Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Thirteenth is Magic!

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The Thirteenth is Magic!

October 13th: Thirteenth Post

I was ready to post today about something else entirely, but as just as I typed the date I had one of those "Aha!" moments so beloved by Oprah, moments that I have learned to listen to carefully as a writer.

Into my head unbidden sprung the title one of my favourite books as a kid, The 13th is Magic, by Joan Howard (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1950). After a half hour's online research and reminiscing, I realized that that this book may have cast some long-lasting subliminal magic on my psyche that has appeared only now, decades later, as I’m trying to conjure up Kerfuffle.

As an early precursor to Harry Potter, the premise of Howard’s book is simple. Two kids, Ronnie and Gillian, live in a giant apartment building in New York City on Central Park West. Their floor, while numerically the 13th, is called the 14th floor. One day they meet a little black cat named Merlin who introduces them to a world of adventures that they share with all the amazing magical folks who live on the 13th floor. One of the things I so loved about this book was the notion that magic could be close to home, right outside your door, all you had to do was believe.

Now, nearly half a century later, the book I'm working on not only has its own take on Arthur’s Merlin, it also has a magical black cat, Blakkat Theatre, home to the troupe called Kerfuffle, a second home for players and audience where belief in magic abounds.

Originally, I wanted my second book to be a straighter kind of storytelling, with less of the experimentation that I used in When Fenelon Falls. But Blakkat had other ideas. It is impossible to ignore a yowling feline; they’re as imperative as a hungry baby.

As Kerfuffle developed, Blakkat increasingly took on more and more of her own voice, demanding to be heard as both character and as all-seeing narrator. She has become the cat-ylst, the character who introduces the reader to the world of adventure called improvisation, a place easily as magical as the 13th floor.

I hope you enjoy your introduction to her. Because the 13th really is magic, she’s off making her own caterwauling conjurings today, but promises to show up to meet you tomorrow.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Dorothy Ellen Palmer

Dorothy Ellen Palmer is the author of the novel, When Fenelon Falls (Coach House Books). She lives in Toronto.

Go to Dorothy Ellen Palmer’s Author Page