This story has been through so much, y’all, but it’s a standing reminder to me of how much of a story comes out in the revision process. My first draft of this story (written for the Fall 2015 Short Fiction course at the Brainery) was an attempt to write a selkie story that wasn’t a selkie story, and then I wrote a selkie story, so this one could be free of that weight—then I started turning it into a story about mythical birds, about love and loss, about depression and recovery.
I’m not exactly sure how I came up with the idea, except that I was searching out mythical creatures from Chinese folklore and came across the qianqian (or kimkim). I found myself fascinated, but also frustrated, as I couldn’t find very much information on them online, whether in English or in Chinese. So I decided to face my diasporic impostor syndrome—Who’s to say I’m any authority on Chinese culture; who’s to say I can play with and bend with it?—and do what I wanted and imagine how I saw fit: after all, vampires and werewolves have so many iterations and one doesn’t have to be a cultural expert to play with them.
So I ran with it, this weird idea about symbiotic birds and reviving coma patients and electroconvulsive therapy and body swapping and amnesia and love and loss and depression and recovery, and it coalesced into a story that ended up working. Which teaches me to just go with the flow of my ideas and trust that they’ll find an audience.
Part of this story draws from personal experience: I don’t keep it a secret that I deal with my own share of mental health problems. When I think about this story, I recall sitting in my therapist’s office and struggling to explain to her why I write the stories I write: “I guess I always end up writing what I needed to hear when I was younger—messages of hope and reassurance.”
And this story exemplifies that—it’s a story that says you can love again after you’ve suffered a loss; it’s a story that says there are people out there who will support you, that says things will get better, even if things don’t turn out perfect. It’s a story about acceptance, one that doesn’t necessarily have to be romantic to be true. (Not that there’s anything wrong with romantic stories, but I wrote this story on some level to be an aromantic show of love—it’s as much platonic love as it is any other kind of love.)
I also created a mixtape that collects a few songs that play off the mood of the story as it progresses:
And here’s the song that I nicked the title from; Eric Whitacre is one of my favorites:
I hope you enjoyed this story and my notes, and as always, thanks for reading. ♥
Cover photo by Micolo J