Mother Christmas: Coming in 2022!

In the spirit of the season, I would like to announce that I have a new book coming out this year!

Image of a woman with wild, flowing hair in a winter landscape. She is carrying a bag filled with toys and has what look like glowing horns on her head. Her warm, winter cloak is a brilliant blue and covered with stars and she holds a drum in her hand that is adorned with an image of the sun.

This project is what I’ve been putting much of my time and energy into for the past year, but the story has been living in my head and heart for much longer, beginning in 2004 with a trip to Turkey to do research. Almost 18 years later, I finally get to share the characters and their story with you!

A little background:

For those who follow the Julian calendar, today (January 7th) is Christmas. I’ve written about the Ukrainian celebration of the holiday and its traditions in previous blog posts about Sviat Vechir and the twelve symbolic dishes.

Sviat Vechir/Christmas Eve is one of my favorite holy days, centered around family and ritual and food. In my home today, we celebrate several different winter holidays. Growing up, it was “American” Christmas on December 25th and “Ukrainian” Christmas on January 7th. As an adult, my blended family also celebrates the Winter Solstice, as well as Hanukkah.

I love all of it: preparing the twelve traditional dishes, honoring the ancestors with their place setting at the table. Our white tree adorned with its collection of ornaments, the living room transformed by multi-colored lights in the window. Household altars dressed for the season. Eight nights of candles until the menorah is fully illuminated. What a blessing to have several days to celebrate this time of yearthe magic of light in the peace of winter’s darkness.

My love of the holiday and this magical time of year are the inspiration for Mother Christmas. I am so excited to be creating this graphic novel for Rosarium Publishing along with the brilliant Brazilian artist, Victória Terra. What’s it about?

MOTHER CHRISTMAS, VOL. 1: THE MUSE
By Valya Dudycz Lupescu and Victória Terra

It’s the one story of magic and wonder everyone thinks they know—yet the most epic part of the tale remains shrouded in mystery. What actually happened 1,700 years ago to transform a starry-eyed young priest named Nicholas into a winter wizard who circles the globe on a sleigh of hope? Now, the secret is revealed: SHE happened. She is Amara, an immortal Muse with a rebellious streak, trying hard to inspire dreamers in a world full of broken humans, invisible guardians, and ravenous Kobaloi, creatures who feed on fear and chaos. In Nicholas, Amara thinks she has finally found a partner to help light the earth through times of darkness. But binding her fate and her magic to Saint Nick will mean breaking the laws of the Muses themselves—and risking their eternal wrath…

Mother Christmas recasts the myth of Santa Claus as the epic fantasy saga it has always deserved to be. In the first volume of this exciting new graphic novel series that spans centuries, author Valya Dudycz Lupescu (of The Silence of Trees and Geek Parenting) weaves a tapestry of mythic fantasy through the actual historical truth of Saint Nicholas, creating a lush world of supernatural adventure that’s brought to life by the stunning comic debut of Brazilian artist Victória Terra.

This will be the first of three volumes whose story spans two millennia. Volume 1: The Muse will be released at the end of 2022.

We watched a movie at home last month, The Man Who Invented Christmas, a fictionalized account of Charles Dickens writing A Christmas Carol. What I enjoyed about the movie was the way they portrayed Dickens’s process, because it’s pretty close to what it feels like for me when I writethe characters inhabit my imagination and my life in a very real way. I’ve been living with Nicholas, Flavia, Amara, Brother Theo, the Muses and Guardians all this time; and to see them appear on the page by Victória’s skilled hand is such a thrill.

We can’t wait to share Mother Christmas with you. I’ll be providing more information and teasers as we get closer to publication. Until then, I wish you warmth and safety, health and peace. 

Chicago blur: 1995 to 2020

I’m excited to share that my poem “Chicago blur: 1995 to 2020” was published this month in the poetry journal Spillway 29, guest edited by Patricia Smith, who recently won the Poetry Foundation’s Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize; and Lynne Thompson, Poet Laureate of the City of Los Angeles.

As writers and artists, we are constantly being influenced by those who came before us and those who are working alongside us. In the early days of the pandemic, in April 2020, Creative Distancing, in partnership with the Philbrook Museum of Art, published a series of creative project tutorials on YouTube, offering artistic prompts from a number of creators. One of these featured a poet, author, and educator whose work I love, Quraysh Ali Lansana, talking about a form he created, the blur poem.

If you’ve never encountered the form, you can also read Quraysh Ali Lansana’s blur poems “Tulsa blur: 1921 to 2012” and “basement blur: wisconsin“.

I was inspired to write my own blur poem and worked on it during those early months of the pandemic. I’m delighted for it to be included among so many wonderful poems in Spillway 29. The annual poetry journal is not online but is available for purchase through Small Press Distribution.

Valya holding a copy of the poetry journal Spillway 29.

Inducting Gene Wolfe

Gene Wolfe accepting the Fuller Award, 2012. (Photo by 8 Eyes Photography)

In 2012, it was my privilege to help develop a new award for the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, the Henry Blake Fuller Award, honoring a living author for their outstanding lifetime contribution to literature. We honored Gene Wolfe with the first Fuller at a beautiful ceremony at Sanfilippo Estate in Barrington Hills on March 17, 2012. My account of the evening is here on my blog. It was magic.

It has been almost a decade, and Gene is no longer with us. Tomorrow, on Sunday, September 19, 2021, we will induct him into the Hall of Fame proper, along with Carlos Cortéz, Jeannette Howard Foster, and Frank London Brown, in a ceremony at the City Lit Theater in Edgewater.

I will be presenting Gene’s award to his daughter, Therese Wolfe-Goulding. Kathie Bergquist will be our emcee, and there will be speeches by the other presenters, Tracy Baim, Carlos Cumpián, Kathleen Rooney, and those accepting the awards on behalf of the other inductees. While it won’t be broadcast live, there will be a recording of the event that will be up on the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame website later.

My tribute to Gene, along with rest of the program, will also be available on the website after tomorrow. (I’ll add it to the post here.)

It was challenging to find the words… actually, it was challenging not to go over the word limit for what we had the space for in the program… to celebrate this wonderful writer who contributed so much to literature and whom I was honored to call my friend.

I miss him, his anecdotes and unusual facts; his stories about growing up, writing, and convention adventures; his kindness, his smile, and his sense of humor. I treasure those conversations, and I will be so happy to present the award to Teri.

I hold onto the fact that I have those memories, and we have his wordshis stories and novels, his letters and interviews. It makes me happy to know that he will be joining the ranks of other important writers who have called Chicago home, and who have previously been inducted in the Hall of Fame, including Studs Terkel, Gwendolyn Brooks, Nelson Algren, Lorraine Hansberry, Richard Wright, L. Frank Baum, Saul Bellow, Roger Ebert, and Mike Royko. The full list, along with biographies, is on the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame website.

One of my favorite photos of Gene with his daughter, Teri at the Fuller Award Ceremony. (Photo by Carl Hertz)

I’m going to share a video that I stumbled upon when I was doing a little research. In 1982, Gene Wolfe, Harlan Ellison, and Isaac Asimov appeared on a show called “Nightcap:  Conversations on the Arts and Letters” hosted by Studs Terkel and Calvin Trillin.

At the time Gene was 51, only a few years older than I am today. It was interesting to see this younger Gene, just over a decade into his career, and yet he’s much the same Gene I got to know at 80. 

 

We don’t often to get to know and love our literary heroes. It’s definitely a gift when we do, and I think it changes us for the better, but the rest of that I’m saving for my speech tomorrow night.

xxo