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Photo-reflections from Thailand

This week, Enchanted Conversation Magazine would like to thank, Kiyomi Appleton Gaines, for sharing her photos and thoughts from her recent trip to Thailand. We hope Kiyomi’s art and words can serve as story-inspiration for our readers.The old city is in ruins, falling down, overgrown with trees and plants. The forest is taking it back. Yet still…

via Story Inspiration – Photo Reflections from Thailand by Kiyomi Appleton Gaines — Enchanted Conversation Magazine: Folklore, Fairy Tales & Myths

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Blog · book club · Reading

Happy Women’s Day!

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Photo: Daria Głodowska

March is Women’s History Month, and today is International Women’s Day. This month we will #readmorewomen!

Right now, I’m alternating between Julie Dao’s darkly sparkling fairy tale Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, and Martha Hall Kelly’s The Lilac Girls, inspired by true stories of the horrors of Ravensbruck. Both are tales of strong women learning and navigating that strength, and finding their way in a world that seeks to overpower them.

If you’re looking for a shorter read, these are some of my favorite short stories that I’ve discovered in the last few months, all by women!
You can find more great reads at Enchanted Conversation!
Happy reading!
Kiyomi
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.
Reading · Writing

Happy Tell a Fairy Tale Day!

Cinderella

Happy Tell a Fairy Tale Day? While the origins of this holiday are not very clear, any reason to reconnect with our favorite stories and share them with others, is good in my book!

Today is also my birthday! In honor of both, I’m asking you to share one of my stories with one other person.

Find a complete list of my published stories on the blog here. But if you’re not sure where to begin, I’ve got some suggestions for you!

Like the tale of The Pied Piper? Read Hamelintown.

Here’s Snow Fell, my version of Snow White.

In more of an Anderson than a Grimm mood?

Check out my tale inspired by The Steadfast Tin Soldier and Frankenstein, John Soldier; or if you’re more in a listening than reading mood, you can play the audio version here.

Or my take on The Emperor’s New Clothes, Re-covered.

For stories from the perspective of the princess try:

How He Found a Wife, which tells the story of Godfather Death,

Or Moon Rising, a new story of Aladdin.

For a thoroughly American tale, read my take on The Prince and the Pauper, The Complications of Rule.

The Tale of Anchin comes from Japanese fairy tales, and Like a Preyer was inspired by the Mr. Fox story.

Check here for other ways to celebrate!

And be sure to check out Enchanted Conversation for many more stories, interesting articles, and to watch for my forthcoming tale, Travelers’ Sickness, inspired by the Thai myth of the krasue.

Thanks for reading!

Kiyomi

 

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.

Writing

A Consideration of Fairy Tales in Context of Memento Mori

A new article I wrote for the Thanksgiving 2017 Special Edition of Enchanted Conversation, looking at fairy tales in light of memento mori in the early modern era.

FairyTalesInContextOfMementoMori-GAINES-ArtByAmandaBergloff copy
Art by Amanda Bergloff
 Memento mori were objects common in Medieval Europe, through the Victorian era, designed to remind one of death, and perhaps, relieve anxiety or guilt over good fortune, since many were luxury items. Although we now talk about stories being sweetened with bloodless conflict and happily-ever-afters, in the early-modern era virtue might be added to otherwise frivolous entertainment by invoking Death.

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Find my version of the Aarne-Thompson-Uther tale type 709 here.

Be sure to check out Beloved, too!  It’s a lovely flash fiction piece by Amanda Bergloff, with a character named after me! Read Here
Beloved by Amanda Bergloff

 

Writing

The Girl in the Glass Coffin

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Walter Crane, via Wikimedia Commons

Mississippi, April 1969

It’s hot, as one would expect. The summer heat comes on suddenly and with no regard for the calendar or the comforts of inhabitants here in the deep south. The weather has burned into the people here, along with the fine burnish of skin long used to labor under the sun, a kind of quiet strength and pride. Pride in the cooking, and the land, and the decaying yet still decadent architecture; pride in the knowledge of living things, that comes from making a life off of agriculture and sweat. Pride in that certain politesse that comes of being known as a “gentleman” or a “belle” of a certain variety. Pride in that lengthening of the vowels in every word, that immediately identifies one as being of a certain place; of belonging. Insistent pride in the good things – family and sweet tea and hot summers and hard work and church and football – because just below that run the scars and secrets and shames also handed down along with those recipes for pecan pie and injunctions to remember one’s manners, perhaps buried just about four feet deep.

On this hot, late spring day, just off the banks of the Yazoo River, a group of said gentlemen are digging a pit, expanding a septic tank in the garden of an old plantation house, that still oversees a working operation, growing cotton as it has for one hundred years or more. There’s a loud crack, or maybe more of a crunch, and one can imagine the man standing on the ground calling up to the man operating the rented backhoe, “Hold up! Hold up!”

The digging machine is turned off, and they, and perhaps one or two other men with them, take up shovels to uncover whatever made the sound. There’s a momentary dread between them of perhaps having hit a gas line, or causing some other damage to the comforts and habitability of the home with that crunch.

Imagine their surprise, imagine the delight and horror, the fascination that would not let them look away, overriding even the natural revulsion that makes one realize the terrible intimacy of death, and that one should take care of where the gaze lingers; imagine that sensation as one of them reaches down with a careful hand and brushes aside the crumbling, moist, reddish earth, to see the fresh face of a young woman under a pane of glass, now cracked.

The sound was the backhoe hitting her iron casket and breaking that delicate viewing pane. They see the embalming liquid, some kind of alcohol by its smell, running down the side of the iron case. They grab their shovels and uncover her the rest of the way.

 

 

She is young, with a childlike face. She has long red, or maybe black, hair. She is petite, small, and dainty; dressed in fine clothes the make her of another era, including a red brocade velvet dress. She is wearing white kid gloves and black leather boots. She is a fine lady, this sleeping girl encased in iron and glass. The name plate on the casket, probably a Fisk Metallic Burial Case, and standard for these models, is missing. The men don’t find it in the shallow grave. There is no marker in the garden to indicate her presence, and no one knows who she is, or how she came to be here. The families who have owned the property for the last hundred and more years are all accounted for. No one was ever buried in the garden. There should be no one there.

The newspapers call her the Lady in Red. After waiting half a year, in the weeks following the devastation of Camille and orders to desegregate the schools and amidst on-going anxieties about the war in Asia, with the living perhaps quite reasonably more concerned with carrying on with the tasks of living, she is laid to rest once more in the Odd Fellows Cemetery in Lexington, under that name, and to this day given no other.

 

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.

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On Death: Anthropormorphic Personification and The Stories We Tell

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By Ad Meskens , via Wikimedia Commons

In just two weeks my new short story, How He Found a Wife, will be published in Enchanted Conversation, in the Godfather Death issue. If you’re not familiar with the story, Godfather Death presents a wonderful journey through the stages of grief at one’s own mortality. I encourage giving it a read!

The first story in which I remember reading about a personified Death, and one I still love, is The Appointment in Samarra (or Samarkand). It’s a very old tale, said to be from Mesopotamia, and is included in the Talmud and collections of Sufi wisdom, and is sometimes also called When Death Came to Baghdad. In it, a man sends his servant on a long journey to avoid Death, only to find that Death had expected him there, in that other place, all along. I remember feeling that there was a certain injustice in that – if only the man had stayed home! How unfair that the man’s fear of dying drove him to flee straight to the place of his death. Yet, how foolish to try to run away, only to spend his final days on a long journey to a distant land, far from all that he knew and loved. That is where Death brings us in the end anyway.

In many old stories, Death is portrayed as a neutral, or even benevolent figure. Not frightening or evil, but someone who is just doing a job. These stories represent a way for us to make peace with mortality. Not to say that we shouldn’t cling to the beauty and joy and connection presented by a life well lived, or mourn the finality of separation from our loved ones. Rather Death represents everything that is unknown, and our complete inability to return to what was before – that is to say, death, (with a little ‘d’) in a very literal sense, or any process of change or transition. Not bad, and maybe not good, but inevitable just the same.

Another favorite personification (and where the title of this blog comes from) is Terry Pratchett’s Death. His attempts to understand, and compassion for humanity are endearing, and his matter-of-fact dealings with the business of an ended life, often comical. I’m sorry that we won’t have any new stories of that particular character, yet the stories we have told, and those told about us, also present a kind of continued connection with those we leave behind. I am already eagerly looking forward to my annual viewing of The Hogfather, with a dinner of pork pies and sherry, on the eve of the winter solstice! I like to think that when Sir Terry Pratchett left, Death greeted him as a friend. May we all be so lucky!

Death in The Tale of the Three Brothers, of the Harry Potter stories, always reminds me of Death in both the Appointment in Samarra, and in the Discworld. The story of
The Three Brothers is beautifully rendered in the movie. I especially love that the art is reminiscent of the sculpture and reliefs on the Passion facade of Sagrada Familia, seen throughout this post. Death will not be thwarted by pride, or swayed by love, but must ultimately be accepted, and even – just maybe – welcomed after a long and good life.

There’s something about passing into the dark time of the year that makes us look back on those who came before us, and reflect on what it means to lead a life well-lived. In September, the Japanese festival of Obon was celebrated. It’s a time when the ancestors are believed to return and visit their living relatives. Graves are visited and cleaned, offerings are made, and at the end of three days, beautiful paper lanterns are set afloat on a river to lead the dead back to the other world.

At the end of this month and early November, of course, western tradition holds to much the same idea. We come together as a community, we tell stories of our people, general and specific, and celebrate with our loved ones. This time of year is known by people around the world and throughout history for the “thinning of the veil” between our everyday world and other world, and annually this is a time to reconnect, and to remember our dead – to tell their stories.

Interestingly, it wasn’t the ghosts of relatives that the ancients feared on these days, but the other things that would come across with them! Following the winter the solstice, at the end of the dark half of the year and the beginning of the return to light, the Alpine demigod Perchta would hunt down all the beasties that came across throughout the fall and winter months and drag them back from whence they came, in order to make way for the coming spring.

Death with a little ‘d’ is always scary and terrible, and no matter how old a person is, always feels like an injustice. Because no matter how long we have to prepare, we never feel ready for it. So we tell stories about a person in a cloak who can help guide us through; so we comfort ourselves that our loved ones are not alone on that journey, and neither will we be.

Much of human history has been a story about death, about those impossible transitions from one place of existence into another, about travel from one land into the next; and because we are a uniquely and irrationally hopeful species, also about new life and new beginnings. Terry Pratchett in the Hogfather says, the very oldest stories are, sooner or later, about blood. I think that’s true, but blood, in our old stories, is always about death, and our first stories were. We have evidence of very early burials where bodies were covered in flowers. Putting flowers over bodies is not innate behavior to humans. What mattered, of course, were not the flowers, but the reason behind the flowers – the story being told about what had happened to those people, and what it meant.

Our stories are how we make sense of the world. When throughout so much of our history, life was brutal and short, and if we made it through the year, many of our loved ones would likely not, our stories were how we made it bearable; how we gave meaning to our experiences, and how we made sense of those things that are impossible to understand, like death.

 

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 · Reading

Keep Enchanted Conversation Going

As you know, I love Enchanted Conversation!

This publication is full of wonderful stories and poems – twists on all your old familiar favorites that surprise and delight! EC also provides a place for new, and not so new, writers to share their work and be paid for it, which many publications are not able to do.

My first published piece appeared on its pages back in March, and when the second one appeared in August, it gave me the encouragement I needed to launch my blog and pursue my writing with greater focus! Now they are trying to expand the number of such opportunities they can offer with each issue, and increase the amount their writers are paid.

If you have enjoyed my stories, or the others published there, and if you can, I hope you’ll consider supporting them, and continue putting magic into the world, which desperately needs it right now!

KAG

 

Hi All:The campaign to raise funds to keep EC going has officially started! Amanda Bergloff (contributing editor and art director) and I have worked hard to make this campaign as easy and rewarding as we possibly can, so we hope you’ll donate. The fundraiser is open until October 24.The donations are one-time, and they start…

via EC Fundrazr Campaign Kicks Off! Please Donate! — Enchanted Conversation: A Fairy Tale Magazine

Blog

What We Mean When We Talk About Fairy Tales

I thought I would talk about some of my favorite stories, but in considering fairy tales and other fantastical things, it’s useful to have some definitions.

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Photo: Jonny Lindner

 

Fairy Tales

Broadly when we talk about fairy tales, we mean stories that come out of a common folklore tradition associated with a general geographic region. The region does not matter in the stories, but the stories themselves will tend to be told within a relatively defined space – we can speak broadly about European, Central American, or East Asian folkloric traditions, for example, which will have relatively discreet fairy tales within them. Within fairy tale stories specifically, though, the specifics don’t matter! Though fairy tales within a given tradition tend to be associated with defined geographic region (there are some that seem to transcend geography, but that’s another blog post), fairy tales never happen in a specific place. They are never in a town that appears on any map; most often our heroes and villains simply live in “the village,” or “the castle,” and have their adventures in “the kingdom” or “the forest.”

Similarly, fairy tales tend to be set, more or less, “once upon a time,” or “long ago,” and not, “five years ago,” or “in the 1700s,” or “around the time of William the Conqueror.” One of the defining characteristics of fairy tales is that they are told as happening out of time.

Lastly, fairy tale heroes are unnamed. Think of your favorite fairy tale – Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, The Princess and the Pea – the characters are called by what they do, or what they are; or occasionally, they will have very common “everyman” names, such as Jack and the Bean Stalk, or Hansel and Gretel. But, importantly, fairy tales don’t happen to a person anyone knows, or that anyone has ever heard of. Rather, they are stories about anyone – a princess, a merchant, a farmboy – and so, they are stories about everyone within the community where they are told.

 

Legends

What about King Arthur, or Robin Hood?

These stories fall into the realm of legend. The characters all reside in a more or less specific, named place – Camelot, Sherwood Forest. The happenings of these stories are also time-bound – the Dark Ages, or Norman England. And finally, the reason we’re told these stories is, ostensibly, that they are true – or at least, could be! These things happened to arguably real people in arguably real place at a more or less specific time in history – we’re told! The defining quality of a legend is, instead, the extraordinary actions of the heroes, and that it all could have happened just like the story says it did.

 

Myths

Mythology has to do with the doings of gods. While fairy tales may tell us that anyone can be a hero, and legends will regale us with the stories of those who were heroes, mythology gives us our back story. It answers questions about how did the world come to be, who were the first people, why are we farmers instead of herdsman (or vice versa), where do animals come from, why do disasters happen, and what happens when we die. Mythology also tends to be geographically contained, and while the heroes are named, everything happens outside of time.

 

Folklore

Folklore is the big category that all of these, and other things like music and dance and weaving – and all the other ways that humans have come up with to tell stories – fall into. Our folklore is the way we think about our world, our place in it, and what it all means.

So what do fairies have to do with any of it?

Fairy tales can include fairies, or magic, but it isn’t required. The word “fairy” comes to us from the same root as the word “fate.” In mythology, the Fates guide or determine the course of each individual’s life; so fairy tales are those stories about how the paths of our lives are determined.

Or (and maybe, also), in Middle English, faerie refers not to a creature but to a place – a country out of common time and space where strange creatures and happenings exist – and so a fairy tale is a story that, by having no defined place or time, is tied to that other mysterious land.

I identified Cory Doctorow’s Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town as a fairy tale because, although a good portion of the book does take place in Toronto, a significant portion – including much of the driving action of the story – takes place in unspecific other spaces; and although the characters are called by different names, I argue that, in that lack of specificity, they essentially remain unnamed. Also, although the portion of the story set on Toronto takes place sometime in the early-2000s, in much of the story, time in also unspecified – things take place sort of in our modern era, but we don’t really know when, and placement in time is not at all important to the story.

 

So that’s what I mean when I throw these words around! If you have other definitions, I’d love to hear them!

 

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.

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Thirty Days Hath September

I remember this little rhyme as though I had always known it.  I can’t remember learning it, I suppose my mother must have taught it to me whenever I reached the age that it becomes important to adults that children can calendar.

 

I’ve always said it as:

 

Thirty days hath September

April, June, and November

All the rest have thirty-one

Save February

To which twenty-eight we assign

Till leap year make it twenty-nine

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From the 1708 reprint of the 1661 Cellarius Atlas Harmonia Macrocosmica, depicting the Christianized constellations by Julius Schiller, showing the hemisphere with the autumnal equinox point. Public Domain,  via Wikimedia Commons

The ending seems to be a familial fabrication, or my own misremembering, if still accurate.  I always liked the dramatic pause of “Save February,” perhaps out of being born a child of the wolf month.  “Save February,” seemed so heavy with implication, “oh, that trouble maker!”  It’s cold and dark and dangerous, and weirdly all out of order – December used to be the tenth month, after all, and February, with it’s consternating second r, was just made up of the jumble of all that extra time that wouldn’t be contained neatly in the rest of the year.  But I reveled in the difference of “my month,” too.

The rhyme came up recently while we were out at the usual spot, and half of us had never heard of the rhyme, and then it was discovered that, while it is marvelously old, first recorded in 1488, – and ludicrous as any kind of reasonable mnemonic – my ending (which I always stumble over beyond, “Save February!”) is all wrong. That old version just says, “February is excepted,” full stop, which just lacks a certain something.

Book_of_Hallowe'en

By Ruth Edna Kelley, via Wikimedia Commons
 

I’ve always been fascinated with the ways we humans mark time – by the sun and moon, and sometimes the ecliptic – the way the seasons are passed into and out of with much ceremony, with festivals and rituals that we don’t even always remember the origins of.  Perhaps being a child of the wolf month, I’ve always loved September and the onset of fall, with the darkening of our days and the coming of winter, the world taking a moment to rest, while we continue to scramble on through the cold and snow and gray, making our lives. People used to see fall as a time of abundance, with the full harvest brought in; it was a time of celebration and community and plenty and hope, knowing there would be hardship ahead, but also looking ever on toward a new spring and ever returning life. It was a time of looking to the future, of making predictions by firelight and osteomancy, apple bobbing to determine who would pair off, who would marry, and what kind of luck the coming months would bring.

This weekend, coinciding with the beginning of fall, I’m going to bear witness to another ancient rite, in the marriage of two dear friends, and I wish all these things – abundance and celebration and love and hope – on Amanda and James. May you always find yourselves in times of plenty; May you always be surrounded by those who love you; May you always have faith in the life you’re building together, through all the seasons and Septembers ahead.

 

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 · Writing

Writers on Writing Interview

This week I was interviewed by Amanda Bergloff for Enchanted Conversation’s Writers on Writing!  See my interview below!

3 QUESTIONS FOR

Kiyomi Appleton Gaines

“The experiment in vulnerability was not considered a success. He wanted to convey that these rumors were not true, were unfounded, yet only prevailed in terrorizing his entire kingdom. He was only a man like any other, he wanted to say. But no, his wise sister insisted, he was not like any other man. He was a ruler, and thus, he must rule.”
Kiyomi’s story, Re-Covered, explores a different side to the classic Emperor’s New Clothes fairy tale that is worth the read. In this interview, she gives some insight into her creative process.
1.  What is the first fairy tale that left a big impression on you? 

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