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.

33832945


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.

51+0O9VmTQL


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.

6011268


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…

9781617035968


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.

9780820467696


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?

9781449486815


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!

9780763669614


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.

14743570


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.

28c327_229d58b36c7944b0aafb9d4e2a55d74d-mv2_d_2250_2775_s_2

 

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

Advertisements

The Making of a Dress

I spent much of last week making a dress. The best thing? I didn’t even need a sewing machine. The worst? I can never wear it, and I really want to!

Kate and I are working on the follow-up to Vasilisa the Wise, and I’m in the wonderful phase of dreaming up new illustrations. I couldn’t resist throwing myself into the most complicated one I’ve thought up so far. It requires a dress, embroidered all over with blue roses.

My first task was to visit my mum. My parents live in her family home, which has been passed down through several generations, through the maternal line. I grew up in that house, as did my mother (and her sister) and her mother before her. It was knocked down and rebuilt into its current incarnation in 1946 after my grandparents were married – so my grandmother grew up in the old house, but the ‘new’ one reused the old window and door frames. We all went to the same primary school, walked the path down to the shops, and looked out over the same valley of lights at night.

So, with all that history, I knew I’d find a treasure trove of lace and embroidered linens. I needed roses, so we pulled great piles of linen out of the hallway cupboard. I sorted through them and found 20 or so pieces that would work for what I needed. Aren’t they lovely?

Linens

The stories behind many of them are lost to time, but they are a lovely connection to my family’s history.

When I brought them home, I photographed them all, in their entirely and in detail.

IMG_2732

Then into Photoshop we go… I started by isolating the design and removing the background, which is more complicated than it looks, especially when working on pieces with a deep fabric weave. Several of them required a steady hand, as I drew around the stitched design. Once they were selected out and put against a clean white background, I converted them to black and white, and changed to colour balance to turn them all a different shade of blue.

There was a lot of lace too. I photographed those on a black background, darkened the exposure and dialled up the blue.

As I went, I placed each one onto a silhouetted photograph one of my own dresses. To make it clearer, I recorded a screen cast of some of the process. This is taken from a few sessions of the digital process, sped up by 20,000%! If only I worked this fast.

It took me two full days to get this far. The illustration is far from finished, but just making the dress feels like a good achievement. The dress itself may change a little for the final illustration, but here it is for now: several generations of everyday history rewoven into a new life.

Screen Shot 2018-04-23 at 4.52.11 pm

 

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.

Screenshot 2017-12-08 08.22.07

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.

Screenshot 2017-12-08 08.41.41

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.

Screenshot 2017-12-08 08.20.45

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!

IMG_1750

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!

Screenshot 2017-12-08 08.20.54

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!

Seven Podcasts for Fairy Tale Lovers

If you’re anything like me, you use podcasts to get you through the day – out walking, in the car, cooking dinner: all the stuff where sometimes it’s great just to have some else’s voice in your head for a while! I also spend a lot of time at the computer working with images and, strangely enough, listening to other people talking can help the work flow. I do try to keep the subject vaguely related, so over the years I’ve been collecting fairy tale and folklore related podcasts. Here are some of my favourites.

Singing Bones

170x170bb-5

Clare Testoni knows her fairy tales. Every episode is meticulously researched, and she brings an enormous amount of knowledge to each one. She tells a version of the tale,  and discusses its variants, where it sits in a historical and cultural context, and its hidden and not so hidden meanings.  Try her episode on Rapunzel, which happens to feature Kate Forsyth talking about her book The Rebirth of Rapunzel: A Mythic Biography of the Maiden on the Tower.

Follow the podcast on Twitter at @singingbonespc and Instagram at @singingbonespodcast.


Deviant Women

170x170bb

I love Deviant Women. Yes, and this podcast too. *boom tish* To quote them: “Each fortnight, hosts Lauren and Alicia delve into a ‘deviant’ woman from history, fiction, mythology and the contemporary world: those who aren’t afraid to break the rules, to subvert the system, to explore, to seek and to challenge the status quo.

Not strictly a podcast on fairy tales, but they come armed with a lot of fairy tale knowledge (and least one PhD on the subject) and they often focus on a woman from fairy tales. Check out their latest episode on Juleideh, a variant of what you might know better as All Kinds of Fur.

Follow them on Twitter at @DeviantWomen


Feminist Folklore

170x170bb-7

I only recently found Feminist Folklore, and I’m so glad I did. Great conversations around folklore from a feminist perspective, with a relaxed presentation and great mix of intelligence and humour. Check out their recent episode on The Juniper Tree.

Follow them on Twitter at @femlorepod and Instagram at @feministfolklorepodcast.


Myths & Legends

170x170bb-8

Jason Weiser retells Myths and Legends with varying degrees of modern language. In his episode on the Kelpies, the Scottish Cheiftan’s sons are ‘bros on their party boat’ before they fall foul of the Kelpie horse. The podcast has been around for a couple of years, and it shows in the slick production value and smooth presentation.

Follow Myths and Legends at @MythPodcast.


What The Folklore

170x170bb-3

What the Folklore is a funny and slightly irreverent look at folklore and fairy tales, but it’s well balanced by the fact that they know what they’re talking about. There are a couple hundred episodes, and the three presentors have a great rapport. Check out their episode, A Certain Grimminess for their take on the Grimm tale The Seven Ravens.

Find the on Twitter at @WTFolklore


The Folklore Podcast

170x170bb-2

The Folklore Podcast is excellent. It definitely has more of a leaning towards folklore over fairy tales, but there is plenty of crossover. Mark Norman is a knowledgeable host, and his guests are interesting and well informed. Check out the episode on Fairy Lore and the Witch Trials.

Follow the podcast on Twitter at @folklorepod.


 

Wallflowers Stories

170x170bb-4

Sadly, Amelia and Josh aren’t producing Wallflowers Stories anymore, but it’s well worth going back and listening through their backlist. Fairy tales retold, with a mix of entertaining interjections and intelligent analysis. Try out their episode on Sun, Moon and Talia. I miss them.


 

Okay, so I can’t stop at seven. Here are few more I’ve just discovered and/or haven’t had the chance to listen to much yet, but look interesting.

Malicious Mamas is brand new to me, and I’ve loved the first episode I listened to (Baba Yaga). I can’t wait to delve deeper.

I’m really looking forward to listening to Six Stories, Told at Night, a six part Canadian audio drama about Faeries, writing and the Otherworld. it looks fascinating.

Another fictionalised podcast I’m looking forward to is The Infinite Fairy Tale, a “Dark, surreal and ridiculous comedy inspired by fairy tales and recorded in the moment.”

The Mythology Podcast explores myth, folklore, and legend from throughout history and from all over the world.

When Wishing Still Helped looks at “the surprising and upsetting gruesomeness found in the original versions of well known tales as well as uncovering forgotten oddities.

The Celtic Myth Podshow retells and explores, you guessed it, Celtic Myths in history, culture, landscape and literature. They also play Celtic music, recite poetry and share news. I only just discovered them, but consider me subscribed.

And there are SO MANY podcasts that focus on straight readings of fairy tales. Search them out if you’re in the mood for a bedtime story. I’ll dedicate some listening time to finding some good ones and share them in a future blog post.


 

And now’s your chance to tell me what I missed! What are your favourite fairy tale and folklore podcasts? What gets you through your commute?

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.

21616426_1685986224759663_5075792145504217127_n.jpg

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!

22092780_10203705798361997_1371530988_o.jpg

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.
8be0e667dda62f298b044e6987344d7ed75ea12a

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.


9ec5748b9a3b1e50ff2bd1c0e222dbffc8ac197b

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.

7eac7652e1b2a3fe5ca2bd76b89961a3ffc8c626

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.

5f906ff0dc79291ff484d68ae1ec4a39d17aaf9b

 

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.

e1920b542d140af6e78207199efa5db1d574ce64-2 1abbf7c67e0e18836da100a4a726e4ed66b0fc55-2 98338bf0d52ff566244538175d0a7e7b3831753c a7affb123d67d5cf4f1a40c045ffa212604b7619 9d1b6e146a23d00839723806d77f8374d909d6f6 cf84b37de5b3463c39b96ed31285aaa9d5703c1a

The Illustration Process

When you look at Lorena’s illustrations, do you see paint? Ink? Paper cut outs? Her work is certainly inspired by the incredible pen and ink illustrations of Arthur Rackham and the watercolour and cut-out works of Jan Pienkowski, but she uses an altogether different method. In an extract from a conference paper she recently gave at the Australian Fairy Tale Society conference, Lorena describes her method in her own words:

I work entirely with photography, which does surprise a lot of people. These works aren’t paintings or drawings. Instead I photograph many separate elements and montage them together in Photoshop.

We’ll go right back to the beginning of my process. My work always starts with what the landscape gives me. I collect small treasures – leaves, stones, animal bones – and photograph them, then file them into digital folders ready to draw from.

Screenshot 2017-07-18 11.40.03

As you can see below, the bridge of bones is made from an entire fox skeleton, with a couple other skulls thrown in for good measure.  A year or so ago, we had some friends staying, and they returned from a walk in the bush near our house with a bundle wrapped up in a silk scarf. “We have a present for you!” Unwrapping it with a flourish, they revealed a pile of white bones – a fox skeleton! Once I reassembled it, I was thrilled to discover it was completely intact, minus a few tiny toes.

I photographed them one by one on a light box, and assembled them carefully in photoshop. In the end, this image was created from 72 separate photographs, and was the basis for one of the illustrations for The Rainbow Prince in Vasilisa The Wise and Other Tales of Brave Young Women:

Screenshot 2017-07-18 11.40.29

I start by photographing the pieces I need, either on-location (usually squatting somewhere damp!) or at home on the light box. The light box gives me the silhouette that I need, which I then refine later in Photoshop. If I’m photographing a large subject, like a person, I set up the studio lights, lighting the wall behind the subject, but not the subject themselves.

Next, I upload the photographs to the computer and make any necessary adjustments. These are saved into in my *ahem* extremely well organised filing system, ready for use.

Screenshot 2017-07-18 11.40.38

I usually start a new image with the silhouette components. I either use them as themselves – trees, people etc – or I build creatures out of lots of seperate photographs. The fox bridge for example, or creatures I wouldn’t have a chance of photographing myself. Here are a few animals that I’ve created out of sticks, leaves, bones… stuff from the forest floor. When making a composite creature, I try to be conscious of their surroundings in the story and illustration, and use objects that you would find there. In that way, they are built up from their own ‘landscape’.

Screenshot 2017-07-18 11.40.45

Once I’ve built up the silhouettes, I layer in the background – itself often made from several photographs merged together. And there, after a process that can take anywhere from several hours to many days of collecting, photographing, editing, montaging and layering, we have a completed image.

Vasilisa2

You can see Lorena talk further about Vasilisa the Wise and Other Tales of Brave Young Women at the Athenaeum Library in Melbourne, this Thursday evening (July 20th) as part of the Australian Fairy Tale Society’s Fairy Tale Evening. Alongside singers, storytellers & writers, she will discuss the upcoming book and her creative process.

And don’t forget to pre-order your copy of Vasilisa the Wise. The first 1000 pre-orders come with a free gift, so don’t miss out!