I have a humor piece, “Heavenly Unrest,” up at Funny in Five Hundred. Another comic flash, “Prince Charming,” has been accepted at Flash Fiction Magazine for their November 7 issue. Both of these stories were written with the Practice group, so I have a lot of people to thank.
A piece of mine, "Optimistic Rug," was accepted recently by Quail Bell.
Joanna M. Weston
Two poems in the print journal, Canadian Woman Studies, published by York University, Toronto. One, “Birthday night,” was critiqued by the Poetry List, for which many thanks indeed.
Monday, October 24, 2016
Friday, October 21, 2016
This Day In Literary History
On October 21st, 1977, Bridge To Terabithia, the classic children's novel by the famous American writer Katherine Paterson, was published. It was inspired by a real life tragedy that affected the author and her son.
Katherine Paterson had already established herself as an acclaimed and popular children's author with her first two books, The Sign Of The Chrysanthemum (1973) and Of Nightingales That Weep (1974), when her eight-year-old son David lost his best and only friend.
Her name was Lisa Hill. She was a bright, vivacious, and imaginative little girl. While at the beach with her family, Lisa was struck by lightning and killed. David Paterson was devastated and traumatized by his sudden loss, and his mother was deeply affected by it as well.
After publishing her third novel, The Master Puppeteer (1975), Katherine Paterson and her son still struggled to cope with Lisa Hill's death. So, for her next book, she decided to write a story about a close friendship between a young boy and girl cut short by tragedy.
The boy learns the value of friendship, then must use the inner strength his friend gave him as he struggles to cope with his loss. Paterson would later say that writing the book was a therapeutic exercise that helped her and her son make some sense out of a senseless tragedy.
Bridge To Terabithia is set in Lark Creek, a small town in rural Virginia. The novel opens with 10-year-old Jess Aarons, a poor farm boy, going out for a morning run before breakfast.
The introverted, artistically gifted Jess has no friends, but hopes to win his peers' admiration and respect when school starts by becoming the fastest boy in the fifth grade and winning the races held during recess.
When Jess returns from his practice run, we get a look at his bleak home life. The Aarons family is large and poor. His two older sisters, Brenda and Ellie, are cruel to him. His younger sisters, May Belle and Joyce Ann, adore him, but also annoy him, as he must share a bedroom with them.
His mother favors her daughters over her son and always yells at him. Jess' father lavishes affection on his younger daughters but is emotionally distant from his son and shows him no affection. He's often gruff and foul tempered, especially to Jess.
With money so tight that he has to commute over an hour each way to Washington, D.C. to work as a day laborer because farming doesn't pay enough to support the family, Mr. Aarons is rarely in a good mood.
At school, Jess' teacher is a nasty, foul-tempered, obese older woman named Mrs. Myers, nicknamed "Monster Mouth" by her students for obvious reasons. The music teacher, Miss Edmunds, is young and pretty, and the only human being who seems to care about Jess.
She admires his artistic talent and encourages him to keep drawing. She's a non-conformist like Jess - she wears jeans to class and no lipstick. She's also a hippie and plays folk songs on her guitar for the kids. Jess sees Miss Edmunds as a "diamond in the rough," and has a huge crush on her.
Jess's artistic talent is a source of consternation for his ignorant father, who worries that a passion for drawing poses a threat to his only son's masculinity:
He would like to show his drawings to his dad, but he didn't dare. When he was in first grade, he had told his dad that he wanted to be an artist when he grew up. He'd thought his dad would be pleased. He wasn't. "What are they teaching in that damn school?" he had asked. "Bunch of old ladies turning my only son into some kind of a..." He had stopped on the word, but Jess had gotten the message. It was one you didn't forget, even after four years.
Into Jess' bleak world comes a ray of sunshine in the form of a new girl who moves in next door. Leslie Burke is Jess' age. She's an intelligent, vivacious tomboy from the city whose parents are both writers.
The Burkes are wealthy, but don't own a TV set. They prefer that their daughter call them by their first names (Judy and Bill) instead of Mom and Dad. They're liberal and non-religious.
The Aaronses, like most people in Lark Creek, are Christian fundamentalists, but they only attend church once a year - on Easter Sunday - because Mrs. Aarons "got mad at the preacher."
Jess and Leslie don't become friends when they first meet. Leslie joins Mrs. Myers' class and then runs against the boys in the races at recess. Unfortunately, she beats Jess in the heat, eliminating him from the races and crushing his dream of being the fastest kid in the fifth grade.
Nevertheless, when Gary Fulcher, a bully, refuses to let Leslie run in the finals, Jess stands up for her. Fulcher lets her run, and she beats him. She outruns the other boys as well, humiliating them. That's no way to start a friendship, but soon, Jess and Leslie become inseparable.
Deciding that she and Jess need a place of their own, Leslie chooses a forest clearing on the other side of a creek bed near their homes. In order to reach their secret land, they swing across the creek bed on an old rope tied to a tree branch.
Leslie names their magic kingdom Terabithia. There, they rule as king and queen, though Jess, who is in awe of Leslie, feels unworthy of being her king. In Terabithia, Jess and Leslie grow closer as she draws him into her world of imagination.
There, no enemies - not the imaginary giants from Leslie's stories or their real-life foes can defeat them. Leslie builds up Jess's low self-esteem and makes him feel good about himself. Though nervous around them at first, Jess grows close to Leslie's parents as well, as they too introduce him to a world he never knew existed.
Together, there's nothing that Jess and Leslie can't do. When another bully, Janice Avery, steals food from Jess' little sister May Belle, he and Leslie get even by playing a brilliantly conceived and executed practical joke to humiliate Janice in front of the other kids.
Later, when Jess hears Janice crying in the girls' bathroom, he gets Leslie to reach out to her. They learn that she is being abused by her father - brutally beaten - which is why she became a bully.
Though Jess likes Leslie's parents, he's uncomfortable having her over at his house. His sisters tease him about his "girlfriend," his mother hates Leslie's boyish looks and clothes, and his father keeps "fretting that his only son did nothing but play with girls," and is "worried about what would become of it."
When Leslie asks if she can go to church with Jess and his family for Easter services, (she's never been to a church before) his mother grudgingly gives her permission. Leslie shows up for church nicely dressed and is well mannered.
On the way home, Leslie wonders why Jess, who is a Christian, hates church so much while she, a nonbeliever, thinks that the story of Jesus is beautiful. May Belle warns her that she has to believe in the Bible, or else God will send her to Hell when she dies. Leslie disagrees.
The closer Jess grows to Leslie, the less he thinks about Miss Edmunds, the music teacher he had a crush on. But one morning, Jess is stunned when she unexpectedly invites him out to an art gallery in Washington.
Thrilled to be able to spend time with Miss Edmunds outside of music class, he goes off with her, asking his sleeping mother for permission. He forgets to call Leslie and tell her that he won't be meeting her in Terabithia that day.
Jess loves the art gallery, and immediately chastises himself for not inviting Leslie along. It's just not the same without her. He promises himself that he will invite her next time. Sadly, there won't be a next time. When Jess returns home, he finds his family worried, his mother in tears.
His older sister Brenda breaks the news: Leslie is dead. His father explains that she had been swinging on the rope to Terabithia when it broke. She fell, struck her head, and drowned in the creek. The family thought that Jess had been killed, too.
Disbelieving them at first, the terrible realization hits Jess like a punch in the stomach and he takes off running - as if by running, he could keep Leslie alive. His father brings him home. Jess experiences all the stages of the bereaved: denial, anger, fear, guilt, and sorrow.
He and his parents go to a gathering at the Burkes' house to pay respects. The experience is unreal to him. Afterward, Jess struggles to deal with his grief. The only way he can cope with his loss is to use all the inner strength that Leslie had given him.
He decides to repay her for her kindness by passing it along. He builds a bridge to Terabithia and brings his neglected little sister May Belle into the magical kingdom, making her the new queen.
Katherine Paterson's powerful, emotional story won the Newbery Award the year it was published. Over 30 years later, it continues to touch the hearts and minds of new generations of readers.
Surprisingly, Bridge To Terabithia holds the distinction of being the most banned and challenged children's book of all time, as it often appears on teachers' assigned reading lists for classroom study.
The novel still raises the ire of disgruntled parents and conservative groups who complain about the novel's bleakness, stark realism, themes of death and grief, dialectic use of mildly profane language, alleged ridiculing of authority figures and negative depictions of Christians and Christianity.
These criticisms are surprising, considering that the author is the wife of a Presbyterian minister. Religious themes are handled in an honest, realistic way. Due to the religious dogma he was raised to believe in, Jess's faith is no comfort to him at all in his greatest time of need.
On the contrary, he's terrified that God will send Leslie Burke to Hell for being a non-believer. His father assures him otherwise, telling him that "God don't send no little girls to Hell." But Jess still worries about Leslie's soul.
Bridge To Terabithia has been adapted into other media over the years. The first adaptation was an audio dramatization released by Newbery Award Records in 1979. Sold only to schools as a study aid, this dramatization is excellent, with great voice acting, music, and sound effects.
I got my copy of the record on eBay. The 50-minute recording would be edited down to almost half its length and used as the soundtrack for a 1981 Bridge To Terabithia filmstrip set, which I also have.
There were two unabridged audiobook releases of Bridge To Terabithia. The first, released by Recorded Books in 1996, is read by actor Tom Stechschulte, who gives one of the best audiobook performances I've ever heard, his rich baritone voice resonating the power of the story.
The second audiobook, released in 2004 by Harper Children's Audio, features a flat and uninspired reading by actor Robert Sean Leonard. The 2007 movie tie-in release of this audiobook features a bonus interview with Katherine and David Paterson, which is the only reason to buy it.
In 1996, Katherine Paterson co-wrote a musical stage play adaptation of Bridge To Terabithia which her son David would produce and perform at elementary schools. The play would also be performed around the world in various languages.
The musical soundtrack appears on the cassette-only release, Bridge To Terabithia and Other Musicals, which includes the musical soundtracks for two other plays based on novels by Katherine Paterson: The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks and The Great Gilly Hopkins.
I ordered my copy of the cassette from the only store that sold it - a children's bookstore in New York City called Books of Wonder. I also have a copy of the play script, which is sold by its publisher - Samuel French, Inc.
Bridge To Terabithia was filmed twice. It was first adapted in 1985 as an episode of the PBS TV series, Wonderworks - a zero-budget, horribly written, poorly acted episode of a series that usually produced quality adaptations of children's literature.
David Paterson, who grew up to become a playwright, described it as being "the crazy cousin that nobody talks about... no one on our side was either involved with it or happy with the final product."
Fans of the book, myself included, believed that it would never be adapted as a quality film because of its controversial nature. However, in 2007, Disney's Walden Media division produced a feature film version of Bridge To Terabithia.
With David Paterson serving as producer and co-writer, the movie turned out to be a faithful (albeit modernized) adaptation that beautifully captured all the emotion of the story. It was lovingly directed by animator Gabor Csupo in his first live-action film.
The movie featured stunning performances by young leads Josh Hutcherson and AnnaSophia Robb as Jess Aarons and Leslie Burke. They're backed by a stellar supporting cast, including Robert Patrick as Mr. Aarons and Zooey Deschanel as Miss Edmunds.
Although the "Disneyfied" screenplay tones down the story (the book is much darker) and omits or waters down the most controversial elements of the novel, the movie still ignited a firestorm of controversy due to deceitful marketing practices over which the filmmakers had no control.
Hoping to attract a large audience, Disney falsely advertised the film as a fantasy similar to The Chronicles Of Narnia. Parents and children unfamiliar with the book went to the movie expecting to see what was advertised.
Instead, they saw a deep and sad story that really had little to do with fantasy. The marketing also drove away fans of the book (like me) who believed that the story they loved so much had been butchered yet again.
The Bridge To Terabithia movie is currently available on standard and Blu-Ray DVD. I wholeheartedly recommend that you see it - after you read the book, which is a masterpiece of contemporary children's literature.
Quote Of The Day
"When people ask me what qualifies me to be a writer for children, I say I was once a child. But I was not only a child, I was better still, a weird little kid." - Katherine Paterson
Today's video features Katherine Paterson discussing the writing of Bridge To Terabithia on Author Visits. Enjoy!
Thursday, October 20, 2016
This Day In Literary History
On October 20th, 1854, the legendary French poet Arthur Rimbaud was born. He was born Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud in Charleville, France. When he was six years old, his father abandoned the family.
Captain Frederic Rimbaud, a Legion D'Honneur award winning soldier, left to rejoin his regiment and never returned, having tired of domestic life. Arthur and his siblings were raised alone by their mother, a domineering, controlling, fanatically devout Catholic.
In 1862, believing that her children were spending too much time with the local poor kids and being influenced by them, Madame Rimbaud moved the family to the Cours D'Orleans, where the living conditions were better.
Instead of being taught at home by their mother, Arthur Rimbaud and his brother attended school for the first time at the Pension Rossatr. To push them to get good grades, Madame Rimbaud would force them to learn a hundred lines of Latin verse, then withhold their meals if they recited the verse incorrectly.
As a boy, Arthur Rimbaud hated school and his mother's constant control and supervision - he and his brother were not allowed to leave her sight until their late teens. At the age of nine, Arthur wrote a 700-word essay voicing his objections to having to learn Latin in school.
When he was eleven years old, he had his first communion. Despite his intellect and his fiercely individualistic nature, he became as fanatically devout a Catholic as his mother, which led his schoolmates to call him un sale petit cagot - a dirty little hypocrite.
Though most of his reading as a child was confined to the Bible, the young Arthur Rimbaud also enjoyed fairy tales and adventure stories. Though he disliked school, he became an outstanding student and was at the head of the class in all of his subjects except science and mathematics.
His schoolmasters noted with awe Arthur's ability to absorb large quantities of material. In 1869, at the age of fifteen, he won eight prizes in school. The following year, he won seven.
Around the same time, while studying at the College de Charleville, Arthur's mother hired a private tutor for him, Father Ariste Lheritier, who was the first person to encourage Arthur to write.
The teenage Rimbaud's first published poem, Les Etrennes des Orphelines, (The Orphans' New Year's Gift) appeared in the January 2nd, 1870 issue of the Revue pour Tous magazine. Two weeks later, a new teacher, Georges Izambard, arrived at Rimbaud's school and became his literary mentor.
When the Franco-Prussian War broke out, Izambard left to enlist, and Rimbaud was devastated. He ran away to Paris and was arrested and imprisoned for a week. After returning home, he ran away again to escape his mother. He became a different person; he drank, wrote vulgar poems, and stole books from bookshops.
He abandoned his penchant for neatness and wore his hair long. Later, he wrote to his old teacher Izambard about his method of achieving poetic enlightenment through "a long, intimidating, immense, and rational derangement of the senses."
Rimbaud claimed that "the sufferings are enormous, but one must be strong, be born a poet, and I have recognized myself as a poet." A friend encouraged him to write to Paul Verlaine, a prominent Symbolist poet, after Rimbaud's letters to other poets went unanswered.
So, he sent Verlaine two letters, which contained several of his poems, including the dazzling, hypnotic, and shocking Le Dormeur du Val - The Sleeper of the Vale. Impressed, Verlaine wrote back.
He sent Rimbaud a one-way ticket to Paris and told him to "Come, dear great soul. We await you; we desire you." Rimbaud arrived in September of 1871 and stayed briefly at Verlaine's home.
Although Paul Verlaine had a pregnant wife, he and Arthur Rimbaud engaged in a brief but torrid gay affair. While Verlaine had previously engaged in homosexual relationships, there is no evidence that Rimbaud had gay affairs before he met Verlaine. He would later become involved with women.
While he and Verlaine were together, they led a wild, vagabond life that was enhanced by their frequent use of absinthe and hashish. Rimbaud's outrageous behavior brought scandal to the Parisian literati. He became the archetypal enfant terrible, yet at the same time, he wrote striking, visionary works of verse.
In September of 1872, Rimbaud and Verlaine arrived in London. They lived in poverty in Bloomsbury and Camden Town, scraping together a meager living, mostly through teaching. Their relationship grew increasingly bitter.
By June of 1873, a frustrated Verlaine returned to Paris. The following month, he wrote to Rimbaud, telling him to meet him at the Hotel Liege in Brussels. The reunion was a disaster.
They argued incessantly and Verlaine drank heavily. He bought a revolver and ammunition, and shot at Rimbaud twice in a drunken rage. The first shot missed him, but the second grazed his wrist.
Rimbaud dismissed his injury as superficial and declined to press charges. But after the shooting, when Verlaine accompanied Rimbaud to the train station in Brussels, his bizarre behavior made Rimbaud fear that he was going insane.
Rimbaud begged a policeman to arrest Verlaine for his own good - and for Rimbaud's safety. Verlaine was charged with attempted murder. In the resulting investigation, his intimate correspondences with Rimbaud were uncovered and used against him.
Rimbaud withdrew his criminal complaint, but the judge sentenced Verlaine to two years imprisonment anyway, because of his wife's accusations of homosexuality. After the trial, Rimbaud returned home to Charleville and completed his famous epic work Une Saison en Enfer (A Season In Hell), a masterpiece of Symbolist prose poetry.
In 1874, he returned to London with his friend, poet Germain Noveau. There, Rimbaud wrote and assembled his groundbreaking prose poetry collection, Les Illuminations (Illuminations). The following year, after Paul Verlaine was released from prison, Rimbaud met him for the last time.
Arthur Rimbaud later gave up writing and settled into a quiet, steady working life. Some say that he had become fed up with the wild life; others speculate that he intended to save up enough money so he could afford to live independently as a carefree poet.
He continued to travel extensively throughout Europe, mostly on foot. In May of 1876, he became a soldier for the Dutch Colonial Army in order to travel to Indonesia for free, after which, he promptly deserted and sailed back to France.
In December of 1878, Rimbaud went to Cyprus, where he worked for a construction company as the foreman of a stone quarry. Five months later, he had to leave after contracting typhoid fever.
In 1880, Rimbaud settled in Aden, Yemen as an employee for the Bardey agency. Four years later, he left Bardey's and became an independent merchant in Harar, Ethiopia, dealing mostly in coffee and weapons.
He took native women as lovers and lived with an Ethiopian mistress for a time. He became close friends with Ras Makkonen, the governor of Harar and father of future Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie.
The following year, in February 1881, Rimbaud developed a pain in his right knee that he thought was arthritis. A British doctor in Aden mistakenly diagnosed Rimbaud's knee pain as tubercular synovitis.
When the pain grew agonizing, he returned to France for treatment. He was admitted to a hospital in Marseilles, where he was diagnosed with cancer. His right leg was amputated.
After a brief stay at the family home in Charleville, Rimbaud tried to return to Africa, but on the way, his health deteriorated and he found himself back at the same hospital in Marseilles in great pain.
Arthur Rimbaud was cared for by his younger sister, Isabelle, until he died in Marseilles on November 10th, 1891, at the age of 37.
Quote Of The Day
"Genius is the recovery of childhood at will." - Arthur Rimbaud
Today's video features a reading of Arthur Rimbaud's poem Le Chercheuses de Poux (The Seekers of Lice) in English. Enjoy!
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
This Day In Literary History
On October 19th, 1946, the famous English writer Philip Pullman was born in Norwich, England. His father, Alfred Pullman, was a Royal Air Force pilot. His job allowed the family to travel frequently.
Philip once attended school in Southern Rhodesia. When he was seven years old, his father was killed in a plane crash. His mother later remarried and the family moved again, first to Australia, then Wales, then back to England.
Around this time, Philip Pullman became interested in comic books, a medium he continues to express his admiration for, from the old style comics to the modern graphic novels of today.
As a middle school student, he read John Milton's classic epic poem, Paradise Lost, which would prove to be a major influence on his most famous series of novels, a trilogy whose title comes from a line in Milton's poem.
Pullman received his college education at Exeter College, Oxford, but "did not really enjoy the English course." He graduated in 1968 and embarked on a career as a teacher.
While he taught middle school children, he also wrote school plays and began work on his first book, The Haunted Storm, a fantasy novel geared toward young adult readers, which would be published in 1972.
Although it won him the New English Library's Young Writer's Award that year, Pullman considers The Haunted Storm his worst book and refuses to discuss it.
Pullman's second book, Galatea, a fantasy novel geared toward adults, was published six years later, in 1978. He did not publish another novel until 1982, when Count Karlstein was released.
Originally written as a school play for his students, it made Pullman's name as a young adult novelist. Count Karlstein is set in Karlstein, a Swiss village, circa 1816.
The evil nobleman Count Karlstein obtained his wealth and position by making a deal with Zamiel, the Demon Huntsman. The Count's part of the bargain requires him to present Zamiel with a human sacrifice within ten years, on Halloween night.
The time has now come, so the Count plans on sacrificing his young nieces, Lucy and Charlotte, to the Demon Huntsman. His maidservant, Hildi Kelmar, overhears his plan and determines to save the girls.
Pullman would continue to write great young adult novels. Spring-Heeled Jack (1989), was a comic adventure inspired by the real life monster that supposedly haunted Victorian England.
In Pullman's novel, Spring-Heeled Jack is not a monster at all but a superhero mistaken for a monster. He tries to save three orphaned children from evil orphanage director Mr. Killjoy and his horrid assistant, Miss Gasket, in a delightfully demented parody of Dickens.
In addition to his fantasy novels, Pullman has also written some great non-fantasy novels. In The Broken Bridge, (1990) 16-year-old Ginny, a half-English, half-Haitian girl, lives with her father in a coastal Welsh village. A social worker arrives with some shocking news: Ginny's father had a child with another woman.
The woman is dying, and her son needs a home. The revelation that she has a white half-brother she never knew about turns Ginny's world upside-down and inspires her to investigate the mystery of her own life, and that of her long-dead Haitian mother.
Five years later, in 1995, Philip Pullman published the first volume of his most famous work - a series of novels called the His Dark Materials trilogy. This brilliant, dazzling series is set in an alternate universe, on a world similar to Earth, in a country similar to Victorian England.
In this world, everyone has a daemon - an externalization of the soul that takes the form of a shape-shifting creature (and dear friend) that always remains by their side.
The heroine is a bright, brash, imaginative, and mischievous 12-year-old girl named Lyra Belacqua. Her daemon is called Pantalaimon. Lyra is an orphan who lives with her uncle, Lord Asriel, at Oxford University.
In the first book, Northern Lights, (retitled The Golden Compass for its U.S. release) Lord Asriel makes an important discovery - the true nature of Dust, the fabric of the universe.
This discovery threatens to invalidate the Catholic-esque monotheistic religion whose cruel and repressive clerical body, the Magisterium, rules the world. Lord Asriel's life is now endangered.
Meanwhile, Lyra finds herself at the center of a prophecy. She is the chosen one who will not only bring down the Magisterium on her world, but will also bring about a revolution in Heaven.
The being known and worshiped as God is actually not a benevolent creator god but an evil, dictatorial angel called Metatron who seized power over Heaven and the universe from The Authority - the first angel to emerge from the Dust - who is now aged and dying.
In The Subtle Knife, the second book in the trilogy, Lyra meets Will Parry, a boy her age from another universe and world (ours) who becomes her first love and partner in the prophecy.
The prophecy is a reversal of Milton's classic epic poem Paradise Lost. Lyra and Will become the new Adam and Eve, but instead of causing the fall of Man with their sin of fornication, they cause the fall of Metatron (God) and save Man.
Where the Harry Potter novels invoked the wrath of religious conservatives over the issue of witchcraft, the His Dark Materials trilogy made them go ballistic.
Philip Pullman was accused of blasphemy, anti-Catholicism, and promoting atheism to children. Others complained about the books' violence, gore, sexual content, and the heroine who is disobedient by nature and an accomplished liar.
The most (allegedly) objectionable elements of the story occur in the third book, The Amber Spyglass. Lyra and Will free the Authority from confinement so he can die peacefully and return to the Dust. Although an act of mercy, critics see this as the symbolic killing of God.
In order to fulfill the prophecy, Will and Lyra make love. The sex scene is tastefully handled, as is a previous awakening of sexual feelings within Lyra. The books still faced the specter of censorship.
Even though Pullman's American publisher, Scholastic, Inc, censored some passages in the U.S. version of The Amber Spyglass that they deemed inappropriate, the entire trilogy of novels still faces challenges and bans in the United States.
Conservative British columnist Peter Hitchens denounced the His Dark Materials novels as an atheist rebuttal of C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, a series of novels that Pullman always hated.
Surprisingly, the novels and Pullman's outspoken criticisms of religion were defended by, of all people, Rowan Williams, England's Archbishop of Canterbury, who also said that the author's criticisms of organized religion were valid.
In December of 2007, Hollywood movie studio New Line Cinema released a feature film adaptation of the first book of the His Dark Materials series, The Golden Compass.
Unfortunately, squeamish studio bosses demanded a film that would not offend religious groups in any way, so the screenplay obliterated most of the storyline. That didn't stop religious groups from mounting protests against the film.
The movie proved to be a huge critical and commercial failure for New Line Cinema. It cost around $200 million dollars to make, and only earned the studio a total of $70 million at the box office.
However, the movie performed surprisingly well internationally, earning nearly $300 million more, but New Line Cinema didn't see a dime of it. Those profits went to overseas distributors, as New Line had sold them the rights to finance the expensive project.
Ultimately, it wasn't the protests but New Line's decision to radically change the story to appease religious groups that sank The Golden Compass at home. The studio announced that it would not adapt the rest of the His Dark Materials series for the screen.
Philip Pullman continues to expand the His Dark Materials series. He has already published two companion novellas, Lyra's Oxford, (2003) and Once Upon A Time In The North (2008). He is currently working on the fourth novel in the series, tentatively titled The Book Of Dust.
Pullman's most recent novel, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, published in the spring of 2010, is a fictionalized biography of Jesus. In it, the Virgin Mary gives birth to identical twin sons - Jesus and his brother, Christ.
While the outgoing and sickly Jesus becomes the popular one, his devoted brother Christ observes his ministry and records his every word and deed, making ordinary acts seem like miracles through his embellishments.
Although he means well at first, Christ allows himself to be swept up in the politics and plots of corrupt, power-hungry men, which ultimately results in the formation of the institutional Church.
In 2012, Pullman published a new English retelling of the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales. The 448 page book featured fifty stories, including classics such as Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, and Hansel and Gretel, along with footnotes and commentary.
Quote Of The Day
"We don't need lists of rights and wrongs, tables of do's and don'ts. We need books, time, and silence. Thou Shalt Not is soon forgotten, but Once Upon a Time lasts forever." - Philip Pullman
Today's video features a lecture given by Philip Pullman at Open University in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England. Enjoy!
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
This Day In Literary History
On October 18th, 1773, the legendary African-American poet Phillis Wheatley was emancipated from slavery. She was born in Gambia, Senegal sometime in 1753. At the young age of seven, she was captured by slave traders.
Phillis was shipped to Boston, Massachusetts. Not long after she arrived in America, (which was still under British rule at the time) she was sold on the auction block to John Wheatley, a wealthy merchant and tailor.
He bought the little girl so his wife, Susanna, could have her own personal servant. Since she had come on a slave ship called The Phillis, she was given the name Phillis Wheatley.
The Wheatley family was known for their liberalism and progressive ideas, one of which was that slaves should be taught how to read and write. That was a very controversial idea, especially in the Southern states.
In the South, it was actually illegal to teach a slave to read and write. And the idea of any female receiving an education was highly unusual and considered radical in 18th century America.
Nevertheless, little Phillis began her education, tutored by the Wheatleys' teenage daughter, Mary. As the lessons continued, Mary was amazed by the little slave girl's intellectual gifts and hunger for learning.
John Wheatley was so impressed he decided that Phillis' education should take precedence over her work as a slave. Most of her household chores were done by other slaves.
By the time she was twelve, Phillis Wheatley had become fluent in Greek and Latin, translating difficult Biblical passages from those languages into English.
She began studying the works of Alexander Pope, John Milton, Virgil, Homer, and Horace, which would kindle her passion for poetry and influence her own writing.
In 1773, the Wheatleys sent an ailing Phillis, accompanied by their son Nathaniel, to London to recover her health. There, she would meet the Lord Mayor of London and other prominent members of British society. She dazzled them with her poetry.
Phillis' admirers couldn't believe that a Boston publisher had refused to publish her work simply because she was a black slave. She made some powerful new friends, including the Countess of Huntingdon and the Earl of Dartmouth.
With their help, her classic poetry collection, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral was finally published - not in Boston, but in London. It became a huge hit in England.
Later that year, in October of 1773, Phillis Wheatley was emancipated from slavery - freed by the family that owned her. Unfortunately, under Massachusetts law, she would not gain her full rights as a free woman until her former master died.
Phillis' poetry went practically unnoticed in America until 1775, when her poem To His Excellency George Washington was published. Washington read the poem and was moved by her words.
Washington was so moved, in fact, that he invited Phillis to his home so he could thank her personally. The legendary writer and philosopher Thomas Paine republished her poem in the Pennsylvania Gazette.
Another of her admirers was the legendary Scottish-American naval hero John Paul Jones, who had an officer deliver some of his own writings to "Phillis the African favorite of the Nine [muses] and Apollo."
Phillis supported the American Revolution. Unfortunately, during the revolution, Americans lost interest in poetry, devoting most of their reading time to newspapers, magazines, pamphlets and other publications related to the war.
In 1778, John Wheatley died, and Phillis became a legally free woman with full rights guaranteed and protected by Massachusetts state law. Sadly, for her, freedom wasn't much of a blessing.
She married John Peters, a free man and grocer, but the marriage was rocky as John's financial mismanagement plunged them into poverty. After John was sent to debtor's prison, Phillis took a job as a scullery maid to support herself and their sickly infant son.
The backbreaking work took a toll on her already frail health. Phillis Wheatley died of illness on December 5th, 1784, at the age of 31. Her infant son died a few hours later.
Phillis is rightfully considered the founding mother of African-American literature. As a black writer and intellectual, she disproved the racist theories used to justify slavery.
She summed up her views on slavery and race in these lines from her classic poem, On being brought from Africa to America:
Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there's a God, that there's a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
"Their colour is a diabolic dye."
Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain,
May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train.
Quote Of The Day
"The world is a severe schoolmaster, for its frowns are less dangerous than its smiles and flatteries, and it is a difficult task to keep in the path of wisdom." - Phillis Wheatley
Today's video features a reading of Phillis Wheatley's classic poem, To a Lady on the Death of Three Relations. Enjoy!
Monday, October 17, 2016
I am thankful to you and want to inform you of my success in the anthology world:
1. 31 Days of October, Shae Hamrick, is a collection of ghostly tales to celebrate Halloween. My story takes a slightly different take on this occasion, Living Sacrifice. It is available through Amazon and Goodreads.com.
2. Additional Christmas Moments by Yvonne Lehman. This is a faith-based collection of stories and reflections for the Christmas season. My story, No Room in the Sky, is about a plane trip to visit in-laws in a neighboring state. Weather forces the trip to be by bus instead.
Hey, I'm in the smiling-speaker lineup for the Okanagan Valley Writers Festival in Penticton, BC, Canada, April 9-7, 2017.
I'm slated to give 3 workshops: Catching Readers' Attention: Hooks and Bait; Fiction Flaws: Find Them, Fix Them; Fictionalizing Real Life. Please pass this info on to folks who may be interested.
Released "Paper or Plastic? The Grocery Store Chronicles," my memoir of working as a senior-citizen night cashier chronicling the odd, uplifting, and sometimes sad slices of life in a chain-based grocery store in the 'hood’ from July 2013 to November 2014.
It's up on Amazon and will be up on other sites shortly. Note the paperback and Kindle versions are not linked as of yet.
Began my tenure as a member of the steering committee for the Central Carolina Community College Creative Writing Committee, one of only two junior colleges with a writing degree program in the U.S.A.
Was asked for ten copies of “Kill All Cats,” for the Wake County Library System (North Carolina) after they reviewed it. “We love it.”
A story of mine, "The Visitor," is up in the October issue of Front Porch Review.
Those who've been here for some time may recall helping me with the thriller First Tuesday last year. It will be available free on Amazon Monday as part of a promotion. You're included on the Acknowledgments page, too, of course!
My article for Mint published today.
Judith Kelly Quaempts
Published second novel, A Creek Named Sorrow, on Amazon.
Friday, October 14, 2016
This Day In Literary History
On October 14th, 1888, the famous Kiwi writer Katherine Mansfield was born in Wellington, New Zealand. She was born Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp. The third of four children, she had two older sisters and a younger brother.
Her father was a banker who would become the chairman of the Bank of New Zealand and be knighted as well. The Australian-born English novelist Elizabeth von Arnim was her cousin.
Although her first published short stories would appear in the High School Reporter and Wellington Girls' High School magazines, the teenage Katherine Mansfield had musical aspirations.
She was an accomplished cellist who initially planned to become a professional musician; she developed a crush on fellow cellist Arnold Trowell, whose father was her music teacher, but her feelings were mostly unreciprocated.
Mansfield began keeping journals when she was nine years old. She wrote of her growing alienation from provincial white New Zealand society and her disdain for her fellow whites over the repression of the Maori (New Zealand aboriginal) people. In her fiction, she depicted Maoris in a positive or sympathetic light.
In 1903, Mansfield moved to London, where she attended Queen's College with her sisters. While continuing with her cello studies, she contributed to the school newspaper. She eventually became editor of the paper, introducing its readers to the French Symbolists and Oscar Wilde. Her peers regarded her as vivacious and charismatic.
From 1903 to 1906, Mansfield traveled through Europe, living mostly in Belgium and Germany. After completing her schooling in England, she returned to her home in New Zealand, where she began her writing career. She quickly tired of the provincial life and returned to London, falling into the bohemian life.
Katherine Mansfield was known for her restless and rebellious nature, so the bohemian life suited her. She was bisexual and had many lovers, mostly male, though she had some lesbian relationships. One was with Ida Baker, a South African fellow writer who would become a lifelong friend.
In 1908, when she returned to London, Katherine sought out her old friends, the Trowell family. Her teenage crush Arnold Trowell was involved with another woman. Katherine soon found herself involved in a passionate affair with his brother, Garnet.
By 1909, Mansfield had become pregnant with Garnet's child, but his parents disapproved of their relationship, so they broke up. She hastily married George Bowden, a singing teacher eleven years her senior, but left him the same night after failing to consummate the marriage.
Her mother came to see her and blamed the breakup of the marriage on Ida Baker. She sent Katherine to Bad Worishofen, a spa town in Bavaria, where she miscarried after trying to lift a heavy suitcase and place it on top of a cupboard.
Mansfield's life in Bavaria had a major effect on her writing. She was introduced to the works of Anton Chekhov, who would prove to be a bigger influence on her than Oscar Wilde. In January 1910, she returned to London, where she had over a dozen works published in The New Age.
A socialist magazine edited by A.R. Orage, it was a highly regarded intellectual publication. In 1911, Mansfield's first short story collection, In A German Pension, was published. A hit with critics, the book would be greatly enjoyed by readers during World War I, due to its negative portrayal of Germans.
The Great War had a major effect on Katherine Mansfield's life and writing. In 1915, news that her younger brother, to whom she was very close, had been killed in action shocked and traumatized her.
To cope with her loss, she took refuge in her memories of him, basing her fiction on nostalgic reminisces of their childhood together. In one of her poems, she writes of a dream she had shortly after her brother's death:
By the remembered stream my brother stands
Waiting for me with berries in his hands...
"These are my body. Sister, take and eat."
Mansfield's best collection of short stories, The Garden Party and Other Stories, published in 1922, was also inspired by her childhood in New Zealand.
In 1911, Mansfield submitted a short story to a new avant-garde literary magazine called Rhythm. The editor, John Middleton Murry, rejected it as too lightweight.
So, Mansfield submitted another story, The Woman at the Store, a dark tale of murder and insanity. Not only did Murry publish it, he and Mansfield began a seven-year relationship that resulted in their marriage in 1918. Their life, however, was not a happy one.
Stephen Swift, the publisher of Rhythm, fled and left John responsible for all the magazine's debts. Katherine's health began to deteriorate from, among other things, an undiagnosed case of gonorrhea. She left John twice, but returned to him each time.
In 1915, she had an affair with French writer Francis Carco after visiting him in Paris. She retold the story of this relationship in her short story, An Indiscreet Journey. That same year, she learned of her brother's death in the war.
In 1916, Katherine Mansfield entered her most prolific period as a writer, and her relationship with John Murry improved. She broadened her literary acquaintances, meeting great writers such as D.H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, Lytton Strachey, and Bertrand Russell through social gatherings and mutual friends.
Unfortunately, in December of 1917, Mansfield fell ill and was diagnosed with tuberculosis. In April of 1918, her divorce from her husband George Bowden was at last finalized, so she married John Murry. The following year, he became the editor of a prestigious weekly journal called Athenaeum.
Mansfield wrote over a hundred reviews for the magazine. During the winter of 1918-19, because of her poor health, she stayed in a villa in San Remo, Italy, with her friend and ex-lover, Ida Baker.
Their relationship became strained, and Katherine wrote to John of her depression, so he came to stay over the Christmas season. But their relationship too became strained and they often lived apart.
Katherine Mansfield spent her last years seeking unorthodox treatments for her tuberculosis, but none of them worked. She died on January 9th, 1923, at the age of 34. She was a master of the short story, a modernist, an early feminist, and a progressive thinker ahead of her time.
Quote Of The Day
“Looking back, I imagine I was always writing. Twaddle it was too. But better far write twaddle or anything, anything, than nothing at all.” - Katherine Mansfield
Today's video features a documentary on Katherine Mansfield. Enjoy!