Give & Take
The lovely Kristin Stieffel over at The New Author's Fellowship invited me to guest post on their blog. I was happy to oblige, since I love to offer whatever help I can to other authors. So, please go check out my post entitled, Six Steps on the Writing Journey. Let me know what you think, and I wish everyone out their great success! Happy writing. Peace!
Author Appearance & Book Signing
Books & Boos 514 Westchester Rd Colchester, CT
Join me tomorrow night, June 25, 2013 from 5-7 p.m. at Books & Boos, 514 Westchester Rd., Colchester CT for an author appearance and book signing! I'll be reading from Discovering Ren, and signing personalized copies. I really love to talk with readers (and writers), so if you're in the area be sure to stop by!
When Are Witches Witchy?
So I watched Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters last night. It was highly entertaining, if you like ridiculous weaponry, outrageous violence, beautiful lead actors, and climatic battle scenes. The writing was passable, although I did enjoy some of the dialog for its realism (I would have said much the same thing, had I found myself in the situation that the characters did). I wouldn't call it a great movie, but it was well worth the $1.28 rental at the RedBox.
The movie begins with a montage of faux newspaper clippings chronicling the eponymous siblings' famous exploits defeating legendary evil witches. These were drawn in the late medieval woodcut style (never mind the anachronism; there were many more) and meant to refer visually to the Germanic fairy tale collected by the Grimm brothers. Again, entertaining, but these images included so many of the stereotypes that clearly survive in the popular imagination - broomsticks, cauldrons, black cats, and many far darker. The evil witches were portrayed as ugly old crones, with long crooked noses, rotten teeth, moles, and goat's horns. I said to my husband, "This will be an interesting sociological study, as well as a movie."
Most of this imagery descends directly from one of the world's worst examples of hate literature, the Malleus Maleficarum, the Hammer of Witches. Essentially, it was a witch hunter's handbook, a do-it-yourself manual on how to identify witches, refute claims of their innocence, and prosecute them to the point of capital punishment. Published in 1487, it was a bestseller of its time, and although today we might laugh at its logic and dismiss its arguments, it was responsible for the torture and deaths of thousands of people.
In Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters the lead characters end up discovering that their own mother was a witch, but of course a "white witch." They vow to continue to hunt down and kill any other kind at the movie's end, and presumably they do. Theirs is a simple world: save good, kill evil. The killing might be messy, but the morality isn't.
Here's where the sociology bit comes in: the movie Hansel and Gretel never wonder why any of the evil witches turned to the dark arts. They never consider why these women - and they're ALL women - are living alone in the forest. They never ask what, exactly, divides good witchcraft from bad witchcraft. Sure, fattening and eating children is bad, but what's the metaphor? What's really going on in the original tale collected by the Grimms?
True confessions: my house has dirty windows. Actually, that's downplaying the truth; in fact, they're filthy. Cobwebs, dirt, dead bugs, and thousands of fingerprints, especially at child height. I haven't washed them in, well, several years. Oh, sure, occasionally I will break out the discount Windex and go after a particularly egregious one or two, but that doesn't count. The situation has gotten vile enough that I actually said to myself the other day, "We have GOT to wash those windows."
Time for a little backstory? When I was a kid we washed the windows twice a year, once in the spring, and once again in the fall before winter arrived. This was a major production, and coincided with the changing out of screens vs. storm windows. The house I grew up in had aluminum triple track windows, and we had to swap the glass for the screens. Doing so was a major PIA, and usually involved some colorful language and a stepladder. My father got the job of hauling the heavy glass panes up or down, depending on the season, while my mother vacuumed the screens and washed the fixed panes, and we kids washed the storm windows on the grass.
The trouble was, as I recall the days we did this were always cool and breezy. I remember dipping my hands into my mother's homemade mixture of Palmolive, ammonia, and water and scrubbing with newsprint while my fingers went numb with cold. Occasionally I'd get to change out the solution and I'd sneak in hot water, but it would cool off quickly. We'd crouch on the damp grass and clean those darn storm windows until they sparkled, and by the end of the project we were stiff, freezing, and grumpy. But the windows were clean. We felt virtuous.
Now, of course, I don't have to deal with removable storm windows, but I mentally cringe every time I look at my windows. My mother, bless her heart, has never said anything about them, but I'm certain she notices. (She'll clean almost anything in my house, including the telephone and the washing machine.) But the windows are my responsibility. A couple of days ago I was contemplating recreating the scenes from my childhood, and enlisting my spoiled, violently protesting children in a major Window Washing, knowing of course that I'd end up doing the vast majority of the work myself (as my mom did; we kids only cleaned the removable storm windows). I'd feel like I had accomplished something. Maybe I'd feel better about the disaster that is my housekeeping. Maybe I wouldn't have this sinking pit of shame in my stomach every time the sun streams in to reveal the windows in their filthy glory.
And then, yesterday I heard that a good friend was mourning the loss of two people. Three storm chasers were killed in Oklahoma. A member of my writing group's friend has discontinued chemo in order to make the best of the months she has left to live. Our young cousin, born a few weeks after my elder daughter, has a serious heart condition that will require urgent surgery.
I'm not directly affected by any of these circumstances, but learning about them all in one day had a real effect on me. As I sat outside waiting for the school bus, I thought to myself, "Life is too damn short. And this is why I don't wash windows."
If I die tomorrow, I hope that I will be remembered for something more profound than a tidy house. I'm going to stop thinking of my house as a disaster, and instead think of it as "creative chaos." We're an energetic, active, creative bunch, and cleaning just isn't one of our strong suits. So, I'll stick with the Windex-one-at-a-time approach. I'll never feel virtuous about my housekeeping, but cleaning up after I'm gone will be someone else's job. In the meantime I will pour my energy into my children, my husband, my books, and my garden and pets, all things that will love me back and remember me for the attention I've given them. Here's to dirty windows. Peace!