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National Poetry Month, Day 24

In the wake of World Book Night, please enjoy some fun poetry from The Wonderland Alphabet!

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The Wonderland Alphabet: Verse by Alethea Kontis, Illustrated by J.K. LeeA

A is for Alice, a curious girl
Who fell very far through a hole in the world
She followed a clock-watching rabbit, you see
To a land full of wonder, and madness, and tea.

*

J

I do not fear the ticking clock
But lo, I fear the Jabberwock
I keep my vorpal blade at hand
To slay the scourge of Wonderland.

*

M

Mad Hatter, Savior, so carefree
Turns our water into tea
Ever knowing there and thence
Much madness is divinest sense!

*

Q

Red or White or Hearts, no matter
From the March Hare to the Hatter
I am Queen, as all can see
And all ways here belong to me.

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Princess Alethea and the Power of Words

As promised, here is the small speech I gave at the World Book Night Givers Reception last night at Gum Springs Library. xox

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WBN Loves Cover“Words have power.” This phrase was said by Mama Woodcutter to her youngest daughter Sunday, in my novel Enchanted.

Words have power. We all know this to be true…of course, in my book, I took it literally (no spoilers for those who haven’t read it!).

Words have power. Enchanted contains around 74,000 of them. I’d say that’s a decent amount of power.

If words could be converted into kilowatts, this library could light up the city. But when I say “power” in this context I don’t mean electrical…I mean MAGIC.

And, as I always say, Magic is best when shared.

It was my father who first shared this magic with me, reading to me every night when I was a baby. When I was three, Mom realized that *I* was the one reading, while Dad snored peacefully away on the bed beside me.

THAT’S how powerful words are to me. I never remember learning how to read. It’s like I just knew. To me, words have always been magic.

From that point on, books were my life. They were my favorite things in the world. I was not shy about telling people this, so I always got books as gifts from my family. Some kids get turtles or unicorns or teddy bears–I got books.

I still have the ones that were inscribed to me by my grandmothers and my aunt. Thanks to a plethora of Library Book Sales, I even have a bunch of books inscribed to other people. I love those just as much, even though I never knew the givers or the recipients. It simply adds history to the character of the book itself, giving it a place and a time, a purpose, and a life.

Tomorrow night, World Book Night Givers will be giving life to half a million books all across the United States.

That’s some pretty powerful magic, if I do say so myself.

And what better way to share the magic of reading? It’s so wonderful when a friend puts a book into my hand and says, “You must read this!” There are billions of books out there, but that one made it through the slush pile and was vetted by my very own personal pre-reader. What more could I ask for?

I remember those moments–powerful, strong memories. I remember when the local bookseller handed me the hardcover of Robin McKinley’s Deerskin and told me I was going to love it. I had just graduated high school. Almost a decade later, my co-worker Kitti walked into my cubicle and forced a book into my hands, making me SWEAR I would read it. That book was A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin.

Of course, I am TOTALLY guilty of pushing books off on other people as well. There are books I look for at book sales for the sole purpose of hoarding multiple copies to force upon my friends at will. Some of those titles have been: William Goldman’s The Princess Bride, Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen, Orson Scott Card’s novelization of The Abyss, and The Monster at the End of This Book, starring Grover. (Still one of the best baby shower gifts of all time!)

Givers, tomorrow night, you will be making these memories. You will be the one who means something to someone so powerfully that they will remember it for the rest of their lives. It may not be the same with every person you hand that book to, but at least one book in that box you’re taking home with you tonight is going to make a difference. And that is a powerful thing.

Because words have power. Words are magic. And magic is best when shared.

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National Poetry Month, Day 23

In honor of Shakespeare’s birthday today (and World Book Night tonight!), here is my favorite sonnet.

SONNET 130
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask’d, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

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National Poetry Month, Day 22

Because I was such an avid reader and lover of poetry as a child, I did not discover Shel Silverstein until my friends started passing around copies of Where the Sidewalk Ends at school.

I enjoyed Silverstein’s prose and fun approach to poetry, but he wasn’t as groundbreaking for me as he was for some. I mean…he’s not Ogden Nash. But I still have my favorites. Like this one:

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INVENTION
Shel Silverstein

I’ve done it, I’ve done it!
Guess what I’ve done!
Invented a light that plugs into the sun.
The sun is bright enough,
The bulb is strong enough,
But, oh, there’s only one thing wrong….

The cord ain’t long enough

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Princess Alethea On Her Writing Process

My dearly beloved bosom companion Leanna Renee Hieber posted an incredibly fun and insightful interview last Monday about her writing process last week, and then asked if I wouldn’t mind answering the same questions in turn. But of course! And here they are:

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WBN Loves CoverWhat am I working on?

Right now, I’m working on three things at once. I’m still in the middle of TRIXTER, the companion novella to HERO. I’m pitching a really fun secret project to a major publisher (yay! squee!) so keep your fingers crossed on that one (because it is AWESOME). And I’m toying around with an adult magical realism novel, a-la Sarah Addison Allen.

And of course there are still my YouTube Fairy Tale Rants, and the fairy tale podcasts, and World Book Night, and Wattpad and and….

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My work can most easily be compared to that of Neil Gaiman — across age ranges and genres at whim, always under my name, always with a bit of drama, and always containing some element of the fantastic.

Why do I write what I do?

I do what I love. ALL the things I love. I write the books I would have loved as a kid, that didn’t exist. I write for young people now (and the young-at-heart) who didn’t have the rich literary background I grew up in and have only been exposed to retellings supplied by Major Media. I want to always be encouraging people to read MORE.

How does your writing process work?

It’s a lot of me telling myself, “Alethea, sit down and write.” Usually, if I just force myself to DO IT, then I suddenly realize that I’ve been at it for hours and my tea is cold. Amidst this world of distractions and my Very Interesting Life, however, this is a far more difficult task than it should be. It’s been ten years since I signed my very first book contract, and I’m still a work in progress, always trying to be better in my writing, and better at my discipline.

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To keep the momentum going, I am tagging the lovely, talented, and Best Roommate Ever: 2014 Golden Heart nominee Denny S. Bryce. Be sure to pop by her website next Monday to learn about her frenetic writing process…

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National Poetry Month, Day 20

My response to “Tears of the Hollow Men,” written after a personal family issue…and a dream about a monk who wrote a poem describing the shifting of a cloud from an eagle to an angel.

Sunset on the way to Newport News*********************************

Tears of the Hollow Men
Alethea Kontis (1994)

Blue clouds at sunset
With silver-pink lining
Free as an eagle
On the wind shining
Real as each second
Soft as a dove
Hard as the truth
False as your love
Some woman said all the real men are dying
All I can see are the hollow men crying

Clouds are a-changing
The eagle is now
A heaven-bound angel
Taking a bow
To the powers before him
Which shower him gold
I cannot believe
The stories I’m told
Harsh white light
Showed the red-blooded taint
I cannot listen
To keep you a saint
I cannot hear
How perfection is fake
I cannot stand
The apologies you make
I cannot look
So I look away
What kind of madness
Has made you this way?
Some woman said
All the real men are dying
All I can hear
Are the hollow men crying

I don’t deserve
For you to forgive
Me for my feelings
About how you live
Your life is your own
Independence, be proud
I look up to you for that
As I look to you now
An eagle, an angel
High up in the sky
An eagle, an angel
How high can you fly?
Some woman said
All the real men are dying
All I can feel
Are the tears that I’m crying

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Waiting for Maleficent

(Now I want to write a parody play with this title. But that’s beside the point…)

I was notified yesterday that The Huffington Post had cited THE ENTIRE WOODCUTTER SISTERS SERIES as part of a list of “10 Books to Read While Impatiently Waiting for Maleficent.”

WOOHOOOO!!!!!!!
Yeah, I’m still dancing about it.

To read the article with the full list (which is a great list, btw), check it out here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/colleen-oakes/10-books-to-read-while-wa_b_5090743.html

…and be sure to share it with all the teens, librarians, teachers, and other fairy tale fanatics of your acquaintance!

I *am* part of the horde eagerly awaiting the new Maleficent flick. If you haven’t seen the preview for that yet, watch it here!

 

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National Poetry Month, Day 19

I never read Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, but I knew very well who The Guy was. When I discovered this poem in my twelfth grade textbook, I fell in love so hard I even wrote a poem of my own in response (I’ll post that tomorrow).

I stole that textbook.

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The Hollow Men
T.S. Eliot

Mistah Kurtz—he dead.

A penny for the Old Guy

I
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us—if at all—not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.

II
Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death’s dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind’s singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.

Let me be no nearer
In death’s dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
No nearer—

Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom

III
This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

Is it like this
In death’s other kingdom
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone.

IV
The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death’s twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.

V
Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

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National Poetry Month, Day 18

Poor Emily Dickinson, becoming famous after her death, leaving that giant trunk full of her work behind. This was a genuine fear of my childhood. I can’t tell you how incredibly happy I am to be published. I appreciate it every single day.

Much Madness is divinest Sense
By Emily Dickinson

Much Madness is divinest Sense -
To a discerning Eye -
Much Sense – the starkest Madness -
’Tis the Majority
In this, as all, prevail -
Assent – and you are sane -
Demur – you’re straightway dangerous -
And handled with a Chain -

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National Poetry Month, Day 17

Alethea Kontis: The Little Girl with the Little CurlWhen I was young, I was often referred to as “The Little Girl With the Little Curl.”

I had always thought of this as a Mother Goose nursery rhyme…until looking this up for National Poetry Month, I HAD NO IDEA it was penned by Longfellow.

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There was a little girl
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

There was a little girl,
Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good,
She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad she was horrid.

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