Well, hello. I hope all my fellow Americans had an enjoyable Thanksgiving, and the rest of you weren’t too inconvenienced by our absence. The boys were with their moms this year for Thanksgiving, so I spent mine with friends in New Hampshire at a lovely old farmhouse that they have been slowly preparing for the eventual climate change apocalypse. I’ve been trying to sell them on the idea that it would be handy to have a writer/story teller around when they can no longer count on Netflix for entertainment, and I think I’ve got them more or less convinced now. So that’s my End of the World plans sorted.
Once a manuscript had gone through revisions, copyediting, and design, it’s sent on to be printed. That’s usually when my agency begins submitting it to foreign markets. Hope and Red saw thrilling success overseas, and I’m hoping to see similar enthusiasm for The Ranger of Marzanna, particularly in one market we didn’t crack last time: Eastern Europe. Since Ranger is heavily inspired by eastern European culture, my agent suggested I write a personal note to publishers in eastern Europe, explaining why I made that choice. I thought you might enjoy reading it:
This story really began with the death of my grandmother, Leokadjia Bojar Kelley back in 2009. Sadly, I didn’t think to ask her questions about her childhood and our family history until it was too late. All I knew was that there were some cousins in Krakow that she kept in touch with throughout her life and someone needed to let them know she had passed away. That task fell to me, partly because I was the oldest (and favorite) grandchild, but also because no one else seemed interested.
Thus began my introduction to my ancestral Poland and its people. My grandmother had rarely spoken of it, aside from the mandatory oplatek at Christmas, a great deal of reverence for Pope John Paul II, and the occasional curse directed toward someone named “Marzanna” on particularly cold days in winter. So I had a lot of catching up to do.
I was a student of history in college, so in addition to getting in touch with my distant cousins, I began researching Poland’s culture and history on my own. I was delighted to learn who Marzanna and her sister, Zivena, were. I discovered that apparently my family had not been breaking the oplatek in the traditional way. And I was also struck by the shifting borders of Poland and surrounding countries throughout its history. In particular, the idea that for the entire 19th Century, Poland did not exist as a sovereign nation. I wondered how a country could maintain its identity when it did not exist. How could a person be Polish without a Poland? Since I’m a writer, I generally address such difficult questions by writing about them, and that’s how The Ranger of Marzanna began.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Polish culture (most of you?), oplatek is a thin, wafer-like bread similar to Roman Catholic communion bread that is traditionally passed around at Christmas as those gathered wish each other success in the coming year.
Also, the “real” Marzanna was a goddess of winter in Polish lore. To this day, some places in Poland celebrate “The Drowning of Marzanna” on the last day of winter by creating an effigy of Lady Marzanna and then throwing it in a river. Or, if there isn’t a river handy, they just set her on fire.
Here’s an example of a Marzanna effigy taken by photographer Marta Malina Moraczewska.
I’ll be sharing more tidbits like this as we slowly make our way toward the April publication for Ranger of Marzanna. If anyone has a particular question about these things (or anything really), feel free to reply to this email, or hit me up on social media. I’m on All the Internet Things (albeit somewhat reluctantly), so you might as well make use of it.
Last week I shared that sizzling track from hip-hop artist Sampa the Great. This week I’m going in the opposite direction with a folk-pop track by Cataldo that reminds me strongly of early Mountain Goats.
And now begins that awkward time period where we try to get some proper work done between Thanksgiving and the holiday season that is mere weeks away. I have done no Christmas shopping yet. Well, except for my precious little cousin, Maya, because she requires more DC Super Hero Girl dolls and I exist to fulfill that need.
Regardless of what you’re doing or who you’re with, this time of year ain’t easy. Good luck with your own shopping/holiday preparations, and take care of yourself while you’re at it.