January 20, 2022

Throwback Thursday: Knitting Winter, By Jason Lane

 


Something gleamed silver in the
light of the moon. From the bucket,
a thread of water rose...
'
Editor's Note: A gentle romance and an entrancing secret, meant to be shared, is the basis to today's charming Throwback Thursday tale by author, Jason Lane.

The bucket fell down the well with a rattle like old bones. You could hear it while coming along the road that ran alongside the small cottage, where the trees grew thick and the leaves flamed with autumn’s blaze. The splash was so faint Kent barely heard it, but he slowed when he saw Christina begin to agonizingly work the winch. He lingered, glanced at his still half full mail bag, then sighed and walked up the path.

“Here.”

Christina looked at him. She was very pale. Thin with her gossamer dress and soft brown hair. She didn’t smile, but she did step back and let him work the winch.

At last the bucket came up and he hauled it out. Some water splashed over, and Kent winced as it hit his hand.

“It’s cold,” Christina said, her voice soft. “I can carry it.”

“I’ve got it,” Kent said, hefting the bucket down.

She didn’t say anything else, but walked ahead and to the porch of the lonely little home. Kent had never seen the interior of the small cabin. He doubted anyone had. Christina had a reputation in town for being a little touched. She’d lived there with her grandmother as long as anyone in town could remember. The old woman was dead, as far as he knew.

“Here,” she said, indicating a space beside a rocking chair. A pair of ivory knitting needles rested on the seat, but he noticed there wasn’t any yarn.

“Your grandmother used to knit, didn’t she?” he said as he put the bucket down.

“She did.”

Kent stood in the awkward silence for a moment. “Um,” he said at last. “It’s getting kind of late in the season. The frost on the path and all… I come by every morning. If you want, I could maybe draw you some water when I come by.”

She tilted her head, her expression still as ever. “Alright,” she finally said.

Kent sighed. “Well, see you tomorrow.”

She didn’t even say goodbye. But her stare pricked the hairs on the back of his neck until he was around the corner and walking down the bald hills.
“You know,” Kent said as he drew the bucket back up. “I never see you around town.”

“I don’t go into town,” Christina said as she watched him work.

“You don’t? But, what do you do for groceries?”

“I have everything I need here,” she said.

“Right. Silly me for asking,” Kent grunted as the bucket rose to the top. He unhooked it and swung it about, carrying it towards the waiting chair. Christina followed slowly, watching him intently as he set the bucket down.

“So… you knit, then?” he asked.

“Yes,” Christina said.

“Nice. Nice. This late in the season, I bet a lot of people are looking for winter things. Coats and mitts and whatnot.”

“They are.”

He scratched his ear. “If uh… do people come by your place to buy them?”

“No. I don’t sell what I make.”

“Oh.”

Conversations with Christina tended to end like that. She never knitted when he was there, but before he rounded the corner he saw her take a seat and pick up those ivory needles to get to work.
“Can I look at those?”

Christina glanced between him and her needles. He saw her pale hands tighten. Then, reluctantly, she passed them to him. Kent saw her unease, and took the needles delicately, looking them over. “Oh,” he said, running his thumb down one. “There’s something carved on them. You can’t even tell. It’s so faint.”

“Yes,” Christina said. Her hands fidgeted and when Kent offered the needles back, she snatched them up.

“They’re very nice,” he said.

Christina held them close to her chest. She eyed him carefully.

“My mother knits,” he said. “She’s very good at it. I tell her that often.”

He’d gotten used to her silences after he spoke, and glanced at the forest that bordered the cabin. The cold had stripped the trees of leaves, leaving them barren, the red and gold of autumn bunched around trunks and roots, gleaming with frost like the treasures of a dragon’s hoard. “You should really dress for winter. It’s getting cold out.”

“It doesn’t bother me.”

“I guess.”

“The water from the well is very deep,” she said suddenly. “It’s the coldest in the area.”

“Oh. I never knew.”

Christina was quiet, looking out across the grounds of her home. “Are you coming tomorrow?” she asked.

“Oh. Yeah. Of course.”

She nodded, as if to herself. “Come tonight.”

“Tonight? Why?”

“I want to show you something.”
Christina wasn’t waiting for him by the well that evening. As he walked up the path to the cabin, he saw her at work, the knitting needles clicking. Something gleamed, silver in the milky light of the moon. Kent’s breath steamed as he approached, but he slowed when he saw what she was knitting with. From the bucket at her side a thread of water rose to her needles. Every click of the pale ivory turned that water to whitest snow, threading them into a great blanket on her lap.

Kent stood still, watching in awe as she worked. When the last droplets had traced their way down those needles, along those hidden signs worked in the bone, she stopped, rose and gathered up the soft white.

“Come.”

He followed her wordlessly from her cabin and through the woods. Not a sound disturbed their walk. The birds had hunkered down in their nests, the squirrels gathered in their holds, leaving a silence like the world held its breath. At the forest edge they stopped, and he found himself looking down the rolling hills and to the peaked homes of town. Christina grasped the edge of the cloth she’d sewn, and hurled it forward.

Kent watched as snow billowed out. Out. Further than he could believe. It fluttered down and draped the fields. The forests. The town. It stretched out and out across the horizon, blanketing the country with downy white.

Christina released the edge and looked over a world of virgin snow.

“Wow,” Kent breathed.

She turned his way. “Do you like it?”

“It’s beautiful,” he said.

And for the first time, he saw her smile. A smile like the dawn that lit up that winter world. “Thank you,” Christina said softly.

Kent swallowed. “Um,” he said, rubbing his arm. “If you… you know. Need help next year, I’ll be happy to help out. Of course. My route goes right by your place. And… well…”

She didn’t say anything. But she took his hand and held it tight. And together, they walked back to the cabin, and through the fresh falling snow.


Jason Lane has lived in Whitehorse, Yukon, all his life except for occasional visits to the southern climes, always to gravitate back towards the pole when winter calls. Weird tales and fantasy are his lifelong loves but science fiction always has a special place in his heart. He is a huge fan of Ray Bradbury and Terry Pratchett, and when not writing, can be found perusing the local used bookshop or libraries. His works have appeared in several publications including Tesseracts 21.

Cover: Amanda Bergloff @AMANDABERGLOFF

January 18, 2022

Enchanted Creators: Lauren Mills, By Molly Ellson

The fourth interviewee for our Enchanted Creators series is a true powerhouse of creative ability. She paints, she illustrates, she writes, she sculpts and she’s won awards for all four. 


You may recognise Lauren Mills’ beautifully illustrated versions of ‘Anne of Green Gables’ and ‘At the Back of the North Wind’. Or maybe ‘The Rag Coat’ and ‘Fairy Wings’ - original tales that she wrote and illustrated herself (the latter co-illustrated with husband, Denis Nolan).


One thing you should know above all else is that Lauren’s work sparkles with magic, and a lifelong adoration of fairy tales resonates through every piece she creates. Browsing through her extensive gallery is like taking an idyllic wander through The Secret Garden - every glance reveals fantasy, delicacy and wonder. You too can immerse yourself, right here.


Our favourite of course has to be the poem: ‘The Hedge Witch and the Fairies’, which Lauren penned and illustrated especially for Enchanted Conversation - but you’ll hear more about that, later.


It was an absolute honour to interview Lauren; she’s kind, thoughtful and beholds a unique talent. Please don’t hesitate to read on, you won’t be disappointed...

First of all, Lauren, thank you so much for agreeing to chat with Enchanted Conversation; we are so excited to learn more about you and your incredible work! I’m going to jump straight in with the big question: which fairytale is your favourite and why?


Ha! That’s a tough one! As far as images I love Snow White… her black hair, rose cheeks and snow white face and mostly because of all the little dwarves. I love painting crinkly, old character faces and I loved playing with trolls as a child - my mother used to make Tomtens. Little old people (elves, gnomes) are adorable to me. That is one reason I chose to retell “Tatterhood and the Hobgoblins”. I also love that story - the mysterious birth, the love between two very different sisters and the spunkiness of Tatterhood. And like Tatterhood, I had goats and ate with a wooden spoon when I was a student in California. That picture book (story) I did also seems to have meant the most to many young girls who felt different and have told me it helped them get through their childhood. I also love Beauty and the Beast because I think it’s so romantic.


You mentioned in a previous interview (https://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2016/02/06/illustrator-saturday-lauren-mills/) that, as a young teen, you were greatly inspired by Nancy Ekholm Burkert’s ‘Snow White’. What was it about Burket’s illustrations that affected you so? Do you have an affinity for Snow White?


I absolutely love the delicate technique Burkert used - I especially love the cover - She painted with colored inks, applied in tiny lines. Her Snow White cover also looks like my late sister who owned the book when I first saw it and it also looks like my daughter. It’s still my favorite book cover and I have the poster hanging in my studio.


You’ve written and illustrated countless tales and painted and sculpted beautiful works of art, but do you have a favourite project that you’ve worked on? If so, why is it your favourite?


Oh, I couldn’t choose… and that’s my problem. It’s usually my recent work. I’ve recently sculpted a little girl from Sandy Hook who wanted to grow up to have an animal sanctuary and used to tell butterflies, “Tell all your friends that I am kind.” I also wrote a picture book about her, which I just submitted to a publisher and am crossing my fingers. I’m crossing my fingers that we can sell 10 editions of the small sculpture to fund the life size sculpture that will be installed at the animal sanctuary named after the little girl: “The Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary”. I’m also enjoying painting in oil using gold or silver leaf in a 19th century PreRaphaelite style. I’d like to be as good as my heroes but the idea of doing a painting just to hang in a gallery and hope someone will buy it isn’t as enticing as doing paintings that tell a story and go together in a book that reaches many people - so that is why I’m excited about venues like Enchanted Conversation. There hasn’t been a market in years for fairy tales in the children’s picture book world, but maybe there will be for people like us!


Your sculptures range from life-like portraits, such as ‘Appalachian Woman’ to more whimsical figures, like ‘Legacy’. How do you capture that sense of magic in the latter?


That’s interesting that you picked up on that. “Legacy” was originally a young fairy girl dancing with a little boy and it was illustrating Yeats’ poem, “The Stolen Child”. I submitted it for consideration for the Winona Lake Park in Indiana that needed sculptures for various themes. They wanted to use that sculpture for the “Legacy” theme and asked if I’d change the girl to a grandma. So, I sculpted another that way. Even in my sculpture I’m illustrating fairy stories. 


When you’re not writing/painting/sculpting/illustrating, how do you relax or unwind?


I read fairy tales… from Enchanted Conversation and books about witches. And I spend a lot of time with my three Italian Greyhounds - two are puppies. My partner, Dennis Nolan, and I like to take walks in the woods; we are surrounded by hundreds of wooded acres and see a lot of wildlife. And I garden and make herbal concoctions. I especially like to make fairy mists and ointments with Sandalwood essential oil.


You wrote and illustrated the stunning poem, ‘The Hedge Witch and the Fairies’, for Enchanted Conversation, which we and our readership absolutely loved! What was your inspiration for writing the poem?


I had originally written it in first person from a child’s point of view, but when I changed it to a hedge witch, and [wrote in] third person, it really became a much better story. I liked the idea that she helped so many people (and probably animals) with little thanks but then thought there was no one who would come help her when she was ill, but the fairies had been watching and came to miraculously cure her… or I imagined that mothers and children came and helped her and she dreamt it was the fairies. I think someday I will be alone and people will gossip about that crazy witch in the woods who feeds all the chipmunks and the chickadees that eat out of her hand and the bear sometimes secretly watches from the woods and comes and steals the seeds.


As a self-proclaimed hedge witch, can you tell us a little more about the practice and how it is incorporated into your day-to-day life?


I grow roses, chamomile, echinacea, and lots of other herbs and make teas, tinctures, oils, creams, etc… But as I mentioned, I’m most attracted to the scented mists and body care. I also love to paint flowers. I would like to do a Grimoire - some sort of illustrated, calligraphed Faerie Botanica Notebook. Lots of plans and dreams and not enough time in the day. However, living like hermits now here at “Faun Hollow” in the woods - during a pandemic with my favorite places to go closed - does tend to slow down time a bit and helps me feel more creative. I like that no one will come inside the house which means I can leave messes and projects and herbs and puppy stuff about and not brush my hair if I’m too busy.


You’ve been on quite a journey to get where you are today, do you have any advice for budding creatives hoping to make it - especially in this digital age?


Yes - I would give the same advice I give to my daughter, students, and to myself: create every day because you can and because you love it.  Making a living from your creativity has nothing to do with being a successful artist (writer or whatever). It doesn’t matter how you make money to pay your bills… just make sure you don’t stop being creative and someday your love for it will attract others to your work. I like the quote by John Burton, “It is the love of the process that pulls one through the discipline necessary to master that craft.” I also would advise people in this digital age to make sure you are giving your senses nutrition by walking in the woods and through gardens, reading good books, looking at paintings… No matter how down I might be I’m always lifted when I walk in the woods and still get that magical child-like feeling there which inspires me and stirs my creative juices. 


Check out more about Lauren:
@laurenmillsart 

Molly Ellson is EC’s assistant editor. She also does a lot of social media promotion and writes some of our posts, like this one. EC needs your help to keep chugging along, so if you enjoy this post and others like it, please consider becoming a Patreon patron.


All images are by Lauren Mills

January 16, 2022

Chosen Authors for February 2022

 

The 8 authors chosen for the February issue (to be published on Feb. 15th) are:
  • Megan Baffoe
  • James Dodds
  • Jordan Hirsch
  • Ryan E. Holman
  • Helen Liptak
  • Rachel Nussbaum
  • Stephanie Parent
  • Lorraine Schein
EC received a large amount of well written works for February and choosing the final eight was difficult. We want to thank everyone who sent a story or poem in.  

If your work was not picked this time around, you can submit to a future issue. You can find out about the next submission window HERE.

Art: Florence Harrison, 1914

January 15, 2022

WINNER Announcement for the WeMoon Datebook Giveaway

CONGRATULATIONS

to

Rachel Walaskay and

Ron Bamberger

You are the two winners of our random drawing for the 2022 WeMoon Datebook!

 

Please send your mailing address to:

enchantedconversation@gmail.com

and we’ll get your new Datebooks in the mail to you.

Thank you to all who entered, and we wish everyone an enchanted January!

January 13, 2022

Throwback Thursday: The Frozen Bird, By Nancy Holzner

 

The bird sang of soft golden light
warming the world. When the song
ceased, the old woman wanted to cry...

Editor's note: The loneliness of winter, an unusual bird, and a woman's longing for another time is woven together in this bittersweet story reminiscent of a classic Russian fairy tale for today's Throwback Thursday...
One day in winter an old woman left her hut to gather firewood. The glare of sunlight on snow hurt her eyes. Her meager shawl offered little protection against the cold that made her bones ache. At every third or fourth step, her foot broke through the crusted snow, and twice she fell and dropped her bundle of sticks. 

When she fell a third time, she stayed on her hands and knees in the snow. Why get up? What difference did it make whether she froze here or in bed, shivering in her shawl and threadbare blanket? Yet she dreaded the thought that someone would find her like this, an ice-bound corpse on all fours, although she couldn’t imagine who would do the finding. It had been so long since she’d had a visitor.

The old woman rose and hugged herself, warming her hands in her armpits. She stretched her cold-kinked spine. When she could feel the blood moving in her veins, sluggish though it was, she bent to collect the scattered sticks.

That’s when she saw it. In a bush a few feet away perched a bird, its head raised as though in song. It was white as the snow, and as she approached it didn’t fly away. It didn’t move. The poor thing was frozen solid. Carefully she pried it from the branch. She cradled it in her hands and admired its perfection: feathers as delicate and precise as plumes of frost on a windowpane, eyes like icy dewdrops. A tiny icicle of tongue protruded from its beak. Perhaps, she thought, if I take it home and warm it by the stove it will sing to me. She slipped the frozen bird into her pocket.

Back in her hut, the old woman built up the fire, then settled the frozen bird near the stove. As she went about her tasks—sweeping the bare wooden floor, peeling a potato for her soup—she kept one eye on the creature. It remained unchanged: white and still, its beak slightly open as though poised to sing. What did its song sound like, she wondered.  

The old woman took off her shawl and fashioned it into a nest, tucking the bird into its folds. She nudged it closer to the stove. The room grew warm; heat reddened her cheeks as she carried her bowl of soup to the table. Yet the bird remained frozen. She lifted it gently and held it on her lap. She dribbled some broth into the open beak. But the bird didn’t swallow. The soup spilled from its mouth and froze into a tiny gem that fell into the woman’s lap. She held the crystal on her palm to examine it. It was beautiful—opalescent and sparkling with internal light, until the warmth of her hand melted it back to a drop of soup.

That night in bed, the old woman tried to count how many days had passed since the first snow. Was winter always so long? She couldn’t remember. She lay conscious of the small white frozen thing by the stove. Had she made a mistake bringing that fragment of winter into her home? She decided that, should it still refuse to thaw by morning, she’d return the bird to the place where she’d found it. With that, she fell into sleep and dreamed of spring.

She awoke to a freezing room and the word No! on her lips. She got up, wrapping her blanket around her, and went to check the bird. Nothing had changed. Of course, she thought. It’s not warm enough in here. She grabbed a stick of wood to build up the fire. A splinter speared her finger. She pulled it out, and blood welled from the wound. A drop fell.

Birdsong filled the hut.

The old woman looked. Her blood had fallen into the bird’s open beak. Its red tongue flitted as notes poured from its throat. The bird sang of soft golden light warming the world, of gentle breezes and sweet-smelling flowers. When the song ceased, the old woman wanted to cry.

The frozen bird sat by the stove, its head angled upward, the red tongue the only spot of color in its body.

The old woman squeezed another drop of blood from her finger.

This time, the bird’s song held memories of first love, of lash-lowered glances and blushing cheeks, of clasped hands and furtive kisses. Tears brimmed, and when she wiped them away they froze on her cheek. She looked at her injured finger. The bleeding had ceased; the wound was sealed by a circle of ice.

The song ended. Pink tinged one wingtip.

That day, and in the days that followed, whenever the old woman wanted a song she cut her finger and dripped blood into the bird’s mouth. As the beautiful songs multiplied, ice plastered each cut. When ice stiffened her hands, she cut her arms. When her arms grew rigid with cold, she cut her torso. The cuts didn’t hurt, not beyond the first flash of pain. The ice numbed her flesh even as the songs gladdened her heart.  

With each cut, color and life returned to the bird. Its feathers reddened to pink and then a brilliant scarlet. Its eyes grew black and shiny. Only its beak stayed white and cold.  

One morning the woman awoke to soft sunlight streaming through her window. She couldn’t feel its touch on her face, which by now was swathed in ice. She hadn’t listened to a song in days. She couldn’t afford to—the single drop of blood she had left was chambered deep in her heart. She labored to raise her stiff body from the bed. Her limbs creaked like winter trees as she stood and crossed the room. With great effort she picked up the silent bird and held it between her hands. She shouldered the door open and stepped into the sunlight.

The mild air carried scents of flowers and damp earth. The frozen woman raised her face to the sun as she pressed the bird to her chest, directly over her heart. There was pain as its beak drilled into her flesh and through her breastbone. There was emptiness as the little tongue scooped out her last drop of blood. But oh, the beautiful song that filled the woods! One tear escaped, then froze on her cheek as she stood, rapt. She could almost feel the sun’s warmth as it stroked and softened her frozen flesh.

One summer’s day a hunter found an abandoned hut deep in the woods. Its single window was shattered, its door swung from a broken hinge. He peered into the cold, dim interior and saw nothing of value inside. But it was a lovely spot, with a small, clear pond just steps from the door. The hunter drank. The water was icy cold but held a hint of salt. Above him, perched high in a tree, a scarlet bird sang and sang.

Nancy Holzner is the author of the Deadtown urban fantasy series, as well as numerous short stories. Nancy lives in Ithaca, New York, where she teaches in the Ithaca College Writing Department.

Cover: Amanda Bergloff @AmandaBergloff

January 10, 2022

Women of The Golden Age of Illustration: Florence Harrison, By Amanda Bergloff

 

The Golden Age of Illustration is a term applied to a time period (1880s - 1920s) of unprecedented excellence in book and magazine illustrations by artists in Europe and America. Advances in technology at the time allowed for accurate and inexpensive reproductions of their art, which allowed quality books to be available to the voracious public demand for new graphic art.


When many people think of the Golden Age of Illustration, Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, and other male artists come to mind, but there were also female artists that excelled during this time.


Florence Harrison was one such artist that produced exceptional work, so learn a bit more about her and her art below...

Florence Susan Harrison (1877 - 1955) was an illustrator of poetry and children's books in the Art Nouveau and Pre-Raphaelite style.


Born in Brisbane, Australia to Captain Norwood and Lucy Harrison, she eventually moved to England and lived there after 1922 until her death in 1955.


In 1905, her first published illustrations appeared in Rhymes and Reasons, from the publishing company of Blackie and Son. With the popularity of the book, Blackie and Son commissioned her art for several other books aimed at the expanding children's market of the time, including, The Rhyme of a Run, and In the Fairy Ring, both of whom were well received by the public and praised for their charming and imaginative illustrations, thus earning Harrison a high place among the illustrators of children's books at the time.


Blackie further commissioned Harrison in 1908 to illustrate a gift book for their Fine Art Series specifically designed for the adult market. Poems by the notable Pre-Raphaelite poet, Christina Rossetti, with Harrison's illustrations, was so successful that it led to contracts from Blackie for two similar volumes. Guinevere and Other Poems (Tennyson, 1912) and The Early Poems of William Morris (1914.)


During this time, Harrison also worked on her own collection of verse titled, Elfin Song, published by Blackie in 1912. Reviewers considered it an exquisite book, surpassing anything she had done up to that time with verse both romantic and magical, appealing to all ages.


After the mid 1920's however, Blackie no longer commissioned new assignments for Harrison, even though they continued to successfully recycle her previous works. In 1922, Oxford University Press commissioned her for their series of children's annuals published under the various Strang titles.


Although Harrison made her name with the brilliant jewel-like colouring of her works in the pre-Raphaelite genre, throughout her professional career she developed a more whimsical style needed to capture the imagination of a younger audience.


Harrison's art has been characterized as having an outstanding sense of composition and color with charming, repeated motifs such as apples, crows, fairies with wing spots that resemble those of a Peacock butterfly, elves, storm lanterns, and roses. Her art always takes me to an imaginative place for my mind to wander in.


Check out some of Harrison's work below to enjoy her enduring legacy of imaginative and beautifully lyrical art.

From Poems by Christina Rossetti, 1910
From Early Poems of William Morris, 1914
From Early Poems of William Morris, 1914
From Elfin Song, 1912
From Early Poems of William Morris, 1914
From Early Poems of William Morris, 1914
From Poems by Christina Rossetti, 1910
From Poems by Christina Rossetti, 1910
From Early Poems of William Morris, 1914
From Poems by Christina Rossetti, 1910
From Poems by Christina Rossetti, 1910
From Early Poems of William Morris, 1914
From Poems by Christina Rossetti, 1910
From Early Poems of William Morris, 1914
From Early Poems of William Morris, 1914
From Early Poems of William Morris, 1914


Resources:

– Florence Harrison Art: Wikimedia Commons

– "Florence Harrison: A Case of Mistaken Identity," by Sandy Hargrove (December 2015)

– Florence Harrison, Wikipedia

– Florence Harrison Illustrations for Elfin Song, from Illustrations Art Gallery Blog

EC's contributing editor, Amanda Bergloff, writes modern fairy tales, folktales, and speculative fiction. Her work has appeared in various anthologies, including Frozen Fairy Tales, After the Happily Ever After, and Uncommon Pet Tales.

Check out her Amazon Author Page

Follow her on

Instagram @amandabergloff and

Twitter @AmandaBergloff

And join her every Tuesday on Twitter for #FairyTaleTuesday to share what you love about fairy tales, folktales, and myths.
Also, if you like sharing your #vss fairy tales on Twitter, follow @fairytaleflash .

Cover Painting: From "Early Poems of William Morris," Color Plate by Florence Harrison, 1914
Cover Layout: Amanda Bergloff
And check out
Enchanted Conversation's
and listen to the
Classical Music to Write Fairy Tales By
playlist for some writing inspiration!
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