Saturday, December 13, 2008

My Christmas List

My Christmas list this year reads as follows;

Handmade ring setting for currently-unset gems - $2000
Elsa Peretti heart shaped gold earrings from Tiffany - $1500
Black leather gloves from Nordstrom - $80
Slippers - $45
Enamel and gold passport charm bracelet charm - $275
Serving tray - $80
Bulgari perfume/soap - $125/$27
Williams-Sonoma Christmas dinner plates - $120
Crate and Barrel red glass wine glasses - $32
Platinum hoop earrings - $460
Troll beads - $25 – virtually limitless

Now it’s true that I don’t expect to get everything on this list (and I won’t). This list is more of a ‘hope/vague suggestion list’ than a list of expectations. And it’s also true that I will be grateful for everything I receive. I’ve never been the sort of person to have a huge sense of entitlement and I don’t regret the things I’ll never own. However….

It occurs to me as I read this list that there’s not one thing on this list that I truly need. And that suggests to me that my list reads as it does because all my needs have been already met. And that’s the sort of statement that should make all of us stop and think.

Nowhere on my list does it say “fresh water”, or “food for my children”, or “medical care”. Nowhere does it read “education”, or “safety from violence”. I’m not asking Santa for a job, for the right to vote, for a roof over my head, for a cessation to fighting in my neighborhood or for healing for any harm done to me or to those I love. It’s the Christmas season here in beautiful New York and I am in the process of stuffing my stocking with as many luxury items and non-essentials as I can accumulate. As Bono once said when introducing one of his fundraising efforts:

“I am a fat cat in the snow.”

But as life would have it, I believe in God. And I believe in a God who is sovereign over me and who hasn’t taken his eye away from this world, or from those whose stockings will be significantly less empty than mine this Christmas. And I believe that the God I honor set a significant example – a template if you will - when sending his son to be born in a manger rather than a palace, and that it’s a template which God expects us still to fill. There is something appalling and rather less than lovely about my Christmas list when set against the lives of some other of God’s children in this world we share.

I am aware that, were someone homeless, wounded, destitute or suffering to appear at my door I would not turn my back. And yet – people who suffer in all these ways are easily accessible to help. Am I simply benefiting from the ability to avert my gaze? Am I benefiting from distance? From insularity? Is the entire nature of my Christmas formulated around the unspoken assumption that I just won’t look beyond my own pine scented, fairy lighted living room? In other words, will it all be ok just so long as I stick my fingers in my ears and hum?

And yet, I feel an insistent tap on my shoulder, and the urgent yanking of my fingers from my ears, and the Jesus of Bethlehem saying to me “Turn around, girl, and look.”

And there they are – all in my living room. People with less than me. And not just a little less – a LOT less. People in pain, people with no joy, no hope, people dependant on me for help. People who need me to see them and not turn my back. Brothers and sisters around the world who need me to acknowledge their existence.

So this year I’m going to rework the list, and I’m going to see if I can give a little hope, a little love, some health, some peace, some future to people who deserve it a lot more than I deserve a pair of platinum earrings. And when I do that, I just know I’m going to feel God’s approval that I’m finally getting into the spirit of Christmas.

This Christmas, I’d like to share with you an organization you might find worthy of your financial ‘Christmas cheer’. The Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is dedicated to the surgical repair of the victims of rape – a weapon being used throughout the DRC as an effective means to demoralize and destabilize a culture and society already torn apart by violence and poverty. Please have a look at the links below, and then you, like I, might like to rethink ‘The Christmas List’.

Merry Christmas – with love to you all,

K.E. Stapylton

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Something Beautiful

For those of you with access to iTunes who appreciate atmospheric, beautiful music, I'd like to suggest '1 Giant Leap - featuring Michael Stipe and Asha Bhosle' singing 'The Way You Dream'. It's for sale on iTunes and is in the genre best described as 'world music'. Here's part of the write up from IMDB on the project;

"1 Giant Leap is a unique project for the 21st century which fuses words, sounds, rhythms and images from across the globe to celebrate the creative diversity of musicians, storytellers, authors, filmmakers, artists and thinkers from cultures around the world. The results illustrate breathtaking artistic and cultural diversity with a clear message of unity running throughout."

While the entire cd is beautiful in general and awe-inspiring in parts, I'd recommend The Way You Dream as a true highlight; it's the sort of music you listen to when you wish to contemplate the imponderable mysteries of life - or perhaps just close your eyes to concentrate on a single, undiluted moment in time. Either way, it should be on every mature music lover's play list.


Yours Entertainingly,

K.E. Stapylton

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving, America

This is the Thanksgiving entry from my Facebook page. I thought I'd share it with you here....

In February 2003 I was invited to a home for lunch. Not knowing the hostess well, nor having been to her home previously for any appreciable time, I didn’t know what to expect. Would it be casual or formal? Would the company be enjoyable, welcoming? Would the topics of conversation involve and engage me, or would I have nothing to contribute and little to learn? Most of all I wondered what sort of food would be served. Would it be boring, stodgy food which was a chore to eat? Or bland food that was all nutrition but no fun? Or what if the food was overly rich – delicious at the time, but leaving me sick and bloated by the end of the meal? I went with a polite smile on my face, but trepidation in my heart.

And yet, when America opened her door to me, all the warm, wonderful, complex smells of an exquisite meal tickled my senses. After being ushered kindly to my seat I was served a tantalizing appetizer of career possibilities and professional opportunity which whet my appetite and made me hungry for more. This was quickly followed by a rich and hearty main course of freedom, justice, egalitarianism and tolerance which nurtured me and sat warmly in my belly. Finally came dessert; a light, complex dish made from the sweetness of new friendships, the tang of individuality, and the smooth creamy lushness of support and acceptance.

At the end of the meal I collected my coat to leave. “Stay!” said America, and reached out her hand. I hesitated for just a second…then hung my coat back in the cupboard and replaced my hat on the hook by the door. To this day I sit in the big comfortable chair by the fire in America’s home, my feet curled up under me, content and grateful for the welcome I’ve received from this most gracious hostess.

Happy Thanksgiving, America.

Yours Gratefully,

K.E. Stapylton

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Carrot and the Stick

The Terror of Prism Fading focuses on the adventures of four children, Rabbit, Rupert, Jasper and Aden, each of whom have a remarkably different family experience. Rabbit has lived in a series of foster homes, her parents and young brother having been killed in a car accident when she was five years old. Rupert is an only child, and although it’s not explicitly stated in the books, has learnt to be the peacemaker in a family where both parents are alcoholics. Jasper has two wonderful parents, but his mother, a significant and powerful figure in the land of Prism, does not live in the family home and is rarely seen by her son. To all intents and purposes, Jasper is an only child in a single parent family. Aden also has wonderful parents but, as king and queen of Prism, they are rarely in a position where they can place family ahead of their public duties and enormous responsibilities. Despite a loving bond with her parents, Aden has been raised largely by a succession of nannies and tutors, isolated from her peers and with crushing expectations for the future resting on her shoulders. At their respective ages of 13 and 14, Rabbit, Rupert, Jasper and Aden already bring significant baggage to their experiences together in Prism.

In creating these characters, I tried to recreate problems and struggles I’ve encountered during my life, particularly my years as a therapist. In a society where children are often indulged beyond what’s good for them, it seems there is still a striking lack of adequate nurture and appropriate support given to the children in our communities in general, and in our homes in particular.

I watched an episode of Dr Phil recently where he discussed the topic of ‘sexting’ – the sending of text messages with a sexual content - and the exponential rate at which this seems to be generated by children. It was jaw dropping to have to see him say to the parent “Well, have you taken the phone away?” (no) “Well why not?” (multiple lame excuses along the lines that ‘my child needs a phone.’) This from the mother of a 12 year old girl who had been sending naked photos of herself out into the ether using said cell phone! He spoke also to a teenage boy and his mother. The boy had been practicing auto-asphyxiation at the local amusement park, riding on the roller coaster unconscious and oxygen deprived. When asked how the boy got to the amusement park, his mother replied “I drive him.”

My firm belief has always been that the majority of parents try hard to do a good and self sacrificing job with their children. But it’s becoming increasingly culturally unpopular to say no, to monitor, to set boundaries, to say “You’re not old enough”, to punish, to deprive and to weed out the behavior in children that we deem to be culturally, morally and socially unacceptable. We have fallen victim to a twist on the ‘me generation’; the ‘you generation’, where we bring up children implying by our own actions that everything they do is precious and deserves our respect and consideration. In trying to empower children, it appears that we often go so far as to give them inappropriate levels of power, giving them possibilities, options and choices that their moral, ethical, social and emotional development simply has not readied them for.

I would encourage – not all – but some parents to be a little less ‘respectful’ and rather more invasive. I spoke to a 17 yr old girl this week who told me – with a straight face – that she prefers to keep her family and her Myspace page separate “because she didn’t think adults would be interested in what teenagers talk about.” A request to join her friends list will be met by being blocked from her page. I talked to a 15 year old boy on Facebook this morning whose 50+ underage friends all had a photo of themselves up for all to see. Where are these children’s parents? In a world where people feel so anonymous that they seem to believe every aspect of their lives needs to be recorded before it’s significant, the role of the family is being eroded.

The point is to make your children feel significant – to you, to make them feel as though they are essential – to you. We make a sad mistake when we imply to children that they are the center of the universe - yet largely invisible in their own families.

There are few pictures more ugly than a world full of grown up children, each and every one believing that world revolves around them, few things more dangerous than children with electronic gadgets and no parental monitoring, and few things sadder than children who go through life with insufficient boundaries and a belief that nobody loved them enough to stand up and be a parent. When parents love children they set boundaries; they make them high and they make them intractable. And it keeps their children safe.

I hope all parents will make the decision to be willing to be the bad guy, to notice all that their children do – the bad and the good – and to keep working hard to find that elusive balance between ‘the carrot and the stick’,

Yours Protectively,

K.E. Stapylton

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Most Wonderful Woman in the World.

Fall has come to New York and we're deep into this most gorgeous time of year. The colors are glorious, the leaves are thick on the ground, and the air is rich with that toasty smell of damp, crusty foliage. Wonderful!

More wonderful still is that I am sharing this beautiful season with my best friend of 32 years, Wendy, who has travelled over from Sydney to spend 5 fabulous weeks with me. (Now seems like a good time to assure you all that we met when we were children...more or less...)

Last night, as we were taking my dog, Dixon, for a walk around town, Wendy said to me "if we met now, do you think we would still be friends?" The answer is a resounding "Yes!" So this post is a tribute to Wendy, the most wonderful woman in the world.

Wendy and I met on a beach in 1976. I was at a camp and she was on vacation with another girlfriend. I noticed Wendy speaking with a young man from our camp who was, at that time, considered very handsome but rather arrogant and egotistical; the biggest impact his success with the opposite sex had made was in his own mind, though his general appeal was widely acknowledged. Both Wendy and the girl she was vacationing with apparently knew this young man via other people, and it was sheer coincidence that she had encountered him on the beach. After a short conversation, however, he wandered away, leaving Wendy more or less stranded in the middle of a large group of people she didn't know with no-one to talk to. She wandered off awkwardly and took up a position by herself on the sand; the girlfriend she had arrived with also apparently having evaporated. For reasons of my own, I knew what it was to feel alone in a crowd and, having been brought up a proactive kind of girl, I went up to Wendy and introduced myself.

Was it an immediate synergy of souls? Nope. Did we have a lot in common? Not really. But we were polite and friendly, we chatted, we laughed over a few things, and we made ourselves 'socially available'. This conversation led to dinner together back at the campsite one evening, then phone numbers exchanged and phone calls made. From here we graduated to get-togethers in each other's homes when summer was over, a sharing of thoughts, a commitment to each other's well being, and a loyal bond that grew into 32 years of the most nurturing friendship I have ever known. When her boyfriend dumped her, I was there; when my mother (and later on my father) died, she was there; when she had her babies, I was there; when my husband and I bought our first home, Wendy was there - with her check book. When Wendy's marriage broke down, I was there - on the end of the phone for an hour or more every day and then with a plane ticket to NY and an open door for as long as she wanted. When living on the other side of the world gets too hard, Wendy is here - spending her vacations, her long service leave, and more time than she realistically has to spare, looking after me and simply helping me to travel successfully through life with fewer bruises than I would otherwise have. As we age, so we realize that we will face bigger and bigger challenges, and so we discuss things like living wills, power of attorney, euthanasia, and who we want to have 'grandma's good tea set' when we finally kick on. More to the point, we have the sorts of conversations only best friends have; "If I am ever incapacitated and in hospital and can't talk, promise me you'll regularly pluck out the hairs that grow out of that mole on my chin..." "Can't I just get it electrolysized?" "Well, ok - just make sure *something* gets done." "You could always get it done now of course..." "Hmmm...maybe I will..."

Wendy and I are very different in nature. I am analytical; she is emotional. I want to discuss politics; she wants to read cook books. I want to grow roses; she wants to grow herbs. I cook complicated French cuisine with complex tastes and subtle, layered flavors; Wendy makes enormous, earthy Italian dishes you need your hands to eat and which make you glad to be alive. Wendy loves to shop for clothes, while I have a passion for collecting unset diamonds. Wendy loves the pre-Raphaelite school of art; I am all about the abstract artists - Kandinsky, Rothko, Pollock. And Wendy adores emotional, intense classical music; I would rather eat glass. In many ways we're about as different as two people can be.

And yet despite all our differences, we both believe in God, we both believe in the responsibility of 'those with' to share with 'those without'. We both believe all people are equal, and we both believe in 'using our words, not our fists' - both in relationships and in international politics. We both strive to tell the truth, to be responsible, to make a positive impact and to leave a place better than we found it. We believe in being polite, paying our own way, and in making ourselves available to those we love. We both believe laughter is the best medicine, that points of view different to our own are not necessarily wrong and should be listened to, that we all could be better than we are, and that manners are the oil in the complicated machinery of life. And we both value loyalty and trustworthiness, and believe that all good relationships start with those things.

Perhaps if we had met now, it would have taken us longer to be friends, to have found where each other fit into our lives and to see the value in each other. But I believe we would have ended in the same place, valuing each other - similar yet different - passing time together, a cup of coffee in hand, our feet tucked up on the sofa with laughter and love in the air.

I think I still would have recognized the most wonderful woman in the world.

Yours Awash with Blessings,

K.E. Stapylton

Monday, September 22, 2008

But It's Not What I'm Used To....

It seems to me that in political parties, there are seven key issues represented; small government, social welfare and reform, fiscal responsibility, the middle class, the working class, religious conservatism and social liberalism.

In the US, small government, religious conservatism and appeal to the working class seem to coalesce around the Republican Party, while liberalism, social welfare and the middle class seem to coalesce around the Democrats. The issue of fiscal responsibility one would assume would be associated with smaller government, though this does not necessarily seem to be the case. In Australia, however, the issues align differently. The middle class, fiscal responsibility and religious conservatism (especially the Anglican church) line up under the Liberal Party (do *not* confuse the name with liberalism - the LP in Australia is definitely the conservative party), while social reform, social welfare, unionism and the working classes line up as issues centered around the Australian Labor Party. The Labor Party is more pro-environment (like the Dems in the US), while the LP is more about strengthening Australia's global economic position and using whatever methods possible to boost the balance of trade. The point is that the parties don't align with the same core issues from country to country.

So it makes one wonder how your average rampant Republican or zealot Democrat would cope when transplanted from one country to another, or indeed, if the issues which they hold as being indelibly linked were, in fact, split between different parties. From there, it's a short step to questioning how these issues were ever joined together so inseparably and from there it's an even shorter step to wondering whether it is indeed the issues we hold dear, or our membership of the party merely. Are we truly committed to the issues, or are we blindly holding to a party?

I have been interested to see, here in the US, people committed to a political party in ways which they simply aren't in Australia (where the chief religion is sport, and its subsets 'the weekend', 'my mates', and 'having a good time'). Watching the political process in this 2008 election year has shown a degree of partisan fanaticism and blind-eyed passion that is simply baffling to your average Australian. So I was fascinated to read *this* report;

Blind passion and commitment are excellent motivators but they do little to enhance objective reasoning. The concept of registering for a party - a system not employed in Australia - seems to have lead to a partisanship which has caused more harm that good in the US. Once people see themselves as Democrat or Republican, an attack on the party has become an attack on oneself. Could anything be more specifically tailored to preclude objective reasoning when assessing the candidates put forward by a party?

I am more than skeptical when I speak to someone who says they have always been a Republican/Democrat and have always voted for that party. Are all men equal? Is every candidate interchangeable just because they belong to that party? Are we so naive as to think all moral men belong to only one of these parties? That the alternative party is incapable of putting forward a candidate of advanced capability? And are we really trying to imply that all the issues important to 'me' are covered by one of only two parties? People are not so simple and the issues important to me would be unlikely to be adequately covered by a hundred different political parties.

The issues that I value are: adequate welfare, international responsibility and commitment to peace, international aid, environmental maturity and commitment, alternative fuel development, the mandated reduction of pollution, conservation of the UN and its powers, the Supreme Court, stem cell research, abortion, gun control, preservation of the free market, freedom of religion but the recognition of the US as a Christian country and the respect of its citizens to exercise their religious choice, prayer in schools, an overhaul of the ACLU, wildlife preservation, adequate health care, support for minority groups, and about a thousand other issues covered by neither party. My combined positions on these individual issues would put me squarely in...a political party which doesn't exist!

The passionate and unyielding support of one party indicates a degree of emotional investment that precludes logical detachment. If indeed that 3am call ever does come, I'll be looking for a leader who can step back from his or her own fears and prejudices - as they relate both to this country and to him or herself - and make the truly globally responsible decision. As people who vote, I would encourage you to get to know your candidates...but also your own prejudices and fears. Work out what's important to *you*, and accept that it will change as history and the world change, and vote with your head, not your heart. Gut feeling, intuition and instinct, when it comes to elections, are generally poor substitutes for knowing the issues and finding the candidate who best represents them.

Think, America. Think.

Yours Informedly,

K.E. Stapylton

Thursday, August 28, 2008

20 Things I've Learned From My Dog Dixon

So in the spirit of recognizing the contribution of animals in general, and in praise of dogs in particular, I thought I'd share with you a list of the 20 most fundamentally important things my dog has been able to teach me. I am, granted, a slow learner. But here are...

20 Things I've Learned From My Dog Dixon

1) It’s only the idiot on the end of the lead who cares how expensive the collar is.

2) Treats are good – but nothing beats a walk in the park with someone you love.

3) If you manage to escape your backyard, the person who loves you will be thrilled when you come back. If their first words are “Bad dog!” go find another family to live with.

4) Communication is important – but at 3am, nobody cares what you have to say.

5) There’s nothing to be embarrassed about regarding physical functions.

6) Electric blankets are a gift from God.

7) If you’re stuck somewhere and you have to go to the toilet, don’t be too shy to tell somebody.

8) All things are better if they squeak. Even people.

9) I want what you have. I don’t know why. I just want it.

10) If someone growls at you, smile and show your tummy.

11) Getting your nose up someone else’s butt is not normally appreciated; no really DOES mean no.

12) Be prepared to do what your family tells you – about 1 in 3. They get such a charge out of it and I mean – really – how hard is it to ‘lay down’? The whole ‘roll over’, ‘fetch’ and ‘beg’ thing can be negotiated.

13) Nirvana starts in our house promptly every night at 7pm when Tim walks through the door.

14) If you look cute, even if you’re naughty, somebody will generally kiss you.

15) There is no benefit in making your bed.

16) If you nip, you’ll get attention. Just not necessarily the attention you want.

17) Exercise is not negotiable.

18) Sometimes, to scratch an itch, you have to get someone else to do it. In this situation, a nice lady with nails is normally best.

19) Life is better if you’re part of a pack.

20) No matter how adorable you are, if you have Mom’s favourite shoe (gloves/wallet/project she’s working on) chewed up and hanging out your mouth, HIDE UNDER THE COFFEE TABLE.

Educationally Yours,

K.E. Stapylton

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Do Animals Talk?

Well, do they?

I remember when my husband and I got our second dog, Dapple. Our first dog, Dixon, had till that point slept on the floor in our bedroom, wandering in and out at will. But Dapple was a barker who suffered from separation anxiety. So we decided to keep Dixon locked up with her for the night for company. Unfortunately, when she came to us she wasn't as toilet trained as we would have liked (see this for the euphemism it is!), so at night we had to keep her bed in the kitchen so she had access to the back yard. In an effort to keep the house warm, we had to shut the doors in between her and us. All this to say - Dixon ended up spending, for the first time, nights locked away from Tim and me.
I remember the first night. Dapple, having company, barked a bit but ultimately curled up on her bed and went to sleep. No such luck with Dixon! He barked...and barked...and barked...till 1.30am, at which point he finally fell asleep, more or less out of exhaustion. At 6am the following morning, Tim and I ran downstairs to see how they'd gotten along. Dapple was still curled up asleep on her bed. But Dixon gave us a look which communicated his complete disgust with this whole idea, picked up his blanket in his teeth and dragged it to *just* the other side of the now-open kitchen door, and sat down stubbornly. And gave us 'The Look'. No dog in the entire history of dogness has ever communicated so clearly to his family; "Listen folks, I don't DO kitchens!"

Dixon is also an extremely affectionate dog, and he loves my office chair which is on wheels. In Dixon's mind, this chair was created specifically so he could wait till I was in the middle of work, then jump up on the side of my chair, push me across the room, then pin me against the wall with his front paws up on my shoulders, and cover my face with licks. The more I laugh the more he licks! The dog has a sense of humor!

Do animals talk?

I remember some months ago my husband Tim and my friend David working in our backyard, trying to pull out the stump of a dead shrub. I was watching proceedings from the comfort of a garden chair and Dixon was standing next to me. Tim and David started to pull, but the stump was buried in deep. They dug some more, then lined up, one behind the other, and pulled and pulled. Standing next to me, Dixon watched proceedings for a minute or so, saw their lack of progress, then trotted over to the end of the line and took the end of the shrub in his mouth behind David. Together, Tim, David and Dixon worked on the shrub till they had it pulled out, Dixon pulling as hard as anybody.

Do animals talk?

When Dixon was a young dog, about 9 months old, I used to take him to the local park for off-lead running. I went there one day and the park was largely empty and Dixon was having a wonderful time. After a short while, we were joined by a woman who had a youngish male pit bull with her. Dixon's favourite game is chasings, and he was very used to taking turns with Dapple, chasing each other in our back yard. Dixon chased the pit bull for a few seconds, then turned around so the pit bull could chase him. I sensed trouble and it wasn't long in coming. In less than a minute a casual chasing game had turned into a pursuit, Dixon running faster and faster as he realized this was in earnest. Time and again he would try to run to me for protection, but every time the pit bull would cut him off, running between Dixon and me to stop Dixon from getting help. Within about 2 minutes the pit bull had caught Dixon and brought him down from behind. The pit bull stood with his legs either side of Dixon, his muzzle buried in Dixon's neck. I will never forget running to Dixon where he lay, completely silent on the ground, but his head turned to one side towards me, his eyes pleading with me for help. I looked deep into those beautiful eyes and he heard me as clearly as I heard him; help was coming. (Help did indeed come, and it did not bode well for the pit bull nor for his idiot owner who took an undisciplined attack dog to an off-lead dog park!)

Do animals talk?

Of course they do. And in Prism I've tried to give them the voices and the words we would hear if we were smart enough to understand their natural languages. Listening to my dogs and hearing what they have to say is one of the great joys of my life. I believe we all need to recognize that we are not the only species with something to say, and I'd encourage us all to talk less and listen more,

Attentively Yours,

K.E. Stapylton

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Putting Some Flesh on Prism

It’s an amazing thing to realize someone can see inside your head! But that’s what Laura, illustrator extraordinaire, seems to have done with the beautiful cover art she’s been working on for The Terror of Prism Fading. Although not yet in its final form, the link below will give you a good idea – both where the cover is heading and also how very talented Laura is!

A trip to her web site shows the various steps to this point, and they in turn are a pretty fair reflection of our various conversations and emails.

As points were clarified and details given, so the characters came to life until, a few days ago, I was sent an email with an attached link. I opened it gingerly, not entirely sure what to expect, and took a deep breath….

It’s a little off putting to see a scene - which has existed so far only in one’s imagination – suddenly take shape and appear on a page in full color! In many ways this image was, for me, too, my first ever glimpse of Prism, and I am wholly grateful to Laura for the opportunity to look into this wonderful world and see the characters I have already grown to love. I let out a deep sigh of relief when I realized the Prism I was looking at and the characters I was seeing were completely coherent with the places and people in my imagination that I had been living with for so many years.

Thank you, Laura.

Yours gratefully,

K.E. Stapylton

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Mountain of Work...and then...

Progress! The Terror of Prism Fading website is now up and running! Currently in its most basic form, the website will soon be a place where you can download the book in e-book format as well as purchase it through Lulu. Various graphics and effects should be added over the coming weeks to make a fun place to spend a little time. And for those who make the effort to find their way there, there will be extra snippets of material on favourite characters plus a greater look into the history and legends of Prism. I can only recommend that you check the site regularly for updates and news!

Speaking of news, as well as working on the second installment of the Prism series, I've begun writing a short book for younger children. I find writing for children of all ages deeply rewarding and it's a complete joy to communicate with them. Flights of Family Fancy is for children aged 4-9 (otherwise known as the 'pre-Prism set'!), and is a collection of poems and short stories that could be managed by the older children in this age range, or read by parents to those at the younger end of the spectrum. This collection of poems and stories is extremely precious to me as it's being written predominantly for the entertainment of one special 7 year old in California whose giggles and wide eyed gaze when her father reads them to her are the elixir of life for a children's writer. Perhaps one day I'll find an illustrator and do something more formal with them. In the meantime, Flights of Family Fancy is the way I spend my spare time, when I have any of it to spare, and the stories I write when I wish to enjoy the pastime of writing without pressure.

But meanwhile, back at Prism....

Laura Diehl has come on board as illustrator for The Terror of Prism Fading, and the concept draft I have seen so far is hugely exciting! After considerable back and forth, plus significant time spent on the phone, Laura seemed to grasp the whole concept of Prism and will do an excellent job of translating it to paper. As a result, I'm hoping that The Terror of Prism Fading will be available in paperback version by the end of August! This will be a major milestone and I can assure you that champagne corks will be flying in this house!

In the meantime, work will be proceeding on Book 2, and I hope you enjoy the new website!

Yours Progressively,

K.E. Stapylton

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Hallo Kindle....

After much hard work and ingenuity on the part of a team of highly trained professionals, I am now published on Amazon's Kindle! For a child psychologist/mediator-turned-writer, this represents a big step in the change of career process. For decades I knew it was only a matter of time till writing became my profession, and the written word has been my passion for even longer, but making the leap from academic writing to children's fantasy author represents one of the most exciting and challenging things I've ever done.

And the list of tasks is endless! Blogs, web sites, summaries, cross links, wikipedia entries, and more versions of my book than I'd ever thought necessary (Kindle, Lulu, Amazon, Borders...) all make this a process of almost limitless proportions. And it's all worth it! I feel, after 20 years of planning, I'm willing to do whatever is necessary to get my words read, to get the message out, to encourage children to see themselves as central and valuable, to use story telling to engage with children to touch their hearts and assist in their healthy development.

I believe that, to write for children, one's motivation needs to be two fold. Firstly, one must want to tell stories. There has to be a deep seated desire to 'spin a good yarn' and to entertain. I remember the first time I read 'A Horseman Riding By'. Having studied literature of all kinds at university in Australia, and so much of it having been dry and boring, I was struck by the extent to which this story simply entertained me. And when I started writing the Prism series, I vowed to myself that I would write nothing dull, nothing that had to be 'sat through to get to the good bits'! I wanted to write things that would make children sit - wide eyed - on the edges of their seats, waiting with baited breath for the next word.

But secondly, one must surely be committed to the healthy development of children. I believe that a children's novel must be committed to bringing an experience of increased health and joy to its readers. It should be a tool for parents whose aim is to raise healthy contributors to their communities. And it should light a passion for 'right' in the bellies of its readers - something which inspires them to be greater than they were when they started reading.

A book is a powerful thing, and a children's book doubly so. I hope that the Prism series will dispel the haze of grey we so often wade through, and ignite instead a powerful spectrum of color in those who read it,


K.E. Stapylton

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Heart of Prism

Welcome to my blog, created to complement the collection of children's books known as 'The Terror of Prism Fading.'  Here I'll be posting news of the books' progression - their creation and dissemination - and an exploration of the themes they espouse.  Even though these books are not yet published (hard copy available September 15th when the cover art is completed), more or less everyone in my circle of friends and acquaintances know that my time is spent on a day to day basis in the wonderful, magical land of Prism.  As such, interested bystanders often ask me what the books are about.  What they're looking for is a quick rundown of plot, character, and progression - a short wrap up of what I'm writing and where I am in the process.  But today over lunch I was contemplating what it was I was truly trying to say.

What, in fact, is the very heart of Prism and the story it tells?

Prism is a land and a story filled with flawed, yet lovable, characters.  Much like real life, there is no perfect individual, nobody who has completely 'made it', and many people who fall woefully short.  Many people in Prism try and try hard, yet very few are inherently powerful.  Many come from non-illustrious backgrounds - some even shamefully so.  And few consider themselves to be the sorts of people destined to change the world; indeed, some of the characters in Prism are simply trying to get through life with as little embarrassment as possible.

And Prism is full of difficulties and conflict.  The goals of one are rarely the goals of the other, and people find themselves marginalized, ostracized and generally doubted on more than one occasion.  Rabbit in particular finds herself the victim of scorn and suspicion almost from her first moments in this new and glorious land.  There is little in her experience of life to lead her to optimism, self confidence, or trust in her fellow man, and her experiences in Prism by and large reinforce this mindset.  Rabbit sees herself as small and weak, nothing special, and largely at odds with those with whom she has to work.

And yet, through hardship and difficulty, loneliness and fear, Rabbit finds in Prism a chance for greatness.  Rabbit discovers, when she puts her own goals to one side, a capacity for the heroic she would not have thought possible.  Despite a history of rejection and loneliness, this one small girl knows more about love than anyone ever suspects and - through self denial and sheer determination - Rabbit finds she has a gift for healing greater than herself.  When Rabbit steps out of the spotlight of her own life, she discovers a power she never knew she had.

So perhaps if there is one central theme in Prism it's that there is a potential for greatness in all of us that we can only discover when we put our own dreams and aspirations to one side.  When we live fully to serve others, even the smallest and weakest of us becomes strong and potent, and capable of great things.  When our own comfort is no longer our goal, we can all become vessels of healing.  And when we lay down the conflicts which are precious to us, we can, each and every one, become a chalice of peace.

Powerful indeed.

I hope the books of Prism will be like the very characters about whom I write; collections of individually powerless words which, when read in sequence, embolden readers to believe in the potency of service and the healing magnitude of humility,

With hope,

K.E. Stapylton