Magical Realism That Drowns Us, con’t

…Magical realism has finally found a toehold in mainstream America. If the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has a finger on the national pulse, it seems America is ready for stories that treat supernatural and mythic themes as a natural part of life.

I’ve been drawn to mysticism and spirituality most of my adult life. During this time, I’ve witnessed a number of healings (my own and others’)—from the common cold to terminal cancer—without the aid of medical science. So-called miracles have become a natural part of my life. As a writer, I am excited to build stories on this premise. With a little help from Charles Dickens, I follow a tradition of subverting expectations and use irony to call into question social and religious traditions. For example, in The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman, I address Pappy’s bigotry in a historic (and personal) context while showing him also as protective of bi-racial, disabled, troublesome Moojie. On the other hand, Moojie, who is developmentally  challenged, is often wiser than Pappy and the adults around him. Another example can be found in The Whale Rider. Paikea, the protagonist, is excluded from her grandfather’s search for the next tribal chief because she is a girl, but she is more capable than any of his male choices.

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My greatest wish as a writer is to publish stories that show characters subverting human expectations by awakening to their divine nature. As some of you know, for the past year I’ve been working on the film adaptation of Moojie Littleman, Book 1. Adaptation and screenwriting are completely different from novel writing so there are a number of changes to the story, but the basic themes and premise remain true to the book. My mentor, John Crye—writer, actor, producer, editor, and former CEO of Newmarket Films (produced The Whale Rider)—is as excited about magical realism as I am. While my screenplay is still in development, I credit John’s magnificent oversight for this pre-production review:

“The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman” is an emotionally powerful and viscerally stunning fantasy with a fascinating and hard-hitting family drama not overshadowed by all the spectacle. We are, with Moojie, entering a strange new world here where the incredible seems possible. At the heart of the story is always his quest for belonging, a universal human drive that resonates even in such extraordinary circumstances. The Light-Eaters are intriguing and capable of holding our interest with both their capabilities and thematic nature. Nahzi is a particularly breathtaking and memorable element. They are inspirational as well, and we can see that it is Moojie’s time with them that helps him mature in the way that he does, whether it is taking responsibility for starting the trouble, or telling Babylonia he loves her with the stirring speech, “The day I met you, it was like I fell asleep and woke up in a better world.”—THE BLACK LIST, Hollywood (Aug/2018)

Europe, Australia, and South America have long-embraced magical realism in art, literature, and film. It is thrilling to see it finally recognized in America. Thanks to David Lynch’s legacy, and other commercially successful films, like Being John Malkovich, Donnie Darko, and Edward Scissorhands, the road has been paved for stories that normalize mythical, spiritual, and mystical experiences. If you are drawn to films like this, you’re going to love the Moojie film! Also, here are some magical realist films worth seeing: The Whale Rider, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Amélie, Micmacs, The Delicatessen, The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey, and Pan’s Labyrinth.

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So it’s onward and upward! Time to get back to work. I love hearing from you. Whether you are parenting or writing or being the CEO of a national corporation, I want to hear how you are following your dreams!

 

Adaptation in development …

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Script Review from Los Angeles –

“The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman” is an emotionally powerful and viscerally stunning fantasy with a fascinating and hard-hitting family drama not overshadowed by all the spectacle. We are, with Moojie, entering a strange new world here where the incredible seems possible. At the heart of the story is always his quest for belonging, a universal human drive that resonates even in such extraordinary circumstances. The Light-Eaters are intriguing and capable of holding our interest with both their capabilities and thematic nature. Nahzi is a particularly breathtaking and memorable element. They are inspirational as well, and we can see that it is Moojie’s time with them that helps him mature in the way that he does, whether it is taking responsibility for starting the trouble, or telling Babylonia he loves her with the stirring speech, “The day I met you, it was like I fell asleep and woke up in a better world”.—THE BLACK LIST (August 2018)

What Writers Can Do To Help End Terrorism, Oppression, and Racism

In light of the recent terrorist attacks, and the surge in Neo-Nazism and white supremacy, I keep asking myself, how can I, a writer, lend a hand to my grieving, fearful, angry brothers and sisters?

In January I visited the amazing Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona, Spain, not too far from the Las Ramblas terrorist attack. The primary architect, Antoni Gaudí, worked on the cathedral for 43 years, before passing on. Still under construction today, it represents a century-long collaboration which is scheduled for completion in 2020.

What inspires me about Sagrada, beyond its awe-striking beauty and crafting, is that literally hundreds and hundreds of architects, artisans, masons, builders, and artists have formed links to its creation. “The creation continues incessantly through the media of man,” said Gaudí. In this sense, Sagrada Familia represents how inspired visions are erected first in our minds, and how we are all part of a magnificent collaboration that began before time. Our individual dreams for a better world are links in the chain of eternity, live manifestations streaming through the appearance of time, accompanied by masters and prophets and saints and angels.

Sometimes weeks, months, years pass when our efforts to provide inspiration or comfort seem futile. Sometimes violent events kick against our visions, they howl and snarl and dig in. When this happens, it’s tempting to give into negative, condemning thoughts. Giving in can feel like the great monument of faith we have worked so long and so hard to realize has crumbled and taken heaven with it. But we gather ourselves up again, aligning with universal Grace and Love, magnifying higher aspirations as we know them, glorifying what is transcendent—what lies beyond the reach of temporal power—and by Grace the “cathedral” reappears. In fact, it never went anywhere.

Gaudí didn’t live long enough to see the finished Sagrada. But I imagine it was complete in his mind, a vision attesting to heaven on earth, a living thing. In the same way, we writers who are giving voices to the marginalized, oppressed, and forsaken populations might not see the completed version of our world vision. However, as links in the Grand Collaboration, our efforts will uphold and bear forth as universal monuments to unity. In our persistence, like the masters before us—many named and unnamed—our “cathedrals” shield us and others from the backwash of superstition and ignorance, as surely as they will provide solace and shelter and inspiration to the disenfranchised.

Magical Realism: Finding A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings

On my twentieth birthday, a friend gave me a collection of Garcia-Marquez short stories. One in particular, “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings,” changed me in a fundamental way. It didn’t make me wiser; it didn’t make me ponder the great wonders of the universe. This story of a winged man, crab-filled skies and astral-bottomed women with green-glowing eyes, gave my soul permission to speak. Till then, I didn’t realize it had anything to say

Over time, I discovered that being a writer was a lot like raising a child with a stern grandmother standing behind you: the minute one stage ends, she points to a worse one coming up. Or so I thought until I attended a university lecture. The speaker of the night was the infamous and notorious Junot Diaz. Of the many profound insights he offered, this one made the biggest impression: writers should ignore other people’s opinions. Pondering his lecture helped me enormously when writing a first NTBP (never-to-be-published) novel because it turns out I couldn’t remember anything else he said. For a while, his advice enabled me to indulge in soliciting feedback from others and then ignoring it entirely.

After decades of writing for the pure joy of it, I can say one thing for sure. A good yarn is hard to come by. I can assure you I have many other pearls of wisdom, and am confident that because of this I need not fear that you will be influenced solely by my lack of impressive credentials, publishing credits or celebrity endorsements.

In order to share a little more about my influences, two footnotes come to mind.

First, I never planned to be a writer. In fact, I had reading challenges in my early years. It wasn’t until high school that I learned to read fluently, an achievement to which I give Franz Kafka partial credit. You see, I could not put down “The Metamorphosis.” After this, I simply could not not write. This led to a series of notebooks, teenage rants on how it feels to live in a perpetual state of underwater.

Second, after getting my first NTBP novel and screenplay out of the way, I interned and later wrote freelance for a local newspaper. Writing human-interest stories, restaurant, movie, and book reviews on deadline taught me a very important lesson: to stop niggling and get the first draft down.

Around that time, Magical Realism took me hostage, literally. To begin with, I was raising a son who did things differently. He walked, talked, and learned differently than most inhabitants of this galaxy. This experience caused me to question every reasonable belief, opinion, and judgment I had accepted about the nature of reality and God. It sent me on a wild quest for answers, a long, fruitful adventure into spiritual study and practice, a degree in literature and writing, gushing first drafts and furious ruminations, and the first fruits of which were a collection of short stories involving a leopard who dreams of being a businessman, a lovelorn medical resident who gives cadavers psychic readings, Euripides and Sophocles jotting down inspired lines while girl and boy watching at an outdoor café.

Since then, I have been snatching words and phrases out of the ethers to record them like they were potent charms. Magical Realism allows me room to explore themes of love, identity, spirituality, power, social/political concepts, and the nature of reality from a fresh point of view. It gives my imagination freedom to run. It lit the spark of a thirteen-year fire that fueled the writing of The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman, my debut novel.

This post is part of the Magic Realism Blog Hop 2017. Lots of blogs are taking part this year, all posting about magic realism in some form or other. Just click the links below to “hop” around the blogs. Have fun!

The Hop runs from 28th – 30th July, although you will be able to visit after that. Posts will be added throughout the three days, so do come back and see what’s new.

LINK to Blog Hop: http://magic-realism-books.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/welcome-to-magic-realism-blog-hop-2017.html

Q&A

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What do you think about Wordsworth’s way of looking at the world, and how is it similar in Moojie Littleman?–Abhimanyu Pandey

 

Regarding Wordsworth’s “The Idiot Boy” and “We Are Seven”, it can be said that William Wordsworth and I share a mutual interest in children trapped in difficult circumstances. Children are also wiser than grownups or figures of authority. Moojie, an unwanted, disabled boy, teaches his aunt, a professor, his grandfather, a Civil War captain, and his adoptive father, a mapmaker, lessons in compassion, grace, and faith, lessons that nudge them beyond academia, history, and science.

Wordsworth also speaks of “invisible presences” and  “unknown modes of being”.  In “Tintern Abbey” he writes:

…And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of the setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:

In the same poem, he says, We are laid asleep in body and become a living soul.

He refers to himself as a pagan who sees nature as a living being that communicates with us. Strangely, I, who consider myself a mystic, share a fascination with revelation,  transcendent experiences, and unified, loving forces of the universe. In The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman, there is a moment of awakening when Moojie looks out at the night sky and The stars seemed to be talking, beaming out a bright message to him. (p. 56). While Wordsworth and I may differ in our names for the consciousness that speaks through nature, we seem to share a consensus that there is a “voice” or an “ineffable” presence with whom we can commune.

Review from Circle of Books

This is the best book I have read this year and not only that, when I finished reading I knew that I would have to read it again – it left such a special impression on me.
The author, Robin Gregory, is a master craftswoman of words, it was delightful to savor each word and also very much entertaining as the text is permeated with good healthy humor and very very strong characters – in my view one of the strongest points when assessing a novel!

The story itself is about a very special boy, Moojie Littleman, he is an orphan and he as some strange powers but also problems – for instance his body doesn’t work as it should. Moojie wants to fit in with the rest of humanity but finds it extremely hard as his disability puts people off. But he soon will find that he is not alone and will learn some very important lessons, for he comes across some very special friends – otherworldly beings who will help shape his path for good or for evil. As the story unfolds we read of Moojie’s successes and failures; We can see how Moojie deals with his strong and weak points: his power to heal; his disability and the frustration caused by it; other fellow humans; his strange friends from another plane of existence – are they good or are they evil? Can he fit in within their group?; his search for love and a family – not matter if it is human or not – a family to love and where he feels he is an integral and important part of it, and most importantly, where is loved back.

(Our thanks to the author Robin Gregory for the copy provided)

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Postcards from Europe

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Dear Bright Souls,

It has been a few weeks since we got back from Europe. Spain was sensational … Christmas lights everywhere, joyful, friendly people, great food, accommodations and weather.

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Cathedral Salamanca
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Parque Guell, Barcelona

We also visited Biarritz, France. The night lights were phenomenal (even at 38 degrees f.).

While there, I introduced The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman to a number of booksellers. They seemed genuinely interested in Spanish & French translations, which I’m working with a foreign literary agent to get published. (Note: thank you, dear Spaniards, for being kind and gracious about my rickety Spanish.)

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Bookstore Biarritz, France

RECENT NEWS

I am thrilled to announce that Moojie has just received 2 more awards!

2016 New Apple Annual Book Awards:

Winner of Visionary Fiction & Best New Fiction

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My favorite star on the Walk of Fame, Hollywood Boulevard

I’ve been working with John Crye (producer), Quinn Sosna-Spear (screenwriter), and Voyage Media on the film adaptation of Moojie Littleman. The project is making great progress. After a number of meetings, I’m confident that we are united on the vision, and that the film is going to be wonderful … wonderful!! Next week, we meet to review the first draft of the screenplay. When that is revised and polished, Voyage Media will hire a director. Cast and crew will be considered and investors approached. If all goes swimmingly, we might have a film in about 2 years. Sheesh.

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NEW PROJECTS

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Having just finished a rough outline for my next novel, I can safely say I’m working on a sequel to Moojie Littleman. It may change to a degree, but here is the crux of the story:

At 18 years old, Moojie is living with Auntie Tilda Pettibone and his father, Henry Littleman, at St. Isidore’s Fainting Goat Dairy. Moojie’s reputation for healing has grown, and folks come from all parts to seek his help. He finally has the family he always wanted. But his heart aches for Babylonia, the alien girl who fled the Earth with the Light-Eaters four years before. Determined to find her, he must gain entrance to her world through an underground portal guarded by a capricious Hopi priestess, and face the nefarious sorcerer, Sarru’kan, once again. Dogged by his meddlesome aunt and controlling father, Moojie now struggles to break free of the confines of the family he fought so hard to keep. It’s 1910, and the universe is about to get a lot bigger.

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Since Moojie Littleman was released just over a year ago, it has been:

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  • An Amazon bestseller
  • Winner of 21 national and international awards (Awards)
  • Signed for Chinese & Turkish translations
  • In development for the big screen

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If you want to share a touching story with someone you care about … If you want to encourage someone who’s going through a rough time … If you like really good writing that tells a rich, satisfying story about a disabled boy healer, who learns master his power through friendship with an outcast, alien clan, this is for you.

Oh, and don’t forget, there are miracles and really cool fainting goats and magical watermelons.

Give someone a great gift … love, faith, courage, laughter!

For Young Adults and Adult Adults, too

**Available at bookstores, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and public libraries**

California Bookstores

The Book Den, Santa Barbara; Barnes & Noble, Gilroy; Nepenthe Phoenix Shop, Big Sur; Chaucers, Santa Barbara; The Pilgrim’s Way, Carmel; Old Capitol Books, Monterey; River House Books, Carmel; Illuminati, Monterey.

 

 

Washington Bookstores

Elliott Bay Books, Seattle; Griffin Bay Books, San Juan Island

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