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.
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.
☀️Congratulations KATHY HEARE WATTS of Tennessee! Winner of US/Canada Goodreads Giveaway!
☀️Congratulations TAMMY LANEA DILLION, USA Winner of International giveaway! ☀️
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.
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)
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.
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.)
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
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.
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.
Since Moojie Littleman was released just over a year ago, it has been:
- An Amazon bestseller
- Winner of 21 national and international awards (Awards)
- Signed for Chinese & Turkish translations
- In development for the big screen
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**
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.
Elliott Bay Books, Seattle; Griffin Bay Books, San Juan Island
Moojie, a foundling, has a few stakes against him. He is disabled and possesses mysterious healing powers that even he doesn’t understand. He just doesn’t fit in. Neither does an outcast clan of aliens called the Light-Eaters, who are easily mistaken for Native Americans. When Moojie is adopted by childless couple, Henry and Kate,
Detail of “Naples” by David Seymour (CHIM) 1948
he is the center of their affections, and life is perfect … for a while.
But Moojie is slow to learn and speak and walk. He throws epic temper tantrums that cause objects to fly about mysteriously. At eight years old, Moojie’s doting mother is killed in a freak accident, and his rejecting father leaves him with a cantankerous grandfather named “Pappy,” at St. Isidore’s Fainting Goat Dairy.
Six years later, Moojie is fourteen years old, and his father still hasn’t come back for him. Unable to get along with Pappy, Moojie secretly reaches out to the elusive Light-Eaters for friendship. For love. For family. He undertakes a series of trials and misadventures in an effort to prove himself worthy of joining them. Determination to “belong” stirs up all kinds of trouble with Pappy and the villagers, but leads to a surprising destiny—if only Moojie can survive one last trial.
- Paperback: 294 pages
- Publisher: Gatekeeper Press (November 1, 2015)
- Distributor: Gatekeeper Press
- Language: English
- Price: $14.00 paperback/$2.99 ebook
- ISBN-10: 1942545002 paperback
- ISBN-13: 978-1942545002
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
- Average Amazon Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews ( 88 customer reviews)
- Tags: Visionary, Magical Realism, Metaphysical, Teens, Literature, Fiction, Young Adult, spirituality, healing, disability, families, 1900s, American West
For Young Adults and Adult Adults, too
**Available at bookstores, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and public libraries**
Poster: Courtesy of http://www.californiaindianeducation.org
Photo of boy: “Naples,” courtesy of David Seymour (CHIM)/Magnum, http://www.davidseymour.com
Photo of cowboy: Courtesy of Ann Street, http://www.annstreetstudio.com