Monday, January 31, 2011

Review, Reflections and Ramblings in Relation to a Stage Production of The Screwtape Letters

This weekend I had the pleasure of seeing a stage production of C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters. As you might exspect from the fact that the book is a collection of letters from the demon Screwtape advising his nephew Wormwood on how to tempt his victim, the play was one long monologue. It was however, engaging and the silent roll of Screwtape's secretary demon, very similar in role to Prospero's Ariel, helped him mime much of the content of the letters to the audience. The letters were, for obvious reasons, condensed and my favorite line, "Now is the closest time to eternity", was cut, but if you enjoyed the book at all this dramatization didn't have any major changes.

I admit my favorable reception to the show might have been enhanced by the bright lights and the saxophonist playing outside the theatre, the warm San Diego January night, the ornate historic character of the building, and the incredilous fact that there was a giant pillow fight in front of Horton Plaza (No really. We drove by at the tail end of it. Feathers everywhere.)

Two observations:

1 --Aparantly there is talk of taking down the city library and building a newer, fancier one. This is blasphamy. First, because there are libraries all over the county being closed down due to budgets and second, becuase one of the things I love about visiting Down Town San Diego is the historic character of the buildings. Shiekh scyscrapers and penhouses and modern oficial buildings are all very well for New York or LA but I prefer standing in a place filled with the legacy of the past as well as the busy bustling of the present. Having the two alongside each other gives me a feeling of timlessness. A transendence of place and time and trends into simply experiencing the sensations of being aline. Something very similar to the experience of reading a book from the perspective of someone who is nothing like me in any tangible particular and yet who I can undersand and emphasise with perfectly.

2--There was a Q and A at the end of the performance that I didn't stay for. Screwtape had done such a lovely job of taking the audience into the bureaucracy of hell that I didn't fancy having the illustion shattered with an "explanation" of the play. The performance, like any piece of fiction, is better left to speak for itself.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Book Review: The Game by Diana Wynne Jones

Hayley has lived with her rule obsessed Grandmother for what feels like forever until she is sent away for bringing home pieces of the mythosphere. Staying with a whole brood of cousins she didn't know she had, she begins to take part in a game that no one is allowed to talk about outside of playing it. At all costs her uncle Jolyen must not find out about the game but as she continues to play she learns more about her family, where they come from, and why the mythosphere has become forbidden.

I picked this book up, nostalgic for pre-Rowling children's fantasy and it satisfied my craving exactly.

The mythology in this book runs deep.*SPOILERS* Hayley (who is also a comet) is the daughter of Sisyphus and Merope and her Uncle Joylen is actually Mars. Unlike much recent fantasy for younger audiences that use mythic characters as a spring board for their own creations, The Game stays true to the spirit in which the myths were originally believed in. Jolyn is not merely a strict, over demanding, hypocritical authority figure but a recognized personification all of strict, over demanding, hypocritical authority figures. In the mythosphere everything is not only not what it seems but more than one thing at the same time. Human perceptions of things run in threads until they reach the darker parts and start to crust over. It is a perfect manifestation of how myths develop and the patterns and motifs that always seem to come back.

Fantasy that explores things that are impossible in real life are fun but fantasy that explores things that exist in the space between reality and storytelling become myth and it was refreshing to see that done well for a younger audience who have not yet let tangible reality interfere with their perceptions of truth.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Topsy Turvy Results! First Literary Idol winner.

The stories have been written

The entries have been read

The votes have been counted


the very first Literary Idol is

*insert whistles, noise makers, feet stomping, and bells jangling from fools' over sized feet here*

Erin Kane Spock with her untitled story about a little girl taking care of her mother.

Congradulations Erin! Send the address you would like your gift card sent to to:

(I will send the zine too but it may take longer as I am waiting on some pieces from my illistrator before I can print it)

Thank you again everyone who sent in submissions or voted. Come back next month for the next Literary Idol Challenge (*hint* what holiday is next month?)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Topsy Turvy Entries! Come vote!

Thank you to all who sent me entries for this contest (and to those who helped spread the word). I was so excited to read your work and it was very brave of you to let me post it up and invite commentary.

Here are the stories that turned up.

Story One: Untitled

“You’ll be okay, Mommy. Just use the bucket if you have to throw up. Try to be careful not to get it on the sheets.” Lily’s small hands did their best to be soothing as she secured her mother’s long hair into a bun. It was better to do this now than to have to worry about it getting gross stuff in it that she would have to wash out later.

Her mommy whined and pulled away, almost knocking her off the bed. “You’re hurting me!”

“Shhhh, shhhh.” Lily rubbed her Mommy’s temples, behind her ears. “You’ll be fine. Be my brave girl, okay?” Mommy’s head was hot to the touch.

Lily got up and scampered to the bathroom to find the medicine. Cursing to herself, she unscrewed the adult-proof cap. These were far too easy to open. She wished the manufacturers would stop making the medicine taste so good. If Mommy were able to figure out the lid, and Lily was sure she would given enough time, she would probably down the whole bottle of Margarita flavored Tylenol.

Mommy sobbed again and burped loudly in the general direction of the bucket. Lily brought over a syringe full of the lime green liquid and Mommy smiled.


“Remember, medicine is only for when we are sick.”

“I know already, Lily.”

Lily excused Mommy’s tone of voice. Mommy was a sick woman and needed compassion, not a lesson about attitude. “If I give you the medicine do you think you can keep yourself from throwing up?”

Mommy nodded, burping once more.

Well, if she threw it up, they could always try a cool bath to lower the fever. It was never Lily’s first inclination: getting Mommy into and out of a bath required strength and a functioning knowledge of physics. Lily did well enough, but it was always a struggle.

It was exhausting taking care of a sick Mommy. She hoped she could get some sleep tonight before she had to be at school in the morning. Mrs. Weston had said they were going to make marshmallow snowmen and Lily didn’t want to miss that. If Mommy didn’t get better, she might have to take the day off and stay home with her. She didn’t want to miss school if she didn’t have to. First grade was a very important growth year

My commentary:

Let me just say that I want some margarita flavored Tylenol. This is a very cute piece with smooth, sold writing. The role reversal is presented in a way that makes me believe it. Lily is caring and responsible but even in the small space we are given it is clear that she still thinks like a six year old and cares about six year old things. There isn't a major story arch taking her from one point to the other but I don't feel we need one in this case. It is enough to see that a small girl who would normally be the one who needs caring for is willing and able to take care of her mother.

Story Two: Trithos

There was a time long ago, When people would be granted an extraordinary gift so others could learn from their story. Trithos lived during these times and Trithos was granted a gift, he could live three times.

Trithos took his gift and put it to immediate use and his name was known in every winery and every eatery there was no time when Trithos was without food or drink because he would borrow from everyone, he had 2 more lives to pay them back, so he didn’t think twice about it. This continued for several years and Trithos grew massive and his wine slowed him while his food choked him and Trithos was dead.

Trithos was born his second time, and from an early age he had a debt to many people. It wasn’t long before Trithos decided that he didn’t have to work it off, he had one life after this, he could just steal everything he needed and enough to live from. So he traveled far from anyone who knew him and he murdered a wealthy family and took there belongings and sold them for a great amount. He paid his debt but his portion did not last long and it never did time and time again until Trithos was known as a villain and the sight of him was awful and he died alone.

Trithos was born for his third and final time. Everyone still knew who he was “Trithos the vile”. And so he was imprisoned for the rest of his life. Trithos had many long hours to think to himself and very little company that was even less kind. Trithos felt he had wasted all three of his lives before the final one had begun, he had to do anything he could to make one of them count. From those moments forward taught the guards who told the world he would teach them and he taught them to work hard, not to take what is not yours and to always take the honest route.

And although Trithos spent the rest of his life imprisoned he was content knowing that People he couldn’t see outside his world were making there days count because of him.

My commentary:

The idea of someone with three lives to spend is very intriguing and I think this was, for the most part, handled well. The fact that because Trithos has been given so much more he only wastes so much more is depressingly accurate. I like the vague, old tale quality of this piece but can also see how it would benefit from some more specific details and world building. Three life spans are a lot to cover in 1,000 words or less but a few specifics about the mistakes Trithos made during his first two lives could go a long way in helping us understand who he is and who he becomes. It would also drive home his solace at the end by giving us, people a long way off, something particular to learn from. The conclusion itself could also have been more powerful if it had been left unstated simply by going back to idea in the opening line: that all these gifts are given so that others could learn from them. Trithos could wonder what on earth others could learn from him when he had done everything wrong and begin telling the guards what he would do different if he had been given a fourth life to live. There are also a lot of grammatical errors that trip the reader up but, over all, the arch and concept of this piece hold together nicely.

I will also say that the first time I read this story I didn't see where the “topsy turvy” element was but on closer examination a teacher who has made all the mistakes can be very upside down indeed.

Story Three: Moment

As we hold hands we push our way through the crowded entrance to the theater. The room is already dark and the seats filled with people. We look at each other with our eyes wide. Somehow we manage to find seats. The movie begins and its interesting and funny and amazing yet for some reason I just... Just have to know what the other movies are like.

"Lets go sneak into the other movies." I turn to Him and say.

"What? Why? Don't you like this one?" His face looks hurt but my curiosity wont yield.

"well yea I like this one a lot but i just have to see the others. We can come back and finish watching this one later." I smile but my eyes beg.

"OK.." He gives in.

We leave the theater room my body filled with anticipation. We enter into the other theater room. The screen is filled with bright colours... Or is it a stage? There's people dressed head to toe in bright yellows blues greens and purples. Almost neon's. They look almost as if they're wearing body suits with beaks on their head. In the back ground there's huge bright flowers. The characters are dancing around and... singing? How I love children shows. Before I can figure out what it is about they begin dancing off the screen and onto the now large space between the seats and the screen. They interpretive dance around this large neon splattered drum in the center of the open floor. He and I float out and dance with them. My head spinning with colours and music. We're part of the music.

I suddenly get a craving for soft serve so I turn around to where the seats used to be, but now a serve yourself ice cream dispensers line the walls? I place the cone that is in my hand underneath a vanilla dispenser and pull down the lever, but it squirts melted ice cream out in all directions! So I try the next one, this one chocolate, but it does the same thing! so I try a few more going down the line frustrated, but they all do the same thing. Till finally I reach the last one that squeezes out vanilla and chocolate swirl. I turn back around to the dancers to tell Him, who was now also wearing bright colors?... about the ice cream when I realize I can't taste it. I look back at the stage and see that the ice cream had splattered all over the entire room including on the floor underneath the dancers feet . Why is this happening? The frustration coming back full throttle. Then some of the dancers fall slipping on the white cream splatters onto the floor.

A male dancer wearing bright but dark blue dropped a girl dancer wearing yellow because he slipped. Everyone gaspes including the audience Somewhere behind the ice cream dispesners. Is the girl hurt? Is she dead? Every one starts running around frantic. I look at my ice cream. I still can't tast it. When I look back at the girl she is gone. What Is going on? Am I part of the show? They try to redo the moves they had been in the middle of doing, but it just isn't the same, and the girl doesn't leap up into the blue guys arms. She isn't there at all... Where is she? The croud all makes a disappointed "Oh!" sound... My skin gets hot. This is all my fault. What have I done? The dancers and Him Come toward me angry and yelling. Their faces distorted and strange.

"You ruined the engagement proposal!"

"Look what you did!"

"You just had to get ice cream!"

"Look what you did!"

"She was supposed to be my fiance!"

"What is wrong with you?"

"I wanted to stay and watch the other movie. But no, you HAD to see all the other ones too!"

Proposal? What? I didn't know? How was i supposed to know? No. No! I didn't' mean to! But it is all my fault and I did do this... Now I'd lost Him. And the poor girl. was she OK? oh god what have I done? But it's to late.

I wait in the booth at this western themed bar. It's empty and silent. Everything is the same bleak and bland colour of wood. The floor, the seats, the tables, the two steps leading to the upper level closer to the bar, and the odd elaborate carvings on the back boards of the booths where I sIt, my head in my hands. Something is about to happen. Something is coming.

It was all my fault and so I must lose everything.

My family appeares in front of me asking so many different questions all at once I can't make any of them out. But I know why they are here.

I had lost them too.

Then they all go silent.

I'm now standing.

I feel... weird... week... sweaty...

I look down at myself. My skin. It's leaking. Leaking blood. Whats happening? It begins dripping down to the floor.

My knees buckle underneath me and I fall to the wooden floor, a pool of blood all around me.

Its over. This is it.

My body feels more and more drained and I can hardly breath. Till I have to give up... I stop breathing. It's not as painful as I thought it'd be...

I stare up at the lights on the sealing. Everyone just huddles around me and watches. Watches as everything goes fuzzy.

My commentary:

I like the dream quality of this piece, enhanced by the present tense. Many of the descriptions are a bit vague however and the writer could have edited and polished a bit more

Send the title of the pieces you would like to vote for to

Polls close at noon tomorrow (Jan 18) pacific time.

NOTE: My commentary is not in any way conclusive. It is a single opinion and only meant to get you thinking, not sway votes or decide the worth of a piece. If you disagree with me please say so. The participating writers deserve it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Comedy and Tragedy

Comedy ends in marriage and tragedy ends in death. An obvious over simplification (especially if we were going to agree with Oscar Wilde and say that they are more or less the same thing) but in one thing the statement is correct. even in the aristotlian deffinitions the main difference is in the ending.

There may be other differences. Comedies are more likely to be light hearted and tragedies are more likely to explore complex morals and metaphysical truths, but there are dark comedies and tragic farces. Comedy and tragedy both involve miserable characters trying to be less miserable. The determining question then is, do they succeed?

Some days I need a happy ending. Life can be confusing and frustrating as it is and I just want to see somebody, somewhere, succeed and make sense of things. Other days I feel cheated when things settle too easily for the characters because it would never happen that way in real life. The first time I saw the movie Across the Universe I felt that, by having Max come home safely from Vietnam the script writer had taken away from the antiwar statement. When I saw it again I was depressed and the ending made me feel better.

As a writer it can be frightening to think that someone's over all satisfaction of a piece can depend so much on the mood of the moment. We have all heard over and over that it is subjective but I tend to think of it as being subjective depending on the person, not depending on what is going in each person's head at the particular moment they read a piece. I can say from my experience in voting on pieces to go in my campus literary journal that some days I felt more forgiving than others. Some days the bitterness of a piece would bother me and some days I would enjoy it. I could do my best to stay objective but really, when you are done with a story the only thing left is a feeling and feelings are the polar opposite of objectivity. The comedy to its tragedy.

So, with this in mind, how do I end my stories? In death or in marriage? It depends on the moment. Writing is as dependent on the moment as reading. Sometimes I need a happy moment and sometimes I need a sad meaningful one. I can only hope there will be a reader out there who will, at some point in time, need the same thing as I did.

What about you? What kind of endings do you like?

(Dont forget. you still have six days left to send an entry for my Topsy Turvy Challenge)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

First Creations Blog Fest

In choosing these sentences I have realized that I don't have particularly remarkable opening and closing lines to my stories. Maybe that is cause for concern and maybe it isn't.

I haven't started anything new yet this year but here is the opening line of a long piece I hope to finish this year:

The wind rushed through the window of Orkney castle in a gust.

And here is the last line to the short story I finished last November:

She folded herself into his arms and the fire in her veins spread into his, both of their hearts beating in the same quick rhythm.

Thank you Summer for hosting this blogfest and Happy Birthday!

Aslo if you like showcasing fun little pieces of your work scroll down to check out my Topsy Turvy challenge.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Literary Idol Challenge: Topsy Turvy

Twelfth Night is three days away. If we lived a few hundred years ago (and myabe on a different continent) we would raid the lord's house and take over his household for the night or march through the streets of London with a procession honoring a choir boy chosen to be bishop untill sunrise. Alas, such rituals are no more. I shall have to make due with a Twelfth Day Cake and bowl of Bishop's Cup. However, in honor of the more extreme mode of celebrating this already too seldom celebrated holiday, my first challenge for you this year is to write a story in which everything is turned on its head.

Construct 250-1,000 words around a premise that hinges on a status quo being obliterated.

Reversal of roles is certainly a fun way to do this but it could be anything. An object that is typically reguared as unimportant is suddenly in major demand and worth millions. Your protagonist wakes up one day to find the sky beneath his feet and the earth hovering over his head. Create a society in which criminals make the laws. Have fun with it, use any genre and be as outlandish as you want.

Send your entry to:

and come back January 17th to vote on your favorit entry.

(for complete rules to Literary Idol go HERE) or scroll down.

Happy twelfth Night! I can't wait to see what you come up with.

Literary Idol Rules

To enter send an approximately 250-1,000 word story based on the month's challenge to Don't forget to include your name.

The stories will be posted unanimously to be discussed and voted on. The names of participants will not be revealed but you are free to promote and defend your story in any way you like.

To vote send the name of the story you wish to vote for to Entrants are welcome to vote. One vote per reader please.

The discussion will be open twenty four hours before the winner is announced.

The writer of the entry with the most votes each month will receive:

The title Literary Idol,

A copy of Taliesin Winter 2011 Issue

A 5$ Starbucks gift card and,

An increased chance of winning the final title and prize at the end of six months (June)

The final title will be awarded to the writer who earns the monthly title the most times and will consist of:

The title of Literary Idol Finalist

A 25$ gift card for Barnes and Nobles

An interview about their latest writing endeavors to be posted on Taliesin

A copy of Notes From Underground

A snazzy pen and,

Publication of the piece of their choice in the Summer 2011 edition of Taliesin

You may enter as many times as you like even if you have not entered for any of the previous months