dreams. It almost makes you wonder whether loafers, goldbricks and no-accounts aren’t responsible for more of the world’s great ideas, inventions and masterpieces than the hardworking.

There is a certain Japan tin toy truck–I now know it’s called Joe’s Kitchen Wagon Catering Van (friction food truck)–that my playmate owned when I was three years old. I loved that truck more than my feeble grasp on language could express, and when my family moved to a new house in a new neighborhood one of my biggest regrets was never seeing that truck again. I never forgot that toy and have looked for it occasionally online, but didn’t find it until just a few days ago! I found an image on ebay.ca and it was absolutely, most definitely the toy truck of my dreams!!!!

I took a few screenshots, as you can see below. But the crazy thing is, the person selling that truck (it was already sold by the time I found it) could live anywhere in the world. But guess what? He/she lives where I live. How could I have missed this? Oh yeah, I was too busy to notice.


TinTruckOutside

TinTruckInside



(If you or someone you know is selling this truck, please email me. I won’t be too busy to answer.)

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15. Prometheus, 1997

Click here for the whole article.

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16. Oz, the Great and Powerful: First Impressions

Spoiler alert!! If you haven’t seen Oz, the Great and Powerful starring James Franco, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, and Mila Kunis, you should probably read this review some other time. Thank you. How to make a little something out of a great something… Take one girl (Dorothy), place her within a coming-of-age story, add a […]

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17. Good Night Canada

A Canadian legend passed on tonight. Rest in peace, Stompin’ Tom.

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18. Inspiration at Home

Sometimes inspiration sits in my living room, as in my good friend Bronwen McRae visits and shares her vivid poem: “On the Run” … or my children know a good thing when they see it, and because they shared it with me, I can enjoy a musical group (troupe?) of young Icelanders as they conjure […]

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19. Grass Therapy

I’m currently in a burned-out dance-mom state of mind. I can barely string together a sentence, or read the simplest article. Due to work and family life, I’ve done little writing in the past three months. But I’m planning to visit Grasslands National Park in southwest Saskatchewan this summer, and just thinking about it helps to revive me.

It’s a landscape you either love or abhor. There’s really no middle ground. I’ve known people who came to live in Saskatchewan and couldn’t wait to get out. Then there are people like me who, having grown up in Ontario, once said, “I can imagine living anywhere in Canada, except Saskatchewan.” And now it’s been my home for 16 years. Be careful about what you say you’ll never do.

“I like this place and willingly could waste my time in it.”
–(From As You Like It by William Shakespeare, Act II, Scene IV)

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20. Luna Station Press!

Jennifer Parsons of Luna Station Quarterly is a very important editor and champion of women’s speculative fiction. Her vision for Luna Station’s development is very exciting. Along with Issue 010, which has just been published, she has launched Luna Station Press.

From the new Web site:

At Luna Station Press, our mission is to bring you a unique selection of speculative fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry with a special focus on women writers. We also publish a short fiction magazine, Luna Station Quarterly, that forms the original foundation for the press.

Once a quarter, we publish new titles that break the boundaries of what you expect from speculative fiction, fantasy, science fiction, and fairy tales as well as wonderful, new poetic voices and the occasional volume of essays and deeper explorations into the world around us.

This is very exciting news! Congratulations to Jennifer and all the Luna Station Press authors.

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21. Self-Publishing: Another P.O.V.

Jessica Park has had enormous success with her YA novel Flat-Out Love, which she self-published on Amazon even though she had five traditionally published novels “under [her] belt.” She’s written a blog post about why she did it and how she feels about it now, including some very frank statements about the traditional publishing industry. It’s a wonderful read for anyone who has, or wants to, self-publish.

Click here to read “How Amazon Saved My Life.”

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22. The Survivors

Once, in another time,
I believed that souls resided in trees.
I worked a lifetime tracing branches
seeking out the one tree that would hold my spirit.

I once thought I could know a tree’s source,
to pull back the bark and see a code,
each tree a shining universe.

Taken from–”The Last Arborist” by Paul Wilson



The poem above is featured on the back of a pamphlet I picked up today called “Portraits of Survivors,” a show of Saskatchewan and Costa Rican-based artist Linda Moskalyk’s breathtaking series (in collage and acrylic) of the “survivors,” the large trees she has seen emerging from a Costa Rican second growth forest canopy as the lone remainders (reminders) of the old growth forest that had been cut down. I popped into the Meewasin Valley Centre in Saskatoon today, not knowing that Linda Moskalyk’s work was on exhibit there. It took my breath away. “Last One Standing” was my favorite.


If you are in Saskatoon this summer, I urge you to visit the Meewasin Valley Centre Gallery and see how moving and detailed these portraits are, and if, not please visit Linda Moskalyk’s Web site for more about this fascinating woman, her beautiful creations, and the work she does teaching art to children in Costa Rica in addition to raising awareness of how essential are trees, and how much we need them.



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23. Chinese Magic Mirror

When does solid metal appear to be transparent? When in the form of the magic mirror that was invented during the Han Dynasty.

Click here for more on the Chinese Magic Mirror.

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24. Now Novel

I was approached by Brendan McNulty who, along with his sister Bridget McNulty, founded an online business designed to help aspiring writers get going and keep on going. I checked out their site and liked its tone, its look, and its goal. I’m a big fan and a user of Smashwords.com, which aims to support indie authors by providing a publishing and distribution platform while the author does all the creative work. Similarly, Now Novel provides a helpful framework and practical guidance, supporting the budding author’s creative enterprise.

So, in support of the upcoming National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and in support of aspiring authors everywhere, I’ll turn the page over to Bridget McNulty …

Now Novel – helping you write that novel, now

When I wrote my first novel five years ago, everyone I met seemed to think I could now tell them exactly how to write a novel – in three sentences or less. But it’s only now that I’ve compiled all the knowledge I learned studying creative writing in the US and in South Africa, along with countless creative writing books, endless hours interviewing aspiring writers and a whole lot of research that my brother Brendan and I have done, that I feel confident in giving a little advice about writing novels. My name is Bridget McNulty, and I’m the co-founder of Now Novel, an online novel writing course.

What makes Now Novel different, in our opinion, is that it’s a step-by-step guide to writing that novel. It doesn’t just tell you what to do and then leave you to do it, it guides you through the novel writing process, including figuring out plot, setting, character and theme, and then helping you put all that together into the first draft of your novel. The hub of the novel writing experience is the dashboard where all your creative writing information is stored. We also have an inspiring writing blog and a creative writing forum where you can share experiences, offer advice to other writers, and even upload some of your work for critique. In general, we’ve found that Now Novel is of most use to writers who know they want to write a novel one day – it’s on their bucket list – but just don’t know how to start. We help to solve that problem.

We also have a fantastic special offer at the moment – to celebrate November being NaNoWriMo, we’re offering 2/3 off if you sign up now. That means it’s only $9.99 for the Now Novel experience! Click here to find out more.

Until then, happy writing!

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25. Thanksgiving

Nature. Beauty. Gratitude. by Louie Schwartzberg, a video prayer/poem, a Thanksgiving Day meditation.





I’m also thankful that my children introduced me to Of Monsters and Men.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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