Six Things Saturday: Mini-Interview with Miranda Lemon and Violet Plum

This week, we have Miranda Lemon and Violet Plum from over at Violet’s Vegan Comics (https://violetsvegancomics.com/)!

Willow Croft: This question’s a two-parter! What vegetable and/or vegan dish is your most favourite? And what vegetable and/or fruit makes you go “Yuk”?

Miranda Lemon: My favourite dish is vegan Yorkshire pudding with chips and beans, and the fruit that makes me go “yuk!” is avocado, because I think it is like eating margarine.

Violet Plum: Ooh, what to choose? I guess chocolate’s not a vegetable – although it does come from beans. Speaking of beans, I think one of my favourite meals is beans on toast, especially with peanut butter and yeast extract on the toast. I’ve loved it since childhood, never tired of it and it’s so easy to make. Sadly I don’t have it very often any more because bread is no longer my friend, but it is a rare treat. And the yucky vegetable which immediately springs to mind is celery. Yuck!

~~~

Willow Croft: If you could be any animal (or plant) which would you “bee”, and why?

Miranda: I would like to be a koala because I think it would be lovely to spend all my time in a tree, eating leaves and sleeping.

Violet: If I could also wish away all human activity, I would be a Canada goose because I’d love to be able to fly, and fly great distances. They are mostly herbivorous so I wouldn’t have to eat anything yucky and I could see the world from a great height. The limit of how high Canada geese can fly is not known but they have been documented at 9km above the Earth!!! Amazing! I’ve no desire to ride in an aeroplane but I would love to be able fly myself.

~~~

Willow Croft: There seems to be a movement building around the practice(s) of urban (or wild) foraging at present. What you do think about this movement from an environmental and/or personal perspective? Which is more sustainable—a “backyard” or urban garden, foraging, or a combination of both practices?

Miranda: I think foraging is a fantastic idea, I would love it if we could find all our food that way. I don’t have a back garden, so I think it would be most sustainable if people with gardens foraged in their gardens, and everyone else foraged everywhere else. But there needs to be a lot of replanting of forests so that there will be enough for everyone.

Violet: I love this idea! One of my stories, The English Family Anderson, is about a family who live on a bus and do just that. It’s wish fulfilment for me because I’ve always fantasized about being able to live like that. Being self-sufficient. If we could all live closer to nature, follow the seasons and understand where our food comes from – be responsible for growing it and gathering it ourselves – it would feed our souls. I think both things – wild foraging and home growing – would be completely sustainable. The forest garden is the most productive use of land, as well as returning natural habitats to wildlife. I think we should turn all the agricultural land into food forests for everyone to share.

~~~

Willow Croft: Imagine the world ten years from now if we as humans don’t break our consumption-driven, environmentally destructive habits. What would the world look like?

Miranda: I think it would be not very nice, so I hope humans will break their destructive habits.

Violet: Have you seen the movie Idiocracy (2006)? With Luke Wilson and Maya Rudolph. That is the world we are fast approaching.

~~~

Willow: How do you see the world changing over the next ten years in regards to conservation and environmental awareness as driven by the latest generation(s) of kids/young people?

Miranda: I believe that if we tell children the truth they will do the right things to save the environment and conserve nature. Everyone deserves to know the whole truth, and once they do, they will know that being vegan will save the world, and so they will all go vegan, and the world will be saved. Hurrah!

Violet: Education is key. If children were told the truth at school, about meat, fish, eggs and dairy being unnecessary and hazardous to health; about animal agriculture and fishing being environmentally devastating; and about animal farming being the cause of human starvation and diseases like Covid-19, then I think they would lead the charge for an end to animal farming and a new beginning for the natural world. But sadly the governments who write the national curriculum are controlled by big businesses who make vast riches from these destructive practices so lessons aren’t going to improve any time soon. Thankfully, though, the internet has enabled more enlightened people to get this information out there, and the mainstream media picks it up and runs with it sometimes. So I think there is hope that a new generation of eyes-wide-open individuals might, through the power of their consumer choices, move the world to demand ethical, zero waste, organic vegan products, and abandon those which aren’t.

~~~

Willow Croft: And, lastly, what sort of environmentally friendly art supplies do you all use?

Miranda and Violet: Most of our art materials (pencils, watercolours, pastels and ink) have been found in secondhand/charity shops so we are re-using other people’s waste. But when we do need to buy anything new we usually get it from artdiscount.co.uk who have labelled qualifying products as vegan and have done a very helpful blog post (https://artdiscount.co.uk/blogs/artdiscount/vegan-vegetarian-and-eco-art-supplies) which explains what’s good and what’s bad for the discerning artist. There’s another helpful post, here: https://vegomm.com/vegan-art-craft-supplies/. And of course we only buy recycled sketch paper.

~~~

Visit Miranda Lemon and Violet Plum at https://violetsvegancomics.com/ where they have a wonderful selection of things for kids of all ages.

Six Things Saturday: Mini-Interview with Author/Musician Ben Fitts

I switched things up a bit this week! Enjoy the awesome “Six Things Saturday” interview with author and musician Ben Fitts!

Willow Croft: Bizarro as a literary genre is still somewhat new to me (but I’m working on remedying that!). What appeal does the Bizarro genre hold for you as a writer, and, if you were looking back on it years from now, would you classify it as a literary/artistic movement, a subculture movement, or both?

Ben Fitts: Bizarro first appealed to me as a reader because I’ve always loved offbeat art and entertainment, especially when it came to comedy, so bizarro essentially felt like a more extreme version of something that I already knew I liked. It was kind of the same way I felt when I first heard Black Flag as a teenager after years of already listening to the Ramones. But the thing about bizarro that really appeals to me as a writer is the sense of absolute freedom I have when writing. Not only do I feel no pressure to make sure that everything feels believable as I do when writing more realistic fiction, but I’m free to revel and find humor in intentional lapses of logic, paradoxes, and general unbelievability. When all of that is on the table, then I’m really free to make just about anything I want happen in the story. Regarding the last part of that question, I’d call it a literary movement more than a bonafide subculture, because it’s not really linked to other artistic practices or self-identity the way full-fledged subcultures are. You can read punk authors like Kathy Acker and John Cooper Clarke, listen to punk bands, dress in punk fashion, call yourself a punk and more, but you can only really do one of those things with bizarro, at least as of now.

Willow Croft: How would you see the punk rock movement and DIY mentality persisting into the year 2021 and in the current/next generations?

Ben Fitts:  I think music and art in general is starting to become more genre-fluid, and punk is no exception. With the internet and streaming services, it’s way easier to come across new music nowadays, especially the more underground stuff. Because of this, young musicians are coming across and are influenced by a far wider range of different musical styles than many musicians from past generations have. A lot of those really niche genre labels you hear floating around nowadays, like blackgaze or hypnagogic pop, come from people having to come up with ways to market their music after the fact. So I do see punk rock musical and cultural influences persisting in DIY music scenes, but I also see it continuing to blend further with outside influences and with more and more microgenre labels popping up, and there’s nothing wrong with that. 

Willow Croft: What’s the most “Bizarro” i.e. surreal, humorous, and strange situation you have found yourself in, in real life?

Ben Fitts: I went to a rural college where we had lots of parties deep in the woods. These woods parties were a ton of fun, but it was often difficult to find your way out of the woods late at night, and I often got lost when I decided it was time to head home. When leaving these parties, I on two separate occasions accidentally stumbled upon a bonfire around which a bunch of furries were having an orgy while fully in their animal costumes. I’m guessing these furries were probably students who did this sort of thing in secret, but since everyone had their masks on, I guess I’ll never know for sure. 

Willow Croft: How do your music projects (your bands Capra Coven and War Honey) tie into your writing ventures? Are they complementary of each other, or separate?

Ben Fitts: They are pretty compartmentalized for me. Music is what I went to school for and how I pay my bills as an adult, while my writing started out as a casual hobby that ended growing more serious than I would have anticipated at first. So my musical endeavors end up taking up more of my energy and add to my stress levels, while my writing is more like a playground for me to have fun and be creative without really worrying about marketability too much. 

Willow Croft: One of the little bits of me that I still feel is a little bit “alternative” is that I despise the standardization of the educational system, which strips kids of any sort of individuality in some insane quest to be perfect—perfectly conformist—and deprives them of any opportunity to explore all the selves they might want to be. Personally, I see you as a great role model for kids in regards to living a creative, exploratory life, so what would you say to kids and young people as they begin to take over the fucked-up world we’ve left for them?

Ben Fitts: First off, thanks for saying that! I hope I’m a good role model to the kids and teenagers to whom I give guitar lessons, but it’s obviously something I worry about sometimes, as I think everyone who works with kids does. My main advice to kids is to question everything you’re told and to keep your critical thinking skills sharp. Between school, parents, belief systems, and other institutions, we have a lot of information and opinions dumped on us as we grow up. Some of it is helpful and some of it is bullshit. Part of becoming a capable and happy adult who contributes positively to the world around you is sorting out all of the bullshit you absorbed as an adolescent, and then adjusting your worldview appropriately. 

Willow Croft: To end things on a lighter note, I’ve included my usual food-based question! I noticed that your Goodreads profile mentions “you put too much hot sauce on everything”. So, please share, what’s your favourite form of liquid torture (aka hot sauce)?

Ben Fitts: I do like hot sauce! There’s a great brand from Pennsylvania called 22 Peppers that I love. 

Keen to know more? Visit Ben Fitts at his links below:

A “Gateway to Magic” for the Holidays!

Happy Hanukkah! Happy holidays! etc etc.!

(Featured Book: Gateway to Magic by Annabelle Franklin which I purchased not too long ago.)

Oddly enough, even though I wrote middle grade manuscript, and tried to read as much as I could in the genre beforehand, I still feel that it’s one of my cutoffs in regards to actual reading-for-pleasure. (In my defense, it probably was even back when I WAS a middle grade reader.)

Luckily for Annabelle Franklin, there are now kids among all us grumpy old people in our family. So now I can say, “they are going to love this book”. 

Well, I don’t really know if they are going to love it, because I’m sure kids get tired of hearing what they like and don’t like and what they should like, but I’m still going to pass on this book to them, in hopes they like it.

After all, at least one of them loves reading, another likes adventure video games, and this book has a little of both. Well, sort of. But what is does have for sure is fairies and magic and goblins and monsters and . . . well, I’ll let you (or your kids) read it to find out what sort of ending it has.

Because anything goes in Annabelle Franklin’s wacky fairyland, where the magical denizens of the fae realm are not always the cutesy, glitter-spewing fairies Disney has taught us to expect. (After all, Grimm–and many others–wrote fairies the ‘real’ way too!)

Here’s the link on Amazon, should you still need to do some last-minute holiday gift shopping for the little imps in your own family! (Just DO NOT press the big red button!)

Gateway to Magic on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Gateway-Magic-Annabelle-Franklin/dp/1530767083/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

P.S. She has another book for kids available on Amazon as well: https://www.amazon.com/Slapstyx-Annabelle-Franklin/dp/1518686982/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

 

Dancing Through Time and Space with Michael S. Fedison’s The Eye Dancers

Review: The Eye Dancers by Micheal S. Fedison

(possible spoilers, though I tried not to reveal too much)

I won’t be presumptuous enough to claim that I understand what it’s like to be a kid today, but I can speculate that some things never change.

And I haven’t forgotten, even after all these years, what it was like for me to be a kid.

What it felt like being bullied. The fear. The dread of having to go to school every day. The loneliness. Being left out of things by the popular or cool kids. The alienation coming at me from all sides. Always the misfit, and the last to be picked for the team.

How the classrooms felt airless: like you were drowning or suffocating. A tomb. A punishment that matched the cruel one that waited for me in the halls.

How the tiniest sounds and faintest smells seemed magnified in the forced silence and seemed to claw into your brain until you wanted to scream. Or to run and run and not come back. Or at least run as far as the school bathroom where you could get a breather from the stress of being cooped up. How you never felt like yourself until the last bell rang.

For me, it felt like hell on earth.

And the worst part of it all? What it felt like when no-one listened to you, or took you seriously?

Matter of fact, as a grown woman, I still face that sort of patronizing attitude. And it makes me just as angry as it did when I was a kid.

But, as an adult, as a teacher, I get it. Well, sort of, since I’m not a parent. But I imagine that it’s so hard to walk the line between giving kids a chance to be kids, but wanting to keep them safe.

The world–my world–was a confusing, ugly, terrifying place back when I was a kid–one I wouldn’t want any kid to have to live in.

And in the middle-grade/young adult book The Eye-Dancers, things haven’t changed much, in that aspect, in either of the book’s two worlds.

But the kids in Michael S. Fedison’s book? They don’t wait for grown-ups to listen. They act when they are suddenly thrust in a scary situation. They not only cope, but they keep fighting, although the odds are against them. They do this by joining forces, by combining their strengths, and forging bonds with those they wouldn’t ordinarily be friends with, as a way to navigate the challenges they face. Challenges that could be very real for many children today, but one that Fedison handles with appropriate discretion for the kids he’s writing for.

Could it be a Goonies-like book for young people of this generation? I don’t know. I don’t even know if I’m reading into the book’s premise too much with my grown-up mind, but I would love to have kids reading something that shows young people they can have agency, that they can make things better, that they can change worlds with their actions. That they can still be heroes even if they’re scared and confused and unsure of themselves, and their place in the world. That within all of this coming-of-age madness, there can be moments of hope that will carry them through the darkness of life’s changes. And that, as I think Fedison’s character Mitchell Brant realizes, are the things that can make reality as wonderful and sustaining as our youthful dreams (referenced from pages 317-320).

My hope is that books like this are enough to carry them into finding their dreams as they move into adulthood. And I hope that adulthood doesn’t come too calling too soon for them–that they still have a chance to be kids no matter how the world changes around them.

(I’m considering donating this book to one of the local school libraries. After I read the follow-up Singularity Wheel, of course! Or I’ll just hoard it with all the rest of my books, most likely.)

 

An Open Letter to Children (& Young Adults)

 

I am sorry that you have to follow so many rules and restrictions that may feel onerous to you as kids with lots of natural energy. Some of them I agree with, like not hitting or bullying, or even not being mean to yourself. I would not want any one of you to get hurt, even though you are just being kids and playing around, or feel bad about yourself because of what someone else did or said (including a teacher or a grownup). Some I like, like the indoor voices rule, as a means of self-preservation, as my ears ring at the end of the day from all the noise, even though I prefer a noisy, chatter-filled and laughter-filled classroom. Even as a substitute teacher, I want you to feel safe and respected, and if that means this challenger of the established order has to enforce the school rules, so be it.

I want to tell you to hang in there. Soon you’ll be a grownup too, and you will have the choice not to live by any of those rules and restrictions. You won’t have to walk in a “Four-S” line (for those of you who don’t know, it’s “Silent, Smiling, Still, Straight”). As one of us adults, you’ll have the perfect right to walk side-by-side and take up whole sidewalks with all your friends. Even on narrow sidewalks, even if it means pushing someone (walking single file, or by themselves) into traffic, so that you don’t have to be inconvenienced with walking single file, or interrupting the conversation with your friends. Although I would imagine the sounds of tires squealing or large metal vehicles crashing into each other to avoid the person you just pushed into traffic might also be a rude disruption to your conversation.

Speaking of conversations, you can forget all about that silly “indoor voices” rule. You can talk as loud as you want, wherever and whenever you want. In restaurants, in malls, in movie theatres, in libraries, at presentations or lectures, during plays or other performances, at zoos, and in wildlife areas.  Animals, especially, love it when you yell at them, at maximum volume. And, even better, you can talk when others are talking. And, when you get bored or tired of talking, you can get on your phone at any time you want. Even in we grownups’ version of school, the workplace.

You’ll also have the perfect right to throw a temper tantrum if you don’t get the flavor of drink that you wanted, or the food that you wanted to eat. Even better, we adults can ask to speak to the manager if our white chocolate mocha came without whipped cream and probably get a free drink out of it, or some other reward for complaining about the food or drink we ended up with.

Even though it’s against the law, you as an adult can get away with throwing trash wherever you pretty much want to. You can also leave messes in restaurants, in malls, in public bathrooms, in landfills, in the ocean and waterways, and all over in nature and the outdoors, if you want to, because “someone’s getting paid to clean it all up.”

And let’s talk about destroying property. Largely, us grownups have gotten a free pass on that as well. For thousands of years, actually. And not just a desk, or someone else’s work. A whole planet. Especially if you’re a big corporation. Yes, I’m talking about pollution, pesticides, and any of the million other ways we are “allowed” to destroy the environment, resulting in irreparable species loss, and point-of-no-return climate change.

So, kids, you, too,  will soon be a grownup, faster than your family wants, as time flies faster and faster for us when we get old. I only hope that you don’t follow our example, that you continue to make “good choices”, as they say in some schools, and that you become a better grownup than many of us that are currently out there, right now.

And, I am so, so sorry we’ve left such a mess for you to clean up, and have significantly destroyed the world that you are to inherit. I tried to make good choices, myself: using eco-friendly products, not using pesticides, cleaning up after myself, diligently recycling, eating a largely vegetarian diet and avoiding foods with GMOs. I don’t fish or hunt, but I do continue to drive my car. 

I only hope that you’re able to fix all of us grownups’ bad choices. Because, the way things are going, you won’t even be able to get paid for cleaning up the mess we grownups have left behind.

I’m not asking for forgiveness, or even that you accept my apology. Because no matter what kind of grownup that’s out there, we are all hoping you will be the generation that can fix the damage we’ve done to the world. Maybe that’s why we are so hard on you. And why there are so many rules–we grownups are trying to fix our own mistakes, and you kids have to bear the brunt and the burden of our bad choices.

From what I’ve seen of kids today (like kids suing the federal government over climate change), I have no doubt that any choice you make will be better than any we’ve made over the past tens of thousands of years.

Go out and take back your world. Make it into the world that you want to live in. Demand the education and the school that you want for yourself. It won’t be easy, but you also don’t have to wait to be a grownup to create the world you want to live in. You don’t need anyone’s permission but your own to begin the process. It will be tough to change the system, and overthrow the established order (don’t give up!). But do it with kindness and heart and compassion and respect and love. Because, as a kid, those are your strengths.