Here’s a bit from my #nanowrimo story #7, a retelling of the headless horseman. Poor unsuspecting Cleora! I am severely behind on my nano word count at 31,825 words today, but I’m having a lot of fun researching this story so I don’t quite mind.
Here's the original tale, one of my favorite American folk tales:
THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
by Washington Irving
FOUND AMONG THE PAPERS
OF THE LATE DIEDRICH KNICKERBOCKER.
A pleasing land of drowsy head it was,
Of dreams that wave before the half-shut eye;
And of gay castles in the clouds that pass,
Forever flushing round a summer sky.
CASTLE OF INDOLENCE.
In the bosom of one of those spacious coves which indent the eastern shore of the Hudson, at that broad expansion of the river denominated by the ancient Dutch navigators the Tappan Zee, and where they always prudently shortened sail and implored the protection of St. Nicholas when they crossed, there lies a small market town or rural port, which by some is called Greensburgh, but which is more generally and properly known by the name of Tarry Town. This name was given, we are told, in former days, by the good housewives of the adjacent country, from the inveterate propensity of their husbands to linger about the village tavern on market days. Be that as it may, I do not vouch for the fact, but merely advert to it, for the sake of being precise and authentic. Not far from this village, perhaps about two miles, there is a little valley or rather lap of land among high hills, which is one of the quietest places in the whole world. A small brook glides through it, with just murmur enough to lull one to repose; and the occasional whistle of a quail or tapping of a woodpecker is almost the only sound that ever breaks in upon the uniform tranquillity.
My #6 story for #nanowrimo is after the Japanese fairytale “Willow Wife.” I’ve adapted it into a near-future story of friendship and the challenges of our worldwide climate change.
Here is the original story:
In a certain Japanese village there grew a great willow tree. For many generations the people loved it. In the summer it was a resting place, a place where the villagers might meet after the work and heat of the day were over, and there talk till the moonlight streamed through the branches. In winter it was like a great half-opened umbrella covered with sparkling snow.
I was delighted to get to do a fun and quirky interview over at Riddled with Arrows literary journal. Riddled with Arrows publishes metafiction/ars poetica, one of my favorite genres of writing.
When did you first meet poetry?
HLW: I was maybe fourteen, sitting outside the crappy pizza joint across from my high school, where I often went to wait for my mom to pick me up after school. I think I was scribbling in my journal, you know, the kind of dreams and chapstick-scented hopes at that age. Maybe I was in love, or maybe just as lonely as only a teenager can be, when poetry came up to me. She had this lopsided grin on her face and she was wearing a cloak made of stars. Her face was cracked and two-toned like a faded map you might find rolled up in a scroll, hidden under the porch stairs in a dusty box buried in the dirt . . .
Read the full interview here . . .
Story #5 of #nanowrimo 10 stories in one month is a retelling of the fairytale “Girl without Hands.” This one is super dark. Here’s a little excerpt: ͞
“You got the prettiest hair,” Nettie would say. That close, I could smell the forest on her. I didn’t like the forest, not one bit. It was dark and there were strange men that came through there sometimes, cutting over the Johnson’s land to the main road. Nettie smelled like she’d been lying in the dirt, and she sat there in the buff, shivering. Her face was smudged, and her boots were sitting near the fire caked with mud and frost, and her hands were hard and cold. She’d put her icy fingers out and wrap them around one of my braids. She’d run her hand up the braids. She’d kiss me on the cheek and I’d go stiff as a board, my hands against my sides, not thinking nothing at all.
Here's the original fairytale:
The Girl without Hands
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
A miller fell slowly but surely into poverty, until finally he had nothing more than his mill and a large apple tree which stood behind it. One day he had gone into the forest to gather wood, where he was approached by an old man, whom he had never seen before, and who said, "Why do you torment yourself with chopping wood? I will make you rich if you will promise me that which is standing behind your mill."
This past weekend I participated in Zinefest Houston - one of my favorite local events. In this event, local paper artists create zines to sell--small, hand-made, individual books, pamphlets, and other paper ephemera. I've participated twice and I always enjoy this well-crafted event. What I like about Zinefest is the audience. It's mostly young people who are interested in meeting other writers and artists. It's also one of the most diverse and well-attended events I go to every year. I always end up meeting some lovely folks!
For me, the zine is about vulnerability. You can put something in a zine that you might not want to put online. You can also show off your skills with your hands. Each zine I make is hand-folded, hand-cut, or hand-colored. In this way, zines are ephemeral and special. Like chapbooks, they usually focus on one specific theme. I love making them and buying them because I always learn new ways to play with paper. We often forget that paper is what physically connects us to readers. It's a precious resource. Perhaps this is why most of my writing starts out as a handwritten draft. That connection to paper propels my imagination. It says, it's okay to make a mistake, in a way that Word, with its myriad of editing options, doesn't.
Zinesters are some of the coolest people I've ever met. They might seem strange to outsiders, but every time I'm around them I feel at ease. It's like finding your tribe.
I'm already thinking up new ideas for next year's festival!
Day 11 of #NaNoWriMo and I’m on to my fourth fairy tale retelling. This one is quite dark. It imagines a world where fairies have been eradicated as part of a holocaust and fled underground. But a fairy anthropologist wants to find them to offer help.
Here are two tales that this idea stemmed from:
Origin of the Hidden People
Two Legends from Iceland
Once upon a time, God Almighty came to visit Adam and Eve. They received him with joy, and showed him everything they had in the house. They also brought their children to him, to show him, and these He found promising and full of hope.
An excerpt from my fairytale retelling of "The Country Where Death is Not." In my version, a young man hunts for a place to bring his dying mother. He is seeking a place to call home, a utopia, you might say. But what he finds is much darker than he expected.
This is the original tale, from Sudan:
The Country Where Death Is Not
There was a man with his mother. The mother was much afraid of dying, therefore she wished to go into a country where there is no death. The son said, "Where is a country without death?"
Day 8 of #nanowrimo, 2,300 words. Finished up my Beauty and the Beast (with lady Beast, set in the Scottish moors) retelling and on to a lesser-known fairytale, “The Town Where Death Is Not.” If you haven’t read this gory little tale, I highly recommend googling it. 😈
I got a bit behind on updating my website and trackers because of house maintenance stuff yesterday, but here are the excerpts from day 3 (the ending of Mrs. Winkle - a take on Rip Van Winkle from a woman's POV) and day 4 (Beauty and the Beast):
I have 1793 words so far on my first NaNoWriMo story, a retelling of Rip Van Winkle from a woman’s POV. Here’s today’s excerpt:
“The city was harsh and dirty, and sometimes beautiful, but those days were few and far between. She’d never known anything different than the city, with its staggering heat, pulsing voice of music falling out of cars, and tremble of planes passing low overhead late at night. The city was progress and destruction and rebuilding and progress. It wasn’t a place for daydreams.”
Holly Lyn Walrath is a freelance editor and author of poetry, flash fiction, and short fiction. Find her on Twitter @HollyLynWalrath
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