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So I’ve been aware of Joy de Vivre and her Siren School for a while, and was even set to visit one of her San-Diego-area camps last year that involved irresistible swan maidens and a whole lot of white feathers. Siren School hosts fantasy-based camps, parties, tours and even cruises centered around romantic, magical creatures (including, of course, mermaids) that every woman might want to be for a day—or longer. You can see a list of upcoming events here. More recently, she’s launched a cool online magazine called la Vie Sirene and this month its focus is mermaids. Check out the cover and click around to read, among other things, Joy’s awesome interview with one of my favorite mermaids, Weeki Wachee’s Barbara Wynns:
I ask Joy for further gorgeous illumination below.
Can you tell us something about yourself?
I am a confessed siren! I don’t use my gifts or talents to lure men to their doom; but I do appreciate being a woman and all that it entails.
I have always known I was cursed with the entrepreneurial bug, but before I struck out on my own I worked in film production and marketing in the performing arts. I’ve owned a few small businesses I absolutely loved, including a tea room, fine dining garden restaurant and a theater company. But my latest venture, Siren School, looks to be the most fulfilling as it inspires and buoys women to find and express their true selves.
How did you become interested in mermaids?
My favorite story as a child was Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, which, as readers know, has a different sensibility than the Disneyfied version. My mom forbade me reading it cuz I would be late to dinner, crying in my room while pouring over the especially heart-wrenching parts
Have you long been involved in mermaid culture, etc?
I flirted with the culture from the fringes for ages. When the movie Splash came out I was nicknamed Madison because of my long blonde hair. And as a SoCal beach girl I have always had a very personal, passionate and altogether primal relationship with the sea. In fact, I am convinced I have salt water coursing through my veins. I am most alive and at peace and ‘myself’ when I am in the ocean.
What is La Vie Sirene?
It is a grass-rootsy online magazine “of the sirens, by the sirens, for the sirens.” In my dealings with members of the mer community I have run into scores of talented artists, authors (you may have been my first!), jewelry & tail designers, rabid enthusiasts, etc., who deserved to be showcased for their dedication and artistry. Unfortunately, many of them feel they have nothing to offer. La Vie Sirene is the place where they can not only be in the spotlight, but share their thoughts and expertise.
I relish and encourage contributions from those who are terrified at the thought of writing anything for the public, but who secretly yearn to. While the magazine will feature topics of interest to its primary demographic, women with a penchant for fantasy, dance and esteem-building, it will do so by focusing on a single theme per month to the extent that readers will be so deluged by the theme they will beg to move onto the next issue.
June’s premier issue is about Mermaids, and every single article and ad involves something mermaidy, from mermaid artists, authors, performers and shop owners, to recipes, bath products and even mermaid-specific hotels and pubs. Instead of providing the month’s content in one chunk, the information is rolled out and posted daily, with at least one article and one attendant ad, chosen to complement said article. I wanted to make both the main content as well as the hand-picked ads stand out and give readers the chance to savour each morsel proffered. At month’s end, the issue’s contents will be compiled into one publication available in PDF, Epub, Mobi and possibly even print formats.
It just launched a few days ago and already we are getting incredibly heartening feedback. People are finding it not only entertaining, but highly informative! It’s what I worked for, but dared not expect. So I am thankful, to say the least.
While it’s exciting to get involved in new projects, and try formats that reside just beyond the envelope, by far the best part about the entire enterprise has been the connections I’ve made with some incredibly soulful and talented people. It is such a gift to see them work their magic, and to get to showcase it.
What inspired you and what can we expect in the future?
I actually just posted an article about the mermaid/belly dancer who inspired Siren School to begin with, if any of your readers are brave enough to take a gander.
As for what the future holds, specifically as it applies to the magazine, we have a list of themes in the offing through 2014, though we’re open to requests.
I know you also run mermaid camps (and other fantasy-based camps) and have mermaid-themed cruises in the works. Can you tell me about all that?
Siren School grew out of my desire to stop swimming just to train for a triathlon, and to get back to doing “water ballet” as I had in my youth… only this time, with a tail! I searched the net for a “mermaid camp”—not knowing if there actually was such a thing—and found the grandmama of them all, wonderful Weeki Wachee. But I lived in California and they are across the country. Additionally, I wanted to delve into the lore and mythology of the legends in something of a roleplay environment. Next thing I knew, I was creating my own camp experience, which is not surprising given that I’ve been involved in theatrical interactive event creation since I was a tyke.
Once I got started with the idea for mermaid events, my inner genie, flapper, geisha, naiad, Venetian courtesan, Parisian showgirl and so on began complaining that they were being neglected. That is when I realized that I wanted to offer a variety of ‘siren’ archetype activities and experiences.
I sat down and created a slew of events all based in coastal Long Beach, CA, and thought I was done. But immediately, I started receiving messages saying, “I love your events but they’re too far away. Let me know if you ever do one in my area.” What to do, what to do… That is when the idea for a tour first germinated and the result is l’Experience Sirene, i.e. Siren School’s 2013 tour with events in cities all over America—each city chosen specifically to best fit the theme. Our Vampire Hunt will be in New Orleans, Pirates Caribbean Cruise & Treasure Hunt in Cozumel, Dryad (wood nymph) event at a Treehouse resort in Oregon, the 1920’s Speakeasy Die Hard gangster melee in Chicago, etc.
The aquatic events include two mermaid cruises with optional dolphin swims in the Bahamas, a Pacific Paradise mermaid getaway with dolphin encounter in San Diego, CA, and our naiad retreat which includes a manatee swim in Florida’s fresh water springs.
Do you yourself slip on a mermaid tail and/or identify as a mermaid at all?
I was over the moon when I got my first tail!!!! Being a major introvert and not liking to attract attention, I do most of my mermaid swimming and water dancing in secret, far from ogling eyes. I am in the throes of designing my first custom tail, which is fortuitous since I gave my original tail away to someone who was unable to get one for herself.
Why do you think so many people are so drawn to mermaids?
Oh gosh, I could write about that for pages and ages. I think this topic is best left to experts like.. well… you! But I will say, that to me mermaids represent confidence, freedom, grace… a lack of hangups and inhibitions… all qualities that are incredibly attractive in a woman. If the movie Splash imprinted you as it did me, then you may equate being a mermaid to being genuine, beautiful, sweet, loyal, loving, bright… so many qualities I would love to foster in myself!
And finally, do you have any advice for aspiring mermaids?
I feel it is absolutely vital to be one’s self without in any way comparing to other mers, their accomplishments, or their tails! Like any budding subculture, mer-dom has its own set of growing pains to contend with, and will find its balance, I have no doubt. While it does so, I feel it is imperative that mers act in a cooperative effort to embrace and promote this unique activity and lifestyle they adore. Like the Little Mermaid’s sisters, we too must twine our arms around each other and rise up out of the water, singing our siren song, not to induce others to wreck on the rocks, but to praise and share our gratitude and love for the mermaids we are—and more important, for one another.
So this Friday evening you might want to transport yourself to Greenport, New York, to attend the opening reception for artist Caroline Waloski‘s brand-new mermaid-themed exhibit “Flights of Fancy,” which will be showing at at The Siren’s Song Gallery until the end of July. Here is the sparkling invitation and relevant info:
I talk to Caroline below, about fishy ladies and Siren’s Song (which she also runs and directs, and which features mermaid art from a variety of sea-loving artists), but first, check out her own magical creations:
So what is the Siren’s Song Gallery?
I created the Sirens’ Song Gallery to lure folks into discovering the arts. The gallery is located in a historic maritime village. One can’t ignore the sea, bays, rivers and streams surrounding the area. It is natural for an artist to record what is seen, but there is more than meets the eye. Many local galleries feature paintings of the sea, but I thought I’d feature what was less obvious: the mysteries of the depth in spirit and psyche. After thousand of years evolving we humans are still connected to the sea. The waters of the earth can be benevolent or malevolent. The tides and the moon have a strong pull on our lives, and emotions, and the Mermaid Goddess is still there as intermediary. From ancient Mesopotamia until today she is our protectress. The mission of the Sirens’ Song Gallery is to focus on the beauty and power of this ancient deity, and her relevance in sustaining and preserving our world.
What kinds of artists have you featured?
The gallery has exhibited mid-career and established artists from the around the world, all of them focusing on water and sea themes. Water, the sea, and our natural environment has been the major focus of all art exhibited at the Sirens’ Song. The very first exhibit in 2006 was titled “Creatures of the Deep & the Shallows.” Artists from the Manhattan Graphics Center exhibited both fact and fantasy images with mermaids and other sea life bestiary. “Water Works,” a solo exhibit in 2008, featured limited-edition reduction linocuts, etchings, and collages by Cynthia Back focusing on the beauty, magic, patterns, and texture of our waterways and how they stay recorded in our memory. “Ebb & Flow” in 2011 featuring Shelly Haven and Cynthia Back dealt with large and small waterways and what possibly lies under the surface, and remains forever in our memory and fixed in time.
As artist in residence I have begun to focus on exhibiting my own work. The women’s issues that have always been the focus of my art have taken on a mythological approach using the Mermaid as Muse, the giver and protector of all life on earth, the ancient Goddess presiding over an “Amniotic Sea.” It is from prehistoric primeval seas that all life emerged. We are the evolved creation of those primeval cells. We are made up of water, depend upon it to sustain life, and the pull of the tides still moves and controls us. Our children in embryonic fish-like state are carried in a salty pool inside our female bodies until birth.
After thousands of years this Goddess of the sea is still very much an intermediary between us and the ocean’s force. Spirits and demons have always been present in my work, but since moving to this historic maritime village the Sea Goddess or Mermaid has insinuated herself as the dominate spirit. My new work in “Flights of Fancy” contains some book arts in the form of Ditty Boxes. Sailors in their long sea voyages during the whaling era often worked on art projects to pass the hours, and sometimes years on board ship. Mermaids were a favorite subject. These scrimshaw inspired objet d’art focus on the sirens of mythology, and life givers. “The Odyssey” a carved surface of the egg shaped box shows a Siren perched on a rock while 2 other Sirens float in the air. Upon opening the box a small imperiled boat is revealed. “The Beginning” is a doll shaped stacking box. The outer box is a Mermaid in her element. The inner box reveals a human swimmer with flippers, the final inner 3rd box reveals a tiny MerBaby. I am happy with where this series is going. As an etcher I have always worked in 2 dimensional layered work, now I am working in 3D. This gives me the opportunity to reveal only one layer at a time. Just like the mystery of the sea.
Can you tell me about your own background? Have mermaids always inspired you?
After years of living in New York City, born in Brooklyn near the waterfront, I moved to Long Island in 2005. But I was always surrounded by water, wherever I lived. Prior to moving to Greenport I lived and had my art studio in Harlem’s Hamilton Heights area. Situated between the Hudson and Harlem Rivers in a house built above underground streams I always felt the protection of water spirits. I was familiar with Long Island’s East End because my parents, and extended family always vacationed there. My parents were first generation Americans, their parents immigrating from Warsaw. The symbol of Warsaw just happens to be a mermaid. Greenport was a natural choice because it is a historic maritime village with a deep water harbor. Whaling and rum running are part of the local history, as is aquaculture and agriculture. My best days as a child were at the beach, swimming, fishing, collecting sea shells and sea glass, boating, or day dreaming about Mermaids. I haven’t changed much; the sea still preoccupies my thoughts and mesmerizes me.
To quote Anais Nin: “I must be a mermaid…I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living”.
So I recently heard from one Kaycee Militante, mermaid aficionado and proprietor of the ridiculously cute Applejack Apparel, where you can buy super inexpensive, handcrafted tails for the little mermaids (and mermen) in your life. Here’s their Facebook page, which you should probably follow because everyone’s day gets brighter when looking at squawking moppets in mermaid tails. I mean look how cute these things are (they even come with requisite flower headbands)!
I know. I have now solved your what-to-bring-to-the-baby-shower dilemmas forever, and you can thank me with fan mail and ca$h. In a further act of selflessness, I recently asked KayCee about her company and those shimmery-tailed creatures generally.
So why did you start Apple Jack Apparel? What inspired you?
I started Applejack Apparel when my daughter, who was three at the time, saw some videos of girls in mermaid tails on YouTube and begged for one of her own. I saw there were several shops that sold tails, but they were very high-end and I thought I could make her one for a lower price.
Have you always loved mermaids?
I’ve loved mermaids since I saw Peter Pan! The jealous girl mermaids were so cute… Later I loved The Little Mermaid, which came out just when I was still a kid, and I’ve had a blast watching that movie with my daughter, who prefers Ariel over the rest of the princesses..
Do you identify as a mermaid in any way?
Well, I love swimming! And I have long hair, and I like to sing.
What has the response been to your tails (from kids and adults)?
I get uplifting emails from customers regularly, and that is the best part of owning this kind of a business! When I hear that one of our tails made a birthday dream come true or that a little girl doesn’t want to take hers off, it really makes my day. The best responses often come to us on Facebook, where people submit some amazing pictures of happy girls posing in their mermaid tails. I also take pride in the craftsmanship—we have a lot of positive reviews that mention the craftsmanship and the fabric.
Why do you think little girls love mermaids so much?
Mermaids are elusive and beautiful! They live in a part of the world that is mysterious, and the idea that they are separated from our world can be both tragic and intriguing.
I know you have a daughter/mermaid of your own—what does she think of them?
Nina wore the first tail I made to bed the first night, and cried when having to decide whether she would take it into the tub or to bed for the first few days… like so many interests she’s had, the mermaid obsession was urgent and intense for awhile, but now she’s more into Monster High and drawing. She still agrees to model whenever I have something new to share, and she and her brother play in the bath tub sill (he has a shark tail!)
Any exciting plans for the future? Have you considered making more swimmable tails and/or making tails for adults?
We have made tails for adults! We can do custom orders for babies and grown ups. Making the grown-up top was a bit of a challenge at first! Also, my son has a shark tail that I’ll be listing in our online shop, too. We could make a tail to fit over a mono-fin at some point, but for now I’m enjoying making affordable things for little girls.
What advice do you have for aspiring mermaids, young and old?
Indulge your imagination! Write and draw your adventures, or video them so you can look back someday and remember. Be playful in life and have fun with what you do and who you are.
I last talked to Raina the Halifax Mermaid for this blog a couple of years ago (here’s the inimitable interview), and she’s been up to a whole lot of mermaidly stuff since. She has even proven the literary-ness of mermaids everywhere by writing a book, “Fishy” Business: How to Be a Mermaid, which came out two weeks ago and which aspiring mermaids everywhere can order here. Yours truly even wrote the foreword, so it is obviously the best book ever and will very likely change your life.
I talk to Raina about her gorgeous tome below:
So tell us about your book. What prompted you to write it?
My book is called: “Fishy” Business: How to be a Mermaid. It’s 1 part autobiography, and 1 part How-to. You can learn how I became a successful mermaid performer, and how to create your own mermaid company too. In the book I have it broken into 4 Parts: Fins, Persona and Image, The Working Mermaid, and Resources.
There were a few reasons behind writing the book, and I’m embarrassed to say that one of them was stress! As an active mermaid I get 100s of emails from all over the world, from mermaid hopefuls looking for some information. At first I’d always give detailed replies. I’m a teacher, I enjoy educating others! Before I knew it, it got to be too much. I looked for other outlets to educate others about the mer-world and started posting tutorials about professional mermaiding on mernetwork. After a few posts I realized I had quite a lot of material. After complaining a few times to friends and family about some of the not-so-nice, more demanding emails, it was suggested to me that because I was using my professional skills in teaching, that I charge a fee for my advice. I didn’t really feel comfortable with that idea, but it did eventually dawn on me that I could write a book! I put some feelers out there into the community, to see if people would be interested in something like that. I got back a mixed response that people either wanted a how-to-guide, or an autobiography. I decided to combine the two. I spent a few solid months doing nothing but working on the book, while doing mermaid work on the weekends. It was wonderful and a great growing experience.
What can aspiring mermaids learn from it?
Hopefully everything and anything they need. A lot of research went into this book. It isn’t just my knowledge and experience, but the collective knowledge of our community, things I have learned through my two degrees working with children and educating, and things I have learned from interviewing mermaids who worked in fields different from mine (like in aquariums). I start with the very basics of how to get a tail, get the funds for a tail, learning to swim, and discovering the mer-community. Then I explain the things that need to be in order before starting a company, like your persona and image, networking and promotion, a few legal things, and gear. From there we go to life as a working mermaid, with the very basic logistics that apply to all mermaid work, to the specialized steps involved in both getting and working very specific gigs and events. All along these three parts I’ve included personal stories—some never before shared—that are both embarrassing and hilarious, of how I figured things out the hard way. There are some photos, and then there is a resource section with links, phone numbers, information, books, and more to help out the mermaid enthusiast or professional mermaid.
The book is intended to be for all levels, all ages, and those who are either only interested in hearing my story or those only interested in setting up their business. I don’t just tell you the info, I teach it to you using a variety of strategies.
Can you share a tip or two here?
Sure! I think the best tip I can tell anyone is that they need to advocate for themselves! Our profession isn’t well known at the point in time, and even within the realm of performers we’re on the outskirts. Businesses aren’t just going to hail you down all the time for work, or even understand what you’re trying to do. It’s up to you to put yourself out there, provide people with examples of what you do and why you’d be a good hire, maybe even go as far as to submit a proposal or give a presentation! In my book I try to give you all the tools you could possibly need to do that, and I feel that much of the material can be applied to many businesses within the performing world. To us our mer-world is so much a part of us it can be hard to grasp that someone may have no clue that mermaids can even be hired.
I think the second best tip I can give you is that it doesn’t happen over night, no matter how easy some of the real pro-mermaids make it look. Everything takes time. You don’t need the perfect expensive silicone tail to start your company- I made mine work with a fabric one and then a falling apart latex one so I could get my start. If you’re always waiting for the perfect conditions, you’ll never get started. You just need to start!
What has the response been?
Much better than I could have ever expected. Within my first day of sales I’d sold fifty books. Within the first ten days of sales, I’d sold a hundred. I’ve gotten nothing but positive reviews that have pretty much made me cry, because total strangers were able to easily pick out all the important points I was trying to make. I’ve gotten so much fan mail because of it, and so many people have told me it has given them the courage to follow this dream. I really felt like we were such a small community and a niche market, but the majority of the people buying my book are total strangers to me, and not even in my country! (My poor friends and family members haven’t even gotten their copies because everything has been going to everyone else, hah!) I had a few very vocal nay-sayers when I first presented the community with this idea and asked for feedback on what sorts of things they’d like to see covered in the book. I’m just very very happy I didn’t listen to the nay-sayers, because writing and publishing a book has helped me grow, helped me pay for some much needed dental work (lol) and brought me happiness and closeness within the community.
What’s next for you, mermaid-wise?
We’re using the remainder of the book funds to purchase my baby sister, Mermaid Ama, her own merbellas studios inc tail. Currently she is borrowing one of my tails, and she’s very excited to have one that is made to fit her. My company has quadrupled so I’ll be spending the majority of the summer doing many parties, events, parades, and performances with Mermaid Ama, Mermaid Mimi, and Mermaid Naida. As always, we’ll be participating in many environmental events like World Ocean’s Day.
We’re going to focus a lot more on our video and photo output using some of the tips from my book, working with the media on some pieces, and hopefully getting our ducks in a row for a potential children’s show later this year. We also plan on publishing a photobook in the fall, hopefully with an accompanying account of this upcoming summer 2013 (Think A “Fishy” Summer: Journal of a Mermaid) and video documentary. I tend to come up with big projects for myself, but I break them into obtainable goals and somehow they get done.
So Lana Fox is an erotic author and sexuality activist who runs a course on erotic self-love entitled “The Mermaid Voyage: A Two-Week Journey of Erotic Self-Discovery.” Admit you want to take that immediately. She’s also written an erotic novel called Confessions of a Kinky Divorcee and is working on a non-fiction self-help book that is in part themed around—what else?—mermaids. Everyone knows that those half-fish half-humans are sexy, but I obviously had to ask Lana about how mermaids can help you and me perform some erotic self-discovery. You’re welcome.
So what is “The Mermaid Voyage: A Two-Week Journey of Erotic Self-Discovery”?
Thanks for asking, Carolyn! “The Mermaid Voyage” is a two-week spa for your sexual self and it is themed around mermaids. I designed the course because we are so often shamed, as women, for feeling sexual or making love to ourselves, yet I think solo lovemaking and romance are two of the most breathtaking ways of connecting with and caring for our deeper selves. The course will include daily audio visualizations, erotic meditations, and inspirations for connecting with your inner mermaid. It will also include a gift box with aromatherapy products, a sex toy, and enticing little sea-themed luxuries.
How does the image of the mermaid figure into what you’re doing?
Great question! I’m so inspired by the grace of mermaids. They are often portrayed as being absolutely comfortable in their bodies, and for me, mermaids’ movements are so sensual, expressive, and self-accepting. Yet we women who walk the earth too often receive the message that our bodies—particularly when we are feeling or being erotic—are ripe for criticism, shame and cruel objectification. We’re taught that our bodies should be about other people, when actually, other people should be inspired by our bodies, and honored by them, just as they are. I believe we learn this, in part, by truly knowing and celebrating the depths of our erotic selves.
How do you incorporate mermaids into your course?
Mermaids are part of the audio visualizations that are central to the course. I also encourage those who sign up for the Voyage to think of themselves as mermaids as a way to open the channels of erotic self-love and freedom…in fact, this is why the gift-pack is also mermaid-themed (natural shells and all!).
People ask me all the time about why mermaids are so sexy when they don’t, in fact, have genitals. What do you think?
It’s so interesting that people ask you about this, Carolyn. Yes, I can see why. I think we have been shamed into believing that our genitals are somehow “dirty.” Society would too often have us believe that sex is about our genitals—not our minds, hearts and souls. Yet mermaids embody the very opposite! I love seeing how sensual and erotic they can be simply by being at one with themselves. And, in my imagination, I like to think that when mermaids sing they can climax from the sheer joy of it. Sex can involve genitals, but it isn’t about genitals. It’s about enjoying our very selves.
Do you identify as a mermaid at all?
I do! I have a lovely “Oracle of the Mermaids” deck by Lucy Cavendish and and Selina Fenech, and I use it on a daily basis to really connect with myself. When I see the beautiful mermaids on the cards and read their messages, I feel that I am very much tapping my own inner depths, my own inner mermaid. I also love the sea—really love it!—and I like to dream that, in a past life, I came from the ocean.
Why do you think people (especially women) like them so much?
I think that women who identify as really feminine can feel very freed up by mermaids. Mermaids are often seen as strong and independent, but they aren’t afraid to be pretty and femme—in fact, they celebrate it!
Do you have any advice for aspiring mermaids?
For me, identifying as a mermaid is about learning to be ourselves and to shed any shaming that we have experienced. So I love to sing in the shower, to dance when I’m alone (as well as with others!), and to enjoy my body erotically, my rhythms, my self. In other words, my advice would be to find ways of expressing yourself with your voice, emotions, and body, in purely inspiring ways. That’s how I really feel my own self as a mermaid—so that would be my suggestion.
I have many fascinating things to post and will ATTEMPT to do so while being holed up in a cottage in rural Pennsylvania finishing a very bleak and unmermaidly crime novel, but I will start by pointing you to this Vulture article, For Your Consideration: Mermaids are the New Vampires. Of course this and many other articles are hollowing on the heels (fins) of that new Animal Planet show Mermaids: The New Evidence, which apparently a gazillion people watched. You and I have both heard that “mermaids are the new vampires” claim before, at least for a couple of years now, but let’s hope that it sticks this time because really, vampires are kind of lame and way less glittery (oh, wait).
ANYWAY, another cool mermaidly event has been happening all month at one Ms. Tiffany’s blog, Escaping… One Book at a Time, where she’s spent the month of May reviewing mermaid novels and featuring guest posts and interviews with a whole bevy of mermaid authoresses, all of whom I would have featured myself on this very blog had I been less lazy. Said mermaid extravaganza is called Mermaids & Myth Month, which is less a month and more a way of life.
Here is the schedule of all reviews and posts. I have generously provided links so that you can go purchase all of these books immediately. Also, in July, Bonnie from the book blog A Backwards Story (whom I interviewed last summer) will be doing her Splash Into Summer extravaganza again, so if Tiffany’s mermaid buffet leaves you wanting more you’ll know what to do.
Kick Off Post with Schedule & Giveaway (sponsored by Tiffany and a friend)
Review: Tangled Tides by Karen Amanda Hooper
Guest Post & Giveaway with Karen Amanda Hooper
Review: Fury by Elizabeth Miles
Review: Envy by Elizabeth Miles
Guest Post & Giveaway with Elizabeth Miles
Review: The Vicious Deep by Zoraida Cordova
Review: The Savage Blue by Zoraida Cordova
Guest Vlog & Giveaway with Zoraida Cordova
Review: Evergreen by Brenda Pandos
Interview & Giveaway with Brenda Pandos
Review: Sea Change by Aimee Friedman
Interview with Aimee Friedman
Review: Of Poseidon by Anna Banks
Review: Of Triton by Anna Banks
Author Post by Anna Banks
Review: The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnette
Guest Post by Mindee Arnette
Guest Review of Promises by Amber Garr, by Jessica Baker
Review: Betrayal by Amber Garr
Guest Post & Giveaway with Amber Garr
Review: Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan
Review: Above World by Jenn Reese
Review: The Forgotten Ones by Laura Howard
Guest Post & Giveaway with Laura Howard
Review Sweet Shadows by Tera Lynn Childs
Review: Forgive My Fins by Tera Lynn Childs
Author Post & Giveaway with Tera Lynn Childs
Review & Publisher Giveaway: Starling by Lesley Livingston
Review: Lost Voices by Sarah Porter
Review: Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown
Review: Deep Betrayal by Anne Greenwood Brown
Extra Scene & Giveaway with Anne Greenwood Brown
Review: Tempest Rising by Tracy Deebs
Review: Tempest Unleashed by Tracy Deebs
Review: Mermaid by Carolyn Turgeon
Guest Post by Carolyn Turgeon
That is right: Mermaids & Myth Month ends tomorrow with a guest post from yours truly, writing about my inspiration for Mermaid. I asked Tiffany why she loves mermaids so much, and here’s her response:
“I’ve been fascinated with them since I was little and saw Disney’s Little Mermaid. Everything just expanded from there and I was only pulled more in when I learned of the not so sweet mermaids/mermen. They live in such vivid worlds and no matter their shape, size, colour or personality, they all hold a certain allure that just calls to me. May also have something to do with the fact I am a serious water baby and refuse to live anywhere that is not near a body of water and have joked about being part mermaid. You know it’s possible, right?!”
So there are 13 days to go of Coney Island USA’s Save the Coney Island Mermaid from Extinction! Kickstarter, and they’re three-quarters of the way there.. but they still need a ton of support. So I figured I’d go right to Mermaid Parade Queen Bambi the Mermaid and let her use her mermaid wiles to convince you to give up some more clams. Photographer Dan Howell sent over some gorgeous photos of Bambi and other paraders to make things that much more irresistible. PLUS there’s a benefit for the parade this Saturday eve at NYC’s Bowery Ballroom with Ms. Amanda Palmer, PLUS there are all kinds of other wonders floating about on the Mermaid Parade’s Facebook page and Twitter, including info about this year’s king and queen (a Real Housewife! who writes books!) and other sea-loving celebs and mayors and, well, celebrated and mayorial mermaids.
Here is my Q and A with Ms. Bambi herself, sprinkled with and followed by some deeply irresistible photos:
So why should we save the Coney Island Mermaid Parade?
The Coney Island Mermaid Parade is the world’s largest art parade and by far the largest gathering of Merfolk and their admirers anywhere on land or beneath the sea! It is the most colorful joy-filled EXUBERANT parade you could ever imagine happening, with complete creative self-expression for everyone, participants and attendees. It’s a HAPPENING! It’s the most inclusive contagious love fest for people of all shapes, sizes, persuasions and ages. All diversity is non-existent, it’s just a mass of people and great energy sharing a really special and beautiful day. I have never seen so many SMILES! Everyone there is smiling the biggest smiles you’ve ever seen. Smiles of wonder and pure joy, smiles of appreciation and gratitude for the spectacle of it all! I love that all ages are welcome to join in and be uninhibited and just STARE. On that special day you can’t be too weird or too much of a show off, everyone just lets their mermaid freak flag fly. I’m so very glad to see the funds coming together but we have to keep SHELLing out a few more clams, I mean it’s incredible that it is a FREE event for all those people who come to enjoy it and take pictures. If there a was a way to charge even $1 admission the money would be raised 10 times over so I hope everyone who has ever come and been enchanted will give back so we can keep on celebrating mermaids, Coney Island, the sea, the beach, freedom, creativity and sparkly togetherness!
Can you tell us about some of your awesome past costumes?
Of course some years I’ve gone more overboard than others and honestly some of my favorite costumes were also the ones I made myself early on out of saran wrap and tape and safety pins!
What do you have planned for this year? Are you working with Garo Sparo [who’s designed many of Bambi’s costumes in the past] again?
This year I’m doing something pretty fishy… I’m giving a new costume designer a shot. I’ve been so thrilled with Garo Sparo for many past years, he’s made all my mermaid costume dreams come true by making me mermaid tails in leopard print, see-thru plastic, mirror chips sewn onto hotpants, stretch sequin bell bottoms with giant fins, fully boned full body tails, as well as gold fish, Siamese-fighting-fish and Geisha-inspired tails, not to mention shrimp, lobster giant crab, and clam costumes! But this year I’m going to be a Naughty Nautilus! I’ll be completely inside a nautilus shell! I guess if there is no parade, I’ll have to wear it to work!
You also run Coney Island USA’s Burlesque at the Beach, right? What’s coming up this summer?
This year will be the 17th season of Burlesque at the Beach, another great art show produced by Coney Island USA and Sideshows by the Seashore. Burlesque at the Beach is the crown jewel of the Neo burlesque revival, it is the nation’s longest running and oldest burlesque show. Burlesque for me evolved as a way to be a mermaid year round and the show was certainly influenced by the joie de vive and creativity of the mermaid parade. You can come down to Coney and see a little of the feeling of the parade in show form every Thursday and Friday night, from May through October!
How else can people support Coney Island USA?
Donating to Coney Island USA is so worthwhile because it supports so many artists in their creative endeavors and lifestyles as well as the audiences whom they entertain. Also The Coney Island Museum is growing rapidly and is an incredible source of New York City and amusement park history. I think this parade is going to be the biggest ever, there is so much awareness right now for perseverance after Hurricane Sandy and the value of Coney Island, America’s playground! It makes perfect sense that mermaids and sea creatures are the custodians of the long tradition of summertime memories and FUN!!
What do you think about the response so far to the Kickstarter campaign?
Kickstarter is going so great but we’re slowing down since the initial anouncement so we have to dive deep into our treasures and Shell out a few more clams! I think it’s so FINtastic that everyone is rallying and expressing their love and support of the parade! It’s like no other parade or festival in the world and it’s time EVERYONE knew about it! There are so many mermaids and mermaid lovers all over the world; I really hope more and more of them will find out about the parade and come to Coney Island! We can’t take it for granted that this gift of community and spectacle has been given to us by Coney Island USA, and if everyone keeps pitching in we can surpass this immediate money-raising goal and have reserves for the following years. A half million people come to watch the parade each year so if each of those people could donate $1-5 dollars just imagine! It feels really amazing to realize the parade is ours. We produce it, everyone all together, just for the sheer joy of it! It’s a great time for people to REALLY be a part of the parade not only by enjoying it but by supporting it! Even if some people can’t make it all the way to the parade maybe they will still donate a couple bucks, just to know they were able to help facilitate the huge job of producing an event like this! I know I would, that’s a really great thing about Kickstarter… it just makes it really easy and effortless to be a part of someone else’s dream. It always makes me feel great to support an interesting effort I see out there, knowing that just a couple dollars from me and many others adds up to such a worthwhile outcome! It’s like magic too and it’s powerful!
So this weekend I was at Spoutwood Farm’s May Day Faerie Festival, out in the faerie-filled boondocks of Glen Rock, Pennsylvania. Imagine: you maneuver along twisting pathways and up and down sprawling bright green hills and under ribboned arches and across miniature wooden bridges, while about 500000 messy-haired red-cheeked children in fairy wings scamper alongside elaborate evil queens and sparkling fairies and leaf-covered green men, not to mention all kinds of artisans and artists and bellydancers and other magical creatures. Of course, there were many many mermaids, on crowns and cups and plaques and necklaces, on “Mermaid Island,” in song (Jennifer Cutting’s Ocean performed the classic sea balled “The Mermaid”), in the gorgeous lounging mermaid dolls of Susan Snodgrass, and even at this glamorous mermaid posing station right next to the glittering (in spirit) portapotties:
I was at the Fairie Magazine tent with publisher Kim Cross and her many gorgeous helpers and friends, including swordsmith (and sometime mermaid-sword-maker) Matt Stagmer and the joy-spreading Twig the Fairy (and occasional Twig the Fairy-Turned-Mermaid), who on good days might appear like a vision in the back of your car
AND the amazing, inimitable Charles Vess, who makes wondrous, otherworldly art like this:
Charles and I were set to do two “Faerie Chautauquas” or talks together, Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 2. Originally, these Chautauquas were to also include Ari Berk and Gary A. Lippincott, so I figured I could let them do all the talking as I am very lazy. When Ari and then Gary ended up heartlessly abandoning us, it was down to Charles and me. Charles suggested that I read from one of my books while he drew the scene I was reading, so on Saturday I read from The Fairest of Them All, my novel that comes out in August, a scene of Rapunzel hunting in the forest in glamorous warrioress fashion. Here’s Charles’s illustration, done with magic marker on posterboard:
After I read, Charles continued to draw and I kind of just yammered on, with no plan and no end in sight. SO for the next day, I thought perhaps we might need a better plan and by “better plan” I of course mean mermaids. I suggested that we force the audience to participate, too, which is a tactic beloved by lazy people everywhere, and Charles suggested I end at a pivotal moment and let everyone else decide what comes next. So Sunday morning Charles and I made a glamorous visit to WALMART for pens and paper and posterboard, and that afternoon I read a scene from Mermaid, a few pages up to the moment when our mermaid drinks the sea witch’s potion and is about to turn into a human. All the while, Charles drew:
And then I handed out paper and pens and told everyone to create something. If nothing else, I figured everyone would at least have to spend a few minutes imagining being a mermaid, and said activity would likely make everyone more full and complete as they carried on with their lives. That being the case, the results were still really, really lovely.
Artist Jenny Davies-Reazor, for example, imagined that in those last minutes before losing her tail, the mermaid might scrape off some scales, pluck a pearl or two from her tresses, and store them in the now-empty vial. She’d make herself a necklace that would forever remind her of the world she left behind:
Another woman imagined that in that last moment, as her tail turned to legs, the mermaid would regret her decision and dive back into the ocean, intent on returning to her own world, and begin to drown as water filled her lungs and her legs kicked furiously against the tide. Another drew pictures of the now-human mermaid, in the castle now, struggling to put on human clothing, trying to tug pants’ legs onto her arms and being generally completely befuddled. Others focused on the mermaid’s emotional state as she leaves one world and enters another.
And meanwhile, Charles finished his drawing
and mermaids, in all their incarnations, continued to dazzle humankind everywhere.
So as I’m sure you’re aware, the Coney Island Mermaid Parade has filled the streets of Coney Island once a year every year since 1983 with glorious mermaids of every stripe and color. On this very blog I’ve interviewed parade founder Dick Zigun as well as inimitable parade queen Bambi the Mermaid, who really embodies the over-the-top joy and all-out giddy glitteriness of the parade:
Unfortunately, said parade may not happen this year due to a severe lack of funds and one greedy hurricane named Sandy, which wreaked havoc on parade headquarters at the non-profit Coney Island USA (and Coney Island generally). You may not be aware of all the moolah and preparation such a mass parade requires (over half a million people!), but it doesn’t come cheap. Therefore, Coney Island USA has launched a kickstarter THIS VERY DAY to raise 100,000 smackers to save the parade. There are all kinds of gorgeous incentives; for 150 clams you can sit in the shaded, comfortable VIP section and get a prime view of the parade while all the other suckers sweat it out in the hot sun. For 2,000 smackers you can get that, a slew of other stuff, AND a bunch of signed limited edition prints by legendary photographer Harvey Stein. LIKE THIS ONE:
Really there are many many many options, each more delightful than the last. Go visit the Kickstarter page to carefully select your own mermaid package and help keep this gorgeousness alive—you have until June 3rd—and then tell all your friends and enemies about it, too. And THEN head out to Coney Island on June 22nd! Which, by the way, is the day after my birthday. Thank you.
Check out the Kickstarter video here:
For further clarification and incentive, I asked Coney Island USA Development Director Tim Pendrell a few penetrating questions. I MAY post more mermaid parade-ish interviews in days to come, if you’re very lucky.
So what does the Mermaid Parade mean to you?
This year will be the fourth Mermaid Parade I have worked on, if this campaign is successful. The Parade just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger every year to the point that it has outgrown the resources we have to put into it. It has become the biggest day in Coney Island and one of the largest events in all of New York City. It is a safe place for all of the strangest people in New York City to express themselves freely and after they do you often wish they hadn’t.
When did you realize this Kickstarter was crucial?
We’ve known for awhile that good news just wasn’t coming our way and we’d need to turn to the supporters of the Mermaid Parade to help support it. The Mermaid Parade is difficult for us in good times, but after the damage we suffered along with the neighborhood after Sandy it was just too much. It is amazing that our building is so close to reopening, but with the cost of the construction and the increase in cost of the parade, we simply needed help.
How much are you looking to raise, and what is it for?
Our campaign goal is $100,000 and we have a list of the expenses at savemermaids.org. Some of the expenses are obvious…insurance, judge’s stands, security…but other things like medical supplies, printing registration forms, t-shirts to identify staff are often overlooked. The Mermaid Parade is over half-a-million people and there are a lot of costs associated with keeping that safe and trying to get everyone a good place to view the parade from.
Why are you, personally, so passionate about keeping the parade alive?
It is really important for the parade to happen from an economic standpoint. People love the parade, but I am worried that without the parade kicking off the summer local businesses will suffer.
Aside from contributing to the Kickstarter, how can people help?
It is really important for people to spread the word about why they love the parade and how people can help it.
So I get a lot of very lovely emails from aspiring and actual mermaids and mermen, and a few days ago I heard from one 23-year-old Ashley, who wrote to say that she decided to go on the mermaid portfolio workshop diving trip (see the official flyer here, I believe there is one spot left!) this summer after reading about it on this very blog—a trip that will make her dream of being a mermaid come true. Come July, Ashley will be hanging out in the Caribbean, wearing a mermaid tail and lounging about in mystical hidden grottos and on glittering white sand bars and around shipwrecks swarming with sharks.
So I thought it would be interesting to interview Ashley for this blog and then follow up in a few months to hear how her trip went and see photographic proof of her astonishing transformation. If you yourself are undergoing a similar transformation, or have anything else mermaidly to share, please email me and maybe I will throw more stories up on this blog, if I am not too lazy.
Here is Ashley pre-mermaid:
So tell me why you’re going on the mermaid trip this summer. What appeals to you about it?
I’m going on the trip this summer because it’s a dream come true. I’ve always wanted to be a mermaid. The idea of learning how to apply make up, pose for pictures, and swim in a tail from people who love this as much as I do just seems magical.
Have you always loved mermaids?
Yes! My house is less than 10 minutes from Weeki Wachee Springs so as a kid I dragged my mom there all the time. I pretty much grew up at Weeki Wachee. I’d go over and watch the shows and then run to Buc Bay and try as many tricks as possible. I was also convinced the spring was pure magic and the more time I spent in it the more likely I would be to grow a tail.
I love to swim and I love the beauty of the ocean. I believe I have always been a mermaid at heart, I have just lacked the know how to fully become one. My mom still loves to tell people that, when I was a kid, I only had one wish every year when I blew out my birthday candles: to turn into a mermaid.
What do you think the appeal of mermaids is for you, anyway?
The appeal of mermaids for me started from birth. Obviously Weeki Wachee had a huge part of it and I watched the Little Mermaid movie at least once a day when I was little but I think the biggest part of it is how magical they were to me. I have asthma and it was really bad when I was a kid. I remember not just be memorized by the beauty of the mermaids but I always thought how lucky they were that they didn’t need lungs. I always thought that I would turn into a mermaid and not only would my legs disappear but so would my asthma. Luckily I am much better now and almost never have attacks.
How are you preparing for the trip? Do you have a tail?
I am preparing for the trip by attempting to make some cute tops to pose in. Also I have been trying to run to help build up my stamina and of course swimming. Once the spring semester for school is over I will be going down to a place called Rogers Park on the Weeki Wachee River to do laps out there. And I do not have my own tail. Sadly I am a broke college student and cannot afford it!
What do you expect from this trip?
I except this trip to be a bunch of things. I know it will probably be one of the hardest working weeks of my life and I also know I will love every second of it. I am hoping to find a way into the mermaid world with this trip and also to make some friends.
Do any professional mermaids out there inspire you?
I am definitely inspired by Hannah Fraser. She was the first mermaid I heard of outside of Weeki Wachee and she still amazes me. I also love her conservation work.
Any more mermaid plans in the future?
As of this second there are no plans but I am hoping the trip will inspire me to be more daring in finally going after this dream. As well as help me find ways to be a mermaid. Becoming a professional mermaid isn’t exactly a mapped out profession. I know it is going to be a lot of trial and error, but hopefully I will find my way.