Special Guest Stars – Jagi Lamplighter


Our friend Jagi Lamplighter’s latest book, Prospero In Hell, hits store shelves this week. It’s the second volume in her well-received Prospero’s Daughter series. We’re delighted to welcome her back to Magical Words!

All About The Wonder: Why I Write Fantasy

Yesterday, I met my first grader at the bus after school. As we walked home, he asked suddenly:, “Mom, why do you write fantasy?”

I must admit, I was taken aback. I did not have an easy answer ready on the tip of my tongue (or any other part of my tongue, for that matter.) After stuttering a bit, I recovered and said, “Because it is filled with wonder—wonder, magic, and enchantment. Because when you write fantasy, you can write about anything.”

And really, that is the reason. For me, it is all about the wonder. Fantasy can do anything, go anywhere, occur in any milieu. It can take place in your back yard, in the ancient past, on the moon, in another dimension—the nature and laws of which can be anything you imagine. It can be frightening, romantic, mysterious, filled with intriguing factoids. But there is one thing fantasy does better than any other genre, and that is wonder.

Wonder is the sensation we feel when we suddenly discover that there is more to the world than we expected….and that this more is better, or at least more awe inspiring, than we had imagined. When this happens in real life—when we hold our infant son for the first time, or rush outside on our way to work to find a baby fawn, all wet and new, standing on our driveway, what is the first thing we always say when we describe the experience to someone else? “It was like magic!” I live in a world where there is wonder all around me, and no one else ever seems to notice it. Amazing things happen all the time.

Once, I went to the Mall in Washington D.C. in hopes of meeting an author I particularly admired. It is rather a rare thing, to have an author one admires in town. By an even rarer quirk of coincidences, I found myself not in line with the hundreds of other people who were waiting for his signature, but standing next to him, talking to his daughter. There was a sprinkling of rain—which did not dismay his die hard fans in the least—and, when I turned around, a huge rainbow arched across the sky. But it was not just in the sky. From our position, it was coming out of the dome of the capital building! I had seldom seen a rainbow so clearly, much less one in so auspicious a place! (This was just at the very beginning of the bank crisis, while they were first discussing the bailout. I kept wanting to shout: “Hurry! Catch the Leprechaun! Grab the crock of gold!” ) Things like that just do not happen in real life. But it did. I even have a picture. It was like magic!

I have always wanted to have a daughter. I have also always wanted to adopt a child. When I was a teenager, I had friends who needed adopting, but no one wanted to take on children who were so old. Too much trouble. So that became one of my dreams, too: to adopt a teenager.

I also wanted to be a writer. I have always wanted to tells stories. As a child, a group of adults who used to dress up as elves and kidnap their friends for fun once granted me the title “the Legendmaker,” because even way back then, everyone knew that was what I wanted to do. But wanting to write and succeeding are two different things. It took me nine years to finish my first novel and another six to sell it. By the time the book finally hit the shelves last summer, I had waited 17 years. Then, July 29th, 2009, a day I shall never forget, not if I lived for a thousand years, it actually happened. My book arrived! After all that time waiting, I held the beautiful volume in my hands. But it hardly mattered, because just a few hours before, my husband and I had grasped each other while we sent off the email saying, “Yes, we would like to be the parents to the thirteen year old girl who will lose her ability to have a family forever if she is not adopted before her fourteenth birthday in November.” With the return email, saying that our application was going forward, the picture of the beautiful Chinese girl we had received the day before suddenly became a picture of our daughter. For the first time, after waiting four years, we saw our daughter’s face. On the same day, I gained a book and a daughter! It was like magic!

And that is why I write fantasy. Because I want to share that, to weave a tale of awe and enchantment so others can experience even a hint of the way I felt upon those two occasions. Because nothing is more like magic than magic itself. When you walk into your garden and discover that fairies really are living in your lily-of-the-valley; when you are taking a rest by a cool mountain river and you suddenly realize that what you had taken for an outcropping of rock is peering at you; when you come around what you thought was a familiar corner an catch elves dancing in the moonlight, that is fantasy at its best. When done right, it reminds us of those moments in our lives, those real moments, when the curtain of mudanity is pulled aside, and we see, not a little man from Kansas, but something vast and glorious that, if only for an instance, lifts us out of our every day life and into eternity. And that is magic.

PS. Being an published author is a delightful thing…but being the mother of a teenage girl is even more wonderful. One’s life is filled with wonder every day.


18 comments to Special Guest Stars – Jagi Lamplighter

  • Congratulations on the new book, Jagi, but even more so, congratulations on adopting the thirteen year old girl. You’re right; there aren’t a lot of people willing to adopt teenagers. Special kudos to you for doing it.

  • Deb S

    What a beautiful post, Jagi. Very inspirational. It takes a special person to adopt a child, especially a teen. It takes imagination, determination and passion to have and achieve 2 life-long dreams. Talk about making fantasy real. Wowza.

  • I read this in tears, Jagi. Thank you for sharign a bit of wonder!

  • Lovely, Jagi. Congratulations on the arrival of book number two and welcome to the wonderful world of teen-girl parenting. It is, by turns, fabulous and frustrating, exciting and deeply confusing. Particularly for a guy….

  • QUOTE:Wonder is the sensation we feel when we suddenly discover that there is more to the world than we expected

    Had this happen just the other day. When something is just too obvious to be coincidence it sometimes becomes an affirmation. Didn’t see any fae–though I am still looking–but it was definitely something profound.

    Congrats on the book and adoption. 🙂

    Síocháin leat

  • Young_Writer

    I’m glad you adopted her. I’m probably only a few months younger, and I can’t imagine living without a family. Congrats on your book, too!

    There is only one person I know who can see the magic around us. For example, after months of trying we find a pathway into the woods. I was appointed the first to go in and the first to explore. That was magic considering the rest of the people were boys. They chose a girl to lead the way. Then we found a tree that was hollowed out on the side facing away from us. It made us jump, we thought it was a normal tree. And after one of us had gotten hurt, we saw a light shining down on us from the top of the tree. That was magic. Then, in that same place, I got the idea for my second novel. And a few poems. Now a year and a half older and on my sixth novel, that is still one of the most magical of my life.

  • Deb S

    “Now a year and a half older and on my sixth novel, that is still one of the most magical of my life.”

    Six novels! You go, Young Writer. I had some magical woods growing up, as well. Enjoy.

  • […] Lamplighter, author of Prospero’s Daughter and Prospero in Hell, guest-blogged today at Magical Words about why she writes fantasy.  It’s for the same reason I write fantasy — […]

  • Ryl

    Congrats on both counts, Jagi!

    A couple of years ago I was researching the life of the Buddha, right at the part of his teachings in Deer Park. The next morning I woke earlier than usual, facing the window to see early morning sunlight painting the eastern sides of the tall cedars just ten feet away from the window, all in bright gold. I got up and went to the window — at one cedar’s base was resting a mule deer doe, also bathed in golden sunshine — she was glowing in that brilliant morning light. The serendipity of it just took my breath away,…

  • Young_Writer

    Thanks, Deb! It’s kind of an additcion now… 🙂 I’m glad you had woods, too. That’s why I’m glad I don’t live in the city. I love nature too much.

  • Congrats on the book and the addition to the family Jagi!

    “When done right, [fantasy] reminds us of those moments in our lives, those real moments, when the curtain of mudanity is pulled aside, and … lifts us out of our every day life and into eternity. ”

    This is it exactly. To me, a great fantasy bridges the gap between the real world and the magical one. Yes, it reminds us that there is magic and wonder in our everyday lives, but it also reminds us that there’s so much more out there than we could ever know or see. It’s a portal that let’s glimpse something new and different and wonderful and also reveals the truth of our own reality.

  • Well-said, Jagi. And congratulations (on both the second book and of course your daughter!)

    Telling a story is a special kind of magic on its own. There is still some spellcrafting required in order to get it right, but the act of working with that magic is its own kind of wonder.

  • Congratulations on all your good fortune, Jagi. My son had never asked me a question like that — then again, the other day I told him that he was old enough to read my stuff if he wanted . . . he didn’t. 🙁 Maybe someday. Thankfully, though he’s not interested in the ol’ man’s writing, he does enjoy fantasy works. We still read to him at night and as he’s matured so has the material. My wife has been working through King’s Dark Tower series with him and I just started Mr. Coe’s Winds of the Forelands. Both series are full of wonder, and our son is eating them up. Which brings me to my final point — Parenting Tip — want a bedtime without any struggles? Get the kids hooked on a good book. Some nights our son wants to cut TV time early so he can get to hearing more of a good fantasy novel.

  • Sarah

    Yes! That’s why we write fantasy. Or at least why I write it too. Thank you Jagi for your beautiful reminder of the magic in the world. (And thank you too, for being an adoptive parent.)

  • Thanks for sharing this, Jagi. And congrats.

  • HarryMarkov

    Yes, with fantasy you can write about virtually anything and just because we have fairies, dragons, swords and gods, it doesn’t mean that what we write is light and unsubstantial. It means that we have no limitations in what forms we present concepts and notions, which are touched upon in every genre and even the snobbish literary.

    And congrats on the adoption. That is a very brave and good thing that you do.

  • L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright

    Hey, all!

    Very sorry that I did not come by to comment before. The same day this was posted, we got a rabbit. That might not sound like such a big thing, but we forgot everything else for a day or two. It’s actually my daughter’s rabbit. She asked for it during the winter, and now it’s finally here–a little baby white bunny–the kind people pull out of hats. That’s a kind of magic in itself.

    Thanks everyone for your wonderful comments. Both being published and having our daughter is so wonderful, it is a reward in itself. It’s doubly wonderful to be able to share it in a way that touches others.

    Just a few specific comments: Ryl…I really love deer, what a beautiful moment! Thanks.

    Young_Writer, you are entirely right about the magic of the moment you described! I think one of the most important things for writing fantasy is to be able to see the moments of magic in real life. Good for you!

    Everyone else. Thanks again. Your comments really meant a great deal to me.