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March 2009

Millard Sheets

Last night, during a kitchen table discussion about the strange economic times we're living in,  I told my husband and a friend about the Public Works of Art Project created in 1933/34 as part of the New Deal, which kept writers, painters, photographers and others employed during some of the worst years of the Great Depression. (The PWAP itself only ran for seven months, but it spawned a host of other arts programs, such as the Federal Arts Project, that ran up to the early 1940s.) This is an aspect of American history unknown to many folks over here in England...and perhaps to some Americans as well.

Earl Richardson As Elizabeth Broun writes: "A glance back to the 1930s shows that many New Deal programs were innovative, even radical, in treating artists, writers, and playwrights as workers deserving of support. This was new in America, where artists since colonial times had been considered marginal “extras” in our society. John Singleton Copley (1738--1815) complained that he was regarded as 'no better than a cobbler.' Thomas Eakins (1844--1916) lamented that 'My honours are misunderstanding, persecution, and neglect, enhanced because unsought.' John Sloan (1871--1951) famously said, 'The artist in America is regarded as the unwanted cockroach in the kitchen of a frontier society.' All that changed in the mid-1930s, as New Deal programs were created for unemployed artists eligible for government relief. Artists, newly defined by their government as workers, produced an unprecedented number of artworks,Ilya Bolotowsky literary works, and theatrical performances, launching careers for many who became famous in later years. President Roosevelt is said to have declared, 'One hundred years from now my administration will be known for its art, not for its relief.' "

You can read Broun's full article in the March issue of History Now. (The  entire issue of this online quarterly journal is devoted to the Great Depression, and makes for fascinating reading.)

As it happens, there's a very timely show of art works from the PWAP at the Smithsonian in Washington DC right now, where it will run until next year and then travel to other museums around the country. You can see a terrific slideshow of the art from the exhibition on the American Art Online website. The paintings from the show that I've posted above are by Millard Sheets, Earl Richardson, and Ilya Bolotowsky.

Coyote_road 2009 has been a strange year thus far. Not a bad one (despite some serious trials there have been many blessings and lovely suprises too), but a wildly unpredictable one. And that makes blogging unpredictable, for every time life seems to quiet down a bit, a new challenge comes out of the blue.

Case in point: Each time I've announced that I'm back at my desk and back to a regular work schedule, the Trickster Gods can be heard snickering and plotting:

    "What shall we send her this time?" they say.
    "Illness?" suggests a red-eyed Coyote, his own pointed nose stuffed with a cold.
    "Nah, we've over-used that trick," says Hermes. "Think of something else." 
    Pan smiles wickedly. "Let's send her immigration paperwork. Dealing with the British Home Office is guaranteed to drive any mortal insane."
    51bXwtwEGDL._SS500_ Hermes shakes his head and sighs. "We've done that already too."
    "How 'bout a house move?" Anansi pipes up. "That's good for weeks, maybe even months, of chaos."
    The Lord of Misrule scowls at the spider. "Surely you recall that we've used the Moving Trick four times in the last two years alone! No, gentlemen, let's go for a classic. A good old Family Emergency. We haven't done that one for awhile."
     "Okay," Coyote agrees, sneezing. "But I'm giving her my cold for good measure...."

 Now I'm home after a week away, my cold seems to be on the wane, and I'm back in the office again today. I'm hoping that life will now quiet down, but I'm making no predictions!  And IRavens in the Library plan to be very, very, very nice to any hares, spiders, foxes, coyotes, goat-legged men or fleet-footed gods who happen to cross my path....

A few of pieces of good news crossed my desk while I was away: First, The Coyote Road (an anthology of original tales inspired by world-wide trickster myths, co-edited with Ellen Datlow, illustrated by Charles Vess) is finally out in paperback. It's Book 3 in our Mythic Fiction anthology series for young adult readers (following The Green Man and The Faery Reel), and was a World Fantasy Award nominee, a Locus Recommended Reading Selection, an Amazon Best Book of Year, and contains two Nebula-Award-nominated stories: Kij Johnson's "The Evolution of Trickster Stories Among the Dogs of North Park After the Change" and Delia Sherman's "The Fiddler of Bayou Tech."

Second, Troll's Eye View --  our latest anthology -- has been chosen as a Junior Library Guild selection; and Ellen and I are thrilled. Following The Wolf at the Door and Swan Sister, Troll's Eye View By-Jenny-Anckorncontains original fairy-tale-inspired stories and poems for middle-grade readers -- focused on the fairy tale villains this time. The book comes out in April, and Books of Wonder in New York will host a publication event in June. I don't yet know whether I'll be there, but Ellen Datlow, Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman, Holly Black, and Catherynne Valente will be.

Third, Ravens in the Library (the S.J. Tucker benefit anthology) is now out and available for purchase here. I haven't actually seen it yet, but the contributor's list looks enticing indeed. The beautiful pen-and-ink drawing you see here is Jenny Anckorn's illustration for my Ravens story, "The Color of Angels." Midori has also contributed to the book, as have several other Endicott Studio folks: Ari Berk, Holly & Theo Black, Charles de Lint, Neil Gaiman, and Catherynne Valente.


Roffeb2007cvr I'm a little behind on the news, so y'all may know this already, but I was delighted to learn this morning that Realms of Fantasy magazine is not dead after all. Warren Lapine of Tir Na Nog Press has closed a deal to buy the magazine from Sovereign Media, which is very good news indeed. Shawna McCarthy will still be the editor, Doug Cohen will still be the assistant editor, and the stories previously contracted for will be published after all. They hope, apparently, to carry on with only one missed issue. 

Thanks, everyone, for your comments on my last post. It's very nice to be back at my desk at last. Both Midori and I have been waylayed by time-consuming Big Life Events since we closed down the Endicott Studio's Journal of Mythic Arts last summer (our timing seems to have been remarkably prescient)...but we will be getting back to regular blogging and Endicott Studio projects just as soon as the dust settles around us.

The "Magic of Food" article mentioned on this Realms cover, by the way, was by Midori. Titled "In Praise of the Cook," it was one of my favorite Folkroots articles. (You'll find a copy of it online here.) The art on the cover is by my friend and neighbor Wendy Froud, from her remarkable book The Art of Wendy Froud.

Back again...

Okay, that leave of absence wasn't as brief as I'd intended, for the move to the new house has been harder work and more prolonged than anticipated...and the dust hasn't truly settled yet. Nonetheless, I managed to carve out some time to get back into my quiet office today. (How lovely to be in a room with no walls to paint and no boxes to unpack!) I'm eager to turn my thoughts from issues of plumbing and electrics to art and myth and fiction again...just as soon as my exhausted brain and body and tired, work-swollen hands will allow.

The poignant and magical video below is "World Builder" by Bruce Banit. It reminds me of the worlds we build when we make fiction...or a new home...or any other act of creativity...