Monsters, Memories, and Mythmaking

When I  attended Readercon last month, I caught up with Gil Roth, who runs Virtual Memories, one of my favorite podcasts about books and writers. Gil had attempted to interview me for the show last Fall when I was in the NYC/Philadelphia-area, but after losing my voice and hopping from plane to bus to train to subway, we rescheduled. We had our opportunity for a retake at Readercon (as part of his 2-part Readercon 2013 mega-podcast).

Part 1 features  John Crowley and Scott Edelman, and includes a wonderful discussion about fairies, zombie-fiction, storytelling tips, and writing challenges.

“One of the most amazing things about writing to me is that, even though you’ve read, and heard, and seen thousands of stories, when you sit down to write one, you have no idea how to begin!” –John Crowley

Part 2 features Theodora Goss, Nancy Hightower, and me. This from the Virtual Memories site:

First, Theodora Goss talks about her new accordion-shaped novella, The Thorn and the Blossom, what writing contracts taught her about writing stories, why most classic literary monsters were female, and the joys of coffee in Budapest. Then (52:00), Valya Dudycz Lupescu explores the joys of Growing Up Ukrainian in Chicago, the role of folklore and myths in her fiction, and how every immigrant wave has to choose what it holds onto when it lands in America. Finally (1:15:00), Nancy Hightower tells us why she gave up Colorado for NYC, how she made the transition from teaching the grotesque to writing epic eco-fantasy, and how we learn the cost of wilderness.

The second part of the Readercon 2013 Special features conversations with (from left): Nancy Hightower, author of Elementari Rising; Theodora Goss, author of The Thorn and the Blossom: A Two-Sided Love Story; and Valya Dudycz Lupescu, author of The Silence of Trees.

It was wonderful to be in the company of these two intelligent, creative, and talented writers all weekend at Readercon, and I enjoyed listening to their interviews as much as I enjoyed chatting with Gil.

In her interview, Theodora speaks about the joy of conferences and conventions like Readercon. I’m new to the scene, but I wholly agree. Cons allow us to engage other writers in a social setting, to discuss everything from coffee to craft.

Cons are an oasis of sorts, they create the opportunity for community to happen in a physical place, because for most writers, the work is solitary. Even the internet, while a lifeline for many and an invaluable tool for connection, is not the same as sharing a meal, or sitting in a hotel room drinking wine with friends as the sun comes up. Those become the memories many of us hold onto when we’re back alone in front of our laptops and notebooks, facing blank pages and beginning again.

Listen to the podcast and check out the other episodes of Virtual Memories at:


Holding Summer In Your Hand

I’m not much of a beach person or a swimmer, but I like summer; and I love what summer brings: conversations in the shade, wine on the patio, warm nights with music playing softly.

In Chicago, the days can be sweltering, but sometimes we get lucky. Sometimes we get summer days that are bright and comfortable, the kind of golden-hued days I remember from childhood– filled with laughter and imaginative adventures late into the night. The best summer days end when we tumble into bed exhausted and fully satisfied, our bodies tired and our hearts full.

So much of last summer was shadowed in heartache because of the failing health and deaths of my grandmother and grandfather. There were moments of happiness and moments of beauty,  but they were tempered by a longing for days when Baba and Dido were healthy and strong.

babadidosquare We are approaching the one year anniversary of my Baba’s death, and it’s still hard to believe she’s not sitting across the kitchen table from my Dido in the Ukrainian Village, serving him some of her delicious varenyky or a slice of torte with his coffee, maybe indulging him as he asks for more peaches or pickles.

I think of them all the time, and I feel them around, especially my Baba. I believe that she still watches over us–her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She was a caretaker and the matriarch, and I can’t believe she would let death stop her.

Our lives move so fast; we orbit around one another, busy until something forces us to stop. If we’re lucky, it’s a happy occasion that reminds us to notice the circles of which we are a part.

This summer I am trying to be mindful of those moments of  joy in the company of family, tribe, and kindred spirits. There have been several: a 4th of July family bbq, visits with friends in the backyard, campfire chats, margaritas after swimming, lunch with out-of-town friends, and thoughtful conversations over wine as the sun comes up.

I began this post with the intention of writing about specific highlights so far (camping with the kids and friends, lunch with Gene and Neil, Neil’s Ocean reading and time spent with the illustrious Cat, my first Readercon and the wonderful people I met there). Each one was a cherished moment, and together they have shaped this summer into a remarkable one so far.

The remaining weeks of summer stretch not too far into the future, and autumn waits close by to take its place. Before the leaves fall, there are a few more trips to be taken and adventures to be had, good books to read (some written by friends), wine to drink, stories to be written, and children to play with.

“Hold summer in your hand, pour summer in a glass, a tiny glass of course, the smallest tingling sip for children; change the season in your veins by raising glass to lip and tilting summer in.” ~Ray Bradbury, DANDELION WINE

Lunch with Neil Gaiman and Gene Wolfe, Chicago.
At the train station with Marco Palmieri and Sam J. Miller.
At the train station with Marco Palmieri and Sam J. Miller, Boston.
Another marvelous Readercon dinner.
After our interviews with Gil Roth for his Virtual Memories Podcast (Nancy Hightower, Theodora Goss, Valya Dudycz Lupescu)
Camping with friends.