Hear Ukrainian Fantastic Stories Read Aloud

I love hearing authors read their own work, especially when those authors are good readers. The first time I ever heard a “real live author” read their work was when I was in high school and went to see Anne Rice read in a bookstore in downtown Chicago. It blew my mind that I could actually talk with (well, shyly say hello to) the person who wrote it. That may have been the day authors became real people for me, watching Anne Rice sitting at a table talking to her fans.

I would not be introduced to conventions or fandom for another 20 years, but I did discover Stars Our Destination bookstore in college, which had a schedule of authors coming in to read and sign. Chicago was a frequent stop, and I was finally able to meet a few of my favorite authors in various bookstores around the city.

Today, thanks to the internet, we can watch readings from all over the world—live and recorded—and now I’m delighted to enjoy readings by writer-friends and colleagues who live in other cities and countries. It helps to hold me over until the next time I get to travel or attend a conference, where I can see and hug them in person.

Українсько-англійські читання ~ A Reading in Ukrainian and English

This weekend, Atthis Arts hosted a reading on YouTube, featuring our publisher, Emily Bell, as well as two of the authors and two of the translators from Embroidered Worlds: Fantastic Fiction from Ukraine and the Diaspora: 

“The Rainbow Bridge” by Iryna Pasko,
translated by Hanna Leliv

“The Bike Shadow” by Yaryna Katorozh,
translated by Kateryna Darchyk

I was celebrating my birthday with my family when the reading was live on the air, so I watched the entire video the next day, grinning at the screen the entire time.

Translator Kateryna Darchyk hosted and did a wonderful job addressing both English and Ukrainian audiences. The two stories were read in their original Ukrainian by the authors; then Hanna read her translation of “The Rainbow Bridge” and Emily read Kateryna’s translation of “The Bike Shadow.”

It was SO good! Such a joy to listen to the stories read aloud after having read and worked with them while editing the anthology.  I invite you to check it out here:

The reading was free, but they were also raising money to help the Hospitallers in Ukraine, a volunteer organization of paramedics founded by Yana Zinkevich at the beginning of hostilities in Ukraine in 2014. The slogan of the Hospitallers is “Заради кожного життя” (“For the sake of every life”).

As we approach the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of February 24, 2022, organizations like the Hospitallers are doing such important work to help the people of Ukraine. You can donate at their website: https://www.hospitallers.life/ 

The physical books are still in customs in Kyiv on their way to our  authors and editors in Ukraine. They have not yet had the chance to hold Embroidered Worlds in their hands, but we are hoping that they soon will.

Thank you once more to everyone who helped us to make and share Embroidered Worlds. As Emily mentioned during the reading, if there are book clubs, libraries, or schools who are interested in reading Embroidered Worlds, they can get in touch with Atthis Arts.

The Embroidered Worlds Kickstarter project is eligible to be nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Related Work, and I’m eligible as one of the editors for Best Editor, Short Form. The following is from the Atthis Arts website:

We are asking you to consider “The Embroidered Worlds Funding Campaign” by Valya Dudycz Lupescu and E.D.E. Bell for Best Related Work. This includes our work securing an international grant after the already received grant was rescinded, and our community and culture celebrating crowdfunding campaign at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/atthisarts/embroidered-worlds/ featuring guest writers from around the world. Because of the grant requirements, the entire process from the start of crowdfunding through translation, editing, sensitivity reading, typesetting, and production, to full publication was done within eleven weeks starting 01 September 2023. This late-in-the-year release was therefore necessary after previous external delays, but put us in a difficult position for awards visibility.

The website also lists short stories from the collection that are eligible, as well as several other authors, editors, and stories that are eligible and were published by Atthis Arts. I am honored to be in such good company.

Measuring Time

I turned fifty last weekend, although turned feels too active a verb. The earth did the turning. All I did was wake up and because of how we measure time in years around the sun, I find myself a year older.

It’s February, and the seasons are starting to change; the planet is doing the work of transforming from winter to spring in our Northern Hemisphere.  The world spins and we spin with it, measuring our lives in beginnings and endings: The life of a mayfly in 24 hours, the ruby-throated hummingbird in three to four years. Our beloved cats and dogs may get 10 to 15 years. Macaws can live 60 to 80 years old, and Galapagos Giant Tortoises can live to be over 100. On the other end of that spectrum, there are Redwoods in California that are 2000 years old and a Norway spruce on Fulufjället Mountain, Sweden has lived over 9,500 years.

I must be ancient to the mayfly and barely register in the long life of that Norway spruce.

Age is most definitely relative.

Yet just like the other creatures, all we get is a lifetime, and we don’t usually know how long that is going to be.

In the days leading up to and following my birthday, I have been filled with gratitude for the experiences and relationships of my fifty years: the love I have been given and shared, the stories that shaped me, the people I have known, the moments of joy and wonder that froze time.

I think about the others who have moved through this milestone before me: friends who have been talking honestly about their experiences of aging, wise women and teachers who share lessons about physical and mental health, as well as beloved elders who walk even farther ahead and lead by example. I am honored to walk in their footsteps.

I’ve been taking walks to break away from my work on the computer, spending time really paying attention to the natural world without the distraction of technology, because I truly believe that nature is our greatest teacher.

Again and again, I come back to the trees. Trees, like the rich black earth they grow in, are sacred in the stories of my Ukrainian ancestors, in our songs, in our folklore, in our embroidery and pysanky. Trees also feature in my poetry, my stories, my spiritual practices and traditions.

I believe trees have much to teach us, and here’s the thing…When I think about the beloved elders in my life, the older they get, the more they resemble the ancient tree-people. They stop being contained and defined by family and cultural expectations. Like the trees, they have allowed themselves to unapologetically grow into their full power. They may not be loud—strength can be quiet. They may not be theatrical—not all trees have showy blooms. But once trees get to a certain age, they are a landmark for life around them. Trees reshape the landscape.

I think about my Baba, Parania, my earliest example of a matriarch. She was a force of nature and the heart of our Dudycz family. Sometimes when I stand beside an ancient tree, solid and thick and in full bloom, I am reminded of being in Baba’s presence when I was little. There was a gravity to Baba’s love and protection.

Baba 1987

Like our tree-sisters, the queens and crones of a certain age allow themselves to spread and stretch, to fill the space, to reach for the sun. They protect those who come to them. They provide shelter and refuge. They stand in the face of storms, and they dance even when eyes are watching. They reshape the landscape.

I am aware that I am losing some of the “gifts” of youth, and there are days where I’m surprised by some physical change or another. But I bristle any time I’m told that “I look good for my age.” Because that starts from the assumption that women of a certain age are no longer beautiful, and I reject that. I think that older women are beautiful, not “beautiful for their age or despite their age” but beautiful because of their age.

I took this photograph in the morning with no makeup or filters. This is me at fifty with a new birthday mug and some delicious coffee.

When I look in the mirror, I’m not afraid of the wrinkles or grey hairs. I am working to remain strong and healthy, but I’m not trying to turn back any clock. I love this little belly that has carried three children, these calves that have danced for decades, these hands that have kneaded bread and sore muscles, these near-sighted eyes with their growing frame of lines that have allowed me to see so much of this world. Sometimes they ache, sometimes they take a while to warm up, but they still allow me to do things that I love. And like my ancestors and the elders in my circle, as well as my dear tree-sisters, the work of my next fifty years, if I’m so blessed, is to continue to grow more fully into myself.

British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) longlist for Best Collection

Last week, the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) released their longlist of nominees for the BSFA Awards, for work published in 2023. Embroidered Worlds: Fantastic Fiction from Ukraine and the Diaspora was among those listed for Best Collections! I am honored that we were included; I’m also so excited to see Ukrainian fiction on a list like this.
When I was a young reader in the 80s and 90s, I dreamed of such an opportunity; and I am heartened to know that readers are enjoying and discussing these stories by writers in Ukraine and the Diaspora.
There are so many thoughtful collections and fantastic stories on this list, and I encourage you to take a look. Congratulations to my incredible co-editors, Olha Brylova & Iryna Pasko and to all the nominees.