Editors often ask why our creative partnership works so well. Usually we laugh and say, "Together we have one really good brain!" Our 14 years working together have led to interesting and sometimes hilarious projects that alone neither of us would have ever embarked upon.
I first met Margaret while singing the song "Margaritaville." Margaret has an intoxicatingly deep alto voice and she appeared out of the karaoke crowd to rescue me during my botched attempt at the Jimmy Buffett song. Yes, she and I sang a duet before we ever said hello.
Truthfully, before I went up to sing, I'd heard Margaret's laughter periodic springing up through the din of the lesbian bar crowd. I had no idea who this beautiful laugh belonged to, but the first time I heard it, I thought, "I'm home."
Later that evening, during our conversation, Margaret asked me, "What do you do?" I explained that I did an educational cartoon strip for middle-school children based on our state's multicultural history. Yes, history, a topic that caused most people to begin to tune me out. But Margaret said, "Cool! I love history."
Days later she came over to see my cartoons and noticed my rotten spelling. I blush to admit this, but my editors often caught things like "dose" for "does," problems that slid by spell check. So you can say that Wickedly Sisters began because of my failings: poor singing and poor spelling.
Right away Margaret and I were a hit. We expanded the strip to include some statewide travelling history projects, wrote on the topic for media outlets, won various grants and awards, and even wore a mascot suit in parades! Mostly it was big fun, until Margaret nearly died. I'll let her tell you that part of our story.
Margaret here. I had surgery, I think my fourth in three years. Unfortunately, the last procedure left me with a stubborn staph (MRSA) infection in my spine. The surgeon ordered an I.V. antibiotic and quickly found out that I was extremely allergic to this medication. I swelled up like a blueberry, kind of like that kid in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (sorry no YouTube videos). After a few days in the hospital, they transferred me to a nursing home. Usually three out of five succumb to this particular bug. We didn't know at the time that I was close to dying. Nonetheless, we recognized that the circumstances were grave.
When things get bad, we get laughing. Marie began writing vignettes and calling me in the evenings. She wrote short stories about a psychic spoon, a lactose-intolerant cow, a dog delighting in schadenfreude, a two-fingered hero, a fanciful drag queen, and a lesbian named Lil, longing for love. "Lil was a perfect lesbian; even her name was perfect. Lil, Lil, LilLilLilLilLilLilLil. Say her name over and over again on just the right spot and you've mastered a secret in lesbian love making."
The staff would come to my room, put me in a wheelchair, and roll me down to the front desk phone, where I would listen to Marie's latest story. Everyone wanted to know why I was laughing so hard, but I couldn't tell: Some bits were naughty. Every night, without fail, Marie would call. I would close my eyes and instantly be transported into a different world, no longer bound to that place by invisible cords of pain. As I slowly healed, those vignettes took on a life of their own, eventually morphing into a novel. It became clear that writing and editing the stories with Marie was a segue in our lives, taking us in an entirely new direction. We renamed ourselves Wickedly Sisters and began writing fiction full-time.
As Wickedly Sisters, we eventually developed and combined those short stories into an iNovel app (illuminated novel) titled Spoon and the Moon. Of course, when we started our app adventure, Wickedly Sisters wrestled with the ethics of leaving the familiar form and feel of printed books to venture into the world of e-publishing. Naturally, our love of bound books and great stories birthed our own writing careers. However, history reminded us of one man: Gutenberg. Yes, Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg, the 15th-century man credited with inventing the movable-type printing press. Before him, all manuscripts were made by hand. Often, the manuscripts were created by devoted monks who painstakingly copied each manuscript and embellished them with illuminated illustrations, every page a work of art. Gutenberg abandoned those traditional hand-publishing techniques to pursue the advantages of a new technology. We believe the monks had it right when they passionately created their masterworks, but Gutenberg also had it right when he bravely used new technology to bring the written word to more people.
Like Gutenberg's press, e-books offer the public more opportunities to read a broader selection of writers, the books are cheaper and instantly available, and for much of the world, the choices don't suffer censorship. No longer are a few powerful publishing houses able to decide which authors are in the public eye. Writers are able to bring their own works to the global market, leveling the playing field.
However, what most drew us to the app-making medium was the fact that like those devoted monks, we wanted each page of our book to be a piece of art. OK, so we aren't creating Bibles, shaving tonsures on our heads, or wearing rough brown robes, but the rapidly evolving e-book technology gives us the ability to create magic on each page.
For example, Spoon and the Moon includes lots of interactivity, a hot soundtrack written and performed by musicians from North America and Europe, clever animations, and illustrations all woven through a magical storyline. So in some ways the e-book medium has returned us to the earlier, traditional monk-publishing fashion, just with a 21st-century twist.
Happily, Spoon and the Moon recently received an international gold medal in the LGBTQ division from the eLit Awards Illuminating Digital Publishing Excellence! We hope this award will further our aim in making Spoon and the Moon a "living" book, inviting artists, musicians, animators, and writers to use their talents to expand on the book's whimsical story. We are asking creative folks to enter their work into the Spoon and the Moon arts contest; winners will become part of an app update, a chance for their work to make a worldwide splash.