Over the coming weeks I’d like to share interviews that I (and Magnus) conducted with the contributors to Corvidae and Scarecrow. This week we’ll talk with Kristina Wojtaszek. Kristina also had a story in Fae and you can check out her Fae contributor interview here 🙂
Interview with Kristina Wojtaszek
Please share a short excerpt from your story:
I crack open the bottle of turmeric as I head out into the night and almost choke in the overpowering aroma. And then I have a sudden, odd thought. I have no memory of his scent. Standing so close, I should have caught a whiff of coffee or soap, a hint of deodorant, maybe a haze of stale cigarettes… something. But as I wheel through a leaf pile in the parking lot, it hits me; the dry, clean scent of leaves. Leaves and apples. He smelled of nothing but autumn.
There’s a Japanese God who is represented as a scarecrow. It is all-knowing but cannot move. If you could know any one thing, what would it be? How to end suffering for all. I know it sounds like a beauty-pageant answer, but I say it in all seriousness.
Would it be worth learning the answer if you were forever stuck in one place afterward? It would only be worth learning if I could share my wisdom somehow. I’d take the lifeless limbs and unblinking eyes of a scarecrow if people came to me, and by some magic or another I could share with them what I had learned. But if I had to keep it to myself and watch with a sewn-on grin as humanity continued to suffer, completely unable to help? That sounds a lot like what I envision God to be; a silent pillar of love stuffed to the bursting, and tormented by us, so oblivious. No. No, I would not want be God.
If you were a scarecrow, what would you look like? What would you be stuffed with? I’d be little more than an old coat hung on a tree branch, a bit of wild hair woven into a bird’s nest, a lost shoe gone to seed, a thread of poetry in the breeze. There’d be no stuffing, nothing to me, really; just a handful of scattered hopes, an everlasting love of nature, and the memory of a warm smile carried by those who’ve know me. Isn’t that all any of us are?
Do you think you’d make a good scarecrow? Why? I don’t think I’d fit the typical job description, no. I’m not a very scary person, other than my hair first thing in the morning, and I’d be more apt to whip out a pair of binoculars and my Guide to North American Birds than to try to frighten anything off!
What is it about scarecrows that inspired you to write about them? Loneliness. What it would mean to be a stuffed doll made to look like what you can’t possibly be, waving ragged arms in the wind and watching little winged beings fly away in fright, while you slowly and pathetically fall apart. Dear God, that sounds a bit like my own life right now—perhaps it was more inspiration than I knew!
As you may know, one of Edmonton’s local Twitter personalities is Magnus E. Magpie who haunts Twitter as @YEGMagpie. I invited him to read an advance copy of Corvidae and Scarecrow and offer a short cawmentary on each story from a magpie’s point of view, which he did. When he was finished I asked if there was anything he’d like to ask the contributors. The italicized portions are mine because Magnus didn’t ask straight-forward questions on account of he’s a magpie 🙂
Mr. Yegpie: It would be cool to know where all these stories came from, I mean geographically – like I think I could tell who was from Edmonton and who was from Vancouver! (Where do you live, and did that affect your story/poem at all?) Wyoming, where I lived for almost nine years, probably affected the setting of A Fist Full of Straw. The strange thing about much of Wyoming is that it’s high desert country with little more than rock, buttes and dry dirt, and yet, in town, everyone has their own little patch of yard surrounded by an old picket fence, within which some grow astonishing gardens. I could never manage it, myself—the soil eroded away from the bedrock below and never stayed in one place, and I found most plants are far too demanding to thrive in an area where there is no shade, almost no humidity, and what natural soil there is is often so alkaline it emits this salty crust of absolute infertility. But there they’d be, these master gardeners with their roses and ripe tomatoes, always with a sprinkler going and wide smile, like there was simply nothing to the magic they made. So I guess that’s where the witch’s garden came from.
Mr. Yegpie: I also would sure love to know where they got their ideas from! I caught several familiar references from existing books and mythology and fairy tales; I like seeing people riff off stuff. (What inspired your story/poem?) There was no single fairy tale that inspired my story, nor any specific character from myth, but witches in general and the tricky nature of life and magic, surely played a big role in A Fist Full of Straw. But mostly my idea came from feeling quite inhuman myself, and wondering how others might feel if stripped of their humanity, yet still alive and aware. Both the woman who has grown apart from her role as wife and mother, with a yawning need to find her own, separate identity, and the scarecrow himself are feeling less than human in this story.
Mr. Yegpie: I think I would like to know what people’s favourite corvid is though; and if it isn’t a magpie, WHYEVER NOT?!? (If they come back with some guff about crows using tools, PLEASE LET ME KNOW AND I WILL SEND THEM A COPY OF MY ROGERS BILL. Pffft, crows.) (What is your favourite corvid?) I’m not sure if I have a favorite corvid, they’re all pretty awesome, but I do remember the first time I saw a black-billed magpie in Wyoming. With that long, elegant tail, I thought I was seeing a tropical bird!
Kristina Wojtaszek grew up as a woodland sprite and mermaid, playing around the shores of Lake Michigan. At any given time she could be found with live snakes tangled in her hair and worn out shoes filled with sand. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Management as an excuse to spend her days lost in the woods with a book in hand. Now a mother of two little tricksters and their menagerie of small beasts, she continues to conjure bits of fantasy during the rare spell of silence. Her fairy tales, ghost stories, poems and YA fiction have been published by World Weaver Press, Far Off Places and Sucker Literary Magazine. Follow her @KristinaWojtasz or on her blog, Twice Upon a Time.