While doing research for my second novel about a 2500 year old mummified and ornately tattooed Pazyryk “ice princess” and the archeological team that finds her at the borderlands straddling Mongolia, Russia, and China, I’ve come across some fascinating and timely reads.
Adrienne Mayor’s The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World is a foray into the ancient history of nomadic steppe cultures at the crossroads of Eurasia. Making new connections between the archeological record and writings of sources like Herodotus, Mayor sheds new light on “Amazons” – the fearless, tattooed Eurasian women on horseback who rode into battle from the east alongside their menfolk (and often without them) and challenged the social order and sensibilities of classical Greece, Rome, and China.
Set several centuries later, Jack Weatherford’s The Secret History of Mongol Queens bears witness to the role of Genghis Khan’s female descendants in saving a fractured nation and reestablshing humane cultural norms. Weatherford’s descriptions of these women and their leadership makes me wish I could vote for Queen Manduhai the Wise in 2020!
These are hopeful and inspiring reads in an increasingly uncertain world of shifting international allegiances and influence. The underlying message that the survival and flourishing of a people and culture is only guaranteed when their women hold equal sway, power, responsibilities, and rights as their men is a timeless lesson of history.
A few months ago I accomplished a major “bucket-list” item: I attended a large writer’s conference in New York City. That’s me at the 2016 Writers Digest Conference holding up a glass of white wine after I successfully pitched CIRCLE OF THE SILVER BIRCH TREES, my debut 94,000 word multigenerational family saga/women’s fiction novel to six agents at the conference’s pitch slam. I’m posing with other writers (and fellow pitch slammers) – one of whom has since become a fantastic long-distance critique partner. Continue reading
Recently an article popped in to my Facebook newsfeed taking me back to a visit I had made to Ellis Island, the United States’ early 20th century massive immigration processing center. Photography restoration artists from Dynamichrome have unlocked the colorful secrets beneath the black and white photographs taken between 1906 and 1914 at Ellis Island. Continue reading
This summer marks 10 years since my sister and I went on an epic backpacking journey on the Ring Road of Iceland. We carried with us only the essentials which included camping gear, winter coats, hiking boots, bathing suits, travel journals, and the allotted 6kg of food per person as we’d been warned about astronomical prices at the grocery store. On our quintessential coming-of-age sister adventure, we also brought with us our hopes and dreams for the future.
One of my favorite Spring-time rituals is making Pysanky Easter eggs. When the days begin to lengthen and the nights hang on to the last bites of frost, I pull out my dyes, waxes, and kitska tools. During most of the year, my creative energy is devoted to writing. But this one time each year, I indulge in the the calming effect of the scent of melting beeswax and a steady hand. I keep my designs simple with folk symbols and colors representing luck, the cycle of life, abundance, and strength. I usually make just one or two eggs each Spring. Although I take pride in my creations, I’ve found that making Pysanky is more about the process than the outcome – as I sketch the ancient patterns of waves, spirals, triangles, flowers, suns, and spiders on an egg in wax, I slow down, reflect, and recharge. In that space, I connect to a forgotten world explained through nature and bound to the rhythms of light and dark.
I’m happy to see that Transylvania, a place my husband and I first traveled to in 1999, is now considered to be “the world’s best region to travel in 2016” by Lonely Planet. We knew it back then. Dracula legends and connotations aside, Transylvania is a mountainous wonderland of history and nature.
In the Transylvanian villages of Mera, Buza, Szaszcsavas, Parajd, and Szek, warm, friendly people opened their homes and fed us like kings. We hiked, danced, drank wine under a full moon, swam in a salt lake, enjoyed a folk concert in a salt mine, hunted for snails with our hosts, and explored the ruins of the Bonchida castle, which has since undergone restoration. We even attended a village christening, carefully dressed in traditional garb by the family who hosted us.
I was forever touched by my first journey to Transylvania. My yet-to-be published novel “Circle of the Silver Birch Trees” draws heavily on my experience exploring this unique European destination. It makes me smile that this special place is gaining recognition in the wider world.
I’ve recently rediscovered running and finished my first 10K. I say “rediscovered” because I did a brief cross-country stint my sophomore year in high school. (I admit now that 20 years ago I was motivated only by cute boys and the cool preppy windbreaker that came with being on the team.)