Writing

How to Save a Village — Enchanted Conversation: A Fairy Tale Magazine

“She will give you what you ask for,” they warn each other, “exactly what you ask for.””If you’re a very good girl,” Mother said, “they won’t get you.”Yet she taught me things day to day. How to grow living things, plants and insects, and how to harvest them. The ways to read a person’s face, and flesh, to…

via Story: How to Save a Village by Kiyomi Appleton Gaines — Enchanted Conversation: A Fairy Tale Magazine

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Writing

Packing for the resistance

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Photo: Cynthia del Rio

To begin with, wear layers. Have some things you can take off and some things you can put on as the weather may call for, in breathable fabrics. Don’t choose anything that doesn’t fit well, or may grow tight or uncomfortable. Don’t do cotton against your skin, you will lose body heat faster than if you were naked if it gets wet.

Wear wool socks, and pack an extra pair. Wool will pad your feet better than cotton, wicks moisture, and stays warm even when wet. Also bring a change of underwear — again, nothing that may grow uncomfortable.

Wear good walking shoes, waterproof if you have them. Bring both hiking boots and sneakers, if you have them. It’s good for your feet to alternate footwear when possible.

Bring a hat, something with a brim that will shade your eyes.

A rain poncho. It’s much easier to maneuver with than an umbrella, and you can keep everything covered and dry.

Sunblock.

Other region-appropriate outerwear.

Bleach or iodine to sterilize drinking water.

A bar of soap. Yes, this is necessary. Staying clean is the first defense against illness.

A course of broad-spectrum antibiotics (consult your physician). Antibiotic ointment and bandages. An ace bandage. A bottle of anti-inflammatories. Probiotics in pill form. Ginger tea. Rehydration salts. Tweezers, nail clippers, and a small sewing kit. Wet cleansing wipes and hand sanitizer. Menstrual supplies. Lipbalm. Insect repellent.

Other first aid essentials.

A flashlight — self charging or bring extra batteries.

A portable radio — self charging or bring extra batteries.

A large water canteen.

A small mirror.

Snacks — nuts and dried fruit will travel well and pack a lot of calories and nutrients in each small handful. A bar of dark chocolate — you’ll be glad to have it. Jerky, sparingly.

Superglue.

Matches.

Your toothbrush.

A book cipher with the information of your contacts encoded. Money, and a solid knowledge of what skills you can barter (brush up on said skills if needed).

A small memento that will make you smile and remind you what it’s all for.

Your favorite book. A deck of cards.

A sleeping bag.

A good sturdy backpack or satchel.

Other things to remember:

Sleep whenever you can, but while in the open, keep moving.

Connect with friends and loved ones when it is safe to do so.

The thing that you are good at is just as important as the other pieces — do you.

Stay hydrated.

Stay informed.

Eat carbs and chocolate and drink good wine whenever you have the opportunity — you’ll need the extra energy and the boost of endorphins.

Remember that you are not alone.

 

I wrote this last year after… well, you know. Originally published on Medium

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Blog · book club · Reading

On 200 years of Frankenstein

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The story of Frankenstein is arguably the first science fiction novel, and was written by a teenage girl. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, nee Godwin, had eloped to Europe with her lover and their friends – notably Lord Byron – in that mythic Year Without a Summer. In 1816 Mt. Tambora erupted and filled the atmosphere with thick volcanic ash, blotting out the sun, and leading to massive crop failures. As Mary and her group traveled around Europe, they couldn’t fail to notice the tens of thousands of people displaced that year by famine, seeking refuge from town to town.

The story goes that, once they settled in a chateau in Switzerland, Byron challenged the group to come up with ghost stories to alleviate the boredom of being trapped inside by the unseasonably cold and wet weather.

One of those stories, Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus, has come down to us as one of the most widely read and recognized horror tales of the modern era. It’s impact lies not in the body horror hidden in some mysterious process of imbuing inert matter with life, but stands as an example of the Other and Outsider in society. Frankenstein’s monster, left unnamed, represents the unknown and unfamiliar of which we are afraid.

We don’t necessarily fear the different, as long as it remains “over there,” but pressed up against our “right here,” it means change, instability, and threat to what we have known and held dear. Whatever comes after, we know for certain that our lives as they have been until now are ended. The monster seeks aid, mercy, shelter, simple human kindness, and is shunned. He does terrible things, and has terrible things done to him.

If he had been welcomed, cared for, loved instead…

But we’ll never know. Everyone dies in the end, and Mary leaves it to us to decide where the lines of right and wrong may fall. Yet she points to the possibility of other outcomes, had circumstance shifted in one way or another.

What are the responsibilities of society to the unloved and the unlovely? Should we – must we – care for the poor and broken and abandoned? The ugly and stupid and friendless? And what responsibility do we bear for the consequences of ignoring them? Left without resource or recourse, what do we expect to become of societies monsters?

Monster comes to us from the Latin monere, which means “a warning.”

Mary Shelley’s turn of the century brought her into the 1800s, the era of Victoria; an era of dramatic social change, technological advancement, population explosion, food shortage, unemployment, political upheaval, strange climate behavior, question, challenge, and doubt. What could an eighteen year old girl have to say to us from a book written two hundred years ago this month?

 

You can read my story, inspired by Frankenstein, here.

Happy reading!

 

I have a newsletter now! If you enjoy my stories, if you want to support my writing, please sign up. If you subscribe to my Tiny Letter, you’ll stay with me, wherever I end up writing in the future, and I’ll send you previews of what’s coming up here.

Blog

Cassandra of Troy and Women’s Voices

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Cassandra by John Maler Collier

Cassandra was a princess of Troy whom the god Apollo fell in lust with. Being a nice guy, he gave her the gift of prophecy, and being a nice guy, felt he was entitled to her body. He wasn’t a drunk like Bacchus, after all; wasn’t a jerk like Zeus or a freak like Hades or a lech like Pan. He was a nice guy. Why wouldn’t she want to be with him? What was wrong with her that she didn’t want to be with him? She must be shallow, or stupid, or stuck up. When she wouldn’t have sex with him, he amended his un-requested gift so that she would never be believed, and was instead seen as a liar and crazy. She owed him, after all. She deserved what she got.

I didn’t change this story, that’s just how it goes, and it’s one that will ring true for so many women. We hear accounts every day of women being dismissed, disbelieved; accused of inventing fantasies for five minutes of fame at the expense of a “good” man; or of a colleague’s “crazy” ex. She wants attention, it’s said, or money; or she was stupid, should have known better. Always, whatever ill may befall her is somehow of her own earning.

Though the trappings may have changed, in some ways, so little has since the time of the ancients. For those of us who see equality as a fundamental truth, and fair treatment as paramount, reckoning with the world as-is can at times be incredibly disheartening.

Surely we are making strides though, and there’s cause for hope. The #MeToo movement rocked our nation in the best way; powerful men were called to task for their behavior in many fields, and women were heard and believed. #MeToo and the women it represented were Time Magazine’s 2017 People of the Year, and #TimesUp dominated the Golden Globe awards. Yes, we’re making strides, even amidst what can feel like huge steps backward; and even this tale points toward its own redemption.

If Apollo’s punishment for denying him access to her body is that Cassandra should never be believed, then his undoing is in simply believing her. Continuing to speak truth; listening to and believing women when they speak; making the space for that to happen, is a radical act of courage and strength. It’s a simple act of resistance against those forces that would silence women’s voices, deny equal and fair treatment, dehumanize; yet it is powerful.

Though not all fairy tales fall into the sphere of women’s tales and women’s instruction and women’s work, many of them do. We use the phrase “old wives’ tale” to dismiss an old story or a bit of folk wisdom as something foolish, untrue, unworthy. Yet even in the most oppressive circumstances mothers and grandmothers, and aunts and old wise women, have shared their foolish little stories with the daughters of the next generation.

This is how you survive, my dear; you keep on spinning these little tales, and it makes the labor easier, and it makes a way for truth to be told, even if they don’t listen outside. We know. We hear. We believe.

It’s tiring and it’s hard, so we can take it in turn, to speak and to listen, to support and promote female voices. To listen and believe, and not just accept that the clean-cut guy in the nice clothes and the nice car and the nice job is being so nice when he talks over a woman who disagrees with him to call her “crazy.”

This is why I try to – and am trying to get better at – privilege female voices, and especially women who represent minorities, or immigrants; to follow and buy and read and share and boost their stories. It’s a simple act, yet I believe it is powerful.

After all, in failing to heed Cassandra’s warning, her society precipitated its own destruction. May this madness of women, this anger, not be disheartening, but burn pure and bright, and light a beacon for others to come, too, to a place where they can tell their stories, and be heard.

 

So here is my exciting news promised last week!

Part one: you may see I’ve redecorated, and to the right (or below) there’s a little link that says “Tiny Letter.” I have a newsletter now! If you enjoy my stories, if you want to support my writing, please sign up. This can be part of your simple act of resistance!

You already get an email, you say? Well, the difference is, when you followed my blog by email before, your information went into WordPress, and they own the list of subscribers who follow my work here, not me. So if I move to a different platform or change domains, you stay with WordPress instead of coming with me. If you subscribe to my Tiny Letter, you’ll stay with me, wherever I end up writing in the future, and I’ll send you previews of what’s coming up here.

Part two: and this would definitely go in my Tiny Letter – I’m now a Contributing Editor at Enchanted Conversation! I love this publication and I’m so thrilled to be part of it on the production side now. Be on the lookout for more of my stories and articles there in the coming months! You can read my introduction here.

Epiphany of a Swan Wife

Epiphany of a Swan Wife Part IX

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Photo: Albrecht1471 Hibou Petit Duc en Noyer Guillaume Mongenet, via Wikimedia Commons

The final chapter of Epiphany of a Swan Wife is now up! You can read Part IX: Epiphany here.

Happy new year!

Epiphany of a Swan Wife

Epiphany of a Swan Wife Part VIII

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Photo: Svetlana Nesterova

Epiphany of a Swan Wife Part VIII: An End is now up!

This is the penultimate chapter, the story ends on Saturday.

 

Thanks for reading!

KAG

Blog

Mairzy Doats and Other Stories

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Photo: Joanna Kosinska

Solar years and calendar years and lunar years aligning!

I’ve had this going around in my head to the tune or Mairzy Doats. I don’t remember where I first heard that song, but I remember the delight of slurring the words so they came out, “little lamsey-divey.”

“What the heck is a lamsey-divey?”

(lam, on the: 19th ce. American slang; to flee with haste, esp. from law enforcement;
dive, see dive bar: 19th ce. American slang; drinking den, disreputable place of resort)

“I don’t know, something to do with Prohibition! It’s just what you’re supposed to say!”

I think about all the ways and words that have come down over the centuries, stories whether written, oral, or acted out. My great-grandmother would throw a pinch of salt over her left shoulder to “keep the devil off your back,” whenever it was spilled, and took a shot of brandy for a cold. I laugh, but whenever salt spills, I still throw a pinch back. We do all sorts of weird things, and mishear, and misremember, and sometimes just make changes outright, because it suits us better.

We bring a tree into the house, or light candles, visit holy sites, eat special food, and we don’t always know why. Because it’s Christmas. Because it’s New Year. Because it’s how we bring our world back into alignment, along with the calendar.

I visited my mom at Christmas and we went through old pictures, naming our loved ones, naming our dead. I know the faces and names of people who were gone long before I arrived. After looking at all the old photos, my mother recollecting both her own memories, or her own time sitting with old photos, naming loved and lost, and me guessing and confirming that I remembered everything correctly, my mother gave me a little pin that had once belonged to her grandmother. I’d seen the pin often, even put it on as a kid, but never knew it was worn by the same woman of the stories.

 

pin

The stories say, we came from Ireland, we came from Canada, we came from Japan. The grown-ups would curse in French, but the kids still knew what they were saying anyway. A girl called Anna died too young. A boy called James got the Spanish flu. A young woman with a new baby boarded a ship in Japan. But those pictures are filled with laughter, with smiles not trained for photographs, with joy and playfulness. I can’t help but laugh at some of them, and can almost hear their laughter back to me, down across the many years.

It’s a story of hard times, and it’s a story of good times. Some of the details might have faded in the telling, yet our stories give us roots, the ones from our families, the ones we tell ourselves, the ones we’ve read and loved, and with them, we can trace a path and see a way forward.

Never one for springtime cleaning, I recently learned from my mother that the Japanese tradition is to give the house a thorough scrub and airing at midwinter.

Oh, so that’s why I do it now…

Mairzy Doats, it turns out, is not even a very old nursery rhyme, as I’d always believed, but was written in 1943 (ancient history to me as a little child, anyway – it may as well have been medieval!). You can listen to it here. Some scholars suggest inspiration may have come down from a 15th century joke, wherein the English words, when run together, sound like Latin.

Exciting news coming soon, and Epiphany of a Swan Wife wraps up this week!

Happy cleaning, happy calendaring, happy new year!

 

I have a newsletter now! If you enjoy my stories, if you want to support my writing, please sign up. If you subscribe to my Tiny Letter, you’ll stay with me, wherever I end up writing in the future, and I’ll send you previews of what’s coming up here.