Beauty Equals Good: A Beastly Myth, by February Grace (Guest Post)

It is a pleasure to welcome author February Grace to my blog this week for a guest post. I greatly admire her as a person and as a writer (see past blog entry here). Her newest novel, UPON A TIME, debuts this month.

And her perspective, now more than ever, is a meaningful one for all of us. Read her post below:

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It has bothered me for a very long time that the ‘good’ in people is represented by beauty in most fairy tales and indeed, overall in our culture.

Anyone who is less than perfect or dare I say it, less than gorgeous, is usually portrayed in these stories as being on the wrong side of the fight.

If you’d believe these tales, most disfigured people turn evil and murderous.

Born without perfect looks? Forget it, you’re doomed to evil, or at least to suffering from day one. You will be branded a ‘monster’ (I’m thinking about Quasimodo here…) or worse. Tortured, bullied, humiliated.

It’s a tired old myth that has stayed with me, leading me to ask myself a question not too long ago: what if Prince Charming’s looks were no longer flawless? Would his betrothed (you know, the girl from the ball who lost her shoe) still look at him the same way? How would he cope with the changes in his appearance, himself?

We all know that the Beast was cursed with a change in his appearance because his heart was unkind; but what if a kind-hearted person was suddenly disfigured through no fault of his own?

It happens in the real world, every day.

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My Worst Trip Ever and Why I Loved It

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I currently chair a national Armenian women’s organization that helps sustain our cultural heritage, develop Armenian women leaders and support Armenian families around the world.  Some would call it a sorority, but I consider it much deeper and stronger than that. However, one similarity is that fellow members call each other ‘sisters.’

And let’s just say that my fellow ‘sisters’ and I had an interesting travel adventure this past week, to say the least. As I write, we national officers are on the final leg of a very long trip across multiple cities and airlines.

In two weeks, we visited five chapters of our organization across the east and midwest. On our most recent trip, we had to travel through seven cities to visit three chapters. We missed two flights due to weather and plane delays. We were twice told the planes would be held for us, only to see the plane slowly back away from the gate the minute we got there, after we ran — yes, ran — through multiple terminals.

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The gate agent on one end said, “Oh yes, we called already; they’re holding the flight for you; go, go, go!”

The gate agent on the other end said, “We never got a call…”

These and other snafus resulted in two unexpected overnight stays in two different, non-visitation cities.

“But you can get your luggage at Terminal E….” And a half hour later:

“Oh, no your luggage isn’t at Terminal E; it’s at Terminal C, and you can’t access it until tomorrow.”

Then we were delayed 2.5 hrs on another flight because the pilot never showed up and the airline had to search for another pilot last minute.

In another case, our flight was delayed 4.5 hours because Vice President Joe Biden was landing at the airport on Air Force Two for a last minute visit, grounding all scheduled flights for the entire morning.

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Sometimes, our luggage made it to our destinations when we did; in other cases it did not. At one point, we got our luggage after being redirected multiple times, only to open two suitcases to find the contents soaking wet — apparently left out in the thunderous New England rain. Two of my officers caught colds and also injured their back and shoulder. And I’m not sure we ever slept more than 4 hours on any given night — and not always in a bed.

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Those who have seen the film, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, about a frazzled father and his unexpected friend, overcoming hurdle after hurdle, trying to make it home for Thanksgiving, will certainly understand the frustrations we felt.

But we love our ‘sisters.’

That’s what kept coming back to our minds.

But we love our sisters, our fellow members. And we did not want anything to get in the way of our visiting them, after they had been planning and preparing for weeks with warm anticipation.

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Sure enough, the visits to the gals of Worcester, Providence, Boston, Milwaukee and Chicago, were some of the loveliest, laughter-filled times we’ve ever had in the organization. Truly, we will never forget them. Those loving times of warm welcome and fellowship, celebration of common history, partnership in a shared vision — and laughter about all our craziness, into the wee hours — are what our organization is all about. They are what service and friendship are all about.

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When our relationships, life situations, or writing projects take us on all sorts of unexpected delays, detours, or outright stoppages, we have to remember:

But this is who I love; this is what I love; this is why and how I love.

And that sense of love-centered purpose is what enables us to keep going, to see the journey through to completion — and to be grateful, especially as Thanksgiving nears. The pockets of love that we open along the way of a disjointed journey are worth all the headaches. Most of the time.

But don’t get me wrong: I’m still writing a few letters to United Airlines and US Airways. Soon as I finish this blog. They’re gonna have to show me some love too.

Onward!

P.S. My book BRAVURA is out on Kindle — the first in the “The Music We Made” series about a group of classical musicians in 1960’s London.  You can order it here. Downloads are free through 10/20!!

Go There.

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If there’s a place that has inspired you in the past — to write a specific story, or to revel in a great life experience, a place where you somehow feel free and most yourself, a place that you always come away from refreshed, better than you were before, then guess what?

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“Bravura” – Chapter One

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Kathleen adored the meadow outside her house in Somerset. The rustling, the chirping, the sweet smell of earth whispered music to her. Her mother could see this and decided it was time.

That night—no bomb scare on the radio, no blaring overhead—Mrs. Driscoll put five-year-old Kathleen to bed with great anticipation.

“Promise me you’ll listen,” Mrs. Driscoll said.

“All night?” Kathleen asked.

“Until you sleep. Like you do with the sounds of the meadow. Don’t get out of bed.”

“Why?”

“If you do as I ask, I’ll have a surprise for you in the morning.”

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The Journey of An Idea

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It’s now been exactly 30 years since I got a story idea that still occupies much of my creative heart. I wrote this blog post to show how long it sometimes takes for a story to reach its moment, its fullest potential, and how to never give up.

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Write What You Know?

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Writers often hear the advice ‘Write What You Know’ – sometimes attributed to Mark Twain. But this certainly is a loaded idea and issue.

Most people misinterpret the adage to mean ‘write only about what we have directly experienced,’ but that can be extremely limiting.

What does it really mean to Write What We Know?

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Stories in Storage, (Re)discovered

storage2 Among other summer projects, I’m revising a script I’ve been working on for years and years — in between other projects and life events, of course, but longer than any other.

I first conceived of it 30 years ago, as a teenager.  I outlined it that year and drafted it as a screenplay five years later, in college.  After graduation, I decided to re-write it as a television miniseries. Since then I’ve written it as a novel (currently under editorial review) and have re-written the miniseries countless times (including a current rewrite I just submitted to an industry professional this week). I have outlined and drafted two sequels.

We all have a project we don’t want to give up on — but we still wonder what the heck is ever going to happen with it.

Taking a break from a few writing deadlines this past week, I visited our storage space over the weekend to do some overdue summer purging of ‘stuff’ in general — yes, I’m ashamed to say we have a storage space for endless old files, supplies, decorations, tools, and household items.

It’s also where I keep a lot of old writing drafts, manuscripts and notes.  Some of the papers I uncovered this weekend were of outlines and ideas I had completely forgotten about — and I was excited to think about their possibilities going forward.

Then I found something else.

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What We Storytellers Do

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“George Banks will be honored.

George Banks will be redeemed.

George Banks and all he stands for will be saved —

Maybe not in life, but in imagination.

Because that’s what we storytellers do:

We restore order with imagination.

We instill hope, again and again and again.”

 

In the memorable film, Saving Mr. Banks, the character of Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) has just shared a series of painful memories to help author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) understand that producing a film version of her novel Mary Poppins (borne of her own painful family memories) would be meaningful not only to him, and to audiences everywhere — but also to her.

Walt Disney concludes his moving monologue with the lines above. I had to replay it several times when I first saw it. It is a remarkable moment in the film and a moment that likely resonates with anyone, but particularly with those of us who consider ourselves writers or artists.

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