Welcome to our Issue 048 author interviews! We’re starting off with the leader of the flock, our very own editor-in-chief Jennifer Lyn Parsons! Read on and see why she chose this issue’s theme and to hear her thoughts on her story “Blessing.”
LSQ: Why did you decide to choose “birds” as this issue’s theme?
Jennifer: I started off knowing I wanted to see what our authors did with an animal theme. At the same time Creative Director Tara Lindsey and I were planning the covers and theme for this year we were also enjoying the bird feeder in our backyard.
Those daily observations had really caught my attention. I would check the feeder many times throughout the day, wondering who I would see. Of course the squirrels were having a party, too, clever little menaces that they are, but the variety of birds I was able to observe was impressive.
I also happen to work on both my day job and do LSQ work in my attic office that has been dubbed “The Crow’s Nest” since the day we moved in, because it’s got a couple big old pine trees right out the window and I feel like I’m at bird-level when I’m up here.
Between all that and the wonderful, rich history of birds appearing in folktales and myths the world over, it felt like birds were a natural fit for our first animal-themed issue.
LSQ: Kira’s had many adventures before the current events of the story. Which version of her came to you first? Did her other travels serve to fill in her backstory, or did her current journey come to you after spending time with her on her other ones?
Jennifer: Interestingly, Kira came to me whole cloth, as you meet her on the page. I find myself more and more often writing middle-aged characters. That’s partly because I am in that stage of life myself and feel I can finally understand how to write them, but also because I feel there are nuances to more mature characters I don’t often see in media.
So often a story like this would feature a young person who leaves home and goes in search of “destiny”. With Kira, she’s been there and done that, or rather she never really felt the pull of destiny. Now, she’s simply looking for the peace in her heart that she lost somewhere along the way. The adventures she has are a by-product of her inner search, rather than seeking adventure for adventure’s sake or to prove something.
I honestly don’t know much about her previous adventures yet, though I hope to visit her more and learn about where she’s been. I definitely want to know more about Ceara and the Poverstow Three. I also hope to go back to this story and find out about the adventures Kira and Fledge have on their journey home.
LSQ: This story presents us with a beautiful way to look at loss and grief although, as Kira acknowledges, it isn’t easy. What is your advice to people struggling to deal with these feelings?
Jennifer: “Be patient with yourself” is probably my biggest piece of advice for someone struggling with grief. For myself, trying to push that pain away just made it worse. Taking time to acknowledge and process my grief was the kindest thing I’ve done for myself. Understanding that even when I felt “better” that there would be moments when it bubbles back up again, even years later. And that’s okay.
The culture many of us live in doesn’t really allow for prolonged grief. We’re supposed to buck up and move on. I frankly think this is incorrect and that the heart heals on its own timeline. There is a lot of love wrapped up in grief and we need time to adjust to loss. I read this quote recently that stopped me in my tracks, because how can you just “get on with it” when you need to figure out where to put the love?
“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.”
For myself, I’ve taken grief (love) and put it to use making things. My novel, Take On Me, was the physical manifestation of my grieving process. I cried many times while writing it, but the result of being truly honest about how I was feeling and what I was going through, through the lens of my characters, was that I produced the single best piece of fiction I’ve ever written.
Writing that book was the healing gift I gave to myself. If you can find a way to do that for yourself, to find something (make art, build a playlist, write something, embrace nature) that will allow you to work with the grief instead of against it, you may find healing there as well.
LSQ: Kira’s bird companion first takes the form of a crow. What is it about crows that draws people to them? What draws you to them?
Jennifer: This is such a wonderful question because there are so many ways I can answer it.
I’ve always thought crows are cool. They’re just so different from the other birds that would appear in my yard as a kid, so much bigger an all black in contrast to the little sparrows and bright blue jays or the pigeons and mourning doves that I was used to seeing. Of course they show up in many stories, old and new. I do have a fondness for Tricksters and they often fill that role in various myths.
But as for what draws me, and possibly others, to them? I think there’s an innate sense that there’s something special about them. There’s intelligence visible in how they interact with the world and they’re often caught on video taking a break from just surviving to play and have fun. I think we recognize a little of ourselves in these birds and that despite our differences we have much in common.