Blog · Writing

Fairygodboss articles!

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I’ve had three new articles posted in Fairygodboss in the last couple weeks!

 

Six Ways to Treat Your Time Like Money and Reap the Benefits – this article was syndicated in The Ladders! It describes ways to think about budgeting our time to get the most benefit.

Five Documentaries You Can Stream Now That Will Make You Smarter – I recommend all of these documentaries, but if you only have ten minutes, watch Hilda! It is a short and sweet film looking at the life of a woman in the man’s world of art in the 1950s.

Have Insomnia? Why Traditional Chinese Medicine (And Other Unexpected Cures) Could Help – originally titled What We Mean By A Good Night’s Sleep, this article explains our natural sleep cycle and describes ways to support it.

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Ever-Changing Fairy Tales – in Enchanted Conversation!

My latest article on Enchanted Conversation!

Do fairy tales always remain the same or do they change to suit each generation?

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Some people have been very upset recently about the results of a survey that found that parents are changing fairy tales in order to make them more gentle tales for their children. Changing these classic tales, many an argument goes, is nothing but political correctness run rampant.

Yet fairy tales have always been retold, embellished, and otherwise changed to suit the mores and preferences of the current generation. Our current standards of child-rearing, begun with and passed down from the Victorians, is that children should be coddled and protected. What should we expect but that it should include the stories we tuck little ones into bed with? And why not? They’re small and it’s definitely better than the workhouses of yore! However, very few children, even among those parents and grandparents now bemoaning the loss of the “good old days,” ever actually heard the original versions of fairy tales while being put down to bed as tots to begin with.

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Blog · Writing

Ghost Stories and their place in Fairy Tales

My latest article in Enchanted Conversation explores ghost stories as a part of the genre!

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I was in a car with my family in Thailand, and to pass the time, asked my sister in law if she knew any Thai fairy tales or folk tales. No, she said, there aren’t any Thai fairy tales. My brother in law chimed in, “Thailand could use some nice happy stories with fairies and happy endings.”

No folk tales? Of course I didn’t believe them.

“We have a lot of ghost stories,” my sister in law said, and I asked her to tell us one.

I spend so much time in these stories and thinking about the shape and content of traditional tales and the stories of the marvelous that we tend to refer to as a body of folklore, or fairy tales, that I forget and am surprised when people still think of them as Disneyfied children’s stories, where the girls are always beautiful and the princes are always charming. Of course, much has already been said to turn this notion on its head, and any cursory perusal of “original” fairy tales will quickly correct that perspective.

Ghosts have always played their role in fairy tales, from the unloved child who returns as a bird to claim justice for their murder, to Cinderella and Vasylissa’s mothers, who guide and protect their orphaned daughters, as godmother, tree, or doll. Dead mothers, a frequent fact of medieval life, are a common thread through fairy tales, and it isn’t a far stretch to imagine their influence in the magical assistance given to their children in other stories as well, even when it isn’t spelled out as such. The selkie, for example, is known to return, secretly and unseen, to take care of her children after she regains her skin and returns to the sea.

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If you enjoy my stories, if you want to support my writing, please subscribe to my Tiny Letter!

Blog · Writing

What is a Sabbatical – and Why Should You Take One?

Here’s my latest piece in Fairygodboss! When I’m not writing fairy tales, or about them, you can find me over there writing about work/life balance, workplace culture, and feminism.

What is a Sabbatical – and Why Should You Take One?

We’re all struggling to find that mysterious balance between our work and personal lives. If you have this option, take it, use it, be enriched by it.

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Photo: John Reign Abarintos

What is a sabbatical?

Sabbatical started as a biblical term from ancient Hebrew culture, which decreed that every seventh day should be a day of rest, and every seventh year should be a year of rest, to forgive debts, free those in bondage and servitude, and let the land fallow. Sabbatical comes from the word Sabbath, which literally means “rest.”

Today, the term usually refers to a full-time employee’s extended leave or career pause of at least two months. In general, employees use it to complete some body of work, such as research or writing. Sabbaticals may be paid or unpaid, but usually involve the guarantee of a position being held open with the stipulation that the employer will allow employees to return to work at the end of it.

 

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Blog · Reading

Happy Short Story Month!

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Photo by JR Korpa on Unsplash

May is Short Story Month!

I remember the first time I discovered Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber in the stacks of my university library while I was supposed to be studying or researching for some paper. I found it both compelling and disturbing, and so much more valuable as a narrative than the sanitized childhood versions I was familiar with. I think it was about that same time that I discovered Neil Gaiman’s Snow, Glass, Apples, the chilling turn of which still stays with me.

I recently read Norse Mythology, also by Gaiman, which is a sort of short story collection, and am now working my way through Beyond the Woods, edited by Paula Guran.

Short stories are like finding yourself in a chocolatier with a tray of samples laid out. You can try all the varieties and find your favorites, without it costing anything! Done well, short stories captivate and delight, and linger, even changing the way you think about things, without demanding too much in return. Five, fifteen, maybe twenty minutes, and a world of wonder can open out in front of you, a break in routine, a respite from work stresses or unfinished housework.

Some of my favorite recent reads are:

Memories of Monsters – Mari Ness

Red as Blood and White as Bone – Theodora Goss

Them Boys – Nora Anthony

And of course you can find so many wonderful new stories on Enchanted Conversation!

Not long ago – maybe a year or three now – I found a mysterious tale about a young slave who escaped, and was captured again, and then turned over by her merciless master to a temple that he determined would do worse to her than he could. So she lived there, fearful at first, but then came to understand her fellow nuns who offered the sacrifice of their pain to their god, in physical injuries that could never heal. Eventually, she moves from acolyte to devotee, each pain bringing her clarity and insight, as each of life’s challenges and traumas may do for any of us.

I thought it was a beautiful story, well written and compelling, and I favorited the link. But somehow it was lost. So now I am searching for that story again. If you know it, please send it to me!

Happy reading!

 

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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

How to Keep your Creative Pool from Ever Running Dry

It finally happened to me, like some sort of initiation or rite of passage into the realm of being a “Real Writer.” My friend asked me a version of that question we’re all supposed to eventually get – where do you get your ideas from?

We were talking about A Work of Heart, and being a contributing editor for Enchanted Conversation, and signing on as a contributing writer at Fairygodboss, and launching my newsletter, and trying to expand my audience, and get my stories out there, and just do more writing. “You’ve really been doing a lot,” he observed, “do you have a process to keep finding new ideas?”

I laughed and said something about just trying to meet my deadlines.

I’ve thought about that conversation more, and I think everyone doing creative work does have a process, whether they think about it or not. For me it involves managing my time, my energy levels, and making room for a lot of different input.

These are the key things I’ve come to think about in terms of protecting my creative pool.

Get enough rest.

This is probably the most basic one. The idea of the stressed out, neurotic, starving artist is wrong. A person I know once lamented that he would never be able to create great art, because he was too happy in his marriage. But the idea that suffering and struggle leads to greatness, or is a prerequisite for it, is just nonsense. Recall your Maslow’s, and let’s move on from that. Creating anything takes enormous effort, and in order to produce good work, safely, you have to be well rested. I aim for eight hours of sleep a night. I rarely get that, but it’s my goal, and I often come reasonably close to it. Our bodies – including the brains that come up with our art – can’t function at full capacity when they’re tired. Lack of sleep makes us irritable, distracted, slower to make connections, and worse at coming up with novel ideas. If you’re nurturing your creative pool, the science tells us 8 or 9 hours of sleep a night is ideal.

Take care of your body.

Eat well, eat often. Eat food that is healthy and gives you the nutrients you need, and eat food that tastes good and is enjoyable to eat. Go for a walk, if not every day, then most days. Most resources will say that 10,000 steps is the ideal minimum number of steps your should take in a day. This isn’t actually scientifically determined, but was set because it’s an auspicious number in Japan, where the first wearable pedometer was popularized. I was never reaching 10,000 steps in my daily life, so I lowered my goal to 6,000, and once I got that pretty consistently, I recently upped it to 7,000. If you don’t have wearable tech, you can download a good pedometer app. I like Pacer. Move and stretch. Do what you need to in order to feel good and comfortable inside your skin. Self-care is essential to making art.

Meditate

Meditation has been shown to reduce stress and increase creative problem solving. I do this most days, but this is another one where I don’t really follow the “recommended daily dose.” Sometimes all I’ve got is five minutes, either before work or before bed. But I make an effort to include meditation in my life, and when I’m being consistent with it, I notice myself feeling less stressed, less reactive, and better able to focus. I like the Stop Breathe & Think and the 1 Giant Mind apps.

Morning pages

Morning pages come from from a book called The Artists Way, and are described as three pages of stream of consciousness writing, written long-hand, immediately upon waking in the morning. This is something I’ve tried to do, on and off, for years, and it never stuck. Staying in bed to write either made me fall back asleep, or feel like I was wasting time. But this time it has. I write at least 750 words on my computer with my morning coffee. I use the 4thewords game, log in and get my word count, and get my gold star each morning in the form of in-game rewards for doing the work. Like with meditation, this daily mind clearing exercise makes me feel much more prepared to tackle the day, and often brings up new perspectives and ideas I hadn’t considered until I saw the words in front of me. It’s a space to work out story lines and jot down ideas before I forget them, or write down weird dreams that may be mined for inspiration later.

Read everything

I read articles about fairy tales and mythology, archaeology, arts and theater, biology, space, work-life balance, the economy, writing. I’ll skim through anything that looks remotely interesting, and read and further investigate those topics that grab me. I’m usually reading several books at once, in the same range of topics, and a variety of fiction lines my shelves. All those topics and ideas bumping up against each other are bound to produce some novel perspectives, or a point worth pursuing. I reread favorite books, and I don’t ever make myself finish reading something if it’s boring me. That’s valuable time I could be reading something else!

Watch stuff, do stuff

I watch TV and movies and documentaries. I look for good and engaging stories, however they’re presented. I go see plays and hear music when I can. I play a lot of games. I try to say yes whenever my friends suggest doing something new. Living is required for making up stories about living.

Spend time with people

I am lucky to have friends and family in my life who are interested in a wide variety of things, who know way more than I ever will on their subjects, who are passionate about the things they’re doing, and excited to talk about it! We talk about the things that are not my thing, we talk about shared interests, we talk about writing. We play games, and go to trivia. Play is just as good for you, and just as important as going outside – consider laughing with your friends the mental equivalent of forest bathing and fresh air.

Accept that sometimes it doesn’t work

Sometimes I’m tired, sometimes crazy random stuff happens, sometimes I’m incredibly busy. Sometimes I’ve peopled too much and need to hide away. Those times are not really great for creative thinking. In the wise, wise words of my five-year-old niece, “sometimes I just need chocolate and a nap.” I’ve learned, and am learning, to accept that sometimes I don’t have anything to give and put on the page, and that’s okay. Because I keep doing the things I do to fill up that creative pool, and it comes back, and I get four or five ideas at once, or maybe just one that really needs a lot of work, but I’m still writing.

Some common writing advice says to make yourself write every day, no matter what – stay up late, get up early, and sit in front of your computer, even if you just sit there for two hours. It’s all about discipline, the line goes. I say go outside, take a walk, eat some chocolate and take a nap, stream your favorite reruns, read a poem, get lunch with your bestie. We all have so much going on in our lives, juggling relationships and day jobs and creative work. Be good to you, and come back to creating from a place of joy and fullness, not watching the clock until you can leave.

Happy writing!

Blog · Writing

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!

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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.

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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