In the early 1980s, there was an annual multi-media exhibition held at The Whyte Gallery in Banff, Alberta. Its name was Exceptional Pass, and it was composed of photographs, ceramics, weaving, calligraphy, poetry and prose all purporting to come from the same unmappable spot where reality meets fantasy.
Aina-Lani Kahu-Wellan, a dragon in the form of mountain was the most wonderful exhibit, and the most magical person there was its Hawaiian-Welsh creator, Pamela Nagely Stevenson.
I decided that I had to became the custodian of Aina-Lani Kahu-Wellan, which was the inspiration for “Elemental Exchange.” The other stories in The Laughing Princess soon followed, each one of them with one of Pamela’s dragons at its centre. All were written while the harp music of Kim Robertson played on my stereo.
The Princess made a one-time appearance on a Toronto radio station in the late 80s. Then in 2012, I dug out the tapes and sent a copy to Jessica Knauss to convince her that I might be able to voice my book, The Astreya Trilogy, which she had just finished editing. She must have breathed a little of the mystical mountain air from Exceptional Pass, because she decided to publish The Laughing Princess, and subsequently to translate it into Spanish as La Princessa Valiente. A year or so later, she re-mastered the book to include Shirley Mackenzie’s marvellous illustrations.
Find out more about these exceptional women:
Artist: Pamela Nagley Stevenson
Pamela still creates dragons, as well as functional and ceremonial vessels in the shape of flagons, chalices, bowls, altar vessels, teapots, jars, urns and reliquaries that “spiral out from ancient archetypes, and celebrate connections to invisible realms and devotional traditions.” Visit her website at PamelaNagleyStevenson.com.
Harpist: Kim Robertson
Kim Robertson continues to entrance with exquisite performances of Celtic music for the harp, very brief excerpts of which can be heard on the audiobook version of The Laughing Princess. Visit her website at kimrobertson.net.
Editor and Publisher: Jessica Knauss
Illustrator: Shirley Mackenzie
I met Shirley at a book reading in a now sadly defunct bookstore in Ottawa. We each admired the other’s work, and in time Shirley made the captivating pictures that bring The Laughing Princess alive. Visit her website for more of her art at http://www.shirleymackenzie.com