No. 22: Kat Meads
Q. I’m curious about the process here—how did you come into this piece? Did you have it already written before The Emerald Issue theme was announced, or did you write it with the Oz theme in mind?
I didn’t have it written. But when I saw the submission call, I leapt in and fairly quickly decided I wanted to focus on the Oz crows. (Short explanation of a long process: I’d been working on several “bird” plays. One of those productions was in rehearsal, so I was very bird-oriented at the time.) I hit upon the idea of a separatist crow organization with its own hierarchy and drinking holes and spates of infighting. Young bluster crows versus old cautious crows. Freedom-fighter crows versus toe-the-line crows. It made sense, in that context, that the general/witch would be continuously exasperated with those “troops.” The “Auntie Em. Hate you. Hate Kansas. Taking the dog” slogan did, in fact, come from one of my favorite t-shirts—so I had to work that in. And because the sweet-child Dorothy depiction never rang true to me, I turned her into a little sadist.
Q. I’ve heard stories of people being the victim of collective crow grudges, which sometimes last years, in response to chasing a few crows at once point, for example. Do you have a similar story?)
I wish I could claim a crow vengeance story in my background—but no. I do, however, live fairly close to Bodega Bay, where Hitchcock filmed The Birds, using a mix of seagulls, ravens and crows. Anytime I feel the need for bird-attack inspiration, there’s a nifty country store in Bodega that stocks all kinds of menacing bird paraphernalia rendered in 2- and 3-D. I never tire of visiting that store.
Q. Your piece references many “different” stories or “non-stories,” which are hinted at but ultimately don’t come true. Is that a function of the Oz story already being written—the fates of the crows settled—or is that just how you think life works? A million “non-stories” that we leave behind with every decision we make?
I agree with option three: a million non-stories left behind. Non-stories and stories, actually. For me, the fairy tale form accommodates shadow stories, narrative roads not taken, very, very well. A certain free-floating suggestiveness seems to me to be part of the fairy tale atmosphere. I also like what I call the “lull and zap” qualities of the form. As a reader and a writer, fairy tales keep me on my toes. Another plus: more often than not I’m surprised by where my own fairy tales end up. For instance, initially I thought I was writing a primarily comic story about a failed crow rebellion. But the pride and vengeance and oppression that fueled that final suicidal mission transformed it (for me) into a rather sad and somber tale.
Interview conducted by Fairy Tale Review Prose Editor Joel Hans.
Kat Meads’ piece, “Flight of the 40 Crows,” appears in The Emerald Issue of Fairy Tale Review, and is excerpted here.
Flight of the 40 Crows
In a different story…
The crows defy the witch.
In caucus, en masse, bird by bird, these words, this sentiment, this vow: “Not keen on girls and their sidekicks. Disinclined to take the assignment and the fall. Not our specialty, attacking travelers, trespassing or no. Skip on to the bees. The bees will be pleased to prove their poison.
Swarming, stinging. What else is their purpose?”Expected and delivered, a shit storm of witchy do-as-I-say-or-pay threats.
Not entirely clipped.
Half a night before the scheduled dive-bombing of girl and entourage, in Crow Town or Crowville or Crowborough, in a watering hole for crows, a crowd of 40. Drinking. Smoking. Sharpening talons. Comparing tail feathers. Swapping tales of crow heroics, misdemeanors.
Onto the bar hops an up-and-comer and—.
In the non-story, surely a crumb can be thrown to the old, the elder who has logged a thousand miles over land bare and planted, slanted and flat, his bird’s eye trained to pick out the weak, the flailing, the injured, the hopeless?