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June 2009

May 2009

Desert dreaming....

This is the first spring in close to twenty years that I haven't been in the Arizona desert when the cactus bloom. As if the photographs posted over on Midori's blog weren't making me miss Tucson enough, I had to go and stumble across the video above: "Two Silver Trees" by Calexico, shot in the bar at the Hotel Congress (one of my favorite places, just down the street from my old art studio) and other Tucson locations.

Spring is lovely in Devon too, with wildflowers in the hedgerows and bluebells in the woods...but today I'm missing the desert heat, the chili rellenos at El Charro, the bounce of a pick-up over rutted dirt roads, and coyote howls by moonlight....


Priming the pump of creativity...

Between an overly long and complicated house move, and an overly long and complicated bout of illness, it feels as though I've spent the last months away on a long and difficult journey, traveling by foot and ship and dog sled to Antarctica and back. Returning to the office/studio again, and back to my writing-painting-thinking self, is as bittersweet as any homecoming after a lengthy, weary trip: the sweet joy and relief of being back tempered by dismay at all the dust and cobwebs that have built up in ones absence. There are jobs to catch up on, letters to answer, apologies to tender ("Dear Sir or Madam, I'm terribly sorry that I dropped off the face of the earth these last few months..."), patient friends to get back in touch with . . . and the hardest and most imperative task: to re-discover, and settle back into, my own Creative Self.

Those of you who also live with chronic health issues will know this cycle all too well: the periodic abrupt Absences followed by laborious, apology-strewn Returns as we pick up the threads of life again. . . and the threads of ourselves again.* Over the years, we learn to recognize the things that can help to ease us back into the world. One of the things I find useful at such times is to read nonfiction about art, literature, myth, and the creative process; this gets the dusty, rusty gears in my brain creaking back into motion. Sometimes I re-read old favorites in this vein (Lewis Hyde's The Gift, for example; or David Abram's Spell of the Sensuous), finding fresh treasures within with each re-reading. Other times I seek out (or stumble across) something new to fire my imagination -- such as two terrific books sitting on my desk now that I'll post about at a later date. (Sorry, that's a bit of a tease, I know, but I need to keep today's post short.)

The Internet can also be a source of inspiration, if one knows where to look for it -- such as Arts & Letters Daily, a portal site linking to essays and articles posted elsewhere on the web; and, offering short videos of talks on a wide variety of subjects. (Isabelle Allende discussing passion, for example, or  Amy Tan on creativity). I subscribe to TED, and yet I somehow manged to miss the excellent video above -  in which Elizabeth Gibert discusses creativity, genius, inspiration, myth, faeries, and much more. I'm grateful to Amal El-Mohtar (editor of Goblin Fruit) for mentioning it to me. I absolutely love it. . . and suspect that you will too.

* If you're interested in health issues in relation to myth and storytelling, the Winter 2006 issue of the Journal of Mythic Arts was devoted to this theme.

Lori Field on her work and creative process. . .

Lori Field There's a brief but interesting interview with painter Lori Field on the Accidental Mysteries blog (scroll to the Tuesday May 26 entry). This little snippet intrigued me:

John Foster: Your work has a very surreal quality to it, with figures morphing into animals and plants. Also, all of your figures have over-sized heads and exist in an world of obsessive patterning. How did you get to this point in your work currently?

Lori Field: Not all of my creatures have oversize heads, but most do. The oversized head is a way of emphasizing the strangeness of the figures (as if having animal heads for hats and radical tattooing didn’t do the trick). I also like to tilt the head on the neck sometimes in a way that looks almost painful, broken, to emphasize the creatures otherworldly-ness and vulnerability. If they were the same as us, mere humans, they couldn’t live with their necks so twisted and distorted. They couldn’t live with their heads so large and heavy on their necks. They are supernatural and odd.

Lori's own terrific blog (Saints, Warriors, Tigers, Lovers, Flowers, Art) is here, and her portfolio website is here.

Back again. . .

A Cup of Tea  

I've been down with health problems for the better part of a month, which is why I've been away from this blog for so darn long. Yesterday was my first day back in the office, with many things to catch up on. (And if you're one of the many people I owe email too, thanks for your patience.)

T6923 Troll's Eye View is out now, and although I haven't yet seen a copy myself, I hear that it looks pretty good. It's a Middle Grade anthology of fairy-tale-inspired stories, focusing on fairy tale villains this time, with contributions by all all-star cast of writers: Peter Beagle, Holly Black, Michael Cadnum, Nancy Farmer, Wendy Froud, Neil Gaiman, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Ellen Kushner, Kelly Link, Garth Nix, Delia Sherman, Midori Snyder, Joe Stanton, Catherynne M. Valente, and Jane Yolen. Books of Wonder in New York is hosting a publication celebration for the book on Sunday, June 7. I won't be there myself, alas, but Ellen Datlow, Holly Black, Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman, and Cat Valente will be.

"In their third collection for younger readers, Datlow and Windling have solicited original pieces from 15 well-known authors; the focus this time is on the bad guys of the fairy-tale world. Some tell a traditional tale from the villain’s point of view, such as Nina Kiriki Hoffman’s 'Rags and Riches,' a version of The Goose Girl. Others demonstrate that change in perspective puts a whole different slant on fairy tales, as in Garth Nix’s Rapunzel-based 'An Unwelcome Guest' and Jane Yolen’s 'Troll,' a revisionist look at Three Billy Goats Gruff. Several poems are included as well; Neil Gaiman’s 'Observing the Formalities' is priceless and wouldn’t be out of place in the New Yorker. . . and the final story, Kelly Link’s 'The Cinderella Game,' is subtly yet powerfully chilling."  -- School Library Journal