Welcome to another round-up post! This is where I hold myself accountable and cast an eye over what I did this year.
As per usual, I feel like it wasn’t enough. But then, it always feels that way. At this point, I’m sure it will never feel like “enough.” “Enough” is an asymptote—we may get close, but we never really reach it. I think we need to hold onto conflicting truths (It’s never enough/We can do it!) simultaneously, or we spiral into despair.
But enough philosophizing. What did I do this year?
What I Did in 2018
Six Stories, Told at Night won the Parsec Award
Finished writing/editing the Beer Magic novel
Took the first steps in finding it a home
Wrote 9.5 new short stories
Submitted short stories, though not as many as I’d like
“On Thin Ice” came out on Tales from the Archives
“Ti-Jean’s Last Adventure, as Told to Raccoon” sold to Lightspeed (it’s out in February)
“Song of the Oliphant” sold to/came out with Lackington’s (read it here)
Reprint rights to “La Corriveau” sold to Augur (it’ll be on their blog in the new year)
“Her Hands Like Ice” will be included in Bracken’s print anthology (details when I have them)
Finished writing DinoKnights for Choice of Games
Released DinoKnights with Choice of Games (play it here!)
Attended ReaderCon and Can-Con
A Canticle of Light was produced by Missed Metaphor Productions
Adapted/produced a stage version of Six Stories, Told at Night for the Toronto Fringe Festival
Six Stories, Told at Night got shortlisted for Best of Fringe
Produced Six Stories (again!) for an independent showcase
Started plotting out Coxwood History Fun Park—Season Two
Officially tendered my resignation after eight (!) years at the museum (I’ll have many thoughts about that later)
Landed a new dayjob
But that doesn’t capture the most important work I did this year.
I went back to therapy to actually get a handle on my social anxiety. I spent a lot of time discovering what actually makes me happy, rather than the things I “should” be pursuing. I took a good hard look at how I relate to people.
And I’m…getting somewhere. Slowly, but surely. I feel like this is work that has to happen now, so I have a foundation for the future.
Anyway. That was my 2018!
What I’m Listening To This Week
Honestly, I keep bouncing back and forth between Handel’s Messiah and Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols. We’ve had “This Little Babe” on the blog before, but it’s my favourite part of Ceremony. I love how the relentless, martial phrases mimics the imagery in the text…plus, it’s ridiculously fun to sing!
From one adventure to the next!
Six Stories, Told at Night had its showcase and reception last week. Overall, we were thrilled with how it all went (I regret a few moments of clumsiness). And to celebrate, The Seventh Story was released on Friday! This is a companion story written as one of our GoFundMe rewards. You can find it here!
So what’s next?
Yes, I return once again to this delightful con! Its numbers are swelling, the programming looks awesome as ever, and I’m so looking forward to seeing lots of cool people. It’ll be a busy weekend, too!
Friday, October 12
WORKSHOP: A Sound Idea – Fiction Writing for Podcasts
Ever wanted to dip a toe in the ocean of podcasting? Play with sounds and learn the difference between a read and performed narrative? Then step right up! I’ll be teaching a session on podcasting writing and production.
Can-Con has a few masterclasses running, so click here to learn more and register!
READING: 3:00 pm
It’s gonna be Anatoly Belilovsky and me kicking off the readings!
Saturday, October 13
A Seriously Folked-Up Panel on Fairy Tales — 12:00 pm
Me, Amal el-Mohtar, Kari Maaren, Rati Mehrotra, Derek Newman-Stille (m)
Sunday October 14
Beyond Romantic Entanglements— 2:00 pm
Me, James Alan Gardner, Jessica Reisman, Kelly Robson (m)
Of course, then fun doesn’t stop after Can-Con. There’s a slew of projects in the works. I’ve deviated some from my magic New Year’s Day list of goals, but I’m happy with the things in the hopper…including a new musical comedy crossover.
Things are good. Exhausting, but good.
What I’m Listening to this Week
I just came across César Franck’s “Le Chasseur Maudit” (The Damned/Accursed Hunter). It’s a wonderful musical take on the Wild Hunt motif. I love the hunter’s horn crying out in the beginning, and the grand, sweeping lines as he’s pursued by Hell. Perfect for this time of year!
Sorry pals, everything is ridiculous right now. Sturm und drang! Sound and fury! Madness and chaos!
Okay, that’s perhaps a little dramatic. But over the next three days, I am…
Finishing a major writing project!
I’m aiming to complete the first draft of my interactive fiction novel for Choice of Games either today or tomorrow. It’s running about 115k in total. You can become a knight…riding a dinosaur!
Good fun, but I shall be relieved to have it off my plate for now, because…
A CANTICLE OF LIGHT opens on May 30th!
Dress rehearsal tonight, opening the day after tomorrow! The cast and crew have worked extremely hard, and I’m so incredibly proud of them. I can’t wait to see this Canadian Gothic piece live onstage!
Still need your tickets? Buy them here!
“Six Stories: Road to the Fringe” drops on May 30th!
Because we’re really good at planning! Just kidding, just kidding, I pulled out my calendar and worked out a whole release schedule for the SIX STORIES companion podcast. Turns out this was the best day. It’s almost poetic, the way these two plays have stayed in lockstep…
Anyway, interviews, behind-the-scenes chatter, and more faerie tale goodness coming your way soon. It’s dropping right into the preexisting “Six Stories, Told at Night” feed. Subscribe here (if you haven’t already)!
Wait. Was this a post?
Ah, let’s say it was. To dinosaurs!
What I’m Listening To This Week
When you need something high energy and emotional, and also a reminder that it’ll be okay in the end…
Whoa! Here we are, back on the blog! It’s not Monday—what gives?
Our GoFundMe campaign for Six Stories, Told at Night wrapped at midnight, and a Facebook post wasn’t going to cut it!
When last we saw our plucky co-producers, they had tweaked the campaign after blowing past the initial goal on the first day.
“Well, we were going to offer a vlog,” quoth I. “And I can write a seventh story; I’ve got some ideas. And…oh man, okay. What about…Coxwood Season Two?”
“Are you sure?”
“We’ll set a ridiculous target,” I said, all confidence. “We’ll never make it.”
And so the campaign trucked along. It was wonderful! Blythe and I spent a very pleasant week feeling warm fuzzies, writing limericks, and recording messages for donors (if anyone out there is Fringing It Up, drop me a line when you’ve decided what you’d like Blythe to record for you!).
We closed Monday at $730. “Cool, cool,” I said, “we’ll see how far we can get by Wednesday night.”
Tuesday passed. We had enough to cover the admin/festival expenses, plus a chunk of production.
“What if you make it to $1500?” a friend asked.
“We won’t,” I replied.
“I think we’ll hit $1000,” I said, coming home on the subway. “I’ve got a good feeling.”.
On arriving home, I made our final “ZOMG last few hours!!!” post. Then I sat back, ready to relax into a job well done. The box office would probably still take a hit, but not a huge one. If we were careful, we could probably manage pretty good shares when it came time to divvy up the takings…
Incredibly, you guys carried us to our ultimate goal.
We got very excited:
And then the lurking migraine I’d been fighting burst forth, I threw up, and we called it a night.
But now it is morning! So—we made our ultimate stretch goal. What does this mean?
For SIX STORIES:
We can have a kickass show. There are festival/administrative expenses associated with the Fringe. Those are covered. Set, design elements, costumes, signage, programs, handbills/buttons…all that just got so much easier. We’re entering Fringe from a strong position. A lot more is within our grasp!
And of course, compensating our cast and crew is a massive priority. This is why this campaign has meant so much to us—we wanted to give as much box office to them as possible. From the entire “Six Stories” team, THANK YOU.
You’ve unlocked everything, you wonderful people!
ROAD TO THE FRINGE PODCAST!
Once this blog posts, I’m pulling out the calendar to figure out a release schedule. Get ready for interviews, chatter, shenanigans, and rehearsal snippets!
Can’t make it to Toronto? We’ve got you covered! Meet our fab cast and crew, see bits of rehearsals and design elements, and make the leap with us from pure audio to live theatre!
I’ve been noodling some ideas. I definitely know the direction I want to go in. And oh…oh, I think it’ll be so cool. For this, I’ve got to consult with the team a little. I’ll keep you all posted.
COXWOOD SEASON TWO!
I’m gonna admit, I didn’t expect to make it to the ultimate goal. But we did! So—back to Coxwood for a second mini-season! I’m not entirely sure how many episodes it will be, but I’ll be taking a look at this after Fringe finishes in mid-July.
If we can release it by the end of 2018, amazing! As always, I’ll keep you posted.
Thank you, everyone. Seriously, from both of us—thank you, thank you, thank you. We are stunned that you believe in our show like this. We’ve spent the last fortnight feeling incredibly humbled and loved.
And now the work and fun begins! Our first production meeting and rehearsal is Friday. We can’t wait to get started!
KT and Blythe
What I’m Listening To Today
When it rains, it pours! More SIX STORIES updates for all of you!
First, we needed to take promotional photos for the play. These are the images we send to the Toronto Fringe for use in the programme and website.
Y’all remember the podcast image?
We thought it would be cool to recreate it as much as possible…in real life! And so I spent a very pleasant evening tromping through Toronto’s least-sketchy ravine, looking for a suitable tree.
Although I heard my own podcast running through my head, over and over:
At the ravine’s edge, I hesitated. There could be druggies in there. Gangs. Guys like Peter.
Witches, fairies, wolves.
–Six Stories, Told at Night: “Le Chien d’Or”
Hence choosing the least-sketchy ravine. I found a very nice tree. Though it’s hard to tell without leaves, I’m fairly sure it was an oak cultivar. This is what it looked like on my scouting expedition:
And this is what the ravine looked like, post-April ice storm:
Snow by itself wouldn’t have been awful. This is Canadian theatre, after all; some snow is probably appropriate. The problem is that we’d already decided that Blythe would be shooting in a sundress—though the season is never specified in the play itself, the Toronto Fringe is in July.
She was a trouper. Armed with a portable light from our awesome pals at Missed Metaphor Productions, our intrepid photographer, and a thermos of tea, we set to work.
Table-reads aside, it’s the first chance I’ve had to see Sam come to life. And pals—it’s so flipping cool. This is my favourite part of playwriting: this moment when someone who’s only lived in your head is suddenly standing before you. While I mainly write prose, theatre gives me too great a high to shake completely.
Also—like, we were in the woods, at night, in a distinctly faerie-esque atmosphere as the April snows drifted down. “This is what Sam did,” I thought. “This is the story.” The fabric between our world and SIX STORIES’ felt a tiny bit thin at that moment.
We got the shots we needed, we went out for drinks, and there was much rejoicing.
THEN we launched a GoFundMe for the show. We’re on a shoestring budget for this show: Fringe works on a profit-share basis. Expenses come out of the box office, and the remainder gets split amongst the company.
“We don’t need much,” Blythe and I told each other. “Just to offset some props and stuff.”
We blew past our goal within 12 hours.
Which, hey, lesson learned. We didn’t think big enough the first time around. So back to the drawing board we went.
“I mean…well, we’re gonna need to get programmes printed.”
“Yeah. And it’d be nice if we could…you know…not worry so much about the set, props, and costumes.”
“Don’t forget the administrative fees…”
Currently, we’ve got a number of stretch goals and reward tiers (yes, yes, if we make the Ultimate Uber Stretch Goal, I’ll write another season of Coxwood History Fun Park). And we’re completely humbled by the response thus far. Seriously, our most sincere thank you to everyone who’s shared, liked, commented, supported…we literally couldn’t do this without you.
We want to make you proud. We want to produce the best show possible. We’re so very thankful for your belief in us.
The GoFundMe will close on May 2nd. Then…well, I guess we’ll see if we return to Coxwood. We seem to be well on our way! You can find the campaign (and donate, if you’re so inclined) here!
It’s been a lot of emotions and long nights, pals. But we are so very happy.
What I’m Listening To This Week
Ahh, Ēriks Ešenvalds, you awesome contemporary choral composer. “Only In Sleep” is neat because it kinda sounds like a traditional folk song, but it’s got choral chords and harmonies up the wazoo.
Also, super poignant lyrics. But from Sara Teasdale, I expect nothing less. 😉
Today I thought I would give you all some updates on my two plays!
The gang is assembled! We have our full cast and production team. They are all delightful, talented people, and we can’t wait to work with them.
We have a venue! The show’s going up at the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace. We couldn’t be happier!
We have a fundraiser! Starting on Wednesday, we’ll be running a crowdfunding campaign. The demands of stage theatre are very different than audio drama. We want to bring you the best production possible, so we’ll be reaching out for help.
Plus, Blythe and I have cooked up some awesome rewards to unlock along the way. If you can’t make it to Toronto for the Fringe Festival, this is a great way to stay involved with the show. We can’t wait—if we make our goal, we’ll be firing up the mics once again for a companion podcast. We’re definitely itching to get back on pod!
The Toronto Fringe Festival runs July 4th-15th, 2018. We should be getting the specific schedule for SIX STORIES later this month. We’ll announce it as soon as we can!
A Canticle of Light
Switching gears, this play is being produced by Missed Metaphor Productions. They are also delightfully talented people, and I can’t wait to see how they bring this Southern Ontario Gothic drama to life.
CANTICLE also has its cast! You can learn more about them here!
This play’s going up at the Box Theatre, May 30th-June 2nd. If you’re in Toronto, there is a fundraising event planned for May—more details forthcoming soon!
Life is very, very busy, but I’m also very happy. Both these plays have special places in my heart. As hectic as things are, I’m thrilled they can take their journeys together.
What I’m Listening To This Week
As a composer, Dan Forrest has such a lovely flow. He’s got some stylistic similarities to Ola Gjeilo; probably no surprise I like them both. In this piece, I love the swooping, circling theme that repeats the plea, “Entreat me not to leave you.”
Alas, I think this is a state of being that’s likely to continue until at least the end of February. My secret is that I’m actually TERRIBLE at multitasking. However, I am excellent at pulling ridiculously long hours to get something done in three days, so that I can move along to the next task.
It’s not really cramming, because every project gets a very carefully appointed spot on the calendar. More like strategic slogging, I suppose. This month has mostly been eaten by the interactive fiction game, another Ontario Arts Council grant application, and the Six Stories, Told at Night stage adaptation (with some Apex Magazine podcastery thrown in there). Amidst all this, I keep poking at the novel because the constantly-breaking momentum is wrong-footing me.
This isn’t how I like to write novels. I like to write them over intense bursts that last four-to-eight weeks. Back in December, I was hoping to finish Beer Magic by the end of January, but it looks like I may finish it during my February writers’ retreat.
Such is the writing game, sometimes. As they say, “You can’t always get what you want.”
So what do you do, in these cases?
Honestly, I think there’s only one thing to do. You take a straw, and you suck it up. As I’ve always said, paying work and contracted work gets done first, work with hard deadlines comes next, and then you figure out the rest.
(Excuse me whilst I balefully poke at the novel a little more.)
But paradoxically, sometimes when I’m overwhelmed the best thing I can do for myself is…not write sometimes. Otherwise, I can drive myself into a tizzy. So…reading. Baking. Drinking adult-type beverages with friends. Going to choir and post-choir hangouts. (Honestly, I think choir is the thing that keeps me the most grounded.)
That sounds like a contradiction. Suck it up—but also don’t worry, go have fun!
Okay. Sometimes, yes, you have to be a writer first. Strap on your Grown-Up Boots and stomp through the swamp of unwritten words. But we’re also humans, and if we neglect that side of ourselves, what will we be good for writing, anyway?
I firmly believe it all comes down to scheduling. Everybody has twenty-four hours in the day. It’s up to you to decide how those hours get filled.
The swamp is good, in the end. It means there’s a lot of really cool stuff on one’s plate. And besides, it’s excellent practice. Writing is hard, after all. Theatre is also hard. Doing both?
Anyway. I hope you have an excellent week. Carry on!
What I’m Listening to This Week
I’ve been listening to this piece, but I’m not sure how I feel about it. Byron’s “She walks in beauty” is one of my favourite poems, and this choir is lovely, but I feel like I wanted more melody to match the metre, less preoccupation with moving chords.
Still listening while I figure my opinion out.
The news has filtered through the internet by now: SIX STORIES, TOLD AT NIGHT has won the Parsec Award for Best Small Cast Story (Novella). It’s an incredible honour, I’m very pleased, and I want to show you a picture:
This is the 2012 Parsec Awards at Dragon*Con. It’s blurry because my hands were shaking, even worse than usual.
I was very young. Sitting alone, at the fringes. I was awkward and incredibly nervous. And also overwhelmed by the fact I’d made it to Dragon*Con. Guys, for 2012 KT, this was like attending the Oscars. My favourite podcast celebrities were all there. I’d been hanging out with some of them through the weekend. This was mind-blowing.
I remember feeling so uncomfortable, though.
Uncomfortable and hungry. God, I was so hungry (metaphorically speaking). After the awards, Pip Ballantine nodded to the big screen, saying, “Maybe one day, it’ll be your name up there.” And oh, I wanted that so much. Even then, I was gingerly feeling around the dream’s edges. Podcasting means a lot to me—I’ve always believed in the art form. I always wanted to create something beautiful with it.
In 2014, my short story “Under Oak Island” made the finalist round. So yes, my name was up there. It didn’t win, but it was a huge honour nonetheless.
Coxwood History Fun Park didn’t make the finalist round. Honestly, that was Okay.
And then I wrote SIX STORIES, TOLD AT NIGHT.
I’ve said before: SIX STORIES is the first time I’ve sat back after production and said, “Yes. Yes, I have produced the podcast that justifies me.” It is not a perfect podcast, but it contains all of my heart and all of my ability, and it is exactly the way I wanted to go out.
From the start, I knew it was my last kick at the Parsec can.
One last story. One last shot.
And we did it.
And it feels—okay, well, honestly, it feels incredible. This is a dream I’ve had since I was eighteen years old. It was a long, long road—eight years!—which makes it all the more poignant. I have learned so much whilst podcasting, I’ve made so many friends, and I’ve grown so much.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m LOVING my tenure producing the Apex Magazine Podcast. But in terms of producing my own fiction, writing my own intensive audio dramas…
I’m good. Parsec or no, SIX STORIES said precisely what I want to say. With this story, I’ve done what I set out to do.
The Parsec is a wonderful symbol of that. I can scarcely describe how it feels to have a story that means so much to me, recognized with an award that holds such weight for me.
But I stand on the shoulders of giants. My utmost thanks to the many talented podcasters who came before me, inspired me, mentored me, and laid the foundation of the audio fiction canon we see today. My thanks to the Ontario Arts Council for providing the funding that made SIX STORIES possible. My thanks to Alex White, Starla Huchton, and Ellen McAteer for their contributions to this podcast. And of course, my thanks to Blythe Haynes for a beautiful performance.
It’s been an incredible ride, and I could not be happier.
But it’s not over. Not yet, not with SIX STORIES hitting the Toronto Fringe in July.
So thank you, all, for believing in this little podcast that could. I’m truly touched.
What I’m Listening to this Week
I had a bunch of choral pieces, but I cycled back to Kevin MacLeod’s “Long Road Ahead.” This was the piece that concluded Hapax, and it feels especially apt for this week…particularly the final movement at 1:40.
I didn’t really want to write this post. This is supposed to be the cumulative, “What I Did in 2017” post. You know, where we check in with that black-Sharpie list I made on New Year’s Day. But see—the thing is—I feel like I didn’t do much.
But that’s putting it mildly. Coming off the insane ride that was 2016—the year everything seemed to go right—this year has left me feeling fairly ineffective. A failure.
However, I do want to remain honest, always. And I think this year, while deeply unpleasant, was necessary.
So let’s get the main event over.
What I Did in 2017
“Her Hands Like Ice” came out in Bracken Magazine.
“Search History” sold to/came out in Daily Science Fiction.
Gave my “Fantasy Author’s Guide to Beer” talk at Boskone, the Nebulas, and Can-Con.
“La Corriveau” was shortlisted for the Sunburst Award.
“Six Stories, Told at Night” is currently a Parsec finalist (idk when the awards are being given—does anyone?)
Wrote and submitted a lot of stories. Some of them got very nice rejection letters.
Wrote a final draft of the Creepy Play, provisionally titled, A Canticle of Stars. It’s being produced in the spring.
“Six Stories, Told at Night—LIVE ON STAGE” got into the Toronto Fringe Festival. I probably will not add “LIVE ON STAGE” to the final title, but no promises.
Started writing the Beer Magic Novel. It’s currently about 25k. It needs a good solid whack with a stick before I can continue, but I’m having fun thus far.
Contracted with Choice of Games to write another interactive fiction game. It occurs to me that I never mentioned this publicly. But I’m totally doing that. It has dinosaurs in it.
Researched/began plotting a new play with Blythe.
Schemed quite heavily on other theatre things with Blythe. I can talk about them more in the New Year. The secret is slipping out, but I must be coy a while longer.
Took over as the Apex Magazine podcast producer. Which—whooo! I didn’t realize how much I missed podcasting until I was back in the saddle. This is the best arrangement, and I’ve loved working with the Apex team.
I also made a lot of new friends (waves at Twitter), wonderful thing happened to my friends, and I read a LOT of good things.
Which…okay. I look at all that, and I have to concede that perhaps I am not a total failure. I’m just not living up to my own expectation. It’s silly, and I know that writing doesn’t work this way, but I fell into the trap of assuming that last year’s streak would just…continue.
Except it doesn’t always.
Except that writing—like anything—happens in cycles.
Except that you have to keep going, even when it feels like you are the Absolute Worst.
This year—yeah, this year, I failed. Not totally. But I did. And if one is going to survive writing, one has to learn how to survive that. 2017 shook me to the roots—and while I cracked a little, I’m still standing.
Terri Windling has interesting thoughts about this, actually. Quoting Jane Champagne, she says, “…sometimes the old artist has to die before the new artist is born. And the “death” part takes as long as it takes. It doesn’t care about schedules and deadlines.”
This is comforting, because it addresses another difficult aspect of this year:
It’s been hard to write. I feel clumsy. I feel inarticulate. I feel like I have laryngitis: the same frustration in expressing myself; notes once so easy, now out of reach.
After this long, I know: throwing myself into a long-term project always helps rekindle the fire, so I’m very glad for Beer Magic. Even if it needs a good whack. (It’s a weird one, my friends. Fun, but weird.)So the important thing for 2018 is to keep moving onwards. Write more, write better. And more importantly, write with more joy. I realize now that was often missing from my 2017 writing. That may have been part of the problem, actually.
Well. Hmm. That’s something to chew on. I’m glad we had this chat, friends.
What I’m Listening to this Week
Aptly, a piece I literally just discovered, Daniel Schreiner’s “Fear Not.” There are some incredibly beautiful dissonances here—and those droning, held tenor/soprano notes give me goosebumps.
Greetings, friends! So after some early flailing, the Beer Magic Novel seems to have kicked into gear. It’s about 16k at the moment and I can feel the momentum building (I miss it, when I’m not working on it). BUT it also hasn’t yet reached the critical threshold of, “I’m pretty sure this novel’s not gonna die,” so that’s all I’ll say about it for now.
For indeed, it is mid-December! It is time for all the yearly wrap-up posts!
Without further ado:
Some Things I Read and Loved in 2017
(In roughly the order I read them.)
Green Grass, Running Water—Thomas King
I’m only counting fiction here, but I read this shortly after King’s The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America. And I’m glad I read them in that order: King’s meditations in the latter helped me appreciate the former even more.
I loved the voice in Green Grass. I loved the blending of conventional novel structure and oral storytelling principles. It’s funny and honest and heartbreaking, and please just read it.
Strong, sassy women and hard-luck, hard-headed men, all searching for the middle ground between Native American tradition and the modern world, perform an elaborate dance of approach and avoidance in this magical, rollicking tale by award-winning author Thomas King. Alberta, Eli, Lionel and others are coming to the Blackfoot reservation for the Sun Dance. There they will encounter four Indian elders and their companion, the trickster Coyote—and nothing in the small town of Blossom will be the same again. . . .
Kiss of the Fur Queen—Tomson Highway
This one—we start with champion dog-sled racer Abraham Okimasis, and then follow his sons from early childhood to adulthood. It’s immersive and beautifully written and painful—and again, I’m head-over-heels in love with the voice, particularly that of eponymous Fur Queen.
Champion and Ooneemeetoo Okimasis are all too soon torn from their family and thrust into the hostile world of a Catholic residential school. Their language is forbidden, their names are changed to Jeremiah and Gabriel, and both boys are abused by priests.
As young men, estranged from their own people and alienated from the culture imposed upon them, the Okimasis brothers fight to survive. Wherever they go, the Fur Queen–a wily, shape-shifting trickster–watches over them with a protective eye. For Jeremiah and Gabriel are destined to be artists. Through music and dance they soar.
The Stone Angel—Margaret Laurence
Do you sense a theme here? The Stone Angel gets assigned to a lot of high school English classes. Mine missed it, but I’m glad I waited until adulthood. Basically, Hagar Shipley runs away to the woods and remembers her life—and pals, it’s devastating. Laurence’s characterization is superb. And it’s those little, tiny details that hit with the most weight.
In her best-loved novel, The Stone Angel, Margaret Laurence introduces Hagar Shipley, one of the most memorable characters in Canadian fiction. Stubborn, querulous, self-reliant – and, at ninety, with her life nearly behind her – Hagar Shipley makes a bold last step towards freedom and independence.
As her story unfolds, we are drawn into her past. We meet Hagar as a young girl growing up in a prairie town; as the wife of a virile but unsuccessful farmer with whom her marriage was stormy; as a mother who dominates her younger son; and, finally, as an old woman isolated by an uncompromising pride…
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter—Theodora Goss
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this novel. It’s a well-curated collection of Victorian literature’s girl monsters. On one level, it’s a terribly fun romp. On another, it’s a very intelligent dance with Victorian literature. Of course, this is all up my alley.
Mary Jekyll, alone and penniless following her parents’ death, is curious about the secrets of her father’s mysterious past. One clue in particular hints that Edward Hyde, her father’s former friend and a murderer, may be nearby, and there is a reward for information leading to his capture…a reward that would solve all of her immediate financial woes.
But her hunt leads her to Hyde’s daughter, Diana, a feral child left to be raised by nuns. With the assistance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Mary continues her search for the elusive Hyde, and soon befriends more women, all of whom have been created through terrifying experimentation: Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherin Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein.
When their investigations lead them to the discovery of a secret society of immoral and power-crazed scientists, the horrors of their past return. Now it is up to the monsters to finally triumph over the monstrous.
A Green and Ancient Light—Frederic S. Durbin
I picked this up from the library on a whim. Early on, it says: “I won’t tell you my name or that of the village where I spent that spring and summer when I was nine. I won’t because you should realize there were towns just like it and boys just like me all around the sea…”
It’s a vague world, and yet complete. In a nutshell: boy, grandmother, and faun try to both protect a downed fighter pilot and find a long-lost door into Faery.
When I finished, I could only think, “This one is part of me now.”
It was that kind of book.
Set in a world similar to our own, during a war that parallels World War II, A Green and Ancient Light is the stunning story of a boy who is sent to stay with his grandmother for the summer in a serene fishing village. Their tranquility is shattered by the crash of a bullet-riddled enemy plane, the arrival of grandmother’s friend Mr. Girandole—a man who knows the true story of Cinderella’s slipper—and the discovery of a riddle in the sacred grove of ruins behind grandmother’s house. In a sumptuous idyllic setting and overshadowed by the threat of war, four unlikely allies learn the values of courage and sacrifice.
Bonus Short Story: “The Last Sailing of the Henry Charles Morgan in Six Pieces of Scrimshaw (1841),” by A.C. Wise.
This story is told through the registration notes that accompany museum artifacts; in this case, six pieces of scrimshaw. Look, I work at a museum. I’ve read these notes. Wise nails them. It’s an inventive form of storytelling and it is wonderfully, wonderfully creepy. This is the winner of the 2017 Sunburst Award for short story—and it’s easy to see why!
And that’s all I could fit into this one post! What about you? What did you read and love this year?
What I’m Listening to this Week
Oh my goodness, I’ve been obsessed with Purcell’s “Cold Song” this week. Actually known as “What Power Art Thou?” it’s from the King Arthur opera. This is the point wherein Cupid wakes the “Cold Genius,” or the spirit of winter.
Look at the way the vowels punch the same note repeatedly. It should be a half-note or whatever, but it’s been split into repeated eighths—because he’s creating the effect of shivering!!!!
I love it. I’m so down. I want to work the emotional resonance into a story somehow.