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Archive for September 10th, 2012

Animals and Nature are usually woven into my stories, poems, non-fiction, and art. I think my interest in Nature and all her creatures started when I was young. My Granny, who lived on property that joined my parent’s backyard, gardened in the early morning and was kind to the neighborhood strays and neglected animals. As a child, I could usually be found tagging along with her.

My family vacationed for a week each summer from the time I was 5 in a cabin in the West Virginia mountains. Deer, raccoons, opossums, snakes, bears, crayfish, minnows, salamanders, bats, and birds were plentiful and often encountered. Unfortunately, so were mice – but that’s a different tale!

I’ve always enjoyed growing flowers, vegetables, and berries. I’ve always loved watching wild animals and having pets. In fact, since I’m short, have never been thin, and quite enjoy a well-prepared meal, I think I’d have made a rather good (though tall at 5’2”) hobbit!

In the beginning of The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien describes the day Gandalf stopped by Bilbo’s home to warn of the coming dwarves thus: “one morning long ago in the quiet of the world, when there was less noise and more green, and the hobbits were still numerous…” More green – that sounds lovely to me.

In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien writes that hobbits are fond of gardening. I especially like the picture painted by this quote from The Fellowship of the Ring (and I can close my eyes and see the image filmed by Peter Jackson for the movie):

Inside Bag End, Bilbo and Gandalf were sitting at the open window of a small room looking out west on to the garden. The late afternoon was bright and peaceful. The flowers glowed red and golden: snap-dragons and sunflowers, and nasturtians trailing all over the turf walls and peeping in at the round windows.

‘How bright your garden looks!’ said Gandalf.

‘Yes,’ said Bilbo. ‘I am very fond indeed of it, and of all the dear old Shire…’”

 I gaze out my window at flowers red and golden: roses, snapdragons, and butterfly weed, and at nasturtiums trailing over a brick wall, and scratch my dog behind her ear. I know I am very fond indeed of Nature, all her creatures, and of living at Wood’s Edge. In both of my short story collections, Owl Light and The Greener Forest, as well as my young adult novel, The Enchanted Skean, animals and plants play important roles. And I suspect, they will always have a special place in my creative work.

For those who’d like to listen to an excerpt from “On a Midwinter’s Eve,” the 1st tale in Owl Light, it’s the reading that begins about 14 minutes into the September 2012 “Nature and Animals” Broad Pod from Broad Universe: http://broadpod.posterous.com/september-2012-animals-and-nature In the excerpt, an owl, wolf, and the winter woods play a role. The complete story has even more animals in it.

So as Bilbo’s much anticipated Birthday Party approaches, I urge you to celebrate Nature and read (or listen to) a story featuring some of her creatures.

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In my mind’s eye and according to several dictionaries, Bards were traveling poets and minstrels who wrote and sang (or recited) tales of historical and legendary events. Sages were wise men and women who were calm, far-seeing, and prudent. And therefore, sages were often sought out as counselors or revered as philosophers. So it’s a great name for a speculative fiction magazine.

 Bards and Sages Quarterly lives up to the billing. It was with pleasure that I opened the April 2012 issue (which features one of my paintings on the cover), and discovered some delightful tales inside. Reading the stories printed in this issue made me want to sit down and write a piece of fiction worthy of acceptance by the editor of Bards and Sages.

As a writer, this isn’t the only time I’ve found reading a collection of stories inspired me to create a new tale. Fiction writers should be reading current fiction. Yes, the Classics are time-honored material, but in order to appeal to today’s readers – a writer needs to understand which books and stories are “hot” at the moment.

Plus, I recommend finding anthologies looking for submissions, and write a story (or poem or article) that would fit the theme. Even if you don’t manage to make the deadline or have a piece of writing accepted for that antho, it’s a challenge to write about a specific subject that’s perhaps outside your comfort zone. The worst that can happen is you have a completed story to submit elsewhere. One source for anthology markets is www.ralan.com

Tonight, I’ll be working on a tale for a themed anthology I saw listed on Ralan. Maybe, you’ll be doing the same. Or maybe, you’d like to see the full painting of Daughter of the Ocean for the Bards and Sages April 2012 cover at my website’s art gallery: www.vonniewinslowcrist.com/art_gallery You can also check out another painting, Garden Skull, on the wrap-around cover page of the gallery, that has been accepted for the cover of one of the 2013 issues of Bards and Sages.

Whatever you’re doing this evening, may your night be calm and inspiring.

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