I Said I’d Chill Out This Year…

…and I have. Kind of. My focus for 2017 was meant to be working hard in my new day job, enjoying London, spending time in nature, and finding an agent for my recently finished YA novel ‘The Arcade’.

I’ve been doing all those things. But I’ve also taken on two small writing projects on the side, because I can’t help it! Here’s what I’ve been up to:

Blogging about magic
Back when I lived in Vancouver in 2011-2013, I worked at a shop on Granville Island called ‘Dragonspace‘. It was, and still is, a dragon shop. That is, it sells dragons and other mythological, esoteric, Celtic and fantasy-related items. I love that place. I still think about it all the time, and it will always be a second home for me. So when my old friends there contacted me and asked if I’d want to write the blog for the recently launched Dragonspace website, I had to say yes! Writing these kinds of features does not feel like work at all, and I can’t wait to do more. You can read what I’ve done so far, and check out our beautiful inventory, here.

Road-tripping, in fiction and real life
I’ve written a ‘social story’ for LongShorts, a digital platform featuring stories told through a social feed by fictional characters (as if you were reading the characters’ Twitter feeds). My story is aptly called ‘Road Tripping’ and is about three unlikely road companions traveling through Western Canada and the troubles they’ve left behind. You can read a preview here, and the whole story via the app. I’m in the process of writing Part II at the moment.

I also went on a real road trip last weekend to the Jurassic Coast and Cornwall. We went fossil hunting along Charmouth Beach, drank until 2am in a campsite bar with Cornish locals, spent Easter Sunday at the famous Roskillys Farm eating as much clotted cream ice-cream as we could fit, admired the turquoise waters of St Ives, visited the breath-taking Tintagel Castle of Arthurian legend, and had lunch at Rick Stein’s bistro in Padstow and then saw Rick Stein himself in the deli! I think when you’re an ex-pat in London, you always feel pressured to see as much of continental Europe as possible, but England has so many treasures itself and I love discovering them. They might not be as exotic, but they’re delightful.

Agent Hunting
I’m still seeking an agent/publisher for ‘The Arcade’. It’s the first book in an intended YA trilogy, and is a low-fantasy story with environmental threads. It’s set amongst a network of utopian islands (modelled off the Canadian Gulf Islands) that come under threat from a sinister outside force. More info readily available to anyone who might be interested!

Meeting New People
Tomorrow, I’m hosting my first attempt at a London Meetup group, focused on Walking + Storytelling, at Hampstead Heath (my favourite place in London) – details here. 

And finally, I’ve obviously been reading a lot. Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels truly transformed me, and taught me how honest and jagged good writing can be. Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle had me obsessed and reading in coffee shop lines for weeks. Ruth Ozeki’s ‘A Tale for the Time Being‘ and Eden Robinson’s ‘Monkey Beach‘ taught me so much about atmosphere and location as character. And Patti Smith’s ‘Just Kids‘, Joy Harjo’s ‘Crazy Brave‘ and Bill Bryson’s ‘The Life & Times of the Thunderbolt Kid‘ – all starkly different memoirs – had me absorbed in varying experiences of youth, privilege, and art, and gave me an unsettling realisation of how times have changed, and how they’ve stayed the same.

All in all, I feel at peace, frequently creatively inspired, and more comfortable in London week by week. More to come soon.

Kahli xoxo

My Friend, Fantasy

With the recent release of the first installment of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy, and the impending airing of the third season of HBO’s acclaimed Game of Thrones, I feel as if there’s been a renewed interest in the fantasy genre among my social circles as of late. This makes me happy, as I think fantasy sometimes gets a bad wrap among literary minded people.

While studying literature and writing at university, it was a constant source of frustration for me, and some of my peers, that fantasy was only ever begrudgingly touched on, and normally only in very specific discussions about genre or popular fiction. Whether or not any kinds of fantasy stories deserve a place in the ranks of ‘high’ literature is a debate I don’t want to start, nor do I feel I’m qualified to. What I will argue is that fantasy is definitely important.

Fantasy stems from mythology, legend and folklore, all of which gave birth to the the idea of creative storytelling as a whole. The concept of ‘story’ has evolved a lot since its beginnings, but I can’t shake the loyalty I feel to mythology and folklore. Even when I don’t intend to, I find elements of fantasy creeping into my writing. Mythology, particularly that of fantastical creatures, was the first kind of story I fell in love with as a fairy-fascinated child. And what you love as a child often sticks.

Tales Before TolkienI’m in charge of book buying at my work and I’ve recently made sure to have multiple copies of this book, Tales Before Tolkien: The Roots of Modern Fantasy, in stock. It’s a collection of what its editor, Douglas A. Anderson, calls kunstmärchen, a German word meaning ‘literary fairy tales’. These are fairy tales “composed by a single author rather than stories merely recorded from oral traditions.” From The Elves by Ludwig Tiek to The Woman of the Wood by A. Merrit, Tales Before Tolkien collects the stories that sparked the imagination of Tolkien and countless other fantasy writers after him. It’s a great anthology and seems to give more weight to fairy tales and fantasies than the oft-produced collections marketed mainly for children (not that these are less valuable! It’s just nice to see fairy tales being presented from all angles).

It’s been difficult for me, since graduating, to reconcile the seemingly clashing love I have for reading and writing both ‘literary’ and ‘fantasy’ fiction. I’ve been trying for a while to fuse the two together, and have only just managed in the last few months to stick to a novel idea that’s actually gained momentum and may see completion in the near future. Funnily enough, living away from Australia for the last two years has made me appreciate the myth and majesty of my homeland, and I’ve decided to set the story in its native bushland. So we’ll see what comes of it.

I’ve had numerous personal influences in my quest to find, and create, this fusion of fantasy and literature, with one of my favourites being Lev Grossman’s The Magicians series. It’s both wickedly intelligent and a bundle of fun. I had the pleasure of hearing Grossman talk on a panel in 2011, and his love for fantasy, and eagerness to play around with it as much as possible, is evident in person and on paper. I very fervently recommend it.

I’ll continue to chase my unicorn, and will definitely be updating if I have any success. For now, I’ll eagerly anticipate March 31st’s GoTs premiere, and leave you with two interesting observations on the topic of fantasy fiction and mythology from two great men who should know what they’re talking about.

“From the wildness of my heart I cannot exclude the question whether railway-engineers, if they had been brought up on more fantasy, might not have done better with all their abundant means than they commonly do.”

On Fairy-Stories, J. R. R Tolkien himself. (To me, this quote speaks to the idea of fantasy as a stimulus for creativity in general, be it artistic or technical. Keep in mind it was said during the 1930s).

“[Fantasy and sci-fi readers are] the best audience in the world to write for. They’re open-minded and intelligent. They want to think as well as feel, understand as well as dream. Above all, they want to be led into places that no one has ever visited before. It’s a privilege to tell stories to these readers, and an honor when they applaud the tales you tell.”

How To Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, Orson Scott Card (another great book I always try to have in stock at work).