February 26 is National Tell a Fairy Tale day. If you aren’t prepared to tell a story, then read a fairy tale to anyone who will listen—your kids, your mom, your dog. Or just curl up with a copy of Hans Andersen or the Brothers Grimm and get lost in the magic. There’s no better way to keep the frigid weather at bay.
If you want something more adult, check out my apocalyptic version of “Hansel and Gretel,” published in July, 2018, in Feast Journal. My story is called, “Hansel and Greta.”
If you want something to listen to, check out this 2014 recording from the TALES Festival, Daughters of Destiny. I was telling stories in the beautiful St Michael’s Church in Ft. Edmonton Park. Enjoy!
A thank you this week to Adam Farrer and the people at The Real Story, a journal published out of Manchester, for publishing “Running Blind.” The Real Story is a journal dedicated to promoting the nonfiction form in the UK. You can read the piece here.
“Running Blind is memoir, and one of several pieces I’ve had published in the last couple of years. When I write memoir, I don’t think about why I’m writing it or where it will go. However, if I have a piece accepted, I immediately begin to have doubts. Why did I write it? What was I trying to say? And who do I think is going to benefit by reading something that has meaning only for me?
Part of me thinks that writing memoir is a selfish activity. On the other hand, I put the same amount of care and craft into producing a piece of memoir as I do a short story. And memoir is, after all, story. But whatever I think, once a piece is published, then it’s out there in the world, and I no longer have any control over it.
For me, at the heart of writing memoir lies the same impulse that makes me write fiction, or anything else, for that matter: the need to give something a voice that it wouldn’t otherwise have. It’s about finding a voice for those experiences, impressions, sensations, and other sundry scraps and floating fragments of myself that never found an expression elsewhere. I’m certainly not alone in feeling this way. I meet people everywhere who feel the need to give their experience a voice—in writing, or just in conversation. I also meet people who don’t have the need for that kind of expression. They let their experience stand for itself, and they will share that experience, if you’re willing to listen. Oddly enough, I meet such people most often on the street—these people are sometimes homeless, grateful for any spare change, and always willing to share something of themselves.
So, writing memoir necessarily seems to come with a certain privilege. The means and the opportunity to give voice relies on having the lifestyle to support it. I always try to keep this in mind. But more important, if reading memoir, mine or anyone else’s, inspires someone to finally listen to that voice that lies forgotten in the vaults of memory and let it into the world, then everyone is the better for it.
Today marks the centenary of the armistice that ended World War I. Here are two posts from the blog archive to commemorate those women and men who lost their lives because of war, as well as those forever marked by such conflicts.
November 11, 2016
November 11, 2014
It’s Halloween. No snow is in the forecast, and that’s a win for where I live.
Here’s something from the blog archive to get you in the mood for the day. And here are three young adult series with enough ghosts and monsters to satisfy any pallet. Enjoy! By the way, my favourite would have to be Jonathan Stroud.
1. Lockwood and Co., by Jonathan Stroud
2. Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull
3. The Last Apprentice, by Joseph Delaney.
October 16 saw the sixty-eighth anniversary of the publication of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Lewis published the Narnia books once a year, until The Last Battle appeared in September of 1956. Lewis was also writing his spiritual biography at the time, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life—not to mention whatever else he was writing, as well as performing all the duties and responsibilities of an Oxford tutor.
But why a children’s story? Lewis was a scholar. He wrote about books, he wrote Christian apologetics, and he wrote fiction, but all this was for adults. Lewis had nothing to do with children. So again, why a children’s story?
There are enough books about Lewis around to keep you busily reading for years. Writers of every kind have opinions about Lewis and his life—about Lewis as a child, about his time in the war, about his more than thirty-year relationship with Mrs. Moore, which, interestingly, some writers are unwilling to explore.
Lewis is something of a puzzle. He was gregarious and fond of argument, a man who valued openness and friendship; he also flatly refused to talk about his relationship with Janie Moore with anyone, including his brother, Warnie Lewis.
Why Lewis wrote the Narnia books is perhaps less of a puzzle. He valued myth and story, and he wrote about both. Lewis claimed that he was writing a fairy tale because that was the best expression for what he had to say about Narnia and about Aslan. I’m sure it’s true—for the most part.
Lewis carried with him the memories of living at Little Lee, the house his father had built on the outskirts of Belfast. Lewis’ mother, Flora Hamilton, died in that house when he was nine-years-old. Two weeks after her death, a young Jack was shipped off to a boarding school in Hertfordshire, England.
Such events as the death of a parent have a profound effect on the mind of a child. Lewis had the company of his brother for the first year at boarding school, which he calls Belsen in Surprised by Joy. But his school-life was shadowed by the death of his mother, and the relationship with his father deteriorated until Albert Lewis’ death in 1929.
Something was speaking across the years to Lewis as he created Narnia. It’s no surprise Lewis was writing about his own boyhood as he wrote the Narnia books. There is more of the child-like in Narnia than there is childishness. And in Lewis’ own words: “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally (and often far more) worth reading at the age of fifty” (Lewis, “On Stories”).
Author’s note: this story is a retelling of the Grimms’ tale, “The Fox and the Geese.” It first appeared in OfOtherWorlds in 2015, and was subsequently published in Fractured and Other Fairy Tales, 2015.
Mr. Fox liked to walk along the edge of the old city. One spring evening, he was strolling along, and he happened upon a field where a flock of geese were gathered, gabbling away and walking through the stubble.
“What do we have here?” he said, eyeing the fat geese, as he leaned on his walking cane. “Looks like dinner.”
The geese were terrified, and they honked and cried for mercy.
“Mercy,” laughed Mr. Fox. “You will find no mercy here. I’m interested in some dinner. Now you just line yourselves up in a row, and I will wring your pretty necks one by one, and then I’ll take your carcasses back to my house in the city.”
But there was one old goose who was at least as cunning as Mr. Fox. She was a grandam of the flock, and she peered up at Mr. Fox.
“Mr. Fox,” she said, bobbing her head, “since you are going to eat us anyway, I don’t suppose you would mind if I told my children and grandchildren one more story?”
Now, if Mr. Fox had a weakness, besides a greedy desire for fresh goose, it was for a good story. “Oh, very well,” he said, petulantly. “Tell your story. But when you are done, I expect you to line up like good little geese so I can pick out the fattest for my table.”
The old goose began her story. She gabbled and honked, telling of faraway places, of all the things she had seen on her travels, of the lives of people and animals, of strange and secret things only seen by moonlight and starlight. And before she was finished, she was joined by one of her children, and together, they gabbled and grumbled and honked of the places they had seen together. They were joined by the others, one by one, until soon the whole flock was gabbling the story of their travels, from the hot countries of the south to the wide spaces of the north.
The sun slowly set, and Mr. Fox listened, forgetting about everything else as he was swept away to places he had never known.
Did Mr. Fox ever get his dinner? Who can say?—for the geese are still telling their story to this day. And if you stop to listen, in the spring and the fall, you can hear it too—the gabbling of travelers’ tales upon the air.