The End Is Not Nigh

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I wrote a book. This is a big deal for me. I haven’t completed writing a book since my sophomore year of college, and that book was deeply, deeply terrible. It was a book set during the Civil War because I am a Southern boy and every Southern boy who fancies himself a writer will, at some point, write a Civil War book, as any 15th Century Italian who fancied himself a painter eventually farted out a glum-faced Virgin Mary holding a tiny adult Jesus making gang signs with his hands. The only good thing about my very bad Civil War book was that I completed it and so knew that Writing a Book was actually a thing I could do, if not well.

This bit of experience I carried through my 20s when I spent a great deal of time thinkingand talking about the books I planned to write, and imagining my inevitable literary immortality, while doing precious little actual writing. A few stories here and there managed to get written, and smatterings of chapters of novels that I eventually “put on the back burner,” which is to say I abandoned them when they proved too difficult. Thinking and talking and imagining were easy and pleasurable. Writing itself was labor, and so I put off doing it unless inspiration struck; partially out of laziness, and partially out of confusing the imagination of plot, character, and setting with the actual work of getting the words down.

It was when I was staring down 30 without a single writing credit to my name that I finally realized that if I wanted to think of myself as a writer, I should actually do some damn writing. So, I did, and discovered that despite some talent with words and years of rough training at writing about fiction (thanks grad school!), I was actually rather crap at writing fiction. This was disappointing, but honestly kind of a relief since it meant I could shrug off my pretentions, stop waiting for the Muse, and actually get to work, and think of it and appreciate it as work. Having a writing circle like the N.L.B. helped immensely in keeping me writing, and making my writing better.

Now here we are after a few years of honest, inky toil, and I have written a book. It’s a middle grade (for 8-12 year olds) novel-in-stories about my little wicked witch Mab Ipswich. It was a wonderful feeling when I finished the last story, and sent the book out to beta readers. I knew it would need revisions and rewrites, but the important thing was: The book was done!

…Or not. I haven’t heard back from all my beta readers yet, but the ones who have responded have been universal in not caring for the book’s final story.  This wasn’t too surprising as I wasn’t crazy about it myself. But it means I need a new ending. I have been trying to think of one for a couple of weeks now, sketching out different plots and paths, but they’ve all led to dead ends, and no good ending. I just don’t know how to bring all four of the book’s narrative arcs, and all five of its main characters, together in a satisfying way.

Kristopher Jansma had a great essay in the New York Times recently about trying to end a novel, and wrote, “Endings have always been my Everest. Or, really, if writing a novel is like climbing Everest, then my tendency is to get within eyeshot of the summit and say, ‘Well, that’s far enough.'” This is pretty much where I am now, within eyeshot of the summit, but tired, and fatigued, and not sure if I can make it. It’s frustrating, but the good thing about having learned to see writing as work, is that I know all I need to do is keep working at it and working at it, until the thing is done.

As Jansma says, “The last hundred yards up the mountain are the steepest. The air is very thin and you cannot share it with your characters anymore. You have to leave them, along with everything you’ve written to that point. It is the last thing you want to do, but as you go higher you’ll get your first look at them from above.”

So, it’s time to start climbing again. The good news is, sitting at your desk and opening a Google Doc is considerably easier than hauling your tired body up the world’s highest mountain. And there’s plenty of coffee.

image courtesy of Marcela Vargas

Blog Tour

Welcome to my blog!

I’m so glad you could join the Blog Tour. Please take a seat and make yourself comfortable. I do apologize for the smell. Some feral cats got into this blog last week and made a mess. Yes, yes, the cats are still here, but mostly beneath the floorboards now. If you hear disturbing scratching or shrieking sounds beneath you, it is probably just those cats. Probably.

I would offer you a drink, but this is a blog and so is made of electricities (I suppose; I am not a scientist) and liquids and electricities don’t mix. That said, I do have some interesting tidbits for you! You cannot eat them, these bits of tid. But you can enjoy them. So. Let’s enjoy! Blog Tour Away!

The Monster & Mab Ipswich, courtesy of Marcela Vargas

The Monster & Mab Ipswich, courtesy of Marcela Vargas

Who came before?

My friend and fellow writer Lara Ehrlich invited me on this Tour o’ Blogs. Lara’s writing is centered on “the liminal space between adolescence and adulthood, a space imbued with restlessness, anxiety, shame, and desire.” She explores this terrifying space in both fiction, like her razor-sharp sports satire THE HERO, and in non-fiction like her hilarious pieces for The Hairpin. She blogs at LaraEhrlichWrites.com.

What am I working on?

I recently completed the first draft of my middle-grade novel-in-stories MAB IPSWICH, OR THE WICKEDEST WITCH. It’s a series of interlocking stories about a wicked, chaos-causing 11-year old girl who is the only witch at her school. It’s currently with beta readers. A few of the Mab stories have been published in the children’s lit mag Underneath the Juniper TreeAnd one Mab story will soon be turned into an audio story on the YA scifi/fantasy podcast Cast of Wonders. You can find my published Mab stories here.

copyright 2011 Elizabeth Rose Stanton

Mab Ipswich, courtesy of Elizabeth Rose Stanton

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

The biggest difference is that my book is a novel-in-stories rather than a straight novel. And the stories in the book span different genres. Some are comedic, some are horror, some are fantasy adventure, one’s a locked room mystery, one’s crime fiction, etc. Mab’s role also changes story-to-story. In some she’s the hero, in others the villain; in some she’s the main character, in others she’s a background character who sets the action in motion. The goal is that by the end, through these different character POVs, genres, and stories, you get a full picture of Mab and what makes her wickedly tick.

Mab Ipswich and Mrs. Johnson, courtesy of Stacey Byer

Mab Ipswich & Mrs. Johnson, courtesy of Stacey Byer

Why do I write what I do?

I spent two years teaching English in junior highs and elementary schools on a remote Japanese island. I really enjoyed working with kids and seeing the world through their eyes. The middle-grade age range (8-12) is a really fascinating time, I think, because it’s when you really start to perceive the shape of the world and your place in it; when you really start to become you, before you get hit with the burdens of being a teenager or an adult. For me, I remember it being when I was at my most imaginative and adventurous, exploring the woods behind our house and imagining it filled with dinosaurs, black wolves, and buried treasure. So, I enjoy reading and writing stories that deal with that time of life, with a healthy dash of magic, monsters, and mischief thrown in for good measure.

Mab Ipswich & the Ghost of Grammy Goneril, courtesy of Ken Lamug

Mab Ipswich & the Ghost of Grammy Goneril, courtesy of Ken Lamug

How does your writing process work?

I write mostly at coffee shops (I need the hum of activity and the jolt of caffeine) once or twice a week after work or on the weekend, then do editing at home. I also have a writing circle that reads my pieces and offers critiques. They are invaluable and have made me a much better writer.

Who’s next? (on March 31)

Amanda Duncil is a freelance writer who pretends to live in perpetual summer by wearing flip-flops and shorts year-round. She maintains a healthy dose of whimsy in her life by watching cartoons and reading YA books. She writes for various online platforms and can often be found advocating for gender and LGBTQIA+ equality. You can chat with her on Twitter at @amandaduncil.

The Knight, the Princess and the Magic Rock

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How do you teach your children about a foreign culture? Try the delicious dishes, learn a little of the language, sample the local music, take a trip to the country or region when the airfare’s affordable. Those are all fun and wonderful. But don’t forget to read up on their fairy and folk tales, too.

Think about how often we use fairy and folk tales to describe and understand our world. Unlikely sports champions give us Cinderella stories. The geek who turns into an Adonis? Quite the Ugly Duckling. Most parents want their kids to be as strong as Paul Bunyon, as fierce-willed as John Henry, as wise as Solomon.

Folk tales and fairy tales are a great way to introduce our kids, and ourselves, to other cultures–their histories, their values, and maybe most importantly, their magic. And right now is the perfect time to find a bunch of great multicultural fairy tales for kids!

This Monday, January 27th is Multicultural Children’s Book Day: Celebrating Diversity in Children’s Literature. This wonderful event was created by Mia Wenjen of Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr of Jump Into a Book & Audrey Press, and is sponsored by Wisdom Tales Press, Lee & Low Books Chronicle Books, and Susan Daniel Fayad: Author of My Grandfather’s Masbaha.

The Day’s Mission: Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Mia and Valarie are on a mission to change all of that. Their mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these types of books into classrooms and libraries. Another goal of this exciting event is create a compilation of books and favorite reads that will provide not only a new reading list for the winter, but also a way to expose brilliant books to families, teachers, and libraries.

I’m thrilled that Mia and Valarie invited me to participate in Multicultural Children’s Book Day, and that Wisdom Tales Press sent me a wonderful book to review. The Knight, the Princess and the Magic Rock: A Classic Persian Tale is an Iranian fairy tale retold by Sara Azizi and illustrated by Alireza Sadeghian.

The Knight, the Princess and the Magic Rock tells the tale of a knight named Bijan, who is sent by the Persian king to drive out a herd of wild boars tearing up the country side. On his way home, he falls in love with a beautiful princess name Manijeh, daughter of the king of Turan, an enemy of Persia. A sleeping potion, a deep dark pit, an immoveable magic rock, an all-seeing golden cup, and the cunning of a  warrior named Rostam, mark the tale before the two star-crossed find their happily ever after.

Ms. Azizi tells the tale with clean and clear prose. She uses a nice framing story of a grandfather telling the story to his grandchildren, which impresses on the reader that this is a living Iranian story and one to be told and retold. The story is simple enough that young children can understand it, but told well so that older kids (and parents) will enjoy it, too. Ms. Azizi also includes a postscript explaining the history and meaning of the tale, which gives readers a deeper understanding of the story and its place in Iranian culture.

Mr. Sadeghian’s art is simply stunning. The book’s pictures are inspired by medieval Persian painting (see above, of Bijan fighting those pesky boars), and are beautifully detailed and colorful. Mr. Sadeghian’s art manages a mean feat. His paintings manage to both draw from Iran’s deep artistic heritage while also fitting perfectly into a children’s picture book. They are a feast for young and old eyes both.

So, celebrate Multicultural Children’s Book Day by checking out this beautifully written and illustrated Persian fairy tale! Also, you enter great book giveaways being held by Barefoot Books and Wisdom Tales Press for MCCBD!

And be sure to check out all the other books being reviewed on January 27th as we celebrate and promote diversity in children’s literature! Blog links ahoy!

2GirlsLostInaBook · 365 Days of Motherhood · A Bilingual Baby · A Simple Life, Really? · Africa to America · After School Smarty Pants · All Done Monkey · Andi’s Kids Books · Anita Brown Bag  · Austin Gilkeson · Barbara Ann Mojica ·  Books My Kids Read · Bottom Shelf Books · Cats Eat Dogs · Chasing The Donkey · Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac · Children’s Books Heal · Church o Books · CitizenBeta · Crafty Moms Share · Discovering The World Through My Son’s Eyes · Early Words · Flowering Minds · Franticmommy · Gathering Books · GEO Librarian · Gladys Barbieri · Going in Circles · Growing Book by Book · iGame Mom · I’m Not The Nanny · InCulture Parent · Itsy Bitsy Mom · Kid Lit Reviews-Kid World Citizen · Kristi’s Book Nook · Mama Lady Books · Mama Smiles · Mission Read · Mother Daughter Book Reviews · Mrs AOk · MrsTeeLoveLifeLaughter · Ms. Yingling Reads · Multicultural Kids Blog · One Sweet World · Open Wide The World · P is for Preschooler · Rapenzel Dreams · School4Boys · Sharon the Librarian · Spanish Playground · Sprout’s Bookshelf · Squishable Baby · Stanley and Katrina · Teach Mama · The Art of Home Education · The Brain Lair · The Educators’ Spin On It · The Family-Ship Experience · The Yellow Door Paperie · This Kid Reviews Books  · Trishap’s Books · Unconventional Librarian · Vicki Arnold · We3Three · World for Learning · Wrapped in Foil 

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Tiny Book of Tiny Stories

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The bestselling Tiny Book of Tiny Stories series continues with The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories Vol. 3, out now and available for purchase at most major bookstores and on Amazon here. The series comes from hitRECord, the multi-media collaborative spearheaded by actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Dark Knight Rises, Looper). The books feature a series of beautiful illustrations and matching micro-stories.

What makes this book really special though is that it features art from two Underneath the Juniper Tree alums, Soju Shots (who is an image curator at hitRECord) and Ken Lamug (who illustrated my last two Mab Ipswich stories). It’s so exciting to buy a major book release and see the art of two artists I know in there. So, go buy the book! And remember to check out hitRECord and Underneath the Juniper Tree to find more amazing art and artists!

The World According to a Sociopathic 11-Year Old Witch

Grammy Goneril

Underneath the Juniper Tree is back, and just in time for Halloween! The Fall 2013 Issue is Halloween themed, from the cover by comics master John Rozum (DC Vertigo, Milestone, Marvel) to all the spooky stories and creepy art inside.

My story in the issue is “The Ghost of Grammy Goneril” with awesome art by Rabble Boy Ken Lamug (see above). The story? Well, it’s All Hallow’s Eve and Mab Ipswich is grounded and alone at home. Then her dead grandmother comes visiting from the afterlife and things get weird…

It’s the newest (and best, in my opinion) Mab Ipswich story. It’s also the first Mab story written from Mab’s point of view, and in the first person perspective (also, the first story to reveal Mab’s middle name and ethnicity)!

I’ve actually been trying to write from Mab’s POV for a while now, but struggled to find her voice. Mab is… different. She’s 11, a girl, a witch, socially awkward, and kind of evil… which are the qualities that make her a fun character to write from other perspectives (her friend, her teacher, her classmate, the school bully) but make it hard to get her voice right. I tried, but could never sustain it beyond a few lines of dialogue.

I was thinking about what kind of Halloween story I wanted to set in Mab’s world for this issue of Juniper Tree, and decided to do something inspired by the Japanese Obon holiday and the Mexican Day of the Dead (in which the spirits of the dead are welcomed home and honored). I had a vague idea of the witches having a holiday where their dead ancestors physically return, but couldn’t quite find a through line for the story. And, as always, I struggled to find Mab’s voice.

Then one night I woke up to pee at 3:00 AM and this line popped into my head: “Dead grandparents give the worst candy.” And then I had it. I had Mab’s voice: sardonic, sharp, unsentimental. The story flowed out from there, a flood of words my fingers could barely get down on paper fast enough. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed writing a story this much, and I’m looking forward to getting back in Mab’s head (or is she getting in mine?) soon.

You can read the story here: http://issuu.com/underneaththejunipertree/docs/october_2013/56

Ken Lamug also has a blog post about how the illustration for the story came together. You can read that here: http://www.rabbleboy.com/digital-painting-for-mab-and-free-source/

Enjoy, and happy Halloween!

Creatures of the Deep, Dark Woods

I’m very happy to announce that the fall issue of SPELLBOUND, themed “Creatures of the Deep, Dark Woods” is out! Inside you’ll find great stories, art, and poems for children, including my short story Fangs.

The story is about a Japanese elementary school camping trip gone terribly, horribly awry, and a young girl who has to use her wits, and a dull vegetable knife, to survive. The story also features the return of the dread princess, Kuwa Ibukishita, last seen lurking in my story The Web at the End of the Woods in the April 2012 issue of Underneath the Juniper Tree.

Fangs earned my first writer’s paycheck, so it will always hold a special place in my dark heart. It’s also fitting since that it did so, since it’s a sort of spin-off story from my still-in-progress YA novel Kumiko, which started me down the road of writing for children and young adults and new adults, whatever those are.

You can download Fangs as an ePub magazine for your Amazon Kindle, Adobe Digital Editions, B&N Nook, and other formats. Go here to order it (it’s $5.00 a pop, or $20 for a yearly subscription): http://eggplantproductions.com/spellbound-magazine/spellbound-creatures-of-the-deep-dark-woods/

Or you can get it for your Kindle from Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00EX5PYWC/ref=cm_sw_su_dp

Happy reading!

A Girl, a Gun, and a Monster

 

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The newest issue of Underneath the Juniper Tree is out! In it you’ll find all sorts of creepy stories and poems designed to give children (and adults) all sorts of new nightmares.

One of them is my short story Taiga, about a brave girl named Gerty who goes off into Alaska’s boreal forest to hunt down the grizzly that killed her horse… but comes across a creature much more terrifying instead.

You can read Taiga here: http://issuu.com/underneaththejunipertree/docs/spring_2013/68

And here’s a cool video of artist Ken Lamug (aka Rabble Boy) drawing one of the illustrations from Taiga, showing Gerty with her gun as she heads off into the woods.

It’s Alive! It’s Alive!

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The Underneath the Juniper Tree 2012 Anthology has at last taken physical form and will soon be slouching towards mail boxes across the dark confines of the earth (including those of horror masters Wes Craven and R.L. Stine).

Marjorie Merle and Tex, the mysterious and terrifying ghouls behind Underneath the Juniper Tree, have done a fantastic job of collecting the scariest and sickest art and stories from last year’s issues. And I’m proud to say that my story The Monster and Mab Ipswich is among them.

The anthologies are a limited print run, so get your claws on one quick by sending an email to: tex.junipertree [at] gmail [dot com]. Copies are $13 a pop. The Anthology collects some truly amazing artwork and stories by award-winning artists and writers from all over the world, so do your inner-demon child a favor and order one today! Your inner-demon child will thank you, just before setting your brain on fire.

Ermahgerd!

So, the Underneath the Juniper Tree print anthology is a go! Thanks to generous donations from various contributors and Goosebumps author R.L Stine, a print edition of the magazine’s best macabre stories and artwork will soon be released upon the world. It’s especially exciting that Stine, the godfather of scaring American children via the written word, is helping to fund the anthology.

And my short story “The Monster and Mab Ipswich” will be appearing in the book! Thanks to all who voted for it, I appreciate your support! The anthology should be out by the end of February. I am eagerly looking forward to getting my hands on it and seeing Mab on the printed page. So excited that, in fact, that I will probably shout… well, you know…

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Scarily Shameless Spooky Story Halloween Extravaganza

The Monster by Marcela Vargas

It’s Halloween. The veil between our world and the Other World has been rent. Dark things are stirring in dusty corners. The shadows are creeping into this petty place.

Allow me to get you in the mood.

As you probably know, I tend to write a lot of Halloween-esque stuff. Witches and spiders are my bread and butter, and nothing tickles my twisted fancy more than an especially creepy and deranged Japanese monster. I plug away at my dark stories year round, even in the bright and cheerful summer sun, but today is the day of all days when they seem most fit for reading. The day when the world is draped in cobwebs and monsters prowl the streets.

You see, it’s always Halloween Underneath the Juniper Tree. What better way to get in the spirit of Samhain than reading the creepy, spooky, and macabre tales in its dark pages? The full issues can be read here: http://issuu.com/underneaththejunipertree.

Now, if you like your Halloween spirits more mischievous and magical, then you’ll enjoy the misadventures of the wicked witch Mab Ipswich that have been published in Underneath the Juniper Tree over the past year. It all begins with Mab Ipswich: The Wickedest Witch, continues in Mab Ipswich & The Stinking Storm, gets especially monstrous in The Monster & Mab Ipswich, and comes to a chilling, thrilling conclusion (so far) in Mab Ipswich Vs. Principal Goblinson

Those of you more into pure horror of the fanged, eight-legged, Japanese variety, should chill your bones with my story published earlier this year in Juniper Tree, The Web at the End of the Woods.

And though Halloween isn’t a Japanese holiday, the Land of the Rising Sun has a rich tradition of monsters (as you’ll find if you read the cell phone ghost and spider stories above), some of whom I have chronicled on this blog. Click on the Japanese Monsters tag below and you’ll find where they lurk.

Even if you think I suck, definitely check out all the scary, spooky stories in the issues of Underneath the Juniper Tree! They’re the perfect thing to read tonight as the ghosts and ghouls come a-calling.