Friday, September 7, 2012

GUEST BLOGGER: Jolene Dawe

I sat staring at the screen for weeks, trying to figure out how to write this. Fairy Queen of Spencer's Butte and Other Tales
is the first book I've published that I've actively tried to push -- and I suppose, if I'm being honest, "actively tried to push" isn't quite right. Still, I've done more to get the word out about this book than I have with my other indie published book -- and I think this book has a wider audience appeal. 

 That said, talking about it is hard. I'm new enough at indie publishing that I haven't yet made up in my mind how I want to present myself, publicly. And this indecision has caused me angst. This, I think, is going to be the most difficult part of publishing independently. It's preventing me from pushing the book as well as I could be. Why?
 I haven't yet figured out if -- or how -- I can speak about Fairy Queen of Spencer's Butte and Other Tales without mentioning the fact that the whole collection is written in homage to the spirits of this place. I can't speak of The Elk Prince without pointing out that it's a retelling of a common Pacific Northwest native tale; I can't talk about The Girl with Mushrooms in Her Hair without speaking of walks along the beautiful McKenzie River and the tale the rapids had to share. I can't tell you about When The Hills Come Courting without mentioning the small, secret, liminal spaces tucked away all around this city, wanting and waiting to be discovered. I don't know how to talk about this collection that was a thanks-giving to the spirits in our adopted home without pointing out that the collection is, first and foremost, a thanks-giving. So, I suppose, let me tell you about that.

 In 2008, my partner and I packed up our house and moved West. We came West just as the American economy was crashing, without the promise of jobs, with a small cushion from having sold her house, with a very small support group cheering us on. We everything we needed and more in Eugene, Oregon. Fairy Queen of Spencer's Butte and Other Tales is, simply put, about my love for this city, the region, and its people.

It wasn't easy, moving across the country from nearly everyone I know and love. It's not easy remaining here -- I feel constantly torn in two. Yet, I walk through my neighborhood, so much like any other neighborhood outside of an urban city, and I can't help but be infused with the spirit of this place. It goes deeper than simple surface impressions. Yes, Eugene is a college town. We have fresh blood coming in every year to help keep place young and hip. We have our long established tradition of hippies, half in this world, half in other worlds, wanting to build community, wanting us all to see the brotherhood of man. We have a fair number of homeless and transients, some by choice, others by circumstances and hard economic times (and a number of them caring for unwanted dogs and cats, to boot, which can only ever be a good thing. Everyone should know love and kindness). And this is just the humans I'm speaking of. This doesn't touch upon those who may not be incarnate, or those who are flying about the skies or crawling through the underbrush, or those who were flesh but came before and are now beloved ancestors of this place.

Downtown, in front of our library, sits a bronze statue of the man who gave our city its name: Eugene Skinner. Across the street, at the bus station, a statue of Rosa Parks sits upon her bus-bench. Down the street further, Ken Kesey sits reading to a gaggle of bronze children. Regularly, these statues are adorned with flowers and other gifts. Ancestor veneration is alive and well in this city; it's not unreasonable that I should add to it with my humble offering of stories.

But, do I talk about that? Does this not detract from the stories themselves? Should I not just be talking about the collection, and indie publishing? In my mind, it's all interwoven. I moved here somewhat randomly, but fell in love with Place. Moving as I did, away from what was known and safe into the unknown, risking much in the process, engendered a sense of kinship with those who had come before -- explorers, homesteaders, pioneers, and even further back -- people not fulfilled or satisfied with the life offered back East. This whole mindset synchs up with indie publishing very nicely: though it works for some people, it's not the answer for everyone, and alternate options should (and thanks to the technology at our hands, is) available for people. We are living in exciting and interesting times, and I, for one, am fascinated by the changing dynamic between creator and consumer.

Fairy Queen of Spencer's Butte and Other Tales is a collection of 12 stories, all inspired by or set in and around the Willamette Valley of Oregon. They are inspired by the local folktales, by the shadow of Spencer's Butte in the valley, by the California poppies ringed around stones, by faces hidden in the blackberry clusters. They, hopefully, share with you the beauty, magic, and wonder this place has inspired within me, and it's my greatest hope that they leave you as nourished as they've left me.

5 comments:

Juli said...

However you wish to present it, Jolene, it's a great little collection of stories. Am I biased since I heard about it from its inception? Maybe, but I really really, really enjoy your work. Thanks for giving us this peek into what inspired The Fairy Queen of Spencer's Butte. I wish you all the best with it. :)

Dani said...

The Fairy Queen of Spencer's Butte is a wonderful collection that over the course of reading the stories, the reader gets a true feel for the magic and wonder of the world you created, and even attached to specific characters, which I find to be rare in short stories. Your vision of Eugene, OR as described by these stories is fantastically beautiful, even when it gets ugly. Well done, and I can't wait for more!

Beth said...

I don't think a collection such as this one, which is so thoroughly steeped in the magic of place, can truly be discussed separately from what inspired it. In this case that's especially true since the stories themselves are so magical--not in the sense of being about otherworldly/extraworldly creatures (though most of them are) but in the sense of the spell of enchantment woven over the reader by the storytelling and the lyrical language. (Disclaimer: I am Jo's partner, but I'm a writer too and I know great stuff when I read it!)

Jolene said...

Thank you, Juli! :) (Being biased doesn't mean you're wrong, either!) I'm glad you've enjoyed the stories. And grateful for your support during the whole duration.

Jolene said...

Thank you, Beth, for your praise. :) Dani -- you may not have to wait *too* long; the second collection is under way!