There are quite a lot of people out in the world claiming to write and wanting to represent magical realism. And that makes me happy.
However, my experience of magical realism is different than what people are calling magical realism.
Way back in 1998 I took a writing class with UCLA Extensions (amazing program) with Aimee Bender. It was around the time when Girl in the Flammable Skirt was released. Her opening lines include: “My lover is going through reverse evolution.”
How mind blowing is that?!
I recall a story about a boy with a hand of ice and a girl with a hand of fire and when they held hands their hands through the bars of a jail cell their hands were normal.
Her imagination sparked mine.
(I ran to my bookshelf just now and pulled these down and will reread them all. There is magic in her voice, the absurd is normal- the heartbreak of a tiny man kidnapped and put in a cage and poisoned- left me heartbroken- I still feel the pain of the tiny man. Or the tigers in the jungles yawning their skin apart and sisters have to sew them back together. These images live in my mind a decade after I read them.
I met Rachel Resnick a few years later. Back then I wanted to write memoir. I was struggling because my mind worked magically and mining my paternal relationship was painful. I had a newborn. I didn’t want to be any more raw than a first time parent.
Rachel suggested I take a break. She knew I wrote a short story Wolf, a Modern Tale about the big bad wolf getting out of jail early for good behavior and the neighbor girl obsessed with becoming his next victim. It was before the Kardashians and fame for fame’s sake. Anyway, Rachel suggested that I read Francesca Lia Block‘s Weetzie Bat.
I devoured it.
I began writing a short story about a magical dragon that fell in love with a girl and wanted to be loved so much by her he entered her womb hoping to be birthed by her, but instead ends up killing her. (I know strange) I loved the magical element that is odd, yet so my normal. I see the world this way. I see everyday magic.
I talk to animals, think the trees share secrets. I feel the elements and spiritual mysteries and want them in my stories.
The dragon story morphed over two years into a book and two years later I had my first young adult novel to query. BTW it didn’t have a dragon at all. It’s title What Death has Touched– pitch: Live is dead but doesn’t know it and is having one hell of a day figuring it out.
Now there is a magical element to all the fiction I write. Short stories and novels alike. But people are defining it in an unrecognizable way. And it frustrates me.
Then, last night I found Michelle Witte‘s blog and felt the thrill of kinship. It may be one sided- because she doesn’t know me, but regardless. I love her post on magical realism and had to share it. I didn’t want to cut and copy her words- here’s a quick link:
Michelle Witte is a literary agent with Mansion Street Literary Management representing children’s fiction and nonfiction, from babies on up through teens, and all ages in between.
I highly recommend trying to write magical realism. It’s freeing and mind bending and hard. When done well the magic sparkles off the page, when it’s not actually magical realsim it’s sci fi, paranormal, fantasy and a host of other genres. All of which are good, but aren’t magical realism.