Mythopoeia & Me


I came across a poem by JRR Tolkien today called Mythopoeia. I have to thank fellow blogger Glaiza at Paper Wanderer. (Do check out her gorgeous book blog!) Her post launched me onto one of those fascinating, time-sucky adventures in Cyberspace, where you lose the better part of a day and gain a sackful of shiny nuggets of knowledge and an impressively swollen TBR list. In fact, I sprouted a new shelf on my Goodreads profile: Mythopoetic.

Mythopoeia & Meaning

Mythopoeia is a literary term that refers to myth making. JRR was a modern master-mythopoet with his creation of Middle Earth. His fellow Inkling CS Lewis was also a Jedi mythopoet. And speaking of Jedi, George Lucas’s Star Wars fits the criteria too.

JRR wrote his poem Mythopoeia to address CS’s disdain for myths. JRR believed that myths were vessels of truth whereas CS saw them as “lies and therefore worthless, even though breathed through silver.”

God, I love these guys. Arguing in heroic couplets–how badass is that? I wish people nowadays discussed things in verse. Instead, worthy online discussions are hijacked by outbursts of Twitter Rage and devolve into expletive-clogged troll-fests.

Back to civilised discourse: According to the poem’s Wiki:

Mythopoeia takes the position that mythology contains spiritual and foundational truths while myth-making is a ‘creative act’ that helps narrate and disclose those truths.”

To convince his friend and associate of the fundamental nature of myths, JRR writes:

…There is no firmament,mythopoeia

only a void, unless a jewelled tent

myth-woven and elf-patterned; and no earth,

unless the mother’s womb whence all have birth.

JRR’s poem converted CS to a trust in the power and truth of myth. (Tolkien must have been a persuasive man; on a spiritual level, he famously led Lewis to embrace the Christian faith). Lewis set a new mythopoeic benchmark by populating Narnia with around 50 species of mythological creatures, including fauns, griffins, jinns, naiads, and even Santa Claus. I remember rereading The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe as an adult and having the sensation of sitting on the sidelines, sad and sober, at a Mardi Gras parade.

Mash-up & More

Mytho-mashup is not new of course. It’s a feature of popular urban fantasy, where werewolves and vampires clash, and fae do battle with demons. Then there’s the fabulously fun Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne, who brilliantly blends Celtic mythology with, well, just about every other kind of mythology. Seriously. What a romp! (I LOVE Oberon!)

My interest in Tolkien and Lewis’s discussion, and in the word mythopoeia itself, relates to my latest book Toby Fitzroy & the Quest for the Scales of Time. I describe the story as “MG maritime fantasy-adventure with lashings of steampunk.” Toby’s sea adventure pits him against scary traditional mythological beings as he quests for a prize of my invention–The Scales of Time. (You’ll have to read the book to find out what they are and if he secures them…)


I’m happy to learn that a Mythopoeic Society exists to keep alive the spirit of the Inklings with the study and celebration of modern mythopoeic literature for adults, children and scholars. (Click the link to the site at your own risk! You won’t emerge without a swollen TBR list.)

And I am chuffed to confirm my stories fall into the same category (but, sadly, not the stellar quality) as works by Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Juliet Marillier, Peter Beagle, and Jane Yolen. Hats off to my mythopoeic heroes!


Image Credits

Mythology – Taygeto – Greece by John Prassas, CC BY-ND 2.0

starry night by Kevin Jaako, CC BY-ND 2.0

Pirate Ship HHS Bounty Docked of Peanut Island by Kim Seng, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Even More #WRAD15 Favourites & Fun

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 7.44.49 pm

The 4th of March is World Read Aloud Day 2015, an event sponsored by LitWorld. Its aim is to promote literacy as a way of combating poverty and inequality worldwide.

For the past week, I’ve been sharing some #WRAD15 inspiration by interviewing Read Aloud experts–teachers, librarians, and children’s writers. Be sure to check out the earlier posts to see their choices for favourite read aloud texts and memories.

Today, we hear from two children’s writers and teachers:

Karen Tyrrell

miss_nelson_is_missingAuthor, Speaker, Teacher, Resilience Advocate

“I loved reading Miss Nelson is Missing written by Harry G. Allard Jr and illustrated by James Marshall to my year 1 and 2 classes. My children loved the sense of fun and mystery, especially the unexpected twist at the end. Miss Nelson influenced the writing style depicted in my resilience books STOP the Bully and Bailey Beats the Blah at”

Read the Ali’s reviews of Karen’s children’s books here and here.


Rachelle Sadler

Author, Teacher

“I have so many favourite read aloud books so it’s difficult to choose only one! A book that quickly comes to mind is Wombat Stew, written by Marcia Vaughn and illustrated by Pamela Lofts. This book is so wonderful to read aloud. I love the Australian language and bush setting. I love the rhyming, alliteration and assonance used throughout. And I love the beautiful illustrations that bring the characters and story to life.

wombat-stewMusic has always been a big part of my life, and I enjoy stories that can incorporate music and songs so seamlessly. The Wombat Stew song is entertaining and invites readers to participate.

I have fond memories of having this story read aloud to me as a child. I then went on to read this story every year as a teacher to my grade one students with follow-up activities involving dance and drama – LOTS of fun!

And I now read this story aloud to my own children who thoroughly enjoy it (and still gasp every time Dingo says it’s time to put Wombat into the stew). Such a special, timeless story about friendship and standing up for others.”

Happy World Read Aloud Day!

Thanks for sharing your favourites, ladies! I bet it was super fun being in your classrooms! Lucky children!

UPDATE: Little Meerkat’s BIG Adventures for #WRAD15

After Little Meerkat’s BIG beach adventure, he was ready for something a little more subdued–like jamming with a muso. Here he is on bongos accompanying Peter H. They’re playing The Lion Sleeps Tonight, Little Meerkat’s favourite song.









This morning, Little Meerkat was very excited to write a letter to Aleesah. He wrapped his seashell souvenirs in tissue and put them inside the envelope. Sticking the stamp on was his favourite part. He needed a boost to reach the slot on the postbox.









Little Meerkat, written by Aleesah Darlison, illustrated by Shannon Melville, and published by Wombat Books is Spilling Ink‘s featured #WRAD15 book.)

Stay tuned for more World Read Aloud Day fun! Be sure to leave a comment telling us your favourite read aloud books and moments!

One Thing Marked Off the To-Do List: Head Shots Done!

It only took me three years to get around to having my professional photos done. I have an enormous aversion to cameras, regardless of which side I’m standing on.

But here’s the result, a photo that doesn’t make me cringe. In fact, I’m really happy with it. Isn’t the light wonderful?


The photos were shot by the wonderful Cassie Eggert of Ivy &Pine Photography in her family’s fabulous, hand-built, recycled timber shed. Talk about a dream writing studio! Oh, Lordy. Surrounded by greenery, filled with natural light–don’t get me started on the loft (swoon!) that’s fully equipped with a Juliet balcony.

I set the scene with my vintage typewriter (a gift from my lovely editor friend Liz), a beautiful teacup, and a stack of gorgeous books.

So, that’s one task I can scratch off the rambling to-do list. Funnily enough, I found out this morning that I totally missed the Google Authorship boat. At least my blogs, Twitter, and FaceBook pages will benefit.

A Brand-New, Dog-Shaped Hole

Lucy, the canine muse

Lucy, the canine muse

 “Dog’s lives are too short. Their only fault, really.”  –Agnes Sligh Turnbull

There’s a brand new, knackwurst-shaped hole in the Steggy family where our lumpy old Staffy used to fit. Lucy, our beloved canine support staff of 14 years, reached the end of the line last night. She was struggling too hard, and her demise was becoming increasingly hard to watch.

Encroaching deafness and blindness made her flinch when we touched her ears, which was heart-breaking, coming from this lovely girl who normally dissolved into fits of ecstasy when scratched.

When she couldn’t find me, she’d whimper and carry on like a neurotic cow. Her nails clicked ticky-ticky-ticky on the hardwood floors as she hunted me, the object of her solace, down.

Housework sends me up and down the stairs a lot—to grab a load of laundry, replace the toilet paper roll, empty the bins. Luc would struggle half way up only to find me already coming back down. She’d grunt (and I swear she’d roll her eyes), turn around, and heft herself back down—only to find me heading back up again. It was for exasperating for both of us.

First thing in the morning, stiff and creaky, her legs would muddle up into a constipated moon dance. The dicky knee would give out and she’d fall over, a marooned white walrus flailing on the carpet.

For the past few years, her lameness turned my morning walks into a combo act of espionage and high treason. Sneaking out without being seen was the aim. My walks, which used to be our walks, made her go troppo—a half an hour of unstoppable mourning howls and frantic panting to be endured by anyone in the house neighbourhood.

Advice columnist Ann Landers makes a valid point about dogs’ opinion of their owners. “Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.” No worries there, Ann. Lucy loved me right to the tip of her slightly kinked tail, but I’m fairly sure I didn’t deserve half of it.

“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” –Roger A Caras

So, tonight, for the first time, I write doglessly. My sweet canine muse is no more, and I miss her, even her fouling of the air and fitful snoring at my feet.

A Literary Post Script

Putting down your pet is awful. Like, in the list of Truly Awful Tasks Grown-Up Have To Do, it tops even emptying the goop from the drain basket in the kitchen sink, handling chicken fat, and un-stuffing clogged toilets. Our vet, the inimitable Doca Leigh (as Lucy called her), was a gentle, wise guide through a heart-breaking process.

How’s this for a sweet touch? While Doca Leigh was prepping Lucy with a cannula, we found propped in the window of the consultation room a gorgeous children’s book, Peter Bently’s The Great Dog Bottom Swap, which tells the story behind (pardon the pun) canine bum sniffing. It gave my heart reprieve and made me giggle—even in that sorry, truly awful situation.

The dogs are having a ball tonight...

The dogs are having a ball tonight…

The Great Dog Bottom Swap

Written by Peter Bently and illustrated by Mei Matsuoka

 Andersen Press (May 10, 2010)

ISBN: 9781842709887




The Legacy of Anne Frank Lives On


Anne Frank Street Art by  TIA, CC

Anne Frank!  Street art photo by TIA, CC

Today marks Anne Frank’s 85th birthday. I don’t know about you, but that fact blows my mind. Anne Frank, had she survived the Holocaust, would have been a couple years older than my dad. If she’d had children, they would be my generation.

I read the book when I was in ninth grade at the recommendation of my friend Lisa, my favourite book pimp. Of course, at the tender age of 14, I didn’t have a deep understanding of what Anne’s tragically short life and indescribably horrible death meant.  I remember the impact of the book more than the actual content.

Anne’s Legacy to Me

Shortly after reading Anne Frank’s  The Diary of a Young Girl, I became a life-long journaller, and it was a life-saving decision. Seriously–my diaries were my lifeline in those angst ridden adolescent years. I chronicled every insecurity and indiscretion, analysed every crush and heartache…  I cringe to think what dreadful content I’d find…if I still had them.

Ah, yes. Hard to believe, but I let those babies slip out of my hand. One of the costs of living the ex-pat life is being out of the country when your childhood bedroom is transformed into a guest room. My library of children’s classics (including a gazillion Nancy Drews), my artwork, scrapbooks and journals all went to the town dump. Gulp! Thank goodness one volume of my diary was written mostly in Italian!

I still remember the some of the covers. The first one was a Hallmark diary with a key. The next was a gift from my Aunt Joy. It had an olive-green corduroy cover. My Aunt Mim gave me a beautiful gold  one. (That’s the one I used in Italy). Nowadays I use Moleskine cahiers and I keep a digital diary (on an app called Maxjournal).

Anne’s diary had a red and white checked fabric cover with a brass lock. It was really an autograph book but she wanted it for a journal. Here’s a picture of her diary from the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam. My diaries have lots of glued in bits too!

Dairy by Heather Cowper

Dairy by Heather Cowper, CC


Reading The Diary of a Young Girl also ignited a passion for Jewish literature (or books about Jewish people). Here are a few I highly recommend:

I read that Anne decided she wanted to be journalist so she could “live on.” Here are the words she entered in her diary on 5 April, 1944, just over seventy years ago:

“I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death! And that’s why I’m so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that’s inside me!”

Nigeria’s Missing Girls: The End of Terror Is Nowhere in Sight

In completing today’s 10 x 30 challenge to #BringBackOurGirls, I’ve read up on the situation. This article by TIME gives a good summary.


Outside the airport in Abuja, Nigeria, where the World Economic Forum’s Africa conference recently wrapped up, I noticed a local workman’s truck, which had a sign painted on the back that read, “Every problem has an expiry date.”

There are plenty of problems in Nigeria–inefficiency, inequality, corruption, unemployment–but the most pressing one right now is terrorism. It is unclear what the expiry date might be. Nearly three hundred girls taken from their boarding school in the northeast of the country by a militant Islamic group called Boko Haram are still missing. A new report by Amnesty International claims that the national government headed by President Goodluck Jonathan knew about the impending attack–and did nothing.

At panels I attended at the World Economic Forum (WEF), just as the report was coming out, President Jonathan said that the kidnappings would be “a turning point in our fight against Boko Haram, and the…

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