Lily Iona MacKenzie's Blog for Writers & Readers

MY BLOG POSTS COMMENT ON SOME ASPECT OF WRITING & READING.

The Ripening
The Ripening:
A Canadian Girl Grows Up

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" Tillie’s grit and ability to face life’s challenges are inspiring, the seeds for later discovering her artist self. Tillie takes readers on a wild ride. Join her if you dare! "

Lily Iona MacKenzie Books
Curva Peligrosa
Curva Peligrosa

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

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FLING!
Fling!

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

"Fling! is both hilarious and touching. Every page is a surprise, and the characters! I especially loved Bubbles, one of the most endearing mothers in recent fiction. A scintillating read."

Lily Iona MacKenzie Books
Freefall
Freefall :
A Divine Comedy

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" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" These fascinating characters will fill your imagination, defying expectations about aging, art, and what truly matters in life. "

Lily Iona MacKenzie Books
All This
All This

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" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" Indicative of the title, the poems in All This range from the conventional lyric/narrative that captures an intense moment of emotion, an epiphany glimpsed briefly out of the corner of the eye, to the more experimental. "

Lily Iona MacKenzie Books
No More Kings
No More Kings

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

Each finely crafted poem in this powerful collection comes alive on the page while she traces the days’ journeys with a painter’s eye, a musician’s ear, and the deft pen of a poet.

Lily Iona MacKenzie Books
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Tag: fairy tales

Fairy tales rock!

narrative-794978_1920From the time I learned how to read, fairy tales, the world of mythos, nourished me and fed my curiosity about life and the world. My parents had purchased a set of the Books of Knowledge, wonderful, fat red volumes that I browsed whenever I had the chance.  At the center of each book was a special section of nursery rhymes, folk, and fairy tales.  They were the heart of each encyclopedia, and I believe they continue to be the heart of literature.  The heart of civilization.  All of the archetypes show up there: the good/bad mother; the helpful/deceitful trickster; the caring/unfeeling king. And so many more.

Fairy Tales: the Rhythm of the Night

When I was a child, the popular books for kids included the Nancy Drew mysteries, the Bobbsey Twins, and the Hardy Boys. I loved burying myself in these stories that involved other youth who were trying to find their place in the world. But I also had a passion for fairy tales. I found them at the center of each fat red volume of The Books of Knowledge that my parents had bought from a traveling book salesman.

There is much fine fiction today written especially for young people. But while they offer practical guidelines for encountering the everyday, many of these works tend to be one-dimensional, unable to move the child’s deeper psychological processes. Except in the hands of a very great writer, realism doesn’t capture the imaginative faculty in quite the same way as fantasy does (Bettelheim 4). There are no echoes of forgotten layers of the psyche, no resonances of the compelling creatures that visit children’s dreams.

Some psychologists view the passages in human life as developmental. Julius Heuscher points out “that human development is not something continuous and gradual, but occurs in phases. Each phase may show its origins in the preceding one and contains the seeds for the following one; yet each phase has its own distinct characteristics” (115). Fairy tales have a unique role in this process. Parents and educators should stress them in a child’s education because they stimulate children’s developmental phases. This happens in several ways.

Children identify with the characters they’re reading about. A hero/heroine who has navigated a particular stage shows the child how to do it. In “Hansel and Gretel,” both characters escape from the wicked witch and flee the forest of the unconscious with a duck’s help. “Hansel and Gretel” also offers a heroic male and female model for the reader. Bettelheim points out that “fairy tales have great psychological meaning for children of all ages, both girls and boys, irrespective of the age and sex of the story’s hero” (19).

Heroic qualities are needed for a child to meet all the challenges s/he will face and to arouse his or her courage. According to Bettelheim, this is exactly the message that fairy tales get across to the child in manifold form: that a struggle against severe difficulties in life is unavoidable, is an intrinsic part of human existence—but that if one does not shy away, but steadfastly meets unexpected and often unjust hardships, one masters all obstacles and at the end emerges victorious (8).

For children who have difficulty believing in their ability to manage in the adult world, a heroic figure can be an inspiration, becoming part of their personality structure and offering encouragement at crucial developmental stages. Such encouragement may not be consciously experienced, but it is present subliminally in those corridors of the mind that we seldom have access to except through our dreams. In Bettelheim’s words, “Fairy tales enrich the child’s life and give it an enchanted quality just because he does not quite know how the stories have worked their wonder on him” (8).

The stories also can correspond with a developmental phase that a child is experiencing, such as fear of abandonment or anxiety about separation, and relieve him/her of the discomfort because it can be experienced at a distance, through projection onto the story’s characters. (Of course, this can happen, too, from reading realistic literature, but not quite so dramatically or with the same depth—certainly not with the same “magic.”) Fairy tales speak simultaneously to all levels of the personality so they are capable of reaching the deeper layers of the child’s mind. It is as if the grannies that originally told the stories are whispering soothingly into the child’s ear without others being aware of the message’s content since it would be individual for each person.

Fairy tales also can help children face death, smaller deaths as well as the ones that are more shattering. Learning to navigate the stages of one’s life involves confronting death, for each new stage attained requires the death of a previous one. Since deaths in fairy tales often happen to those who aren’t authentically alive (for example, Rumpelstiltskin, who feeds off the maiden’s fears and is not a fully developed being), children have an easier time of letting go of those parts of themselves that aren’t truly theirs: the difficult step-mother; a wicked half-brother or sister; someone/thing the child no longer needs to be related to. Deaths in fairy tales prepare the child for the fact that death is an intrinsic part of life—central to it. There is death in all growth. The child also discovers the cyclic nature of death; there is a new birth or new beginning as the cycle repeats itself.

As we move from childhood into adulthood, we need to discover how to express impulses in controlled ways that are acceptable to our culture and not suppress them. Besides encouraging children in the ways already mentioned, fairy tales give them safe, contained opportunities to experience wishes and desires that otherwise would be suppressed and regarded as witch-­like tendencies in themselves or acted out inappropriately. In other words, rather than acting out an impulse—such as the desire to kill one’s parents or to batter a sibling—in a harmful way, a fairy tale can provide release from this need, especially the classic ones that don’t hold back from expressing the less civilized side of human nature. Given that children live much closer to the archaic, “primitive” level of personality than the normal, civilized adult, their fears of unruly feelings are much more intense and need an outlet.

Unless children have a blueprint in mind that allows for more than the mundane, then they will not likely get beyond the practical visible world as adults. Perhaps this is why W. H. Auden believed so strongly that fairy tales should be an educational requirement not just for children but for adults as well. Humans need to know of the eternal perspective—there is much we can’t fathom with our rational consciousness—so that life doesn’t become meaningless. Fairy tales facilitate this way of perceiving by connecting us to the mysteries and keeping them alive.

Fairy tales are vital to young people’s development because they stimulate levels of the psyche not reached by other forms of literature and prepare the child’s mind for a variety of adult experiences, ranging from the darkest to that which gives greatest joy. While helping youth maneuver various developmental stages, they also make them aware that struggle is a healthy and necessary part of existence: one needs to meet a problem and wrestle with it until a resolution is reached. While including fairy tales in our lives will help fertilize the mythic dimension, they also suggest there is more to life than what is visible in our everyday world, reminding us that transformation of ourselves and our environment is possible.

Works Cited

Bettelheim, Bruno. The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1976.

Heuscher, Julius E. A Psychiatric Study of Myths and Fairy Tales. 2d edition. Springfield, Illinois: Thomas, 1974

 

Pen-L Press will be publishing my novel Fling in 2015. A wildly comic romp on mothers, daughters, art, and death, the book should appeal to a broad range of readers. While the main characters are middle-aged and older, their zest for life would draw readers of all ages, male or female, attracting the youthful adventurer in most people. Though women may identify more readily with Feather and Bubbles’ daughter and mother struggles, the heart of the book is how they approach their aging selves and are open to new experiences. Since art and imagination are key to this narrative, artists of all ages would find something to enjoy. And because the book crosses many borders (Scotland, Canada, the U.S., and Mexico), it also can’t be limited to a specific age group, social class, gender, or region.

My first fan letter for Fling came from an 80 year-old woman who lives in the tiny village of Christina Lake, B.C. My son, who also lives there, had given her my manuscript to read. She said, “I just wanted to express to you how very much I enjoyed your writing.  I started it and didn’t stop till I had read it all.  I very much like your style and your subtle humor. Thank you for a most enjoyable read. I can’t understand why it hasn’t been scooped up by some publisher. But I know that it will be. In my estimation I know that it is excellent literary work. I am a voracious reader and have been since grade 4. I remember my first book was Tom Sawyer and I have never stopped since then. I go through 4 to 5 books a week.  We are so fortunate here at the Lake now.  The Library staff in Grand Forks come out here every Wednesday. I have become very fond of the young lady who comes out. She provides me with all the award winning books and orders others for me. Again I want to express to you how very much I enjoyed your manuscript.  Have patience my dear….it will be published to wide acclaim I am so sure.” —Joan Fornelli.

Here is a synopsis:

Feather, an aging hippie, returns to her Calgary home to help her mother, Bubbles, celebrate her 90th birthday. Bubbles has received mail from the dead letter office in Mexico City, asking her to pick up her mother’s ashes, left there seventy years earlier and only now surfacing. Bubbles’ mother, Scottish by birth, had died in Mexico in the late 1920s after taking off with a married man and abandoning her husband and kids.

A woman with a mission, and still vigorous, Bubbles convinces a reluctant Feather to take her to Mexico so she can recover the ashes and give her mother a proper burial. Both women have recently shed husbands and have a secondary agenda: they’d like a little action. And they get it.

Alternating narratives weave together Feather and Bubbles’ odyssey with their colorful Scottish ancestors, creating a family tapestry. The “now” thread presents the two women as they travel south from Canada to San Francisco and then Mexico, covering a span of about six months. “Now” and “then” merge in Mexico when Bubbles’ long-dead mother, grandmother, and grandfather turn up, enlivening the narrative with their antics.

In Mexico, the land where reality and magic co-exist, Feather gets a new sense of her mother. The Indian villagers mistake Bubbles for a well-known rain goddess, praying for her to bring rain so their land will thrive again. Feather, who’s been seeking “The Goddess” for years, eventually realizes what she’s overlooked.

Meanwhile, Bubbles’ quest for her mother’s ashes (and a new man) has increased her zest for life. A shrewd business woman (she’s raised chickens, sold her crafts, taken in bizarre boarders, and has a sure-fire system for winning at bingo and lotteries), she’s certain she’s found the fountain of youth at a mineral springs outside San Miguel de Allende; she’s determined to bottle the water and sell it.

But gambling is her first love, and unlike most women her age, fun-loving Bubbles takes risks, believing she’s immortal. Unlike her daughter, Bubbles doesn’t hold back in any way, eating heartily, lusting after strangers, her youthful spirit and innocence convincing readers that they’ve found the fountain of youth themselves in this character. At ninety, she comes into her own, coming to age, proving it’s never too late to fulfill one’s dreams.

Fling, a meditation on death, mothers and daughters, and art, suggests that the fountain of youth is the imagination, and this is what they all discover in Mexico. It’s what Bubbles wants to bottle, but she doesn’t need to. She embodies it. The whole family does.


Free Children’s Stories (Audio) from “The Story Shoppe”

Please feel free to download these audio files.  They contain children’s stories that Gayle Mills and I created for “The Story Shoppe,” a radio program that aired on Marin County’s KTIM several years ago.  We not only wrote the scripts, many adapted from myths, fairy tales, and other sources, but we also came up with the sound effects and music.  Enjoy!  (Before downloading, please review the “Terms of Use” below for these audio files.)

01 beauty & the beast & anansi stories (the trickster is one of the most important characters of West African and Caribbean folklore)

01 anastasia and the very sad dragon “Anastasia” is an original story by Lily Iona MacKenzie.

02 The Legend of Mount Tamalpais

01 claus & his magic staff and the forbidden place (“The Forbidden Place” is an original story by Lily Iona MacKenzie)

02 hiro “Hiro” is an original story by Lily Iona MacKenzie

1-01 hansel&gretel, fable

01 hans christian anderson’s “It’s Perfectly True” & the passover story

01 gods know, coyote tales, boots & wooden bowl

01 Stories from India (The Tiger, the Brahmin, & the Jackal), Anderson’s “It’s Perfectly True,” “The Princess & the Pea,” & The Emperor’s New Clothes”

01 easter story & red riding hood

01 demeter & norse tales

01 a cottage in the woods & rapunzel & Anna & the Upside Down Witch (“Anna & the Upside Down” is an original story by Lily Iona MacKenzie)

01 sorcerer’s apprentice & snow white & rose red

01 red riding hood & rumplestiltskin

02 parrot tales (14th Century tales)

01 peter pan & the great stone face

01 the story of the nutcracker

01 Mr. Frog’s dream & the ice witch

2-01 the story of st. valentines & chinese new years

01 jack and the bean stalk

01 the story of a surprising xmas An original story by Gayle Mills

01 a thanksgiving story & greek stories Gayle Mills adapted the Thanksgiving Story from a Louisa May Alcott story.

01 billy beg and his bull

01 red riding hood & phantom carousel

01 Sleeping Beauty

2-01 the happy prince

Terms of Use

Please remember that most of the materials on this blog are protected by trademarks and copyrights.  By using my blog and The Story Shoppe’s audio, you are agreeing to abide by our Terms of Use.

The stories and audio on this blog are protected by copyright law and all rights are reserved.  However we permit the following:

You may download any story audio file, copy it for your own non-commercial, personal enjoyment, which may include sharing it with your family and friends, provided that you do not edit its content in anyway, including the removal of any mention of The Story Shoppe at the beginning and the end of the podcast.

Any commercial use of “The Story Shoppe” audio files is strictly prohibited without our written license granted specifically to you or your company.  Third party stories of authors in the public domain are used under the public domain copyright law. Any use of our performances of these third party works is subject to the terms of use listed. Copyright law covers our expression as well as the vocal recording (audio broadcast) of these classic works but not their original content.

Fairy Tales

I woke in the night thinking about fairy tales.  I had received an email yesterday from Stephen Fraser, a literary agent with the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency, expressing his interest in representing my latest novel, Curva Peligrosa.  Since he was the agent I was hoping for, I was delighted.  This recent development was on my mind, then, as I listened to my husband’s even breathing in bed next to me.

After Stephen had read the first 50 pages, he emailed me, claiming my writing has the potency of folk or fairy tale.  I was pleased that he picked up on that  aspect of Curva Peligrosa since I think of it as an adult fairy tale.  From the time I learned how to read, fairy tales, the world of mythos, nourished me and fed my curiosity about life and the world.

My parents had purchased a set of the Books of Knowledge, wonderful, fat red volumes that I browsed whenever I had the chance.  At the center of each book was a special section of nursery rhymes, folk, and fairy tales.  They were the heart of each encyclopedia, and I believe they continue to be the heart of literature.  The heart of civilization in fact.  The Books of Knowledge contained much of the everyday, mundane world (not that there aren’t amazing things in the everyday world as well), but at their core waited these marvelous stories, nuggets to fuel the reader’s imagination and propel him/her forward.   They inform much of what I write.

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