~ Annie Dillard
Fado this morning: Portuguese songs of longing and loss, fate and destiny. Above, the incomparable Mariza performs my favorite of her songs,"Chuva" (by Jorge Fernando), in concert in Lisbon. Below, Christina Branco peforms "Trago Fado Nos Sentidos."
Tilly and I are listening to a lot of fado lately. I can't imagine why....
I'm still on deadline this week, down to the very last bits of work involved in putting After together (with Ellen Datlow) before it's handed over to its publisher (Hyperion)--whilst simultaneously juggling other books and projects in their various stages of completion. I've edited more than 30 short story anthologies in the past 30 years (I'm not ancient, I just started very young), but the work is never routine. Each book is unique and presents its own special set of creative challenges.
I'll be posting here, but in a limited fashion until the book is done, done, done. Wish us luck!
Some very quick recommendations for you this week, while I'm still in deadline mode...
Austin Kleon demonstrates How to Steal Like an Artist (And 9 Other Things Nobody Ever Told Me) on his art & writing blog. If you read nothing else this week, read this. It's absolutely dead on.
Midori Snyder discusses Folklore and Three Generations of War in her review of Tea Obreht's The Tiger's Wife, over on In the Labyrinth. The Tiger's Wife is a book I also highly recommend.
Holly Black discusses aspirational thinking, and "customizing" ones writing life, on her LJ page. I'd be curious to know what other people have to say about this topic. (Another "Movable Feast" in the making...?)
Theodora Goss discusses reading protocals in relation to a Thurber story and Macbeth. Hilarious.
Rex survives another solo week over on John Barleycorn (although he's sounding a little frayed around the edges).
Carrie Osborne (in Somerset, England) shows lovely work inspired by the Book of Kells on her Windsongs and Wordhoards blog. Ruthie Reddon (in Scotland) has been inspired by Bristol's Gothic splendor on the 5 Precious Things blog.
Do you know the Faery Folklorist page, out of Northumberland? It's a charming blog dedicated to tracking down faery sites and lore. You also find faery lore and literature on Katherine Langrish's Seven Miles of Steel Thistles, as well as a good post on water lore. (Want more on water folklore? An old article of mine on the subject is here.)
On the Bordertown front: I especially loved Tim Pratt's article on Border Crossings (Tor.com) and Ellen Kushner's reminiscences about our early Bordertown days (Whatever), which made me a little teary-eyed . . . but there have been lots of other Bordertown items of interest, including poetry and other good things on Cabinet des Fées. The Bordertown blog has all the links and is regularly updated.
And for a real treat, go here to listen to Mary Oliver read her gorgeous poem "Mornings at Blackwater." Of all living poets, Oliver is my hands-down favorite, and a constant source of inspiration.
Have a good weekend, everyone.
Updated to add a bit of sad news: The great surrealist painter/writer Leonora Carrington has died, at age 94. She led an incredible (and far from easy) life, created an absolutely astonishing body of work, and was BFF with one of my other all-time-favorite painters, Remedios Varo (who was the inspiration behind the character Anna Navarro in my novel The Wood Wife). I always hoped I would meet Carrington some day...if only so that I could tell her how much her work has meant to me. I know she did well in making it to 94 (and painting right up to the end), but I'm feeling her loss keenly all the same. She rocked my world.
I've got competing deadlines staring me in the face right now, including a book due in to its publisher next week (an anthology of YA dystopian fiction called After, co-edited with my partner-in-crime, Ellen Datlow). I've also got a dog who is missing her papa and needing good long walks to distract her from pining. Since I can't clone myself to make time for everything, this blog will take a back seat until the deadline crunch is past. I'll pop in if I can, but I won't be posting regularly again until after June 1st. And speaking of books:
Today is the Official Publication Day for Welcome to Bordertown!!! Which means not only are the books now in the shops, but also that ebook editions are merrily zipping to Kindles and Nooks and Sony Readers even as I type this.
I hereby raise a glass of Farrel Din's finest to the amazing Ellen Kushner & Holly Black, to all the writers and artists who contributed to the book, to our excellent editor Mallory Loehr and the good folks at Random House (including Jessica Shoffel, Ellice Lee, and Chelsea Eberly), to agents extraordinaire Barry Goldblatt & Christopher Schelling, to web designer Theo Black and web-art-creator Tara O'Shea, to Delia Sherman and Midori Snyder and Tor Books (for generous assistance behind the scenes), to Howard (who convinced me to return to the Border), to the kind souls who donated art, crafts, and books to the Bordertown Sweepstakes [open until May 31, if you haven't entered it already], to the film crew and kids who made the video, and to everyone else who helped to re-open the Way to Bordertown. (You know who you are.)
There will be Bordertown stories, poems, articles, interviews, and other fun things popping up all over the web this week, and in the weeks ahead. So keep an eye on the Bordertown blog, where Ellen, Holly, and I are doing our best to keep track of it all (despite the fact that Ellen is off doing literary things in France, and Holly is off doing literary things in Sweden, and I'm here in England with a moping dog, while my husband's off doing theatrical things in Portugal. When did life get so...international?)
And please, everyone, we could use your help to pass the word about the Bordertown book trailer video, which is now up on YouTube. We want to get as many hits and comments as we can, with the goal of getting the book itself into the hands of every kid out there who needs stories like these...but might not know it yet....
By the way, if you purchase Welcome to Bordertown from Amazon.com by following this link, the Endicott Studio gets a small percentage of the sale -- and that money is donated to a charity for homeless, abused, and at-risk children. You'll find more information here.
The art above, from Welcome to Bordertown, is by Dylan Meconis.
This week's tunes come from two fantastic fiddle players -- one performing in a stripped down, traditional manner, and one in a more contemporary fashion, with a full band behind her.
Above: Caoimhín Ó Raghallaig, raised in Dublin and inspired by the great fiddle players of Ireland, performs a soulful solo set at The Back Loft in Dublin's City Centre.
Below: Natalie MacMaster, raised in the Cape Breton music tradition in rural Novia Scotia, Canada, performs a foot-stomping "Volcanic Jig." (The cellist, Wendy Solomon, is amazing too. She also plays with Bowfire, and a cello quartet called Lush.)
I'm popping in on a Saturday morning to pass the word that Erin Underwood has posted a terrific "shared world interview" with Bordertown writers Chris Barzak, Holly Black, Charles de Lint, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Tim Pratt, Sara Ryan, Janni Lee Simner, and Jane Yolen, over at Underwoods: Life Literature, & Everything in Between. She's also giving away a copy of the Welcome to Bordertown ARC via Book Club on Facebook today.
I must post this link quickly because I'm not really meant to be in the office on weekends. After a lifetime of working basically 24/7 (as so many self-employed writers, freelance editors, and artists do), I've been persuaded to actually take weekends off during my months of convalescence...and I'm finding the weekly break so helpful, bringing fresh energy and clarity to the rest of my work week, that I plan to carry it on when convalesence is finally done. If you, too, are an over-worked, overstressed 24/7 type, I recommend giving it a try. You'll be amazed. (I also recommend having one day a week when computers remain entirely switched off, which we do in my household on Sundays.)
So I'm out of here now, and leave you with the video above, recommended by my friend Bożena Małek in Poland. It's Bruno Mars in a studio session performing "The Lazy Song." Perfect.
Below: The pup in lazy mode (which dogs are so effortlessly good at), chilling on a bench in the front garden.
* Christina Cairns, in western Australia, has started a new Moveable Feast rolling with a thoughtful post called "Meditations on Home," which you'll find over at A Mermaid in the Attic. "As a descendent of immigrants from another, very different land, she writes, "I’ve always felt as if I had a foot in two worlds and belonged to neither. This country is the only home I’ve ever known, I know its rhythms, its seasons, its beauty and its frustrations. But culturally, spiritually...this land remains a cipher, a mystery that I cannot take part in beyond a superficial level...." Don't miss this beautiful meditation. (If the Feast travels anywhere else, please let me know in the Comments section of this post. Past Moveable feasts can be found here [on blogging] and here [on magic].)
* Katherine Langrish discusses myths and folklore about apples on Seven Miles of Steel Thistles. (And when you've finished reading that, if you're, er, hungry for more, try: "The Lore of Simple Things: Milk, Honey, and Bread" by Ari Berk, and "In Praise of the Cook" by Midori Snyder.)
* A great blog that I've just discovered (via Ellen Kushner) is Daniel Rabuzzi's Lobster and Canary, dedicated to "speculative, fantastical and surreal fiction, poetry, and visual arts, fairy tales, oral epic, & children's literature." Oh, my! It's based in (but not confine to) New York City, and it's terrific.
* Rex goes it alone on the John Barleycorn blog...and manages to pull off his first solo post with aplomb.
* Theodora Goss offers some very wise advice to aspiring writers in a blog post titled "Finding the Joy."
* Also for new writers: Nick Mamatas has an interesting new book out (with a fabulous cover): Starve Better: Surviving the Endless Horror of the Writing Life. I've read a couple of pieces from the book online (you'll find links to them on Jeff Vandermeer's Ecstatic Days), and they're wonderfully blunt, clear-eyed, and provocative. Like Jeff says: "You may disagree with some of it, but that’s part of defining yourself as a writer, too."
* Richard Curtis discusses the state of the publishing industry in "The Real Kindle Killer," over on the Clarion blog. It's one of the best short pieces on the subject I've read: informative and succinct.
* Cliff McNish lists his top ten most frightening books for teenagers, on The Guardian's site. And they are not necessarily the ones you'd think they'd be.
* The finalists for the 2011 Mythopoeic Award have been announced. Congratulations to everyone on the list. (Very fine books all.)
* Midori Snyder has a couple of posts reflecting on "writers and their hair" (scroll down the page to find them both) on her blog, The Labyrinth, which in turn were inspired by a post on Favorwire. Also check out the fabulous video Midori posted yesterday: Behind the Seams. It's wild!
* Janni Lee Simner has organized a big "Bordertown Lives!" Sweepstakes to help spread the news about Welcome to Bordertown, with all kinds of great prizes for three lucky winners. All the info is on the Bordertown blog, along with other B-town news, reviews, contests, etc., as the May 24th pub date quickly approaches. It's been fun, and moving, to see so much enthusiasm out there for the revival of the series. And lordy, how I love the Bordertown-bound kids in the new book trailer video.
* This week's folklore recommendation: check out The Company of Green Men, a blog from a group that "gathers, archives and makes freely available information, images and folklore about the green man and the traditional Jack-in-the-Green."
* This week's art recommendations: you'll find some very beautiful collages over on Lynn Hardaker's Beneath the Bracken; and are you familiar with the art of Julianna Swaney? I've been watching her work evolve over the last few years, and her website and blog are well worth a visit.
* This week's video recommendation: Ben Okri (author of The Famished Road, Starbook, etc.) discusses his approach to writing. "A story, " he says, "is an interval in the enchantment of living." Beautiful words, beautiful man.
Have a good weekend.
(And if I owe you email, my apologies for the delay and thank you for your patience. It's been a complicated week for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is having a new book with Ellen Datlow due in to its publisher on June Ist. )
Sitting on the rocks at the top of the hill, Tilly's posture went suddenly rigid with concentration. I followed her gaze, then saw what she had spied...
...white cows moving through a meadow full of bluebells near the border of the woods. Tilly is usually wary of the creatures (an attitude we encourage here in farm country, where she mustn't ever chase the cows or sheep), so although she raced down the hill in great excitement, she kept a sensible safe distance from them...
...while the cows drifted slowly through the flowers, gentle ladies glowing white within a sea of blue and green.
But when she heard me coming up behind her, Tilly grew bold and decided to inch closer...and then just a little closer still...
...until a big black rock in the grass suddenly moved, and the pup nearly jumped out of her skin! It wasn't a rock, it was a black-and-white bull, glaring down at her as if to say, "Yeah, that's right, come closer, little doggie. Come closer and make my day."
After that, Tilly stuck close to my side, her ears slicked back, seal-like, in her chagrin. We turned back down the hill again, following a narrow sheep path toward home...wading through flowers...raising clouds of golden butterflies with each step we took.
The butterflies were feeding on the delicate nectar of bluebells, gorse, stitchwort, and campion....
They brushed against us as we passed through, lighting in my hair and on my hands, darting from girl to dog to flower, little whispers of color and wind.
No wonder I write fantasy, I thought as we reached our own back gate again. They say that you should write about what you know. And what I know is that the world is full of magic.
As we climb to the top of Nattadon Hill, there are bluebells everywhere, lining the path and peaking up shyly from the cover of bracken.
At the top of the hill is a bluebell field, the color so delicate among the green than my camera barely registers it...but to the eyes, it's a cloud of blue; and to the nose, an extraordinary perfume. Tilly crosses the hilltop, wading through flowers. Then she sits on a rock, looking down on the village and the rise of open moorland beyond.
Soon we will have to head down towards home, but for now we just sit and absorb it all: beauty, magic, light, wind, sun. The raw materials for art-making, myth-making, story-telling. Food for the soul.
Last week before he left, Howard and I took the pup for one last walk together on the slope of the hill behind our house. We followed a path that is one of Howard's favorites, though it is one that I don't often travel myself. I'd been heading for the cover of the woods instead, enchanted by the bluebells that had bloomed among the trees and were now pale ghosts fading back into the green. "Ah, but I know a place where the bluebells are just now hitting their peak," he told me; and he whistled for the dog, and led the way, and this is what he showed me:
There's a lesson for me here. Sometimes the things you think you're losing aren't really gone at all. You just have to come at them from a new direction...and then there they are, stronger than ever.
So I'm out of the woods, in the literal sense, and maybe in the creative sense too. As I push ahead with creative work, I am, metaphorically speaking, walking farther afield with each passing day, and if the work is not exactly easy, it is oh so interesting, which is even better.
These pictures come from the bottom of the hill, bordered by some sheep fields and an old stone wall. Tomorrow, pictures from the very top. On Thursday, down the other side.
May your own journeys be interesting too, wherever and whatever those journeys may be.