#FolkloreThursday: #storytime by Joanne Harris and the Storytime Band

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If like me you have not been able to catch the live version of Joanne Harris’ #storytime, you’ll be glad to know that this CD captures the experience rather well (I suspect). Music, song and story blend together to create a magical experience with the freshness of a live performance.

Folktale aficionados will find Harris’ stories to be in a familiar vein that we have all imbibed since childhood. Yet her fairytale narratives offer original takes on those tropes that will surprise and delight you. If you follow @JoanneChocolat on Twitter you know her impromtu #storytime threads are always surprising, often timely and generally hook you quickly.

This CD gives me ideas — always a good sign.

Buy the CD direct for just £5 and get it personalised.

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Write 4 a Day: 24 June 2018

Write 4 a DayDon’t you deserve at least one day to write?

Write 4 a Day is a series of monthly one-day writing retreatsin upstate New York. There is:

  • no workshop
  • no agenda
  • no required activities
  • no assignments
  • no schedule
  • no WiFi!

Unplug. Write. Don’t write. Think. Daydream. Doodle. Outline. Come for the whole day or just for part of it; network, collaborate or write solo; wander the woods, hills, fields and streams of Universal Pathways for inspiration (bring sturdy shoes) or sit in a comfy chair and brainstorm. It’s up to you.

WHO – you! We haven’t had to limit attendance yet, but it’s getting to be a consideration. If you want to be sure to reserve a space, email me via the contact form.

WHY – because you deserve a day to devote to your writing (or daydreaming or sketching or scheming or knitting or…)

WHAT – $22 fee for the space (cash/check/PayPal/$20 for HVWG members) and food (a dish to share or your own lunch)

WHEN – 10am-5pm

2018: Jun 24, Jul 22, Aug 19, Sep 16, Oct 21, Nov 18, Dec 16 (tentative)

WHERE – Universal Pathways, 692 Pleasant Valley Rd, Berne, NY 12023 – Phone: (518) 872-2272

Out-Create the Destruction

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Corinne Mikael West

Thanks to the fabulous Pam Grossman mentioning this in an interview, I have been recharged by the great quote from the always delightful Tori Amos:

“You have to out-create the destruction
– it’s the only way.”

(By the by, have you been listening to Native Invader? It’s really terrific.)

I realise that this is what I feel subconsciously in these (make no mistake about it) perilous times. Yes, work to undo the evil at every step. Yes, raise our voices in protest, in resistance, in outrage at the seemingly endless venal obscenities!

But I am not a politician. I am not an organiser. I am a creator and I will create because that is my path of resistance. Create and re-create everything they try to destroy. Create the community and its strength that we need. Create the vision that will give us hope. Make every day a resounding yes to all that they claim is impossible. Do not give in to their selfish mediocrity.

I’ve been filling the well of my head with artists like Corinne Mikael/Michelle West (I love this image because it looks like she’s lecturing on how abstract-expressionism will sort things out) and of course my trimulierate Varo, Carrington and Fini. Reading The Militant Muse which has fed that need for examples of unruly artists making their way through explosive, soul-sapping times. Hanging on to the hope of a better future:

“When the heroic male narratives of modernism begin to fade, we may, eventually, be ready to recognize this amazingly idiosyncratic body of work.”

Prophetic words on Hedda Sterne but much more widely applicable, I hope, in the coming days.

At the McManus


The Beano takes over museum, but there’s also a portraits show on and of course old favourites — possibly obsessing a little too much about Duncan‘s Riders, but there it is.

 

Seven Books That Made Me

I have been tagged repeatedly in this meme (and the music one, and there ought to be an art one, too).  I hate lists. I hate the inherent [ahem patriarchal, capitalist, etc] need to rank and rate and declare bests, that divides us into endless competition. But as the latest tagger, Helen Grant suggested, it’s interesting to hear what has influenced your friends. So in that light, a random selection of books off the cuff, not the ‘best’ or the ‘highest rated’ but some that have had an impact on making me who I am.

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I don’t remember a lot of the details of this book, but it’s the first one I can remember changing me. Much of my childhood passed in an unremembered Zen state of being, but I distinctly recall excitedly asking my cousin as he got into the car with us (my mother, brothers and I), ‘Do you like fog? I like fog!’ because the book had so captivated me. I still love fog. I am fortunate to live in two areas prone to fog, mist and the haar, so make of that what you will. Books that fired my imagination enough to make me want to live there also included My Side of the Mountain, set in the Catskills. Huh: half the year, I live there.

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Yes, I wanted to be Jo, like so many young women. Her life (and her author’s) gave me a model to believe it could be possible for a girl with no experience to speak of or connections with famous people — that one could just make up the things and write about them and make books. I cannot read the book even now without crying. And I still haven’t totally forgiven Amy. Like the Alice books, indelible.

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My copy was plain: a turquoise cover with the title and Anna Sewell’s name in white, a knobbly texture. It was a book I read and re-read constantly. That kicked off my horse mania: I read every book in the library on horses. Seriously, every book. I still feel angry that the librarians (or my teachers?) forced me and my best friend to read books that were not about horses (did they ever do the same thing to boys? I doubt it). I read a book on Annie Sullivan. It was fine. But then it was back to horses. This is why I trust my obsessions.

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I think there is an age at which many young girls diverge from the common path: some go to Plath. I went to Parker. I liked Plath, but Parker was the one for me. At an age when one is too young to know the truth of her mordant wit, one fancies she does. She is wrong. When she is older, one understands more clearly why Parker hid her sorrow behind wit so it wouldn’t frighten the mens. Also I guess I can’t squeeze in Barbara Pym this time so she’s here too. And Anita Loos. And of course Austen. And Gaskell…every funny woman.

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It’s a bit unfair to make Marie stand in for a whole host of medieval books, but there it is. You’d have to understand my distaste for what I thought of as ‘medieval’ once upon an ignorant time — this is why I have such sympathy for my students’ eye rolling. Oh, but you don’t know, I tell them — and then of course I show them. My madeleine-in-the-tea moment might have been Beowulf, but Marie made me change my mind about the stereotypes. Medieval romance seemed the least interesting thing out there. It’s still not my favourite thing, but Marie told her tales — even the wretched Arthuriana — with such verve and a lack of sentiment that I even decided to retell her tales. Likewise many medieval women — Hrotsvita and Silence and Christina of Markyate and more…

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Likewise standing in for all the great crime dames like Patricia Highsmith and Elisabeth Sanxay Holding, Hughes’ masterpiece is a genius dissection of a serial killer that predates the much more lauded Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson. Where the latter gives a (surprisingly shallow) insight into the mind of a serial killer with a great deal of sympathy for him — Thompson seems to admire Lou Ford’s smug disdain for the world — Hughes lays open the brutal mind of Dix Steele with insight and understanding. There is a kind of sympathy for the mess of desires and ambitions he has, but there is no doubt about his chilling nature from page one. Hughes was way ahead of her time and still doesn’t get the acclaim she deserves. If she’d written only this book I’d call her a genius — but she’s written several excellent books.

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Seven tomes already and I’ve barely scratched the surface. This is why I don’t like lists. They are always inadequate. So this last one stands in for all the books of the fantastic I have read and loved. It’s also to make plain that the influences go on. While we gild the memories of some books from childhood to give them lustre, books can continue to change life. I’ve written conference papers and essays on this immense novel — and finally admitted I am probably writing a book on it. I love its world, I love Clarke’s loving scholarship of it. You never know when a book will sneak up on you and nudge you to another path. This one’s put me to work in a delightful way — I even get to use my medieval scholarship a bit.

Pre-Order: Inanna’s Ascent

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Out in July it’s the goddess-inspired anthology Inanna’s Ascent: Reclaiming Female Power. I have an essay detailing the inspiration for my novel Owl Stretching which incorporates elements of the ancient Sumerian tale of Inanna’s Descent.

Pre-order here.

Edited by Trista Hendren, Tamara Albanna and Pat Daly

Scheduled for July 2018
With contributions by:
Amanda Lee Morris, Annelinde Metzner, Annie Finch, Arna Baartz, Chantal Khoury, Daphne Moon, Rev. DiAnna Ritola,  Donna Snyder,Genevieve Deven, Glenys Livingstone, Ph.D., Hayley Arrington, Iriome R. Martín Alonso, Iyana Rashil, Jaclyn Cherie, K. A. Laity, Laura Shannon, Lennée Reid, Liliana Kleiner, Lori Newlove, Lyn Thurman, Melanie Miner, Melissa Stratton Pandina ,  Molly Remer, Nina Erin Hofmeijer, Nuit Moore, Patricia Ballentine, Sofia Wren, Sinem Koca, Susan Morgaine, Talia Segal, Tamara Albanna, Tara Reynolds, Trista Hendren and others.

A Gardener’s Grave

Wandering in the Howff today to loosen up my brain a little after some intense work on my latest essay (Celtic themes in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell). Just sent off the essay, so I though I would share some of the fruits of my wander.

I’m always discovering things I hadn’t noticed before. What a wonderful place this urban cemetery is. More photos on the ‘book if you’re there.

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