Baba Yaga Books

The Baba Yaga is one of my favourite mythic characters, and she seems to be making a bit of a cultural reemergence, so I thought I’d share a few contemporary books where she plays a starring role.

Out recently is Sophie Anderson’s wonderful The House on Chicken Legs. I loved it so much. It’s a delightful and moving take on the role of the Baba Yaga, and explores the finding your own path in life, despite what others may have planned for you! It’s aimed at a middle grade audience, but I think you should buy a copy for a young person in your life, and one for yourself too.

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Jane Yolen’s Finding Baba Yaga is due out in October 2018, and if you’ve read any of her other work, you know it’s going to be good. If Tor would like to send me a review copy, I would not complain. Hint Hint.

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Baba Yaga Laid an Egg is a novel that explores women, ageing and feminism, based around the Baba Yaga myth, and involves “a gambling triumph, sudden death on the golf course, a long-lost grandchild, an invasion of starlings, and wartime flight.” Yes please.

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Baba Yaga is a book I’ve been coveting for years. It’s a collection of twenty nine Baba Yaga tales, accompanied by information about the different tales and their history, and illustrations from artists spanning 200 years. Unfortunately as an academic book, it’s pretty pricey. One day…

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While we’re on academic texts, a friend of mine stumbled across this book on the Baba Yaga in the op shop! And even better, she gave it to me! A good friend is one who will stumble across rare academic texts and think of you… It’s a dense exploration: small type and lots of pages, but don’t let that turn you off. It’s an incredibly comprehensive deep-dive into Baga Yaga’s history and folklore.

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Ask Baba Yaga is based on a fantastic advice series that featured on The Hairpin. I’ve included an example below. Baba Yaga as Agony Aunt? What could be better?

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Baba Yaga’s Assistant looks fantastic. A graphic novel, it looks both delightful and just the right amount of terrifying:

…The fearsome witch of folklore needs an assistant, and Masha needs an adventure. She may be clever enough to enter Baba Yaga’s house on chicken legs, but within its walls, deceit is the rule. To earn her place, Masha must pass a series of tests, outfox a territorial bear, and make dinner for her host. No easy task, with children on the menu!

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Another graphic novel, this time for more of an adult audience, I’m off to order a copy of Baba Yaga and the Wolf as soon as I finish this post. The art is beautiful:

Visually influenced by the dense forested landscape of British Columbia, Baba Yaga and the Wolf tells the story of Katerina and the journey she takes to the edge of the Underworld and its gatekeeper, Baba Yaga, in order to save her husband Ivan from a terrible fate.

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And of course, our very own Vasilisa the Wise and Other Tales of Brave Young Women. Vasilisa is soon to be released as a paperback. Yay! You can pre-order your copy here.

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Do you have an favourite books that feature the Baba Yaga. We’d love hear about them!

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Castlemaine Launch

Last Thursday, Castlemaine Library hosted the first launch of Vasilisa the Wise and Other Tales of Brave Young Women. About seventy people came along and shared the celebration, one that’s been several years in the making.

The wonderful Carmel Bird gave the launch speech and began:

Once in a kingdom far far away there lived a kind and wonderful witch. In her generous witchy heart she nurtured a deep desire – she longed for a great book of stories, a book that recognised and celebrated the courage and cleverness and power of young women. The wonderful witch mixed a potion, stirred it in her cauldron, and watched the blue and green mist as it rose mysteriously from the pot. It was perfumed with lavender and honeysuckle, eucalypt and wattle, and it wove in and out of the treetops until it began to form into words that hung like spider webs on the branches. And the message was:

By Light and By Dark; By Night and By Day:

Summon Lorena Carrington; Summon Kate Forsyth; Search the wilds of Western Australia for Serenity Press.

And so she did. And lo – you now have before you the self-same book that the good witch desired.

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Many of you will know Carmel’s work. She’s a true literary genius, so I was rather pleased to keep my (relative) cool on stage next to her. She was incredibly gracious and clever and wise, and spoke deeply about the book and its place in the world.

This book comes at a time when women across the world are suddenly speaking out very loudly about the violence and oppression that have been accepted as a normal expectation in western society. Fairy tales, for all their pleasures, are a subtle and powerful way of speaking out. The term ‘sisterhood’ became current, I think, in the seventies, and what is being heard now is the voice of the sisterhood united and enabled by current technology. This book adds its voice in a dramatic and sometimes subversive way.

I spoke afterwards about the power of social media. How one well-timed tweet affected the course of several professional lives, and triggered the creation of a book (and more to come)! I also garbled a lot of thank yous and tried not to go wobbly in front of a theatre of friends and strangers. I also pulled a lot of weird faces.

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We had originally planned to hold the launch in the foyer connected to the library, but had to move the formal proceedings to the attached theatre due to large numbers (yay!). Here is some of the crowd milling about in the foyer afterwards.

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I’m so grateful to our local bookstore Stoneman’s Bookroom, and especially the dedicated people who work there. Here’s the incredible Katherine – oh and look, a pile of books!

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Castlemaine Library went above and beyond in their hosting of the launch, and I can’t thank them enough – just look at these lanterns they made!

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While it felt more than a little strange to have this first launch without Kate and Serenity Press (the pitfalls of geography and time…) they were certainly here in spirit, and there will be more launches to come! It was also a fantastic reminder of the wonderful community here in Castlemaine; filled with fellow creatives and supporters of the arts.

You can order Vasilisa the Wise from the Serenity Press website. Or win a free copy over at Goodreads! The giveaway is open until Jan 10th.

Or support your local bookseller: if they don’t have any in stock, ask them! They will be happy to order it for you, and it helps us too.

Thank you so much to all who came last Thursday. It was an incredible turn-out for a week day evening in a country town. And for those who live elsewhere, do keep an ear to the ground for launches in select capital cities early next year. We can’t wait to see you all!

Proof of a dream

The creation of a book is often likened to the birth of a baby – it’s a simile that works well, because really, that’s exactly what it is. When authors call their books their “book baby”, they are likening their creation to something they have nurtured from conception to birth, and has a deep connection to their heart.

That moment of conception – the idea – is a gift that, if accepted, is carried through various stages of growth – drafting and redrafting, and shaped into a manuscript of sorts. And then labour begins – the editing and reshaping, culling and rewriting – and the manuscript goes out into the world, searching for its place. During that search, there is more shaping and refining until the book makes its debut.

It’s an emotive process for the writer, the parent, who wants the best for their child, their book.

As a writer myself, I understand this. Birthing a book can be a tumultuous, nerve-wracking, thrilling experience. As a small publisher, the process is no less thrilling, but perhaps the publisher is more the grandparent than the parent.

Last week, Serenity Press had the pleasure of seeing the proofs of Vasilisa the Wise and Other Tales of Brave Young Women. I’ve worked with Kate and Lorena since the beginning, since Kate first asked if someone would be interested in publishing her collection. To see this book, the one I said “Yes” to, knowing deep inside there was a reason for this, brought tears to my eyes.

It’s beautiful. And I am beyond thrilled for Kate and Lorena who deserve their hard work and dreams to come to life like this.

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A few days later Kate and Lorena’s emailed their responses:

  • Lorena: “It’s all my bookish dreams come true.”
  • Kate: ” What a glorious book we have created” and “It is so beautiful it
    makes my heart ache”

So, now we’ve all proofed the copy and it’s been sent back for final changes … and soon … BIRTH!

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Serenity Press, Kate and Lorena cannot wait to share this book with you. And the best thing is … there are more fairy tale books like this to come, with authors like Jane Talbot (The Faerie Thorn) and Sharon Blackie (If Women Rose Rooted) now on our lists.

If you  haven’t already pre-ordered, you can do this here.

Twice Upon a Time: books that will make you rethink Fairy Tales

We hope that Vasilisa the Wise and Other Tales of Brave Young Women will encourage people to rethink the fairy tales they have always known. Many people think of princess tales as the standard, but looking back through the history of fairy tales, you’ll find many stories of women who slayed dragons, rescued princes and saved their own lives. If you want to delve deeper into the history and cultural theory of the genre, here are some books that will help you change the way you think about fairy tales.

Fearless Girls, Wise Women and Beloved Sisters: Heroines in Folktales from Around the World. 

This is one of the most loved anthologies in my collection.  It is where I first read The Stolen Child (as The Stolen Bairn) and one I often go back to. As the blurb states, it is: a definitive sourcebook of folktales and fairytales and the first of its kind to feature a variety of multicultural heroines.5e8c1b8d18bc1de6c3e0c383fba7d8cbc6515d9b

 

From the Beast to the Blonde.

If you have an interest in fairy tale theory, then Marina Warner won’t be a new name to you. With a razor sharp wit and delightful writing style, she’s a hero(ine) to many. Here she discusses the history and meaning of fairy tales, and how their different narrators and writers affected the status of the stories they told. For more, try her latest Once Upon a Time.
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Twice Upon a Time

This is a brilliant book on women writers of fairy tales. From the Conteuses of 17th century France to contemporary authors, Wanning Harris discusses how their important contribution the field has often fallen by the wayside. Buy it. Read it. You won’t regret it.


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The Uses of Enchantment

Is now a good time to admit that Jungian psychoanalysis of fairy tales often makes me want to throw things? No? Well, it might not always be my cup of tea, but the focus on self-understanding and accessing inner strengths might just change your preconceptions of the fairy tales you know so well. Bruno Bettleheim’s The Uses of Enchantment is a classic, and one that I’m pleased to admit I’ve never thrown out of a nearby window.  For an alternate view, try Maria Tatar’s excellent Off with their Heads.

Also in my collection is The Feminine in Fairytales, a deep dive into the psychology of many classic tales, and the archetypes and symbolic themes within them. 51uj-Z3cS2L._SL300_

The Victorian Press and the Fairy Tale

The Victorian rise of newspapers heralded somewhat of a golden age for fairy tales. Often released in periodical form it was the first time they were accessible to a mass audience in literary form. This is a fascinating look at how fairy tales were used at the time to debate issues of the day: socialism, women’s rights, racism and more.

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The Irresistible Fairy Tale

I can’t write a list of books without including Jack Zipes. Arguably the god father of fairy tale critical theory, he has written widely on most aspects of the fairy tale. Here is a good place to start.f047a35a6d8affb49338e58080cf8850caa181d0

The Bloody Chamber

Angela Carter is the doyen of contemporary revisionist fairy tales, and her feminist approach is unflinching and fearless. If you have ever dismissed fairy tales as being light hearted fluff for children, The Bloody Chamber is a collection of tales that will change your mind. Seriously, this is not the bedtime collection for your six year old. Or you, if you’re prone to vivid dreams.

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If these have whetted your appetite, here are a few more books that are teetering on my TBR pile. Do you have any favourites that I’ve missed? Leave a comment below, or share this post on social media with a book that changed your perspective on fairy tales.

And don’t forget to pre-order your copy of Vasilisa the Wise and Other Tales of Brave Young Women.

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