Magical Writing

As you probably know, I’m writing a storybook (or several) about magic and faery and cats and things like that. But the thing about a sometime-healer writing about magic is that one already knows that magic is real. So the question arises:

How do you write about magic that is natural and real and potent when fictional magic is usually so much more flashy and… um… misleading?

Having Marzipan’s story pushing at the back of my eyes I knew I’d have to try — and, as is quite common with magic, once a person sets an intention or asks a question, the magic itself immediately starts trying to teach us. It uses magical means, of course, but an untrained observer might call them co-incidence or synchronicity or even (and this is less likely to be said) a chronosynclastic infundibulum. Whatever.

Magical Realism

The Writers’ Workshoppe decided (at just the right time) to offer a class in writing “magical realism”. One important thing I learned at the class was that you could offer some outrageous magic if it was firmly embedded in a lot of detailed reality. You just have to slide the magic and “fantasy” in between the realism with enough down-to-earth detail that it goes almost unnoticed — and the next bit of fantasy can be even more magical and it too will just slide right into the mind without jarring it too much. Do you know why that is?

It’s because humans (and sometimes others) participate in magic all the time, and we’re accustomed to just letting it slide by without notice. In fact, we pretend to ourselves that it either didn’t happen or it happened some other way. So we don’t notice how it sneaks up on us in reality or in a story — embedded in detail and factual information. (This part and the following is my own experience — not the class.)

Think about it: you remember that you want to phone a friend that you haven’t talked to in quite a while. A few minutes later, the friend phones you. Coincidence. Yes. Sure. It can’t be telepathy because telepathy isn’t real. So this is the fantasy we mostly live in — the belief that magic is not real. We’re habituated to that fantasy and we find all sorts of excuses to convince ourselves that telepathy doesn’t happen. We invent words to cover it up — words like coincidence, lucky break, fortuity, synchronicity, and other words of that ilk. It can’t be magic, not our own innate magic. It’s just the way the cookie accidentally crumbles. No?

So in your magical story you begin the shift with small details, like perhaps a yellow flower slowly turning red as a character watches, and you don’t make a big drama with exclamation points and amazed expressions about it. You just move smoothly right on by. A little later you slip another detail in. It’s not important enough to stop and think too much about about it. The reader just accepts it… and moves on. This is preparing the ground of the unconscious, imagining mind — the dreamer, the mystic, the magician — to accept the seeds carelessly dropped and accept them again later on when they sprout and blossom vividly.

Magic isn’t something you turn on and off. Your awareness of it may be awake or asleep, but dreaming or storytelling or being the story, the magic is what holds it together. But they (I’m writing about faery magic, remember, and natural magic as well) had a lot more to teach me than just how to sneak up on magic.

Logic

Things need to make sense — even in magic. Logic is important. Take the “humna” (half faery and half human) in Marzipan’s stories. Faery, as we know (!) exists and vibrates at a different and higher frequency than we do, just like ultra-violet light shines at a frequency that we don’t normally see — our eyes are not built for it. We also know that there is a thing called “entrainment” that happens naturally. If you take two fine crystal glasses and set them beside each other and then gently strike one so it begins ringing, soon the other one is ringing as well. The second glass is entrained with the first because the first is active and the second was passive. (This also happens in the chakra system, but we’ll talk about the results of that another time, if I remember to do it.)

So faery vibrates at a faster (higher) frequency than we humans do. If we spend time with them in the natural world, our vibration becomes higher as well — and it gradually changes our DNA so that we become more faery ourselves. This is just natural magic. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Logical. Plausible. It especially makes sense if you consider the Japanese notion of “forest bathing” that suggest that we feel much more relaxed and healthy if we spend peaceful time in a forest. Trees. Dryads. Think about it. (Here’s another thing to write about later — the modern thing in some ethically and scientifically advanced cities is to build apartments with gardens on the roof and in large balconies — what would that do to the people who live in them?) There is much to consider on this topic, including scientific studies that show that hyperactive children who spend some time in parks or natural place become calmer and cope with life better.

The Writer’s Medicine Bag

Another useful concept about writing that I came across recently was about medicine bags and the power objects in them. (I’m sorry, I’ve forgotten where I read this — it may have been in a story or perhaps from Michael Meade.) Every medicine bag contains power objects, and together the objects contain more potency than each one alone. It’s about the way they blend together and reinforce each other. As a writer, consider this: how is your story or thesis or novel a medicine bag with the power to transform, to do magic with the reader? How is each character a power object within that collective whole? If you think of them as a tribe — who serves which function in the society? How do they work together to get where they want to go? Is there any power object in the bag that conflicts with the overall goal? Can the power objects (people, places, things, ideas) find a resolution to any conflicts they have? And how do the power objects themselves transform as they create transformation around them?

These questions have to be answered — at least in our own minds if not in the story. The author actually needs to understand what’s going on even if the characters are mystified.

Image. I, mage.

Transformation is vital. The other day a few people and I had a short discussion about what makes Sir Terry Pratchett’s books so awesome — and I don’t use that word lightly. To me, it’s all about transformation. The characters in the stories (mostly) grow.

This made me think a lot about what a “better person” is and why it’s important to be one — and a TON of stuff about writing and a writer’s responsibility to the rest of the world, especially when things are such a mess as they are now. Part of Sir Terry Pratchett’s brilliance is that he showed us a path without ever “teaching” or “preaching” but by a sort of osmosis. I suspect he hoped we’d be smart enough to figure it out for ourselves, which is really the only way to truly learn something.

What is the Path that we, as writers, are showing? Do we know? Are we, as ordinary magical people following it ourselves? If not, if we aren’t constantly testing it, how can we expect others to believe in or understand it? How will the story make sense without magical logic? And I suspect that this may be what is at the core of “magical realism” — what do you think about it?

Writing & Other Simple Things

At the end of 2013, I did an inner journey for Yule. In it I really needed to take a look at some things from a different angle — with the help of the fae and Gran’ma Maple.

Some of what I wrote then was: Under my feet the path feels rough, irregular — not a well-worn path, but one that is not often used or has fallen into disuse. I have an impulse to stop and clear some of the clutter — the slippery leaves, the tumbled stones — and to rake it smooth. It will be much more use in the future if I take care of it now. Sometimes these impulses are just distractions but this one feels valid and a good beginning, so I spend a bit of time tending the path itself. There’s no point in having things be more difficult than they need to be.

The path winds between the great trees of an ancient forest, and I’m surprised to notice that clearing a bit of the path affects the whole — the clearness spreads so the entire way is easier to walk. That was easier than expected — sometimes intention is almost all we need. Intention followed by just enough action to fulfill it.

The now-smooth path leads me to a natural clearing in the forest. In the center, there is one ancient maple tree. I recognize her from my worldly life — Gran’ma Maple. How lovely! I lean against her trunk, comforted by her presence. I’m surprised by the amount of tension that drains out of me as I lean against her. And I suddenly realize that one of the things I need to release is the underlying tension caused by feeling that I have to do everything for myself. I don’t. I have help. Why do I feel that I must do “it” all by myself? And can I let that old habit go?

Intention and action… I have the intention, clarity is needed on the action. But first, I want to know more about what I need to release, and I ask Gran’ma Maple what else I need to do. I feel the movement of her silent chuckle. “You don’t think that is enough for now? You think that breaking a life-long pattern and replacing it with a healthy attitude is easy? You don’t think that way for other people — why do you not be as gentle with yourself as you are with them?”

I think about the big difference I felt when I let go of that tension and wonder how much of my energy usually goes into maintaining that “I can do it myself” attitude and self image — not into actually doing things but just into believing my old lie to myself? And then the doing things is even harder sometimes. But doing things for myself when I can is appropriate, while telling myself that I can do everything for myself is not only unnecessary and untrue, but apparently is stressful in many ways.

I get that. Now… I ask Gran’ma Maple about right action. And again, that silent chuckle happens with a rustling of leaves. “Dear! By now you surely have all the tools you need, and if you don’t, you’re perfectly capable of inventing them as the need arises. Blessings on the path!”

Here I am two and a half years later, approaching Midsummer and feeling overwhelmed by all the thing I want to do. I recognize the feeling and know I’ve been here before, but still haven’t quite let go of creating so very much to do and worrying about how little time there is to do it in even if I live to be a hundred years old. I am much better at letting people help me. Not perfect — I still feel guilty and “lazy” when I ask for help. (It would be so much easier if people could magically know what I need and, if they feel like it, just do it, and then I could simply say “Thank you!” but I do realize that this would still give me that uncomfortable feeling of not doing everything for myself.) Lesson not learned! So once more I decide to stop trying to figure this out in my head and see what my heart and soul have to say on an inner journey.

I bow to the Lady and Lord and ask for their guidance (that’s easy — I have gotten some of this asking business right!) and I light the candle symbolizing their presence. I ask them, “What do I need to do at this time to prevent or cope with my tendency to put myself into overwhelm?”

First, I draw a card from the Faeries’ Oracle to give myself a starting place. The card I get is …

She of the Cruach, the Great Yin polarity of the Universe is the many-named Mother of all. She is nurturer and protectress, and in her hands we are safe, secure, and grounded.

This gives us a secure base to work from so that we in turn may offer her nurturing, patience, and creativity to others through our own attitudes and actions.

It is very important for you to focus on that at this time.

Remember to balance that nurturing with the strength of He of the Fiery Sword and to channel their energy instead of using your own personal energy.

Faery blessings on the being!

Well, DOH!

What I love about asking questions of the fae is that they often fairly clout me over the head with the answer!

Of course I need to ask and allow them to energize these projects instead of Trying To Do It All Myself! It isn’t only humans who are willing to help. I could be channeling the energy of God/dess for the things I’m doing. This would be entirely appropriate as these things are my attempts to work in their service!

I know how to do this — it is just like healing. Each time I start to do the work, I can begin by earthing, centering, allowing the energy to flow freely into the writing. While working, I simply need to continue to stay earthed in their hands, their energy — and not to fall out of it into worrying or hurrying or criticizing myself. And when I find myself falling out of the flow and pushing myself, I can simply stop and rest or stop and reground as appropriate. I can even ask them to nudge me when it’s time to stop for a break — another thing I’m not good at remembering yet.

This is so obvious. I’d feel silly if I didn’t already know how silly I am. I’ve only been doing healing most of my life. This uses the same principles exactly. Now one more card, in case they have anything to add.

From Gran’ma’s Faery Wisdom and Gnomic Utterances: the Oracle:

The Unconditional Elf is one of Santa’s Special Task Force elves. This is the one that makes gifts for people whether they deserve them or not. He also delivers them out of season, so they might happen at any time at all. These gifts are not lumps of coal, unless the people are very, very cold and have empty fireplaces.

The only question about the Unconditional Elf is: is he giving you an unconditional gift or wanting you to help him give one to someone else? Or both? Hmm? What do you think?

There are many Unconditional Elves, and this one is named Fred. “Fred” means “peace”.

Faery blessings on those who give and those who receive! May they often be one and the same!

Quite likely the answer to the question above about giving or receiving’ is simply ‘giving and receiving’. I’m receiving to give, and giving to receive. Marzipan’s Adventures, Gran’ma’s Faery Wisdom & Gnomic Utterances, this blog, the web pages, the prospective e-books are all just energy flowing both ways at the same time.

Filled with enthusiasm (but knowing it is well past bedtime), I bow again to God/dess and thank them for their helpful insights. The candle is blown out with gratitude, releasing the energy to work in O Universe, including me, and I saunter gently off to bed, hoping this will help you, just as it is helping me. Good dreams!

P.S. I was so excited about this that I woke up before 6 AM (after going to sleep just past 2 AM) and I thought, “I’ve got to try it!” And what happened? Nada. Zilch. Nothing. Would you believe that it took two hours of frustration to realize that it was working — just as I’d asked. I was being given first a gentle and then a strong nudge that it was time for something else — time to rest, time to sleep, time to dream. That’s the necessary other side of Getting It Done. Sheesh. Am I slow or what? Yes, I’m slow. I really am. But they are patient and will try to help me, even at my most daft. I’m so grateful.

© Copyright 2016 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.

I'm back…

It has been a while since I posted here. Several blogs have been partly written, but none were finished due to a sudden outbreak of stress and chaos and distress in my life. (There may be more about that later, but then again, there may not.)

As some of you know, I joined the July NaNoWriMo frenzy. (NaNoWriMo = National Novel Writing Month in which you write a 50,000 word first draft of a novel. It has gone international.) Unfortunately, I didn’t frenz — too many distractions, too many things to do. I’d set my goal (you can do that in July but not in November) at 30,000 words — 1000 a day. Even I can do that, I thought. What’s more it would be easy to keep track of, which 1667 words a day last November wasn’t. I was wrong.

It was easy to keep track of, mostly because I hardly wrote anything. Six hundred and ninety-five words the first day and nothing for a week after. And more nothing the week after that. I’d planned to do the whole second draft of Marzipan’s True Adventures but was still stuck on how to sneak in the back-story without becoming turgidly tedious. I thought I might do it with a prologue, but it kept trying to turn into an entire prequel. Arrrgh.

Okay, I thought, I’ll just write the wretched prequel instead, a whole book in itself, and then I’ll do the second draft of the real story. Noooo. The prequel folk simply ran wild, busily doing things and becoming real characters but without a trace of a plot. Entertaining for Marzipan and me, but not probably not publishable. But even with spurts of prequel, the word count remained down in the few-and-far-between, barely visible with a microscope.

I’d so many great excuses, ranging from welcome guests to minor surgery to the now-usual chaos at home to wiltingly hot weather. I began to despair. In fact, I was on the verge of withdrawing from the whole NaNoWriMo thing and digging a deep, cool hole in my forest (like a modern fogou but without the stone walls). But that was too much work in hot weather. So.

All this finally led to a decision to simply give up on NaNoWriMo this time as an act of kindness to myself and to everyone listening to me moan about it, but I drew one of the oracle cards (from my (unfinished, unpublished) oracle in Second Life — actually Marzipan drew it for me) (now that I think about it, I’m a little suspicious of her motives). Anyway, the card very firmly advised me not to give up. So I’m going to change my goal to not-a-word-count-at-all, but to getting a fairly good version of a short prologue. I may be able to do that.

I dunno. Writing short and scintillating and like a sybil is tough stuff! I’ve come near to writing an entire prequel while trying to write the dratted prologue. One intended, concise, sparkling paragraph kept turning into pages and pages of unnecessary detail. Writing short is easier in poetry where you expect to sweat blood over every word. What if I wrote it in blank verse then? KISS — Keeping It Simple, Sweetie. Then taking the line breaks out would… No, it didn’t. It just kept getting longer. And writing a book in blank verse is just not what I wanted to do.

At last, one night several days ago at bedtime, looking for a book to read myself to sleep, I came across Mike Resnick’s Santiago on my bookshelves. Its orange cover glowed temptingly at me. Without wondering why a color I normally dislike looked so alluring, I headed for bed with it and a cup of hot cocoa.

Resnick is an excellent writer. I always liked his writing, but as I’ve learned more about technique, now I can see more about why much of his work that I read before seemed so good (in spite of his female characters usually being either non-entities or bitches). The surprise was that three pages into it I was out of bed again and pacing the floor, muttering to myself. Resnick had done it in his prologue; he had accomplished what I was finding so impossible in my own prologue — a back story/stage setting in brief and with sizzle.

I read it over and over trying to see how he’d done it. Now I’m trying to do something equally as compelling — which perhaps is not so easy when you’re writing about faery kittens and other faery gentry as it might be when writing about bounty hunters and legendary giants on the galactic frontier. Or maybe it is, and I just haven’t gotten it yet.

I’m still working on the beginning of the beginning, but I have hope and a few short paragraphs of a start. It sings to me. It sounds, I hope, like the myth it is supposed to become. My Megan Granddaughter said, “Wow!”

But, you know, even with all this I’m completely delighted to be co-writing a book (or a series) with Marzipan. If you haven’t already you might want to check out her Facebook page though she actually has more followers than this blog does — and gets a lot more comments. She is also much more cute and fluffy than I, but she is a cat and that is only to be expected. I was going to put a photo of her here, but there are lots of both the virtual and the earthly photos of her on Facebook and her own web pages. Happy Tuesday!

When a Typo Becomes a Word

Several people I know like to play with words. Mostly, I prefer to play Hunt The Word, looking for exactly the right word with all the right nuances. But sometimes it seems like there isn’t one in English — or at least it isn’t readily to be found in dictionaries or in the thesaurus. And sometimes there are typos that look like a word, but aren’t in the dictionary. In the space between these two frustrations, new words may be born.

I’m writing a book. Some of the people in the book are part human, part faery. After months of trying to think of a name for this sort-of-species, a typo burst on the scene and it was sounded right. In an instant message, someone typoed “humna” instead of “human”. It was just right — almost human, but not quite. So I began using the word in my story.

Then I had a thought. What if “humna” already was a word, perhaps commonly used in another language? And what if it meant something entirely inappropriate? Scary idea! So, of course, I googled “humna”. At first, I didn’t find much useful, but then in the Urban Dictionary I came across this:   (n.) A person who is extremely annoying but lovable as well. Usually Humnas are very unique and odd. They tend to have large eyes and crazy laughs. Humna’s are far from normal and aren’t always well liked. It takes a special type of person to understand a Humna, but in the end they make for good company. A Humna is very entertaining and once you get to know a Humna you can’t help but to fall in love.

Unfortunately, they didn’t give the source of the word, but it will do just fine.

I blame the characterization of “extremely annoying” on the general human tendency to be irritated by anything they don’t understand. And “wild laughter” would have been more appropriate than “crazy laugh” — but it’s all a matter of personal perception of and reaction to the fae.

Wouldn’t it be funny if my book became popular and “humna” eventually crept into the language as a half human/half faery? Or at least, half-faerylike?

Here is a photo of one of our humnas — Marzipan’s Herself, Ceilear. I am undecided about the ears. Should they be human ears or… ? I have sort of caracal ears in mind for everyone, both humna and the chat sith dos, with tufts like caracal ears do have. (You can google many excellent photos of caracal and their marvelous ears.) The ears in the photo still need a lot of work. The chat sith dos will have the best caracal ears I can manage, but what do you think about the humna? Yea or nay?

 Ceilear

The Rite of Writing Right & The White Rose

A few days ago I went to a talk  by William Kenower at the Writers’ Workshoppe, and one of the first thing he said was that it was of primary importance to write what you truly want to write  — not to worry about the expectations of others, not to be concerned with approval, or any of that  — just to write it. And in the class I attended yesterday (also at the Writer’s Workshoppe), Midge Raymond emphasized the importance of blogging among many other useful things. This whole study thing is, for me, about being a better writer  — and indeed, being a published author at all. I know… I am published and all that, but I want to be better at it.

So here is the blog that I most want to write at this moment:

One of those odd little things that happen so often came up a few days ago. I wanted a photo of a white rose for a book cover and for a piece of stained glass in Second Life. It’s September. In Western Washington. Not a lot of roses around probably. None in my garden. The only thing I have is a miniature peach rose that hasn’t bloomed all summer.

But…

I mentioned this lack of white roses to my friend, Raine, and she too had none, had seen none, and didn’t expect to at this time of year. Yet, as we walked out to the car to go shopping, she noticed that my tiny rose was finally blooming  — one blossom only. Looking at it closely, we saw that was white and not peach. The label still says “peach” but the rose had gone for white instead.

I’m dismayed to report that my first reaction was to wonder what was wrong with it. My second was to realize that I had asked for a white rose and here it astonishingly was. My third was to silently grumble that I’d had a big, fluffy white rose in mind (though I hadn’t said so) and that this was “only” a paltry little miniature thing. And my fourth was to be ashamed of myself. Sheesh. Perhaps I need to wash my brain out with soap.

In fact, I then realized that a miniature rose was perfect for my needs — after all, both the book cover and the stained glass are for the chat sith dos, the little people, in Marzipan’s Adventures. What would they want with a rose larger than their heads to lug around?

And then I forgot to take the photo.

And now? Yes, I’m grateful for the tiny white rose, for the little bud appearing beside it, for the generosity of MamaNature, and for her delightful response to my need. You can call it a co-incidence if it makes you feel better, but to me and to many others, it’s one of the little miracles that happen often, and it is a joy to notice and be grateful for them.

#

So, that is this morning’s response to “write what you really want to say.” As Kenower promised, it made me happy to write it. He also told us to ask ourselves when we’d finished writing if we were satisfied that we’d said what we really wanted to say, our real truth, and if we’d said it accurately. I just read this over, and yes, I did and it did. And you don’t need to worry that I’m going to start doing blogs three times a day — I’ve got a bunch of other things I’d just love to write.

Yesterday I went out and lo! The tiny rose was still blooming, and thus photos were made. So, here, larger than life, is the rose and I hope you can enjoy it without the nonsense I went through about it!

A Might-As-Well-Be-White Rose
A Might-As-Well-Be-White Rose

Truthiness, Energy, & Faery Economics 103

I just awakened (it’s 4:45 AM, but who cares about that?) with faery economics in my head again. I don’t, as you must realize by now, fully understand them, so the fae keep trying to explain them to me. This is very basic stuff to them, but full of shifting energies and mystery to me.

This morning’s lesson: It’s all about change and the exchange.

I woke up wondering why the fae want me to write the books I’m working on, because it is my perception that they do want that very much. (I won’t argue with anyone about whether that is objectively “true” or not—my perceptions may or may not be thy perceptions, but—like all of us—mine influence what I do. So I’m working hard on the books and they are coming along well—again, my perception 😉 ). As I think/intuit my way through Marzipan’s story, it is changing my energy/thoughts/behavior in a way that the world could change—if enough of us want it to make it so. And the oracle book is the same, but different.

The thing I’m learning right this moment is that the reason the fae have so much difficulty with the “money thing” (see http://www.jesalog.com/?s=economic for my first two posts on this) is because their perception and methods are so different from humans. Instead of messing around with earning money with which to attempt to buy things that may not even be for sale, they look for a connection of desire-energy with matching desire-energy. For instance, if I want to see the world change in a certain way and if they want to see the same changes, it obviously (to them) behooves us to work together. Their idea of “working together” seems to be about facilitating things in a naturally magical way that will help both of us to do what we can toward that change, resulting in a synergistic effect that neither of us may be able to create by ourselves.

Like writing books. Well, I can write them by myself, but that doesn’t get them out to other people. For publication and distribution I need both help and “luck”—cooperation, synchronicity, things coming together in surprising but wonderful ways. Meeting the right people “by accident”, receiving the right help at the right time “by coincidence”. Of course, my part in this is to exercise serendipity—the ability to recognize good things when they happen and to take advantage of them. And to, ahem, actually write down the inspirations in a coherent and (hopefully) engaging form.

In practical terms, from my own side of the experience, this seems to result in many things, both large and small, “working” for me in a fashion that is convenient and verging on the miraculous. “Coincidence” and synchronicity abound.

Even if it turns out that we humans can’t or don’t do our part “successfully” there is still value in what we do—in the energy/action. It adds to the total of that energy/action in our Universe, in non-local consciousness, in the Void-which-is-fullness. If we make the effort, it adds to the force of change—and the fae understand that even when we don’t. It’s the effort that counts more than any illusory “results”. You change the world, even if the human part of the world doesn’t notice.

It’s kind of like the hundredth monkey thing. You know that story, right? The one where there are two islands, both inhabited by monkeys but the monkeys of one island are not in physical contact with each other. On one island, the monkeys figure something out and develop a new behavior. They wash their some of their food before eating it. The new behavior spreads throughout the island, and when the last ( or the hundredth monkey, depending on the version) has learned to wash the food before eating it, there is a sudden jump (I suppose this is where nonlocal consciousness comes in). Suddenly, monkeys on the neighboring island, without physical contact with the first group, begin washing their food before eating.

This story has its problems—like whether or not it is “true” in an objective view of truth as factual information. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hundredth_monkey_effect ) However, it has a certain value of “truthiness” for many people. It’s based on something that many feel intuitively is true—that the world can be changed by intangible means—even that behavior can be changed in a widespread group when enough beings adopt the new behavior. It may be objectively true, it may not—we haven’t proved it scientifically either way and we’ve only our internal, intuitive, gut-feeling to go on. It’s about the reality or unreality of nonlocal consciousness, which we’ve talked about before here.

I guess what I’m saying is that it works for me. Does it work for you? (The comments link is at the bottom of the page below the sharing buttons—and your comments would be most welcome!)

Tiaras & Simple Things


The pristine writer’s desk

“When I Was a Queen in My Own Country…”

I woke up with those words in my head a couple of days ago. No dream memories, no context — just those words. And I’ve been puzzling about them ever since.

Quite awhile back, I bought a tiara, a simple, cheap one (but it does sparkle brightly). In fact, I bought three — the first one wasn’t the one I liked best after all, and the third one was for my granddaughter. The idea, which I got from writerly friends that I admire, is to wear it when doing creative writing. Donning the tiara marks off the time and space and acknowledges it (and oneself) as creative, special, magical. This is an excellent idea!

I wore it once.

Then I wove ribbons into it, but it still wasn’t right.

I’m certain that pretty, clean, precise, sparkling tiaras are right for other more princessly and queenly women, but that just isn’t me. I’m realizing that being ill for so long has made me sort of “civilized” — tame or timid or with too much inertia. But I was never meant to be tame; it isn’t in my genes. Sure, “civilized” is okay for a masquerade — can you imagine me nicely dressed, make-up and stylish hair, disguised as a citified business person? I’ve done that, and done it well enough to pass, but it was never me . Such women probably don’t have flyaway hair like dandelion clocks. Or “gardening fingernails”. Or bare feet. Or cat hair all over their velvet skirts. Velvet skirts? Well, yes — silk and velvet are for me. Especially once they get a little worn and have picked up some stains from the flowers and berries and leaves. And glitter is sticking to them in surprising places. You see what I mean?

A tiara is for writing. O yes, definitely for writing, but not just sitting at my desk with the computer. I’ve put a half a picnic table on the back porch with the intention of sometimes writing or doing art work there. Scribbling in a notebook. Messing about with paints. So far, the table is pristine. Unused. No ink spills or paint spatters! Perhaps I should just go out and dribble paint on it and break it in that way? The inertia of illness is a terrible thing.

Now I understand that a different kind of tiara is needed. Most likely it would be made of things that grow in the woods and bits of ribbon and perhaps fragments of faery lace — and, yes, things that sparkle. It wants to have faery faces peering out of it. If I put red sparkly things on it, do you suppose it would attract hummingbirds? Or only mosquitos? I now understand that it must be for much more than writing. Certainly for art. Definitely for gardening as well — grubby hands and radiant crown and dirty knees. Perhaps a tiara could also be for meditating outside where I can smell the flowers and the trees and hear the birds. Or just for sitting there, sipping a tisane. Magic… my magic is in the humble, simple, beautiful things. It’s natural magic — my favorite form of enchantment where the world of the fae intersects with ours.

To be a Queen In My Own Country… This is about being totally oneself, no? And wearing a crown to celebrate this, a crown born from My Own Country? I’d better start gathering the pieces. And I wonder, I just wonder — what kind of a crown or tiara or circlet would you wear to be a King or a Queen in your Own Country?

Writing — a Different Kind of Natural Magic

I would like to see a revolution in the world of book writing, reading, and publishing.

I remember that, when I was a child, it was my habit to take a book up into a tree to do my reading. Sometimes the books got stained with food or dropped into the dirt or leaf stains. These days I love to sit by trees and neatly read or tidily write. When I was young, I drew pictures in the books, underlined some passages, made colored frames around paragraphs or even whole pages, wrote notes and small poems and made doodles in the margins. But

Of course, this was all forbidden. You’re not suppose to write in books, right? Only the author is allowed that privilege. And God/dess knows the author can’t write just anything because the publisher and/or editor is going to re-work every word and idea to suit a pretty rigid set of rules of what a book should contain and how it should look. It should be tidy. It should have straight lines and sharp edges. The corners must be square. The ideas must be rather neatly square too. Linear — we must have linearity! Not many people can get something truly unconventional published — publishers don’t like to take risks. Maximize the profit! It must follow the publisher’s house style. Anything that doesn’t have white pages and black print is terribly daring. The more pristine and untouched a first edition is, the more valuable it is generally believed to be eventually. Gods forbid that you should laugh so hard that you spill something on the pages! And, of course, the bigger the publisher, the more the whole thing is about money.

I got scolded in school, of course, and learned not to damage books. Many years later, I was shocked to find out that there is a sort of art/craft thing about “modified books” where people intentionally desecrate books. They take a book and turn it into something else — a “work of art”. They cut or tear or paint the pages; they glue things to the pages; they make it into something to be looked at instead of read. The original book may even be entirely obliterated. Some of them are fascinating and quite beautiful, in the same way that interesting, even beautiful things can be made from other found objects. But they aren’t exactly books anymore. I’m not against this as long as the books truly had no value as books, but I am interested in another way of thinking about books.

What if one were enhancing and expanding the original book instead of obliterating it?

One of the most satisfying and delightful things I’ve experienced as an author has been discovering what some creative people do to their copies of The Faeries’ Oracle — they write in them, they draw in them, they add objects — memorabilia — to them. These books aren’t necessarily intended as art — they are livres de mémoire, memory books, and the living lore added with such élan enables the owners to creatively expand their understanding of what is already written — as well to remember their own experiences and ideas. But, do you know, I would certainly class them as living art.

I’ll never forget a woman asking hesitantly if I’d mind signing her copy of the Oracle. It was, she explained with some embarrassment, very untidy. She pulled the carefully wrapped book out from a bag. It was tied up in a worn silk scarf, and she gently, almost reverently unwrapped it. It didn’t look much like a copy of the Oracle any more. It was about three times as thick and had several ribbons and things tied around it to hold it together. The cover was seriously battered, the spine detached, the original pages rumpled but still readable, and it had many extra pages glued between the printed pages — some of them on scraps of paper, some on fine handmade papers. All of the pages, original and added, had their blank spaces covered with notes and sketches and diagrams and cartoons. There were fragments of spells and rituals in the margins. Blobs of candle wax showed where the book and the fae had participated in candlelit revels. Preserved leaves and flowers, moss and bark, and even small stones were attached to the pages. There were scraps of lace, fabric, yarn, and ribbons glued in. There were innumerable handmade and lovely bookmarks scattered throughout, often with notes on them as well. It was a masterpiece of love and creativity and memories and inspirations and insights. It radiated boisterous faery merriment and mirth. I was quite literally enchanted by it. I couldn’t put it down or stop asking her questions about the things in it. It was magical.

This all began a slow fermenting process in the back of my mind. Ever since, I’ve been thinking of books as potentially co-created works of art. What if

I hope to write a book about the Green Woman. I want to do wild and astonishing things with it. I’d like it to be so the reader can hear several faery voices talking at once. The fae would like to be able to bounce out of the page and bop you on the nose or give you a sweet kiss. There should be hidden secrets to be found. Wisdom should peek around the corners and want to be chased. It has to be able to glitter and twinkle in appropriate moments. Can this be done? I don’t know. One thing I do know though — it has to have space in it for you to add your own wisdom and encounters with her — and her friends.

Sometimes I go places to sign copies of my books. I sit at my table and try to say something a little special for each person and sign their books neatly. But what if… You can probably guess what I’m thinking here. From now on, I just may sometimes (when I have both time and energy) ask people if they would like the regular signature or a deluxe signature. The regular version is a few words and a signature, neatly entered into the proper page in the book. The deluxe version — what if I took special paper and ribbons and glitter and knackerty faery knotions and on the spot made a page for them to insert into the book? It would be interesting to see if anyone wanted it and if they would actually glue it into the book. I could bring the glue. I wonder if this might even encourage them to enhance the book with their own additions, creating their personal treasure of ideas and memories and experiences.

I’m realizing, just at this moment, that this is what I like about the social media like Facebook and blogs and web sites — I’m not just writing into a total vacuum in these places or for a publisher who thinks it is his job to pummel my vision into something he thinks he can best sell but who probably has no actual interest in it. Instead, here on-line, a few people even write back, and I’m tickled when they do even if I don’t understand or like what they say. Sometimes it’s clear that they didn’t even really read what I said, but obviously they, too, are wanting to connect somehow, to be heard. What makes it really all worthwhile, though, is that quite often the responses are thoughtful, even delightful. Sometimes whole conversations involving several people get started. It’s much more fun than writing into the void.

What if we became actively involved in our own entertainment and learning instead of passive receivers? What if we rediscovered and expanded our joy in our own creativity? How would you feel about that?

Here’s a revolutionary thought: what if children made some of their own school books? What if the teacher wrote the basic facts on the board and the children copied them into a blank book and decorated (not necessarily “illustrated”) the basic information with doodles or pictures or writing? And what if the teacher were wise enough to encourage the children to think/play/create for themselves, to write or draw what each child wanted to instead of going through the motions of meekly following the instructions of the teacher? What amazing concepts might the teacher learn about teaching and living from the children’s unique and creative responses? What might the teacher learn about teaching? What startling and original discoveries might the children make about their lessons and themselves? I can tell you one thing: many grandparents would treasure these created books!

What if publishers included random blank pages and wide margins in books just so we’d have room to expand and add to the book’s value for us? I know it might be extremely difficult to persuade them to do this. Horrors! It would increase costs! Horrors! It would spoil the very neat and tidy design of the pages and the rigid order of the edges and fonts if people wrote in them. It would encourage people to believe that the author of the book might not be the ultimate authority to whom all the rest of us must mutely bow down.

I included a blank card in The Faeries’ Oracle for people to draw their own faery friend on, and the editor was appalled. “People won’t want to spoil the deck with drawings that are inferior to Brian’s!” Well, you know, some people do feel like that about it. There was quite a battle. This tells me two terrible things about how we think about books. One is that our whole way of thinking about books is rigid, moribund, and doomed. The other is that we have a seriously wounded idea of the value of our own creativity. I would like to see a radical revolution in the world of book writing, reading, and publishing. I know I said that above, but it’s worth repeating.

I have this fascination with blank books — the ones you buy to keep a journal or write your dreams or sketch in. I occasionally buy beautiful blank books. They terrify me! What if I spoil them by making a mess in them? They might stay blank forever because I’m not good enough to write or do something worthy of them. But what if I simply deliberately “make a mess” on the first page, ruining the book right off — and then I can do anything in them? Who knows how it might turn out? Or better yet, what if I get my young granddaughter to draw a picture on the first page? After that I could do no wrong… and I would be stepping into natural magic of creation.

Do you see what is happening here? Not only am I preaching to the choir, the many of you who have already sung your books, your writing, and your thinking free, but equally I’m speaking to the pulpit — myself. And I’m doing it because I, too, am stuck in an old dogma about learning and books and thinking and creativity from which I want to set myself free. Would you like to join the revolution? It would give faery yet another way to krow in your life.

Books & Faery Economics 102

After the discussions about money games, human obtuseness, and faery economics that I mentioned on the last blog, the fae wanted, of course, to play the money game too. We discussed it off and on, but reluctantly came to the conclusion that my business didn’t lend itself well to the money game. Between considerations of ethics and right livelihood and my personal dislike of bookkeeping, we agreed that it was best not to try to bring the game into the healing and counseling and teaching I was doing. The subject would come up once in a while and again be put aside. However, eventually I wrote a book.

This, they felt, showed some promise for the money game, if played with great care and attention to the things we’d considered over the years. It mustn’t hurt anyone. It mustn’t make people pay a higher price than necessary for fair earnings. Publishers, booksellers, editors, typesetters, designers, printers, bookbinders, distributors, salespeople, and, very last of all, authors—they all needed to get something for their work. Also, there was to be no tricksy stuff to get people to buy what they didn’t need. It was about doing the right thing for the right reasons with the right people for right livelihood.

The solution of the fae to all this was surprisingly simple and faery elegant. They would sprinkle faery dust on the books, and this sparkly dust would have a specific charge. It would call to those people who both needed and could use the teachings in the book. It would help them to notice it. After that it was entirely their choice as to what they wanted to do about it. That sounded good to me. So the first book went out sparkling that November.

Some months later, the owner of my local bookstore in Bath, England, asked me what I’d done to the book. I guess I looked blank—I didn’t do anything but write it; the fae did the rest and I actually wasn’t thinking much about it. The bookstore owner explained that people would come in and ask about books for stress reduction or meditation or relaxation. He had several books of that nature, including my Moon Over Water, and he’d take several off the shelves and hand them to the customers to look at. The customers would often pick up Moon Over Water first, tuck it under their arms, and then look at the other books, going through them carefully. Or they’d just ignore Moon as if it were not even there. In neither case did they check through Moon before they made their final choices. If they tucked it under their arms (and they often did), they just bought it. This intrigued the bookstore owner. I explained about the faery sparkle. He said, “Oh.” in a very British way and looked at me sideways.

In February, I happened to be talking with the publisher about something else and asked how Moon Over Water was doing. He responded (without checking) that it was going very slowly. I asked again a couple of months later. He again, without checking, thought it was going very slowly. I asked if he could, as a special favor, check on that for me. He happened to have the distributor’s report in front of him, and to his shock discovered that the book was sold out. Gone.

What was supposed to be a year’s supply was gone by May. He was annoyed. The fae and I were surprised—we thought selling them was a good thing. He didn’t seem to agree. The fae and I never did quite understand this. But so it proceeded. Every year we ran out of books well before the end of the year. We did another book with the same publisher, but the proceedings still didn’t make a lot of sense to us. After that, I kinda lost interest in the whole game because I couldn’t figure it out, so it was a long time before I wrote another book.

The last book was about the faeries themselves. They got to play with the whole project from beginning to end, even dictating large parts of the book to me. This was with a new publisher, who played the money game differently. I shall say no more about that. However, the fae did their part brilliantly and The Faeries’ Oracle did very well, in spite of all the other things going on.

Now we are thinking about doing more books—some of them also with cards. Some with faeries, which delights them, and some with cats, which they assure me are practically the same and just as good (I’m not at all certain about what they mean by “good” there), and some other subjects. We are thinking about doing them without publishers, who seem to want to play games we don’t understand. And we’re wondering just how far we can go with faery sparkle alone, because I’m not good about all the PR and selling and bookkeeping stuff. But… it would still be Doing Good in the world (or at least trying to) and it would be a more enjoyable game that way…

Stories

While everyone else was asleep at 4 a.m. this morning, I was dreaming about stories, all the many stories we tell—the true ones and the truth tucked inside made-up stories—and how we tell about ourselves, our hopes and our fears, in our fantasies. Even the wildest fantasy contains our personal truths about how we feel the world is or should be or how we fear it to be.

In my classes, I used to tell a lot of ‘teaching stories’ and I know that wrapping a truth inside a fantasy is a way to get it across, especially when the ‘fantasy’ is true too, and people just assume it isn’t because it doesn’t fit with their view of the world. If you tell them that this is how the world is they are likely to just go into denial (and maybe even get angry), but if it’s ‘just a story’ they can listen. It’s a seed, a penny that may just drop into the slot and something might happen. A connection can be made. Eventually.

The heart of a story can be hidden in jokes, in fables, in dream imagery. Our worlds, daytime and night, are aswirl with stories. We live them, we breathe them, we call them fantasies and say we don’t believe them—and then often we act as if they are true.

We are not things. We are stories moving through time. Dream your stories well, my dear, because they are your heart.

If I were to tell you
all of my stories,
you still wouldn’t know
how I got where I am.
You’d have to know
the stories of those whose paths
crossed and entwined with mine.

I only know fragments,
but if you want to know me
(or I want to know you),
we’ll really have to look
at all the stories and how
they wind together
into the One True Story
called the Universe.

Are you big enough
to hold all that?
Prepare to be surprised:
Yes. You are.

There are no lost
or separated bits—
just One
and we’re It.

© Copyright 2013 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.