Archive | August, 2011

Business Week’s “Mermaids: The New Life Aquatic” and other Mermaidly Updates

26 Aug

So I wanted to link to Joel Stein’s great Business Week article about mermaids and MerCon, which is awesome even though he says I am running Mermaids and Mythology magazine when I am actually editing Mermaids magazine. But it MIGHT BE a semi-understandable mistake. Though we actually did have this perhaps-it’s-slightly-awkward-to-have-two-different-mermaid-magazines-with-essentially-the-same-name discussion in person at MerCon and I said that I was suggesting we change the magazine name to MERMAIDIA or something similar and he helpfully suggested the title Fuckin’ Mermaids! which, let’s face it, would be pretty awesome. Sigh. Also: the Tobey Maguire-produced little mermaid movie in development would be the one based on the book by yours truly and written and directed by the lady who wrote and directed the movie Country Strong, which was totally underrated.

Also, I would just like to mention that I am at this very minute at the Sheraton Hotel in Fort Lauderdale that used to be the fabled ship-shaped YANKEE CLIPPER hotel (pictured below) and that is home to the famous WRECK BAR where Marina MeduSirena performs with her pod of aquaticats every Friday evening at 6:30pm.

Said show is in two hours, and I am very excited. Expect many photos!

Also, I’m here with my mother and sister since tomorrow we’re heading out on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas cruise ship, upon which yours truly will be presenting two enrichment lectures. One on fairytales (I’ll be reading and discussing my books, too) on Sunday morning and one entitled: MODERN-DAY MERMAIDS: WHY WE LOVE THEM AND HOW YOU CAN BE ONE, which I’m giving next Thursday at 2:30pm. If you happen to be on this cruise, you should obviously come. It will even include an impressive PowerPoint presentation.

I know.

Lake Michigan’s Mermaid Aiyana

25 Aug

So Mermaid Aiyana is one of those rare Midwestern mermaids who haunt the Great Lakes and the various shipwrecks therein. She is also less averse to ice, snow, glaciers and the like than your average mermaid as you can see in the photo below, which I feel is quite impressive. But perhaps you just have to be that way when you live in Wisconsin.

I recently spoke with Aiyana (aka Jacqueline Killey) about her Midwestern mermaiding ways. Our gorgeous Q and A follows.

So when did you become a mermaid, and what inspired you?
I became a mermaid in the womb. Just never realized it until a few years ago! It was a random epiphany that just occurred. I do not mermaid because I feel I really am one, but because the children believe I am. And that is the reward of a lifetime. The magic THEY believe in becomes my own.

I saw something about the Milwaukee Ghost Ships Fest (!) on your blog… Can you tell me about that? Do you dive? Have you ever dived down to the shipwrecks?
I do not dive just yet! This year I plan on becoming certified. My mermaid debut was at a local Pirate Festival and the local dive club allowed me to swim in the frigid marina on Lake Michigan and promote them. In return, I get free dive lessons. So it works out quite harmoniously! My boyfriend is a diver and cannot even describe to me what it is like to hover weightlessly in front of sunken history. I am so entranced by maritime history in our great lakes and I cannot WAIT to dive down there myself. I collect the pieces of porcelain and pottery that wash up now and then on our local beach as we have two shipwrecks that sunk right there! The “junk” and cargo still surfaces. Even though the wrecks occurred in the 1800s. THAT is amazing. I get to hold these fragile pieces of history and while people say porcelain is fragile… I call the bluff on that. These fully intact pieces survived under the waves and algae and rocks and found me. There is something magical about that.

What kind of events/performances/parties do you attend as a mermaid? How do people react?
I love to show up at maritime heritage events around Lake Michigan. We are very proud of our nautical past here! I love doing children’s parties or events for the community! While I look to broaden my performing areas, I do like it here in the Midwest! They deserve this fun mermaid stuff! Other than talking about shipwrecks, I like to chat about conservation of our great lakes and waterways, awareness and protection of species within them, etc! But the best part…The kids. I just sit there and chat with them like they are my best friends. They are so baffled and amused by me, but what they do not know is that while they think I am making THEIR day, their reactions and smiles are actually making MY day. The questions I get from the little believers are SO FLIPPIN’ CUTE. It’s practically poetry. There is something to be said about how phenomenally observant and simple children are when confronted with something strange or otherworldly like a mermaid! They just plop down beside me, help dump water on the tail and ask me to describe in detail, every aspect of my mermaidy life.

The adults are just as fun. With an extensive list of all the cheesy nautical jokes I get, I could write a book of them! Whether I am telling jokes and cuddling with the kiddies, or discussing our great lakes, people listen. Moreso than if I had legs. I do not yet know what it truly is about mermaids, but people respond so well to it. I get through to them and it is a connection like no other!

What does it mean to be a Lake Michigan mermaid?
Being a Lake Michigan mermaid is indescribable! I have a blast doing what I do. If it is a planned event, or I just hop into the lake along the beach or the breakwater to our lighthouse, I do it with an undefeated sense of contentment and joy. The people make it happen for me. Their support, guidance, questions, challenges, and love, help push me farther. The thing about my mermaid life is that…unlike most, I do not really know my goal. I do not have a goal to reach with this. I figure we have today. We have now. This life. We have now to make it the best and I just want to add a memory or two to others’ lives. Maybe I can. Maybe I already have. What is certain is that I have just begun. I just have a strange and overwhelming need to give them all something to believe in in this topsy turvy world we all live in. I believe in people as they believe in me. Oh, and..Lake Michigan? COLD. All year round! It takes some gusto, that is for sure. But I love it. So many mermaids out there! They can have their salty ocean water. I will happily have the cool fresh waters of my home. : )

What general advice do you have for aspiring mermaids?
For aspiring mermaids? I say unto thee: People only believe in you, the moment you start believing in yourself. With or without a tail, you are divine and un-apologetically unique and passionate and precious to the world. I believe in you. ♥ xxxooo Mermaid Aiyana

Mermaids in Las Vegas

24 Aug

Here is my write-up of the Mermaid Convention and World Mermaid Awards, which was just published on the website The Hairpin, which I love.

Mermaids in Vegas: The Mermaid Convention
By Carolyn Turgeon @ 5:00 pm


Two weekends ago I went to Las Vegas for the first annual Mermaid Convention and World Mermaid Awards at the Silverton Hotel and Casino, because not only are there enough mermaids in the world to gather for a convention, there are enough to get awards.

The con part lasted all day, and the highlight was a full-on mermaid pageant called International Mermaid. The reigning International Mermaid, who is also Mrs. Weeki Wachee and a current Weeki Wachee mermaid, Kylee Troche, was there in a gown, tiara, and gleaming International Mermaid sash to crown the new winners. I was a guest judge at said pageant, along with my fellow authors Tera Lynn Childs and Timothy Schaffert, who had (along with poetess Matthea Harvey) all come to do a “mermaid author” reading at Barnes and Noble the night before in an attempt to add some literary flair to the happenings.

The judges’ panel, hard at work.

Here’s what a mermaid pageant is like: Strong men from the audience carry each contestant out, since as everyone knows mermaids cannot walk and there were no wheelchairs for them to roll themselves out in. Each mermaid was luminous in her tail, and there were tails of all kinds: tails made of fabric or silicone, tails covered in sequins, shiny spandex-y tails, and super-realistic scaled tales in a variety of shimmering colors. Some mermaids flapped their fins as they were delicately placed on the stage, others positioned their tails alluringly to the side, fluke standing straight up, and everyone smiled and waved at the audience. One mermaid chose to hop on stage, another to be carried up piggy-back style. All age groups were represented, as well as both genders. There was even a merbaby who was carried out on stage by his mother and who sat there grinning in his bright blue sparkling tail before attempting to crawl off out of the limelight. There were several little girls, too, including two Australian sisters, ages two and four. The four-year-old won for her age group and apparently the two-year-old was very upset by this.

It’s not an easy thing, scoring mermaids and mermen on scales of one to 25. In the “formal wear” section of the competition, I did dock that baby merman several points for showing up in a polo shirt. I mean, what was he thinking? But we judges soldiered on and diligently scored every contestant, and new international mermen, mermaids, and merbabies were crowned, and at the end, every contestant came out on stage to sit on chairs or stretch out on the floor. The little girls were sucking on lollipops as crowns slipped off their heads, and that baby was crawling and smiling in his bright blue fish tail, and all those gorgeous mermaids were posing and smiling, and it was all ridiculous and wonderful and awesome, and I was proud to have lent my services and done my part. I thought, This is why I became an author.

There were also a bunch of vendors, photographers, and artists around, as well as the aforementioned authors, who did an impromptu reading on stage after the mermaid pageant, but, I’m not going to lie, didn’t get quite the same response. (We had had the reading and mermaid ball the night before, which you have to admit might be the coolest literary event ever. I mean how often have you entered a bookstore and seen this?

or this?)

But anyway, the con ended and that night was the main event: the big pool party and World Mermaid Awards. Which meant that for the first time ever, tons and tons of mermaids and mermen jumped in a pool together and swam around in their tails. Many mermaids changed in nearby cabanas and were carried out by strong men, who delicately placed them poolside. Stars of the mermaid world, like Hannah Fraser, who swims with whales and sharks, and Marina MeduSirena, who performs with her pod of aquaticats at the retro Wreck Bar in Fort Lauderdale, were there, along with tons of reporters and journalists and photographers, and suddenly that pool was full of people in tails that stretched out of the water and splashed all around, and you knew that at least some of those creatures in that pool felt like they had finally, at long last, come home.

Speaking of journalists, Joel Stein of Time magazine was there at the Silverton, wondering what to make of the whole thing. “I kind of feel like I’m at a taping of Real Sex,” he said to me at one point, and for a moment I was taken aback — I mean, mermaids! splashing about delicately in the waves! — until I looked in front of us and realized we were in fact looking at tons of dripping-wet girls in shell bras and tight tails posing for a not-unsubstantial crowd of mostly male photographers and admitted he might have a point.

And then all those mermaids and mermen got out of the water and sat poolside, their tails dangling down, and the shimmering, light-haired, luminous Hannah Fraser did this gorgeous, mesmerizing performance, undulating with fire and then diving gracefully into the water, and then MeduSirena camped it up, all masses of black hair and curves and a deep red tail, and splashed through that pool to the other end and sat there and ate some fire, and Mermaid Sora bellydanced and later Maluhia Kawai did hula by the side of the pool, and there was swimming and splashing as awards were announced, and Sita Lange, who put on the whole thing — which was huge and crazy and at one point was rumored to be attracting Daryl Hannah and Johnny Depp, and at another point not going to happen at all — got a ton of applause, and I could barely hear, but it was all beautiful and ridiculous, which all the best things are, especially when you’re in Las Vegas.

Previously: Mermaid Camp.

Carolyn Turgeon wrote the novel MERMAID, runs the mermaid-themed blog I Am a Mermaid, and is co-editor of the new upcoming annual MERMAIDS publication.

Hannah Fraser reading a mermaid piece by yours truly

23 Aug

So I owe a write-up and some photos about MerCon and the World Mermaid Awards the weekend before last, but in the meantime I want to share with you this video (shot by Jaime Leigh Gianopoulos) of mermaid extraordinaire Hannah Fraser reading from a short mermaid piece I wrote for the new MERMAID MAGAZINE I’M EDITING that should be in stores by the end of September. In addition to this writing by yours truly, the magazine will feature original mermaid pieces by a ton of other authors, including Alice Hoffman (with accompanying original art by Charles Vess), Aimee Bender, Keith Donohue, Francesca Lia Block, Matthea Harvey, Tera Lynn Childs, Sarah Porter, Tara Altebrando, and more… PLUS lots and lots of gorgeous art and articles, including a big feature on Ms. Fraser written by yours truly. I will post more about said magazine, which is right now called MERMAIDS and which is not to be confused with the upcoming MERMAIDS & MYTHOLOGY magazine (which should also be full of wonders though it is not being edited by yours truly), in coming weeks.

For now, though, here is Hannah at the Las Vegas Barnes and Noble’s MERMAID BALL on August 11th. As you can see from the shots of me smiling, I thought it was VERY AWESOME to have my mermaidly writing read by a shimmering real-life mermaid extraordinaire, despite all those ne-er-do-wells sprawled out on the floor.
 

 
I was ALSO thrilled, by the way, to chance upon MERMAID MALENA SHARKEY (who also happens to be the mermaid on the cover of Sarah Porter’s Lost Voices) reading my book the very next evening:
 

But as I’ve pointed out time and again, mermaids are very literary.

Debut of “Onkel Klaus” by Berlin’s The LaLaVox Box

18 Aug

So as you no doubt remember, the Berlin duo The LaLaVox Box luminously debuted the ditties “The Sea, The Sea” and “Shingle Beach” on this very blog, these being the first and second singles from the sea-inspired, nautical album they’re collaborating on with Berlin’s fabulous singing mermaid Ms. Lorelei Vanora.

Here is their third single, “Onkel Klaus,” the story about a guy who’s very sentimental about the old DDR (communist East Germany), forgetting what he hated about it now that it’s gone and remembering the days when he used to illegally hunt eel. The song idea was thought up by Lorelei’s friend Lucy, who wrote the basic lyrics.

Look:


 

Isn’t it lovely? The beauteous artwork is by LaLaVox.

Jessica Fleitman’s Average-Sized Mermaid

16 Aug

So I will be posting a bunch of photos from MerCon and the World Mermaid Awards tomorrow, not to mention from last Thursday’s Mermaid Ball at Barnes & Noble, where, amongst other things, Hannah Fraser read a piece by yours truly to a mesmerized crowd… but in the meantime I must generously inform you about a new mermaid-themed play that just debuted this past Saturday at the Fringe Festival in New York City. It’s called The Average-Sized Mermaid and is by playwright Jessica Fleitman and fortunately you can still see it next week. Shows are next Thursday, Aug. 25th @ 6pm; Friday, Aug. 26th @ 9:15pm; and Saturday, Aug. 27th @ 1pm at Connelly Theater (Fringe Venue #7), located at 220 E 4th St (bet. Aves A&B) (take the F train to 2nd Ave). Click here to buy tickets; tickets in advance are $15 and they’re $18 at the door. Click here for the official press release and here for the show’s blog.

I recently spoke with Jessica about her play, and our illuminating Q and A follows.

So what is your play, The Average-Sized Mermaid, about?
The Average-Sized Mermaid is a comedy about an outspoken kindergarten teacher who magically transforms into a mermaid and unexpectedly finds herself the figurehead of a feminist movement. But when she begins to fall for a school administrator (a man who may or may not put the “Prince” in “Principal”), she soon learns that you need to be careful what you fish for…

Have you always been attracted to mermaids? How do you explain their allure?
I’ve always had a fascination with them. I really can’t explain it. When I was little, my family took a trip to Copenhagen and we visited the Little Mermaid Statue, and I remember my dad lifting me up so that I could touch the mermaid’s tail. I was entranced because it looked like it was already beginning to split in two, like she was immortalized at the very moment when she’s exactly halfway between mermaid and human, land and sea… my five-year-old self found that to be very profound.

I also grew up in northern California, and there’s a great fountain in Ghirardelli Square featuring mermaids nursing mer-babies. Seriously, it’s awesome. I loved it. I loved it so much, in fact, that when my sixth grade teacher asked us all to write mystery stories for a class assignment, I was like, “Screw that. I’m going to write about what would happen if that mermaid fountain in Ghirardelli Square came alive at night!” So I guess the story ended up being a mystery in that it mysteriously had no relation to the assignment, but I still happen to think that it’s a pretty decent piece of writing!

My sister and I also used to sing a song in the pool that went a little something like this: “Swim like a mermaid/jump very high/jump like a dolphin/until you reach the sky!” We had a water-ballet worked out that went along with it and everything. We found ourselves delightful.

Mermaids have always been a presence in my life, so I guess it was inevitable that I’d eventually write a play about a mermaid!

How the play came into being?
I was taking a class in college that was called something like “Children’s Literature in Theory” but could have been more accurately titled, “Remember That Story You Enjoyed As A Child? Yeah, It’s Actually About How Women Should Learn Their Place/Female Sexuality Leads to Chaos and Destruction.” Being the twisted playwright I am, I saw comedic potential there: what if someone taught these stories to children while illuminating these themes in a completely inappropriate manner? I simply applied feminist theory, set Miriam in a kindergarten classroom, and viola! The opening scene was born.

After writing the opening, it seemed clear to me that Miriam had to reject Hans Christian Anderson’s story to the point that she pulls a reversal on the events in the plot: instead of giving up her tail to be with her love like the mermaid, Miriam acquires a tail in order to free herself from the desire from men.

You’ll have to see the play to see how it works out!

What made you write about a mermaid?
Honestly, I just kind of love the idea of a mermaid on stage. Except for the mermaid, the play actually lives in a fairly realistic world, so there’s something kind of wonderful to me about the fact that there’s this very intelligent woman who just happens to develop a fish tail, and what that does to her life and the lives of those around her.

Mermaids seem to be especially popular right now. Do you have any thoughts about why?
It’s so funny that you ask this question, because when Lady Gaga performed at a recent concert as a wheelchair-bound mermaid, about 500 people sent me the link saying “You started a trend!” Really, that credit goes to Bette Midler, but since we ALSO have a dance number from a wheelchair-bound mermaid, we’re definitely in good company!

I think mermaids are effortlessly compelling… they are half human and half mystery. There’s a character in the play—Barry—who is so excited when Miriam turns into a mermaid because, to him, it proves that magic exists. It proves there’s a little mystery left in this world. I think we’re all a little like Barry… we want some magic in our lives, and I think mermaids embody that desire perfectly. And when they dance, it’s delightful!

International Mermaid’s Stephanie Sims

9 Aug

So as I generously mentioned yesterday, the International Mermaid Pageant, run by Ms. Stephanie Sims, will be a main event at MerCon this Friday at the Silverton Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. I met Stephanie in June down at Weeki Wachee, where she lives and runs pageants at Weeki Wachee Springs as well as the massive pirate festival Gasparilla every year, and she is a vibrant and funny and she rushed into lunch breathless and apologizing for her terrible haircut and dye job, which was really very cute. She is kind of like a Real Housewife, if there were a Real Housewives of Weeki Wachee, which there obviously should be. Anyway, she will also be at Barnes and Noble Thursday evening to talk about the pageant, and will be with Kylee Troche, who is actually the reigning INTERNATIONAL MERMAID and will be present Friday to crown her successor. I should also mention that right after the pageant, at 4pm on Friday, will be our gorgoeus AUTHOR PANEL and BOOK SIGNING, featuring yours truly, Tera Lynn Childs, Matthea Harvey, Timothy Schaffert, and Tracy Deebs. Honestly, can you imagine anything better than a mermaid pageant and mermaid book signing in Las Vegas, followed by a big mermaid pool party with Hannah Fraser and MeduSirena and a zillion (or thereabouts) other mermaids? Even despite some of the issues that the World Mermaid Awards have been having, what with last-minute venue changes and so on, it should still be something to see.

Anyway, here is another pic of Kylee as one International Mermaid.

Admit that deep down, you feel that sash and that crown should be yours.

So Stephanie, what is the International Mermaid Pageant?
It’s the first and only “Mermaid-Themed” pageant event! This is the first one in Vegas. We will be doing these events all over the country for Mermaid enthusiasts, along with online-only events.

How will the contestants be judged?

This is a pageant, so contestants will be judged on personal style and stage presence…Audience appeal will also weigh heavily!

How can an aspiring mermaid pageant queen enter? What does she need?
We have all the information and sign-up forms on our web site, InternationalMermaid.com. There are two divisions, one being regular “pageant” or dressy attire and one for “Mermaid” wear. We are also allowing boys and men, should they want to compete!

What makes a pageant-worthy mermaid anyway?
Someone who loves the camera! The main prize the pageant offers is exposure, exposure and more exposure! Mermaids in advertising and in modeling is such a hot thing right now…

Can you tell me about your pageants at Weeki Wachee Springs?
Yes – We’ve been doing the Weeki Wachee Pageant since 1998 and have crowned many great queens and kings of all ages. They get to attend the functions that happen at Weeki as royalty. It’s a cool title to have!

What about Gasparilla?
Gasparilla, which is Pirate themed, is a HUGE DEAL. This year, becuse of my re-discovered love of Mermaid things, I am sure Mermaids will be infused heavily!

Have you always been a fan of mermaids?
Yes, especially since the birth of my older daughter. For the first several years of her life, she would play the VHS tape of The Little Mermaid (Disney’s version) at least once daily. Ariel was a part of our everyday vocabulary!

What is the difference between a mermaid pageant and a regular human one?
Well, the look and feel of the event is much more laid back and fun. Mermaids are very laid back, spiritual beings, as you know! *And we try to capture that “vibe.” A traditional pageant is sometimes much more serious and competitive. The Mermaid pageants are all going to be happy, feels-good, gorgeous events!

Do you have any advice for aspiring mermaids and/or mermaid pageant queens?

Yes, just come to the event is Vegas or another one on out schedule! You won’t regret it!

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