Wise Not Withered
Blind Assassin – UNNAMED

Blind Assassin – UNNAMED

April 28, 2021

Welcome to Week 19 of the Wise Not Withered character showcase! This week I’m excited to talk about the Blind Assassin character. Unfortunately she does not have a writer OR illustrator at the moment; both women dropped out, so I have some work to do to find new artists. The original writer for this character had suggested we leave her unnamed, to add some mystery and interest. Now that she is no longer the writer though, I am completely open to naming her. So for now, she is “Unnamed”.

I have a lot of ideas about where this story could go. The original idea was that there would be an elderly woman who wakes up in her house with no memory of where or even who she is. She would go around her house and look at various objects that would bring back bits and pieces of her memories. I had this idea a few years ago when I was going through my now-late mother’s house, looking at all our stuff she kept and thinking about how each little thing had a story, from the sea turtle sticky notes we got in Hawaii to the ribbon that wrapped around a bag of Ghirardelli chocolates from San Francisco.

While that seemed like an interesting idea at first, I realized that the main purpose of the Wise Not Withered project’s stories was to showcase the adventures that we as women can still have into our middle-age and old-age years. Simply recalling memories and looking into the past would defeat the purpose entirely. There were actually quite a few stories where I needed to remind the writers that flashbacks must be kept to a minimum, and be there if and ONLY if that particular memory was essential to recount because of a present-day event. Of course, creating a solid back story and knowing what happened in the past is crucial, but the focus of the story had to be on her life now as an older woman.

So instead of simply sorting through memories, I thought… What if she was blind? And she is going through her house smelling, feeling, hearing various things? But then, how would she have become blind? There was another idea of a World War III veteran that ended up being combined with the Real-Life Mother Nature story; instead of losing her legs in WWIII, the character from that story lost her legs from a plane crash. So I thought it would be interesting to bring back the idea of a war veteran and explore what her life may be like decades later.

The story would have two main points of focus: 1) her relationship with her step-daughter, who is also her caretaker, and 2) her connection to music and piano-playing. These two focal points are personal for me. I grew up with three parents; my mom and dad divorced when I was 2 years old, and my dad remarried when I was 6, so my step-mom played just as important a role in raising me as my mom and dad. I think it’s important to show a loving step-parent relationship in media, since a lot of stories talk about the “evil” step-mother. And then of course, the music and piano-playing is personal to me since my career and so much of my daily joy is based around music, and playing piano has always been one of the greatest sources of fulfillment and healing in my life.

With the addition of the character being blind, I thought it would be interesting if she was a former assassin. There could be one or two flashbacks that explain how she became blind through what would become her last mission. As with the other stories, I want to keep my own ideas flexible to leave lots of room for the writer and illustrator to incorporate their own cultures and interests into the story too. So maybe she won’t have been an assassin. But I do want her to 1) be blind, 2) have a strong relationship with her step-daughter, and 3) play piano as her main source of joy and grounding.

That’s it for this week! Hope you enjoyed reading or hearing my thoughts about this mysterious character. Stay tuned for the next six showcases of Wise Not Withered characters! Stay safe, and please take care of yourself :)

Pirate Captain – RONDA

Pirate Captain – RONDA

December 30, 2020

Welcome to Week 18 of the Wise Not Withered Character Showcase! This week I am proud to present Ronda, our 58-year-old pirate captain! Her dark, epic story was written by Priyanka from India, and captivating illustrations by Fanny from Mexico.

When it came to the Pirate Captain, I really had no idea what I wanted the story or her look to be like. I personally have very little experience with pirate stories and characters—I watched the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie in high school, and... that's it. So I really left her look and her story up to the artists that chose her from the list.

Fanny, Ronda's illustrator, got to work right away and was actually the very first illustrator to complete the character's drawings! So Ronda's illustrations are more so snapshots of her personality and lifestyle, rather than directly connected to the story.

Fanny was so great to work with; she sent us her sketches, did very well with my alteration requests, and completed the full set of illustrations very, very quickly. She may have been one of the younger artists I recruited for the project, but she worked very maturely and efficiently.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BwJDJYOBScu/

Captain Ronda's strengths include her intrepid, bold personality, ability to lead her crew and delegate tasks clearly and effectively. Her main weakness is her peg leg, so she isn't as fast, but she's still strong and purposeful, and excels in close combat.

I found Ronda's story writer Priyanka on Instagram, where she goes by "Perifene Rose". I was drawn in by her dark, powerful language and was shocked to find out she was just a teenager.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CF8-4DiFl_w/

Priyanka's story for Ronda was exactly what I didn't even realize we needed. I helped out with editing the story but I did my best to keep the integrity of Priyanka's writing. I was just floored by her strong language—not profane, just very striking, bold words. As usual I will include an excerpt of the story at the end of the episode.

Ronda's role as captain is just as important as her role as a mother figure to her crew, especially the younger ones. Her team is comprised entirely of her adopted daughters, women whose ages range from 18 to 35. They all have been taken in by Ronda, some rescued from horrendous slave trade. Others were orphans and were in the right place at the right time when Ronda found them. It was important to me to include characters who embraced their wild and adventurous side, while still being loving and nurturing. It can be easy to create female characters that take on typically male characteristics, implying that feminine traits such as softness and flexibility as not as valued. But I really tried to make all of these elderly female characters well-rounded in as many ways as possible.

Here is Ronda's illustrator Fanny introducing herself, talking about her career as an artist and her experience being part of the Wise Not Withered project!

"Well hi, I'm Diana Estefanía Sanchez, but you can find me on social media as Fanny Sanchez Art. And I'm from Monterrey, Mexico. I start to draw since I was five years old. I always carried a notebook and colors in my bag. I really, really liked to draw Yu-Gi-Oh! cards, Sailor Moon stuff, and other animes. But I start to take it seriously, I think, in high school. Because I studied things related with drawing since junior high school, like technique... I don't know how to translate it. And finally, my career as a graphic designer and animator. Now I can say I'm a digital artist, and I work in an animation studio, making illustrations, creating characters, making motion graphics, and graphic design.

For me it's very important to do the best work I could. For Ronda, I made a lot of investigation, searching the clothes, poses, and women her age, because I had no experience designing characters like pirates, or older women. But when I had all these references, I could start making the full body first, then expressions and poses, and finally the illustration with a background. For this final illustration I chose that scene because I thought that she shows all her personality when she was sailing the ship.

Well, the brand looks so cool and interesting for me, because I have never worked on a project like this before, with other female artists of different countries. Also I really love the idea of expanding the representation in media of the elderly woman! And I hope when I reach that age, I still have the possibility of working in the creative world, still making characters, or book illustrations, or paintings.

And finally, my message for other female artists is that if you do this for a career, it will be difficult. But it is worth it, if it is really your dream. And remember, the continuous practice and learning from your mistakes is very important to becoming a better artist."

And now as usual, I will end the episode with an excerpt from Pirate Captain Ronda's dark, epic story, written by Priyanka with edits by yours truly.

"On the surface of the forebodingly calm sea, a three-mast ship—the Crimson Maiden—cut through the dark misty waters of the Jaladri Gulf. Soon the entire ship was drowned in murky fog, ominous clouds hanging in the sky above, obscuring the last rays of sunlight.

Captain Ronda stood tall on the wooden deck, her rough hands tightening around her sword's hilt. She took a deep breath, inhaling the musky smell of damp wood mixed with the salty air. A chilly gust of wind rifled through her bones, insinuating that a wicked storm was on its way. But that was far from Ronda's concerns: her gaze scanned the gloomy waters before her that she knew housed the most malicious of beasts. She understood that a shortcut through these dark waters could be dangerous, but desperate times called for desperate measures, and her crew's supplies were running low.

On either side of Captain Ronda stood Carmen and Jaaga, the eldest and most experienced of her crew, both in their mid-thirties. The women's sharp eyes gazed intently through the thick fog, their breaths coming out short, anticipating the impending doom. They each carried a weapon at their sides, Carmen with a scythe and Jaaga with a lance.

The ship rocked suddenly, and Ronda's focused eyes shifted to where Caspia and Cordelia stood toward the front of the ship. The two of them, in their late twenties, had been around long enough to know how Ronda handled intense conflict, but these particular waters were brand new to them. Their gazes swept from side to side, analyzing their surroundings which did not look so promising. With a single, sharp, swift gesture from Ronda, Caspia and Cordelia left their positions with soft steps toward the deck, where Daria and Hama stood ready with four cannons. Although just in their mid-twenties, Daria and Hama could handle the cannons almost as well as Ronda herself. At the wheel of the ship was Maris, the youngest of the crew. Ronda trusted her keen sense of direction and ability to read the stars.

A flash of lightning tore through the vast black sky, and instantly thunder boomed overhead. The Crimson Maiden began to sway with a sudden surge of waves, and at that moment a giant serpent—the living death of the sea—reared its head above the water, letting out an ear-piercing roar. Globs of festering saliva spewed from its mouth before it dove across the deck and back into the sea, beginning to coil itself around the ship like a restless predator closing in on its prey. A part of the ship cracked and splintered with the pressure.

'Keep up the speed, Maris! Do not slow down at any cost!' Ronda yelled toward the young Maris, who gripped the wheel tightly, struggling to keep with the waves. 'Caspia and Cordelia, stand on either side of Maris! Jaaga! Carmen! Attack its tail! Do not hold back!' Ronda shouted with zeal and confidence, as it was not her first time fighting these wretched sea snakes. She knew their weakness and she was waiting for the perfect opening.

'Hama! Daria! Ready the cannons! Aim at its face when it resurfaces! Wait for my signal!'

Jaaga and Carmen slashed at the serpent's flesh, steadily ripping layers of its thick, coarse skin, preventing it from tightening further around their ship. The beast's tail flung out of the water and smashed right into Caspia—adrenaline surged through her body as she cried out from the shocking impact. Not a second later Cordelia drew her dagger and screamed as she stabbed the serpent's tail before it retreated back into the water. Maris kept her hands steady on the wheel while Caspia and Cordelia locked their arms around her and each other.

Ronda sneered as she knew it wouldn't be long before she would stare death straight in the eyes. It had been a while since she had slain living flesh like this, and the image of scarlet in these black waters fired her up.

The beast began to hiss, stirring up the water even more, vibrating against the ship, rumbling through the entire crew's skin and bones. Ronda prepared herself, knowing that it was all-or-nothing. One chance is all Ronda would have to claim victory; losing would mean only one thing, and she was not planning for death anytime soon.

Right on cue, the monster surfaced at the side of the ship, hissing with fury, its beady eyes filled with rage—and locked right onto Ronda. As soon as it opened its jaws, the captain bellowed:

'FIRE!'

Daria tightly gripped and aimed the first cannon with a steady hand, while covering an ear with the other. Hama drew the string and blasted the cannon right at the serpent's face. Working together they swiftly fired one cannon after the other. The cannonballs smashed into the monster's jaws, fragments of teeth and slimy skin raining down on the crew. The explosions left billows of smoke in the sky above them, and though the beast had been stunned momentarily, it suddenly screeched and rushed forward.

Ronda dodged the serpent's bite, prancing like a tiger, her peg leg supporting her sideways lunge. She swiftly stabbed the beast's neck, and Carmen and Jaaga quickly followed suit, faithfully protecting their captain with their lives, pinning the monster down. Ronda ripped her sword out of the monster's neck and dealt the final blow, driving her sharp blade right into the beast's eye. The serpent shrieked in agony, unraveling its coiled tail around the ship, wildly thrashing about. The scythe and spear that had pinned it down were flung overboard as the serpent withdrew back to the depths of the black sea.

The dark clouds parted and blue sky was revealed once again, as the serpent itself had brought the storm, which it now took deep into the sea with it."

That's it for this week! Hope you enjoyed learning a bit about Ronda, the pirate captain! Stay tuned for the next showcases of the Wise Not Withered characters.

Pop Star CEO — ELIZAVETA

Pop Star CEO — ELIZAVETA

September 8, 2020

Hello and welcome to Week 17 of the Wise Not Withered Character Showcase! This week I'm excited to present Elizaveta (Liza), our 64-year-old Pop Star CEO! This character's story was written by a Russian writer, and so she herself is Russian as well. The illustrator I originally had do the drawings of Elizaveta unfortunately disappeared, so we will have to use our imaginations until I find a new illustrator.

It was important to me to have a pop star in the Wise not Withered project: not only a woman who is still going strong in her career, but also a woman who has climbed the ranks and risen to the top and now owns the company and runs the entire business. The writer for this character, Anna, did such a fantastic job of adding in details about Elizaveta's daily life that I definitely could not have come up with on my own.

I found Anna on Instagram while searching with a hashtag that was something along the lines of "kpop writer" or "kpop blogger". When I was searching for the writer for this story, I wanted that woman to have a solid background and interest in the music industry, so she could write a convincing story. I was immediately drawn to Anna's page, with posts promoting self-love and a generally warm and positive vibe.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CBYLLl3H0QE/

Anna's story that she wrote for Elizaveta, titled "The Woman With Wings", is not just about her life as a performer and businesswoman; there are also strong themes of reconnection and second chances. In the beginning of the story, Liza advises a newcomer artist that she must work together with her bandmates rather than steal the show herself. After this pep talk, Liza reflects on her younger days as a band leader and realizes that she did exactly what she was advising the younger singer not to do. She then tries to reconnect with her former bandmates, showing that it's never to late to learn from and make amends for your mistakes, even if it takes decades to realize them.

The second half of the story focuses on Liza's performance at a special commemorative anniversary concert where she met a man who was at the time the love of her life. Family disapproval (basically racism) led to the couple's breakup, and Liza is hopeful that her old flame will show up at this special concert.

In addition to being a strong authority figure and business owner, Elizaveta's close relationships to her sister and niece are also shown in the story, where Anna wrote about Liza going to get a custom dress made for her performance. In all of the Wise Not Withered stories, it was important for each character to be well-rounded, not only in personality but also in lifestyle and relationships. In a society where women's romantic relationships seem to take priority over relationships with themselves and others, it was really important for me to build a solid community around each character.

I think that romance is exciting to read about because it's unpredictable, and you're really never sure exactly what's going to happen. That air of mystery is very enticing and thrilling to read and experience. But it's not a sustainable source of love and happiness, and real, true love and friendship comes from a place of solidity and there actually isn't all that much mystery on a day-to-day basis. There's a level of dependence and trust that replaces the uncertainty, and while there are still conflicts, it is such a beautiful thing to have deep, loving bonds with people.

Elizaveta's story does include some romance, though just like the others that do, it is not the primary focus. The story is called "The Woman With Wings" because that's the name of her new song, but it also represents Elizaveta as a character and a person. She chooses to not be tied down by the mistakes of her past, and chooses to learn from her experiences and grow.

When I find the illustrator for Elizaveta, I want to make sure she has GLASSES! Aside from my regret of not having enough LGBTQ+ characters in this project, I also didn't remember to put enough of them in glasses. I myself wear glasses, my mom wore glasses, so do many other people in my family, especially older folks.

As I've done in previous showcases, I'll end this one with an excerpt from Elizaveta's story:

"Not for the first time, Elizaveta was glad she had remembered to bring her sunglasses and hat, though she still often got recognized. It’s not that she minded the attention; she just didn’t have the time or energy for idle chit-chat with strangers more than once or twice a week. Between directing music videos, sitting in on recording sessions, and counselling her staff and beginner performers on a daily basis, she needed a few minutes to herself every day, where she could sip her cappuccino in peace and feel the chilly breeze on her face while sitting on the benches outside her office building.

There was nothing special about that day - meeting with sponsors, a couple of business calls and the final rehearsal of the new girl band The Lilia, whose debut was scheduled for the following week.

Elizaveta confidently entered the office building and took the elevator to the seventh floor, where her own cabinet and the huge meeting room resided. She still remembered how hard she worked to get a whole building that was now proudly marked with the neon sign with her name on it, 'Elizaveta Sokolova'.

Through the elevator glass she saw vivid life at the office: young celebrities and backup dancers were practicing their performance pieces in large studios, singers were taking vocal lessons in well-insulated booths, managers were answering calls and e-mails trying to organize meetings and interviews for her actors and musicians, fashion designers were making mood-boards with the most modern ideas for future shows. As a creator of all of this she was very proud and grateful for such a hard-working and loyal team."

That's all for now! Stay tuned for the next episode of the Wise Not Withered character showcase!

Herb-Tracking Navigator – NARDEEN

Herb-Tracking Navigator – NARDEEN

May 19, 2020

Hello and welcome to Week 16 of the Wise Not Withered Character Showcase! I'm thrilled to present Nardeen, our 75-year-old Herb-Tracking Navigator! This character was actually the very first one I came up with, and I'm so very happy with how she and the other characters turned out in her story. The writers for this story were Heba, from Palestine, and me. Nardeen's wonderful, detailed illustrations were done by Natalia, from Argentina.

Now, what is an "herb-tracking navigator", you ask?? I'm not sure exactly how I came up with this concept. I had a vision of an elderly woman that has a rare magical ability of diagnosing an illness, and identifying and tracking the right herbs to cure it. Not necessarily a past or future setting, Nardeen's world is one lacking in technology, but abundant with plants and herbs, animals (particularly goats), and supernatural elements like magic and spirits.

Nardeen's story, titled "Generational Forbearance", was a collaborative effort between Heba and me. The story begins with some tender moments between Nardeen and other villagers, including her grand-daughter, Amira. The story focuses on the relationship between the two of them; Nardeen and Amira both have the "sacred herb-tracking sense".

The woman of the generation in between them—Nardeen's daughter/Amira's mother—is named Aliana, and she does not have the herb-tracking ability. This creates some tension in Aliana's relationships with both Nardeen and Amira. In addition, Aliana's husband/Amira's father had passed away years prior to the story, from a tick infestation—even though it was not Nardeen's fault, Aliana still harbors some resentment toward her mother, the esteemed village apothecary, for not being able to save him.

A mysterious plague afflicts many villagers in the story, and Aliana is one of them. She ends up passing away, still visibly angry with her mother and never letting go and forgiving her. The title is "Generational Forbearance" because one of the main themes in the story is forgiveness (or lack thereof) of parents. We see in Aliana that she never forgave Nardeen for things that ultimately were not Nardeen's responsibility (Aliana's lack of magical abilities and her husband's death). I wanted to provide this tragic example to show how very sad but very real it is that some people die without ever forgiving people they feel have wronged them in some way. I think resentment toward one's family, particularly parents, is probably pretty common across all cultures. It's really up to each of us to recognize that our parents did their best, and the mistakes they made are ultimately our responsibility to come to terms with, especially if our parents are no longer alive to discuss deeper matters.

The main themes in the story are pretty deep and raw, not unlike those of other Wise Not Withered stories, and they resonate especially for me in this time of my life. I was hesitant to post this episode and have been taking a while to write it because I realized that there was no way I could not talk about my own mother, and how her recent passing ties in so closely with this story.

My mother passed away from lung cancer in the end of February, and it was an earth-shattering experience, to say the least. I guess I shouldn't say "was", because it still is affecting me nearly every moment of every day. When I first wrote Nardeen's story, I tried to write about what it might be like to experience the death of a loved one, and now that I actually have experienced it myself, I have two reactions to what I wrote. First, I'm surprised that some of the things I wrote about were absolutely spot on to what I am feeling now. Second, there were a few instances where I thought what I wrote may be a bit too dramatic, but after having lost my mother and experienced this type of grief first-hand, I will not change those parts because the death of a family member really is such a dramatic and life-changing event.

Forgiveness of parents and the cycle of life in general are the two main themes of this story. Aliana, as I mentioned earlier, provides an example of an older woman who does not forgive her parents, and ends up dying with the pain and resentment still locked in her heart. Nardeen on the other hand travels with Amira to the source of the plague and must come to terms with some incredibly difficult decisions that her own parents made, back seventy-four years ago when she was still an infant.

She discovers she had a twin sister that her parents tragically decided to leave behind, because they could not afford to keep both babies. The wrath of the twin sister is what ended up causing the plague—pain and resentment manifested—that traveled miles and miles across the ocean and rivers to Nardeen's village.

When I was getting ready to make this showcase, I thought about how Amira and Nardeen's relationship may become strained when Aliana dies. I thought maybe I should add in more conflict between the two of them, possibly Amira blaming herself or Nardeen for the death of her mom (and her dad years ago). I decided later though that there was enough conflict (between Nardeen and Aliana, Amira and Aliana, and closer to the end Nardeen with her twin sister's spirit), and adding in more would just feel forced and unnecessary. Besides, in time of grief and uncertainty, it just made more sense to have a solid relationship that never wavers. That's how I feel about my brother right now—while my relationships with other family members somehow became even more strained after my mother's death, I honestly feel like there's nothing that could come between my brother and me. While we are both feeling the intensity of losing our mom, we are able to see only each other and a few other select people during this COVID-19 quarantine. So I wanted to show that strong bond that gets even stronger during hard times.

This story has such a special place in my heart, particularly because as I said before, Nardeen was the first Wise Not Withered character I created, almost two years ago now. Nardeen's story is so fitting for a video game, and I'm so proud of the parts I added into the story that would be super fun to play. When Nardeen and Amira first set off on their voyage, I made a long list of things that Nardeen puts into her pack, though I finished writing that list after figuring out what all she was going to do later. Here's one of my favorite parts of the story:

“'Amira, we are in need your paddling skills after all,' the older woman smiled as she handed the oar to the younger woman. Amira nodded, not knowing exactly what Nardeen was thinking, but trusting. 'The direction of the river has changed, but we can still steer our boat to and fro.'

With her grandmother’s directions, Amira paddled their boat to either side of the river while Nardeen reached out and plucked a multitude of reeds and grasses of different lengths and widths. She then broke a handful of twigs and branches off of the dead tree trunks. Nardeen sifted through the pile of twigs until she found two that were the same length and shape, bending slightly outward. She carved a small slot in the bottom of each twig, then using a thin blade of grass, she threaded it first through the slots then around and around, securing the twigs together.

From inside her pack she retrieved a large handful of dandelion stems. She squeezed each stem gently, catching the goopy substance that came out into her hands. Rubbing her palms together, the dandelion goop became a single, thin, elastic piece, which she strung across the top of the twigs, in the space that formed as the twigs bent away from each other. Nardeen reached in her bag for the stash of small nuts. Bringing her newly crafted slingshot up to eye level, she placed a nut in the spider web, pulled it back, then fling! The nut flew through the air and landed with a plop into the water."

As with all of the other characters too, I could not have fleshed out Nardeen's aesthetic and personality without the help of the writer and illustrator who contributed to her story and look.

So without further ado, first here is Heba introducing herself and talking about her experience writing about Nardeen.

"Hello! My name is Heba Hayek. I live in Palestine in a small city called Gaza, where a lot of conflicts happened in the last decade. I'm married, and I have three beautiful children. I've worked in several fields. Currently, I am a translator, proofreader, and creative writer. I started writing in the age of 13. Most of my writings were about my daily life, and sometimes I would criticize some thoughts and ideas that I didn't like in my society.

Each article, or topic, or small paragraph that I write usually reflects a certain situation, feeling, or person that had an impact on me. The most precious articles to my heart are two. The first one is called 'Survivor Lost Within'. In this article, I reflected my own experience during the last aggression on Gaza, while being pregnant with my third child. And the second article is called 'Beneath The Rubble Rises Hope', where I talk about a young lady who fought all the misfortunes she had in her life to achieve her goals.

In this story, I wanted to reflect the bright side of my society, because worldwide we are not recognized as the peaceful, loving society. When I started writing about Nardeen, in my head I had imagined every single mother and grandmother in my society. Nardeen is an example of any grandmother who is willing to do anything for the sake of her family. Nardeen is an example, because she is a leader. She is willing to do anything to serve her people. In Nardeen's character, I chose to implant my traditions, reflect in her dress: the color of the dress, the colors of the dress that sewed in the dress. While Amira is another example of any grand-daughter in my society.

The whole story reflects the strong relationship that gathers the families in Palestinian society. The scenes in the story are a collection of my own childhood. The places where I used to spend my childhood, the view of the sea, the view of the boat, the view of the farm: everything is all a combination of a shattered childhood.

Because I've always believed that women are capable of doing anything they want, that's why I joined the Wise Not Withered project. The idea of the project is to erase the stereotype image of women all over the world, and to show them that women are educated, strong, and can achieve anything they want. The whole experience of the project was amazing, and it let me get to know different people from different cultures worldwide."

And here is Natalia, introducing herself and talking about the gorgeous illustrations she made of our protagonist Nardeen, and her grand-daughter Amira.

"Hi, my name is Natalia, AKA Nillus Art. I'm from Argentina, so I'm really sorry for my English right now. And well, I'm going to try my best. I describe my art style like girls, girls, girls! Because like eighty percent of my work are female characters. They are everything to me, I love drawing women. Also I love to use gold, doing really really beautiful flowing hair, and you see pink, blue, and violet in my palette because they are my favorite colors ever.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bw75mfBlYPG/

I think one of my favorite pieces are some of the latest pieces I made with red, black, and gold. I'm making a series of mythological creatures. A year ago I made a spirit, and I think I used blue, green, and pink. That is also a great palette. It was like super hard, because the piece is really little, and have so many details. I don't know why I made that to myself. So they were really difficult to do, and I'm so proud of them. I hope you like these pieces too, in the story's work.

I really love the story, and it made me remember a lot of my granny. I think Nardeen is so like her. I think the story is amazing, because you have so many depths in the characters, you have so many moments... They are so well-balanced: you have bad moments, you have good moments, you have dramatic moments. I think you will find yourself loving the characters in the end of the story. What I love the most about Nardeen is that even in a really dark moment, she finds herself, keeping on, and doing the next right thing. And I think she is so brave, and a lot of people are going to love her for that.

I joined this project because I love the idea of representation of older women in the media. As a gamer and comic reader, it's really sad to see that 40+ woman characters are only support or really secondary characters. I think that telling these stories really reflect women and their value. I know I'm going to grow old someday, and I hope to be like them, like all these characters. Keep doing what I love, because you have no limit to do what you love if you're alive."

[caption id="attachment_664" align="aligncenter" width="1806"]06 correccionesIllustration by Natalia

Hope you enjoyed the episode! Thanks for listening. I'm a bit slower than usual to get them out right now, but there are indeed nine more characters, so please stay tuned for more showcases!

Dancer – YANTI

Dancer – YANTI

March 22, 2020

Full transcription available on WiseNotWithered.com:

https://wisenotwithered.com/2020/03/17/dance-teacher-yanti/

Magical Blessing-Granter – TALA

Magical Blessing-Granter – TALA

February 24, 2020

Hello and Welcome to Week 14 of the Wise Not Withered Character Showcase! This week I am proud to present Tala, our 103-year-old Magical Blessing-Granter! The illustrator for the oldest character of the entire project is Zahra, from Iran.

I absolutely adore the illustrations that Zahra made for Tala. She worked so hard, creating five fully colored, incredibly detailed pictures. In the sketching and initial coloring stage, I asked her to completely change the aesthetic of the character, which I understand is no easy feat and something I should have told her sooner. But she did it! She was amazing to work with, and I love the illustrations she made so so much.

Tala - 01Illustration by Zahra Gholamijalal

The interesting thing about this character is that her illustrations are done, but I have yet to find a writer. The original person who was going to write the story for this character had so many great ideas and we were in contact for many months, but before the story was finished, she just disappeared, and I have not heard from her since last June.

It's a shame, but the show must go on! This is actually something that has happened quite a lot during this project, an issue that I did not see coming but makes a lot of sense that it would happen. At the beginning I thought okay, I have recruited all of these people for this project. I'll send them the character list one week, pair them up the next week, then get started right away! It obviously ended up taking longer than that to wait for people to pick their preferred character, for me to pair people, and then get started. Then once we got started, sometimes it was mostly me and one other person (usually the writer) coming up with all of these ideas. Sometimes the illustrator was also very involved, but what ended up happening for a few of the characters is that the ideas we had after all did not match up with what the illustrator thought we were doing. So I have had to find new illustrators for quite a few of the characters.

With others, the work is not done yet, but they have continued to stay in contact with me, which I greatly appreciate! I understand that people have their own busy lives, and this passion project is not a source of income so it is not a top priority for any of the writers or illustrators—it's a priority for me, and I am the one coordinating and directing everything! I'm at a place now where I can still see a vision of the final product, but am waiting patiently, trusting that each part will be completed, sending reminder emails and texts, and letting go of people that I don't hear from for months. It's been an interesting process. I do my best to send only good vibes to the people that I drop from the team. No hard feelings, we simply must be moving forward.

Tala's story will be a very interesting one! Her gorgeous illustrations are all completed, and the writer I find will create the story in a backwards way, using the illustrations as a guide. One important thing about Tala is that, because she is the oldest character (age 103), she is the only one that is allowed to die at the end. There was some discussion with other writers about their character dying in their story, but I put my foot down and made it very clear that those characters would not be allowed to die—that would defeat the whole purpose of the project! Tala is special though, being the oldest character. I will discuss that with the writer I find though, and maybe she won't die. We'll see.

Tala - 03.jpgIllustration by Zahra Gholamijalal

The original writer I had found for this story was from the Philippines, and really into Philippine mythology. I would love to find another writer from the Philippines to create the story for Tala, but a different type of Asian would be fine too!

The description I wrote for Tala was this:

Magical Blessing-Granter — Age 103

  • story starts with adventurers going to visit the magical blessing-giver, and you think it’s about them… but it turns out that SHE is the main character!
  • brief exploration of how she got to be where she is, and what she gains from using her unworldly powers to help out those in need
  • meditation/yoga teacher, practices every morning for herself too
  • powerful illusionist: protects her land and people from ill-intended outsiders

I came up with this idea first while thinking of characters like the Great Fairies in The Legend of Zelda. These characters, like many other NPCs, sit in one place for the entire game, waiting for passing travelers to come and use their services. I thought it would be great to turn that around, and once the traveler leaves, the camera slowly pans back to the fairy-like person and you soon realize that SHE is the main character of the story!

It's always important to come up with a solid backstory for any character in a narrative, even if you never flat-out tell the audience. One of the ideas I came up with for Tala is that she has these beautiful wings that allow her to fly above her village and survey the area. These wings would not have always been a great advantage for Tala: for years she was shunned and ostracized, especially during the time that they were forming and growing. I haven't come up with why exactly she has wings, but I think it's important that she had a tough time accepting them earlier in her life, while now she embraces them and uses them to her advantage. They are a blessing after all.

I'm excited to see what story will come from the illustrations that Zahra made! Finding a writer for Tala's story is high on my to-do list, though so is finding an illustrator for Candace, editing and polishing some of the remaining stories... It's a lot to do. And I will get it done!

Thanks for tuning in to the Wise Not Withered Character Showcase! New episodes every Sunday (sometimes Monday) until mid-2020!

Fire & Water Twins - FEU & SUI

Fire & Water Twins - FEU & SUI

February 17, 2020

Welcome to Week 13 of the Wise Not Withered Character Showcase! I am recording from my kitchen table today, for a change of scenery. It's a little windy outside, so you may hear the gentle tinkling of the wind chimes right outside my front door throughout this episode. This week features the last PAIR of women: our fire and water twins, Feu and Sui. Their supernatural story about parallel worlds and elemental powers was written by Jessie Jing, with gorgeous illustrations by Marah Ali.

A lot of the Wise Not Withered stories are set in reality, or at least a realistic world. Something really special about Feu and Sui's story is that there are actually two worlds: the living world of Earth, and the parallel spirit world of Etern. Jessie will talk more about this later in the episode.

In terms of plot, the Fire and Water Twins' story was perhaps the most bare-boned idea I had at the beginning. I just knew that I wanted there to be twins that had fire and water powers. That idea sparked from the plethora of natural disasters that have been happening in the United States: raging fires in the west (where I live), and devastating hurricanes in the east. I thought about how it would be great if someone could take all the water from the other side of the country and bring it here to the west coast. I started to imagine two middle-aged women floating high in the sky, bringing all the water over there to over here. And that's really all the thoughts I had about these characters!

Jessie brought such a depth to the twins, coming up with their names and the idea of being cast into parallel worlds. I'm amazed at just how broad Jessie's creative spectrum extends: she is arguably one of the most multi-talented artists on the team so far, not only excelling in writing but also dancing and choreography. I was so happy to hear back from her.

The story of Feu and Sui is definitely fit for a video game: it starts with a narrator named Vide, inviting the reader/player to learn about the twins and help reunite them, to bring balance to the world. Here's an excerpt from the beginning of the story:

"They need to be reunited in order for the world to be in balance once again...

Hello, my name is Vide. I am the answer to all that is unknown, which shall be revealed soon. What we will need to do first, however, is reunite the twins in order for the world to be in balance once again. Will you help me?

I will tell you the story of Feu and Sui, and you can be the judge of whether or not you will help me in this journey of reuniting the twins..."

Jessie and I collaborated on the rest of the story, bringing her ideas of Feu and Sui's past and rooting them into current-timeline scenarios. The ending is purposefully left open-ended, which I will read at the end of the episode.

The illustrator I found for these characters was Marah Ali from Jordan, whom I discovered through Behance. I was really drawn to the realistic details and colors she used for the portraits she had on her page. She was such a joy to work with!

Both of the artists involved in the creation of these characters' story and illustrations got involved in the Podcast this time, so without further ado, here is the illustrator, Marah!

"Hi, my name is Marah Ali. I'm a studio artist and animator from Jordan. The projects that I'm most proud of are probably two animated music videos that I've done for a local band that I'm a huge fan of. My experience with Wise Not Withered was extremely nice. I had so much fun drawing the fire and water twins. The story was extremely creative, extremely beautiful—I was blown away when I first read it. I got so excited. I tried to make the characters as magical and beautiful as they were in the story. I was also happy that I was given enough creative space to work with my own style. Juliana was such a sweetheart.

Feu - Twinkle Book Illustration by Marah Ali

I also joined Wise Not Withered because the concept of empowering middle-aged women is extremely important, yet we're always saying on TV, how we should empower young women, and children. We don't talk much about empowering middle-aged women, though it's extremely important. I think that most middle-aged women that I know of are superheroes to me. So I would love if my art might empower any of them. Make them more confident, or might put a smile on their faces when they see middle-aged women with super powers.

I also would love to be a storyteller with my art. So telling stories with my own art. So that's one of the reasons that I joined Wise Not Withered. It was a very, very awesome experience."

And here is the writer, Jessie!

"Hi! My name is Jessie, and I am currently living in London. I am Malaysian Chinese, and I am a dancer and writer. I largely within the contemporary dance scene, and currently studying my master's in choreography. So I'm an all-around creative!

I work a lot with writing and text as well, for my dance projects, and vice versa. With writing, I like to work with flow and movement, so both sides of my artist identity informs the other. I'm actually publishing a book, so the launch date is the 28th of February. It's a poetry collection I've written nearly three years back. It's called Manuscripts of the Mind. Publishing with the Ghost and Ribbon, which is an independent publisher. So a little plug there!

It's interesting, with this [story]. One of my biggest influences in narratives and story telling is actually Harry Potter. Even Lord of the Rings, although reading-wise, when I was younger I was much more affinitised with Harry Potter. I loved the magical world that it created. I read a lot of Jacqueline Morrison's books as well, and Roald Dahl. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda... These are books that I hold dear in my heart. So I think naturally, when it came to this project... To write about the twins, Feu and Sui, I naturally gravitated toward creating a world. Creating, really opening the imagination, and going really supernatural, with magical abilities.

It's also quite a theme that goes across my projects, where I like to create a narrative, create a different space and world for whoever's reading—or watching, if it's for my dance projects.

So Feu and Sui are twins. They are elemental twins basically, fire and water. The name Feu is French for fire, and Sui is the Romanization of the Cantonese pronunciation of water. I really like to play with language! It talks about them being in... General background is that they're long-lost twins. Not in the sense that they're lost in one single world, but actually parallel worlds. Sui is in a world "Etern", like a supernatural world, and it's parallel to the Earth that we live in. For Feu, she has supernatural abilities that she is kind of aware of but not, but she's much more in the sort of normalcy of Earth. The story jumps off that point.

They're separated from birth. Basically there's a long, deeper story to it. But in the womb, what happened was Feu was the surviving twin, and Sui unfortunately wasn't. But she never truly disappeared, but went into the parallel world of Etern. The story would eventually lead to their meeting, and it would cast the world off balance should their meeting not happen. So yeah, it's quite a dramatic story! (laughs) This is where we start.

Obviously, Feu and Sui individually can... Well more Sui, because Sui is aware of her elemental powers. They can manipulate their elements: Feu is for fire, and Sui is for water. And this is the overarching storyline of the story.

So like I mentioned, I am very into the whole creation of a different world, hence why Etern is introduced. Should this be a longer extended project, Etern would come into play a lot more. My love for creating worlds and narratives really influenced this creation of a different supernatural, elemental world, and the parallelism of the worlds in this universe.

Sui - in Etern Illustration by Marah Ali

In terms of culture... A theme that happens a lot throughout my projects is that I love to play with the notion of duality. Hence the parallelism of the worlds, in that what we see is never what we really... It's not always the only truth. There are many different truths and also many different existences. I wouldn't pinpoint it to a particular culture, but definitely there's this sort of belief of dual or multiple realities. Maybe it's much more science, in that sense? There are many different influences. But definitely my interest in creating a magical, different world is the biggest influence.

I joined the Wise Not Withered project because I really liked what it stands for. The notion that you know, middle-aged and above, senior-aged women are very under-represented across the board, whether it's commercially or even day-to-day in jobs. There is this culture of casting elders aside, perhaps they are not aesthetically fitting to the demands of the commercial society. I feel that is not true: there is so much that the senior ages can offer. Their wisdom, their power, their strengths are so underrated. This is a big reason as to why I joined. And also because I was raised by my mom, she's a single mother. She obviously will grow older as well. As a younger generation, I hope to carry her legacy as a wise, older woman. So beautiful in her heart, inside and out, and pass that on, really.

I would say to a fellow woman... It's been on my mind always, but especially lately, because I've been working in collaborative projects and we've had lots of chats... To stand strong and be confident for other women, and your fellow artists. And to be proud of them... It's so satisfying. It makes you feel so wholesome, as both a person and an artist. I feel the world can get very competitive at times, and we cannot let this culture of competitiveness make us lose our very innate empathetic and supportive nature.

Thank you for having me! I really enjoyed this experience in Wise Not Withered, really really enjoyed this experience. I hope to you know, see more artists and writers all across disciplines come together for such projects. And thank you Juliana. Such a great initiative. I really hope for the best for this initiative to go further and further in the future. Thank you!"

And here is how the story ends:

"This is where you come back in, friend. Feu has fallen and now is precariously treading on the thin line between the living Earth and Etern. On Earth, one can be alive with land-dwelling beings, and feel the warmth of the sun on human skin, complete with human emotions. In Etern, there is no warmth but that which lies within your spirit. Elemental powers are active and heightened in Etern.

Now, dear friend, two options lie at this fork in the road. What shall Feu and Sui do?

1) Feu blacks out, her lungs filling with water. Sui gently touches her hand, and Feu begins to glow red. Just as the life force returns to Feu’s motionless body, Sui is catapulted out of the water and onto the pier. Her first time out of the water, Sui stays on the ground for a few seconds, crouching down and feeling the sturdy wooden logs of the pier beneath her toes and fingertips. She glances down at the water below, then tilts her head up toward the clouds and the brilliant sun, whose cascading rays nearly bring Sui to tears.

“My sister... Where am I? Is this the place where you have lived all this time? I must find you, and bring you back... To Earth.”

This route would follow Sui on Earth and Feu in Etern, and their adventure in trying to get Feu back onto Earth.

 

2) Sui catches Feu, and quickly breathes a flurry of bubbles that flutter across Feu’s face, magically clearing the water out and repelling it from her lips and nostrils. Feu opens her eyes, and the two women stare at each other. Without a word, they embrace, their elemental hair burning and flowing together in an intricate dance. They separate and look at one another once more. Feu marvels at her sister’s electric blue hair, slivers of silver shining like the moonlight and stars. Sui admires her sister’s fiery smoke and ember red and grey hair, dancing like flames even though they are underwater.

This route would follow Feu and Sui both in Etern, and their adventure in trying to get both of them back onto Earth.

The choice is yours, dear friend. Go with your gut feeling, and choose the path that speaks to you."

Stay tuned for more Wise Not Withered Character Showcases, releasing nearly every Sunday, sometimes Monday, until mid-2020!

FPS Housewife – CANDACE

FPS Housewife – CANDACE

February 4, 2020

Hello and welcome to Week 12 of the Wise Not Withered Character Showcase! I'm fighting off a cold right now, so bear with me as my voice is a bit croaky. Today's character is extra special because I think of her as a flagship of sorts of the entire project. I'm thrilled to present Candace, our FPS (first-person shooter) Housewife!

Candace was one of the first characters I thought of conceptually. As with all of the characters, when I introduced them to the team of writers and illustrators, I changed the names I had in mind to be as culturally ambiguous as possible (hence "FPS Housewife"). But Candace was actually the original name I had thought of for her.

The whole project started out as a huge initiative to create middle-aged and elderly female characters in video games, but a lot of them turned out to be suited for other types of media, so not all of them would be game characters. Candace, however, from the very start, was going to be a housewife who abhors her sons' devotion to video games, then gets sucked into one—along with her sons—and they must figure their way out. I knew I wanted her to have moments in the story where she becomes closer to her sons, getting to know them on a deeper level, comes to understand their passion for video games, and rekindles passion for her own life again.

At some point I decided that her older son would be gay, and his coming out to her would be a non-negotiable part of the story. I thought it would be interesting if the older son was also a sports jock (again trying to break stereotypes, as I mentioned last week). He and his younger brother would play video games together and the younger one would look up to him immensely.

The writer I found for this character was DeNae. I found her through Instagram, while searching #nerdmom. I knew I wanted the writer to be a gamer (or former gamer, just someone that was familiar with the gaming world and basic mechanics of a first-person shooter game), and a mother (so that element of the story would be as authentic as possible).

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bo9YlJPgi39/?tagged=tvmoms

DeNae, whose online presence is "The Big Bad Mama Wolf", brought Candace to life with her own gaming and motherhood experiences. And I know I keep saying this, but the story she wrote was simply more than I ever could have asked for. We decided together that her husband would be an architect, often staying late at his job but still a supportive and kind father in his own way.

When we were coming up with ideas of what types of terrain and setting we would include in the first-person shooter game, my boyfriend and I had the brilliant idea of each world in the game representing a different room in their house. Ultimately it became each world representing each person in their family. It's never outright said in the story, but the biomes and their character representations would be something like this:

  • Ice caverns | Father/Husband/Richard: he may seem cold and distant, but there's a warm, fiery village at the center because he has a warm heart
  • Volcano | Older Son/Shaun: he's very passionate and a go-getter type of person; possibly trying to hold in emotions, waiting to erupt
  • Jungle | Younger Son/Jasper: wild, free, unpredictable
  • Desert + Oasis | Candace: seemingly dry and boring, but brimming with life and vitality upon closer inspection

The illustrator for this character unfortunately dropped out of the project, so the search continues! In terms of racial identity, I want Candace to be half-Asian, half-white (like me!), and I would love to find an illustrator who is either mixed, or any type of Asian. I also want her to have a huskier body type. I suppose she doesn't have to be half-Asian at this point, since there is nothing in the story that indicates anything about her appearance or ethnic heritage. But I just like the idea of having one of the characters be a mixed baby like me! :)

Now here is DeNae, introducing herself and talking about the amazing story she wrote for the FPS Housewife, Candace:

"Hello! My name is DeNae, and I am a stay-at-home mom, blogger, TikTok video maker, convention creator, and all around huge nerd. A lot of people know me for the convention I started here in West Texas called Lubbock Con. And other people know me from Instagram as The Big Bad Mama Wolf.

I started writing when I was younger, but I haven't done it consistently throughout my life. This project really stirred up a lot in me because I was able to get back to my roots of writing. I've been doing my blog for a couple of years now. And while I really enjoy blogging and writing about the experience of being a mom, writing a fictional story about a fictional character was so exciting and something brand new and super interesting.

So Candace is this incredible character that Juliana introduced me to. She had an idea of the story already, and whenever she messaged me on Instagram. She found me because of the tag #nerdmom or #gamermom. And she messaged me and asked if I would be interested in the project, and of course, I was like absolutely! Oh my gosh. This is such a cool idea. A story about a mom who gets trapped in a video game with her two sons. And while I do not have teenagers yet—my kids are both under the age of ten—this was such a unique experience, because I got to really get in the mind of someone else who has a different life experience than I do, who's older than I am. But I just felt like it was so important for her story to be told, because at some point all of us reach that moment in our lives, where we have lived probably a lot less fully than we want to. And we need to awoken—that's not a word. We need to be awakened! Our lives need to be shook up. And for Candace, it is this moment where she gets to experience something completely unrealistic and otherworldly, but it has real-life connotations about your relationship with your children, your relationship with your spouse, your relationship with yourself.

And while Juliana had created the character, she left this big opening for me to give a backstory. And I really... Probably wrote too much of a backstory for me. Cause this is a short story, so a lot of you won't even know these things about the backstory. But it was so important to me to create a full character who has a whole life of experiences, and things that lead up to this moment.

It was important for me to know old her husband was, and where they were from, and where they went to school, and how they met. And he's only in the story for the very last few paragraphs, but those things led me to get to know Candace, and I really wanted the readers and the audience to love her as much as Juliana and I had started to. When we started having phone conversations, she would say, "This is how I see this moment playing out." And I was like, that's perfect, because in Candace's backstory, her father used to take her to play video games. It was so cool, because the character that she had envisioned and the character that I brought to life ended up being one and the same. It was just a matter of building that backstory and getting to know her as a fully fleshed out human being.

One of the coolest things that Juliana had wanted for the story was the moment where her son comes out. I don't have that experience. It's an experience that I know is life-changing, and so important. I know my sister and her wife—I've heard their coming out stories, I've heard their friends' coming out stories. They're good, they're bad, they're all over the place. And for Candace specifically, and for this moment in the story, I wanted it to be one of those things where you left feeling good about it. It is a part of life, it is a part of the human experience to have ups and downs with your child. But I wanted that ever-lasting, true love to come from Candace, and for you to really see that in the story. And I really hope that comes across whenever you guys read it. Because I loved writing that scene, and I loved talking to other people about their coming out stories, so that I could make mine as believable in this unrealistic world as possible. I remember when I sent it off to Juliana, I had already cried writing. Whenever she read it and she liked it, it made me feel so good because I wanted to do this character justice.

Even though I am a gamer, as a mom I do not get to game as much as I would like to. And I don't really do first-person shooter games. So I started talking to lots of friends about first-person shooters... I spoke with my husband, I spoke with my best friend Erin, and I was trying to get an idea so that I would get the terminology right! What would be a really cool game for a mom and her teenaged sons to get trapped in? And so I actually created an entire video game world. And I swear, Juliana, we need to get this made into a real game, because it is really fun. Number one. I would totally play it. And it's a lot like Halo, or Destiny. It goes through all of these moments that the characters needed. It goes through emotional highs and lows. And in order for Candace to have that moment at the end where she's like you know what, I can be my own person. I'm not just a mom. She needed to prove herself to herself. Not to anyone else. This was for her. And for her sons. For her to have that relationship rekindled, and re-supported. I cannot tell you how in love I am with these characters and this family, and it's probably because I created this really ridiculous backstory that no one will ever know, but it's in my notebook, and I just really feel like maybe we need to do a sequel or something, cause I really love writing about this family.

So I joined this project after Juliana sent me the information, because I felt like it was so important to have positive representations of females in media. Specifically in areas they might not particularly be portrayed, like gaming. There's a whole lot of gate-keeping, and you know, gamer-gate, and all of this anti-geek girl stuff that's really frustrating as a woman who actively participates in geek culture. So to be able to write a story about a woman who loved video games and lost that passion but rekindles it through an experience with her children was really awesome. I just couldn't turn it down. The whole project is so incredible, and it just has brought together some of the most talented women.

I think in order to find something that has a wide variety of perspectives in one place, even though the internet is so vast, is still really difficult. And Juliana has absolutely found a perfect way to do this, by creating these stories and these characters, and we have a writer and an artist for each from a different place in the world, and a different place in their life. We're all different ages, and races, and we live in different parts of the entire world—we're not just from one country or one area of the planet. This project is going to be so awesome because of that. Because it has a wide voice, but it's all pointing towards strong females. And if we ever needed a time that we needed to hear strong female voices, it's now.

Another reason I really wanted to be a part of this project was because my own grandmother, we call her Grammy, played Diablo when I was in middle school. And when I would tell people that, they would just be flabbergasted, like "My grandma doesn't even know how to use a computer." And I was like oh, well mine plays video games online, in an online gaming community. And so even though it's 2020 now, and that was in the late 90's, it's so important to have that representation, for people to see that there are women who do other things beside just motherhood. And while being a mom is such a huge part of my life, and it's absolutely probably my favorite thing about my life, it's not the only aspect of me. And a lot of women lose that.

And that's why this story was so attractive to me. It was about a woman who loves her children, she loves her husband, she's dedicated her life to her family... But in that moment has lost herself. And a lot of us experience that. A lot of us are experiencing that now, or will experience it in the future. So it's refreshing to see that there's life on the other side, and that you can be a great mom, and still be a great human being, and be your own person, and still love the things you loved before.

I'm so grateful to be a part of this project. I hope that you guys love Candace's story. I hope that you love all of the stories from Wise Not Withered. And more than anything, I hope that you feel inspired to be the best version of yourself and the best female that you can be."

I will now read an excerpt from the incredible story DeNae wrote, titled "Reclamation":

There is a blinding flash of light, an ear piercing squeal and suddenly my arm feels heavy. My whole body feels heavy. This is it. I'm one year from fifty and this is what gets me. A heart attack. But it is not my arm that feels heavy but what's in it. I look down. In my grasp, the most obscenely large gun I have ever seen. And my chest is not heavy but what is ON it. I am covered head to toe in bulky, gaudy, heavy armor. I panic. Where are my sons? I hear gunshots in the distance. I take off running towards the sound. I trip and stumble and drag this beast of a gun. I step through the fog and Shaun is standing there, a look of disbelief on his face, just staring. Jasper, tiny little Jas, is holding a smoking gun and a pile of alien carcasses lay in front of him.

“Dude.” Shaun manages to pop out before we hear more gunfire.
I turn around. An alien hoard approaches and all I can hear is Jasper screeching,

“SHOOT! MOM, SHOOT!”

“Candy! You have to shoot, Candy!”

It's my father. It's 1983. I'm thirteen again and in a mall arcade. He's not yelling but loudly encouraging. My father was a fun loving and highly spirited man. Even when we lost him he never stopped smiling. Even through the pain. Mother always scolded, “Stop feeding that girl fairytale dreams. She should be at the library studying, not playing that techno battle garbage with you.” I loved sneaking away with my father to the arcade for mind numbing fun, greasy pizza and cherry cokes. What was it that he would always say? “Aim with your eyes and. . .” and what? I hear explosions and yelling. The weight of a nearby blast knocks me back into the reality that I'm lost in virtual reality, as I shout, “SHOOT FROM THE HEART!”

“Aim with your eyes and shoot from the heart.”

I don't know what takes over me but I am shooting. This gun weighs two tons but I'm shooting. And yelling and screaming and running, my sons running beside me, tossing grenades and shouting expletives they know they are not allowed to say. Fear is a funny thing. I have never even touched a handgun in my life and now I am mowing down aliens and kicking ass trying to protect my baby boys. Why these sweet boys do this for fun, I do not know, but my adrenaline is driving me. Between the three of us we blow through sixty or more slimy green guys and I see a Humvee in a clearing ahead. The boys instinctively follow me to the vehicle. I am completely out of breath. I have not run in over thirty years. Shaun tries to climb in the driver's seat but I tap him over. He may be grown enough to blow up alien life forms, but he has not passed driver's ed yet. Shaun helps to remove some of my armor so I can drive and Jasper slouches over, exhausted, in the back seat. That kid can sleep anywhere. We manage to get this beast into gear and head towards a dense jungle in hopes of getting a break from explosions and ET trying to kill us.

Thanks for tuning in to another episode of the Wise Not Withered Character Showcase! More episodes coming every Sunday—sometimes Monday—until mid-2020!

Diner-Owning Superheroes – TANVI + GABBY

Diner-Owning Superheroes – TANVI + GABBY

January 27, 2020

Hello everyone, and welcome to Week 11 of the Wise Not Withered Character Showcase! This week is one of only three PAIRS of women, and this time, they are a MARRIED COUPLE AND BUSINESS-PARTNER SUPER-HEROOOOOOOOEEESSS!!!!

I am absolutely delirious to present Tanvi and Gabby, our Diner-Owning Superheroes! They are both forty-two: they met and fell in love while in college, and have been together ever since. The initial idea I had for this character was that it would just be one: Tanvi, the Diner-Owning Superhero, would also live with her wife and their niece. But at some point, sort of like the Potion Witches, we decided that they would both share the spotlight.

The focus is still more so on Tanvi, as the story is also told in first-person from her perspective. I originally thought that Gabby would just be a supportive character to Tanvi, but when the idea was brought up that they would be a unit—both of them owning the diner and both of them superheroes—it just made sense.

If I had one regret about the project so far, it would be that I didn't add in enough LGBTQ+ characters. The focus is definitely on expanding representation of middle-aged and elderly women, but the opportunity to include more diversity in sexuality and gender identity may have been missed. I did include a few other gay characters in the project, and with others they may identify as LGBT but those topics were never discussed in their stories because it is simply one aspect of a person.

That is one of the underlying motives for this project as well... I mentioned it briefly last week but it has been rolling around in my head for months now: None of the characters in the project has age as a defining characteristic. Akuol, one of the Potion Witches, does struggle with aging specifically in her story, but there is so much other stuff going on that it still represents only one aspect of that story and that character.

I feel that that sometimes becomes a story's downfall: if the character is based almost entirely around one trait, it can be easy to start taking out the labels and judgements. The token old person who is always hacking and coughing and waving their cane. The token woman who is always meek, weak, and in need of assistance. The token gay character who wears pink and acts in a flamboyant way. When a character is flattened to a very specific way of thinking and acting, not only is it boring and trite, it's downright damaging to the demographic that it's supposedly representing.

I find it very powerful when a character's sexuality is simply a part of who they are, while the story focuses on other aspects of their awesome life. I do think it's important to show the struggles of minority groups, but also just as important to show their successes as well. Again, that is part of the goal in this project. The characters are all older women, who are still thriving. None of the stories are about their differentiating trait bringing them down.

With each of these characters, it was important to me that not only did we represent uncommonly seen ages, but also from a huge variety of perspectives. That is, from many different parts of the world, with different cultures and beliefs, styles and aesthetics. Being an interracial baby myself, with Filipino and Western European heritage, I also wanted to include a few characters in the project who were in an interracial relationship, or the result of one!

The writer I found for this character was Meghna. We first connected over Behance, then once we got to email, the conversation just rolled.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B50t5hhHRg0/

We exchanged so many long emails when we first met, getting to know one another and bouncing around ideas for the character. Since Meghna had chosen the character first (before I even found Kristen), we decided that the main diner-owning superhero would be of Indian descent, and her wife's ethnicity would be that of our writer.

Meghna and I talked about our experiences growing up while not feeling like we totally belong, culturally or ethnicity-wise. We also talked about the setting of the story, and how it would make sense to take place in a more progressive country like the US (or Canada, as it turned out), for a gay couple to own a diner together. This is one of the nuggets that Meghna said in our email exchange, from Meghna herself:

"I'm actually convinced that it takes an ambiguous cultural identity to really open our minds to things like the freedom to love who you want. From my point of view, I wouldn't mind anyone in my family marrying outside of community, because my ties to the community are weak, at best. I haven't grown up here, so I don't feel that sense of belonging like the older generations would. It's a little funny because we discussed in one of our classes that culture is dynamic and constantly changing, so there's no point getting hung up on the specifics because what seems concrete today would just be outdated and obscure tomorrow. So many traditions die out, it really makes no sense to me to worry about the specifics of caste and creed mattering."

I wanted the cultural representation to be as authentic as it could be. I didn't want someone writing about a culture that they knew nothing about. At some point, it was decided that the superhero's wife would be Asian. So, I accepted the challenge!

I scoured the internet for a writer who was Asian AND identified as LGBT. I typed in all kinds of hashtags, spending a couple hours pouring over pages of twitter, Instagram, and random blogs on the internet, and it was finally #queerasian that brought me to Kristen!

https://twitter.com/thesapphicnerd/status/1036445012257587200

Kristen's online pages are under "The Sapphic Nerd", which has such a beautiful ring to it! I was so intrigued by the posts on her blog, not only cartoon and book reviews advocating for representation of LGBTQ+ and women, but also about her own experiences as a queer woman of color.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BuIG5EOh5dw/

Something Kristen said really hit a chord with me: "There's also the added element of a superhero having more abilities than a regular person, but being frustratingly the same as everyone else is in how they deal with their relationships (romantic and non-romantic)."

When Kristen joined the conversation, the three of us just bounced around ideas like dumping a gum ball machine into a bouncy house. It wasn't quite as mad as that image seems though; we quickly, mutually decided on loads of details and got to work! The story that Kristen wrote, titled "Change", is everything I wanted it to be and more. The characters of Tanvi and Gabby are so relatable, and the way they interact is just perfect.

It was really important that I include a lesbian couple in the project, showing a stable gay relationship into middle age. Tanvi is significantly more emotional and outspoken, while Gabby is more reserved and calm. They joke around often, and balance each other out very well, working together as a loving couple, as well as business-owner partners, and a super hero team. Tanvi's powers revolve around gravity, while Gabby has the power to multiply things, including herself.

Finals2.jpgIllustration by Meghna[/caption]

When I first thought of the character concept, simply a Diner-Owning Superhero and her wife, I wanted to add in that their niece gets kidnapped. Tanvi's niece Navami wanted to go to college near where Tanvi and Gabby live, so she moved to Toronto and is living with them. What ended up happening is that Tanvi's older sister (niece Navami's mother) tries to take Navami back home to India.

Instead of a crazy villain kidnapping her niece, it's her own sister who is struggling with seeing her daughter changing and becoming more comfortable in Canada's more progressive society. I thought this addition worked perfectly, as it still creates quite a bit of conflict and drama, not to mention it shows how Tanvi and Gabby are still dealing with disapproval from their family about their relationship (though the relationship itself is still very strong and solid).

Meghna took some time to introduce herself and talk about the characters Tanvi and Gabby, including their creation/inspiration, and their illustrations.

"Hey! I'm Meghna, I'm in my mid twenties and an architect and graphic-designer, specializing in illustration. I'm from Kerala in the south of India, but I was born and brought up in the Middle East so there's always been a sense of not completely belonging to either culture. I've been drawing seriously maybe from the ninth grade when I got SUPER into Beyblade and Naruto. I spent my summers in India and these two shows would play on Cartoon Network in the evenings and I was OBSESSED, and that isn't even an exaggeration. When I returned home, I experienced withdrawal symptoms and hadn't figured out that I could possibly watch the shows online, so I started drawing anime-inspired art of my own to make up for the void (to be a tad dramatic). Over the years, my art style did evolve based on what I was reading and watching. I don't think I've found 'My style' just yet, and I'm not sure if I will, because I like the evolution process too much to really let myself get too comfortable with one method of work.

pre-final.jpg.png

(One of the first sketches Meghna made for Tanvi and Gabby)

pre-final2.jpg

(Another one of the first illustrations Meghna made)

I've become so attached to both Tanvi and Gabby over the process of their creation, and reading Kristen's portrayal of them only cemented my attachment to them. As a queer Indian woman myself, I've sort of ended up latching onto whatever little queer representation I see in media, whether good or bad. A lot of this representation doesn't necessarily have me identifying with it so having a chance to create this representation that would have meant so much to me as a young confused girl really feels more fulfilling than a lot of things I've worked on in the past, and I couldn't be more grateful to Juliana for the opportunity. I'm also so thankful that over the months we emailed each other, I really found a good friend in both her and Kristen. Before they were fleshed out characters, the brief was basically just Diner-owning superhero wives, and everything about that just screamed at me to choose it and build it into something. I've been into Marvel and DC growing up, less of the comics, since I didn't have access to that, but more of the animated series and movies, and the portrayal of women superheroes have been changing for the better has me delighted ♥ This felt like a little tribute to that too. And who doesn't love a diner, right? It's a foreign concept to me, since I haven't really been to many, but it's so romanticised in all those American movies I watched growing up.

Regarding the look of the characters, their costumes were entirely thought up by Kristen and she did such a marvelous job that I really had so much material to work with. I did experiment with a few different styles, ranging from super stylized to more realistic and sort of settled on a middle ground. I did try to make sure that you could tell that they were middle-aged women of colour, with body types that stray from the ideal. Being a plus-size person myself, and I nearly always have been, it helped to draw someone I'd have loved to see on screen as a child, as an insecure teenager, as a less-insecure, but still sometimes insecure adult. Body diversity is still something that we don't see enough of, even with big franchises like Marvel and DC and I'm hoping that changes in the future, but for now, being able to do this definitely counts towards some healing and satisfaction.

My main motivation for working on the Wise Not Withered project was that it made sense at the time. I had just been getting into gaming and had been watching animated shorts from Overwatch and League of Legends and remember being so fascinated with Ana, since she'd been the first person I'd ever seen in a game who was an elderly woman with an active role. Over time, it really just became about being involved in this project with women from all over the world who were working toward something, and I'm honoured to be a part of it, and to be associated with all these creators, and I'm so glad I took it up."

And now, an excerpt from Kristen's story "Change":

Changing doesn’t feel the way it looks on TV. It’s not some musical, sensual, colourful, intricate set of dance moves that take an entire minute to go through before you’re ready to fight. If I took that long, I’d barely save anyone! No. Changing for me is a bolt of lightning. It’s a shot of white heat and electricity that ricochets through my body in an instant and leaves me crackling with energy. With power. I’m transformed into someone else in an instant. All thanks to a little stone.

If I were up against anyone else - if this were some evil villain dragging my niece out of the diner instead of my own sister - I’d be able to change. But this is family business. Navami needs me, not some random superhero. I can’t smash my way through personal drama. I mean, I could but that might not be the most productive…

Instead, I chase after them, reaching the diner’s entrance doors before they fully close. I’m not worried about what the customers will think. Most of them are regulars – even friends – and they’ve seen me throw out my fair share of unwanted guests or break up fights.

“Revathi, what are you doing?!” I demand of my sister, feeling the stone pulse from my necklace. I push away the power it offers.

“What are you doing?” My sister hurls back at me. “You and your lifestyle have been influencing my daughter! I see her posting photos with these weird people, going everywhere with them. She’s becoming like you!”

It takes me a split-second to understand and I give her a flat look. “She’s not turning gay, if that’s what you mean.” I know this because Navami and I regularly have in-depth conversations about things that would make her mother go pale. Not in a creepy way! My wife and I are just open to talking about anything, and so far, it’s resulted in quite a harmonious relationship with our resident teenager.

Revathi, who looks positively scandalized that I said that word, jerks Navami’s elbow. “See? Look at your values! Talking like that now.” I clench my fists. “I’m taking my daughter back to India.”

“What?! Ma, It’s the middle of the semester! I can’t go back!” Navami digs her heels in and there’s a stubbornness to her expression I’m not used to seeing from her… but have seen many times on her mother. I almost smirk.

“You can study somewhere else. I’ll pay for you to go anywhere, but I don’t like what’s happening to you here.”

“I like it here!” She argues. “I have a life here! You can’t make me leave!”

“You’re my daughter! You have to listen to me.”

“Ladies,” My wife’s voice cuts in, calm as ever as she leans on one of the diner doors to keep it open. “Are we putting on a show?” She angles her head over her shoulder.

All of us turn around to see a theatre of the diner’s patrons watching and Revathi shrinks. She hates disturbing the peace.

“I’ll be back in two days with plane tickets.” She says and storms toward her waiting taxi.

I exhale slowly and usher Navami back inside with my arm around her shoulders.

“I’m not leaving.” My niece states. Her expression is determined.

“Of course not.” I reply, nodding thanks to Gabby who’s holding the door for us.

Stay tuned for more Character Showcases, releasing every Sunday (sometimes Monday!) until mid-2020!

Wild MEG’s Saloon and Cabaret Lounge

Wild MEG’s Saloon and Cabaret Lounge

January 20, 2020

Welcome to Week 10 of the Wise Not Withered Character Showcase! I'm honored to present our Wild West Tavern Owner, Meg. She owns and runs a business called "Wild Meg's Saloon and Cabaret Lounge".

MegShowcaseChanges-04.jpgIllustration by Pepi

For a couple years I did Lyft driving on and off. One of my passengers was an elderly gentleman who started telling me about how much he loves Wild West films. I hadn't (and still haven't) watched many (if any?) Western films. I did not grow up with them, and I told the man that I preferred movies and shows with characters that I could relate to. We got into a conversation about how most of the protagonists of those films are white men, and he said something along the lines of "Well that's just how it was." I found myself getting a little irritated at that blatant comment, but I also couldn't say that he was wrong.

When I dropped him off at his destination, he said something along the lines of "Times are changing, though. Women are doing more, and I can't wait to see what you'll be able to do next!" It was a very positive note to end on. And I felt inspired. I started to ask with curiosity rather than resentment, "What would it have been like if a strong woman owned a tavern in the Wild West?"

My initial ideas for this character were solid, but lacking in depth. I knew I wanted a tall, brooding woman, perhaps in-game an item shop owner. I pictured her saying, "Not in my tavern!" and shooting guns out of people's hands. She'd walk over, punch 'em in the face and throw 'em out! I wanted her to be gruff, with a no-nonsense attitude and a spark of humor. Expert-level ability in a wide range of card games. Extremely intelligent, confident, and sometimes abrasive—not afraid to verbally assault someone back into their place.

The illustrator I found for this character is Mariel Astorga, or Pepi, from Argentina! Pepi was one of the first artists that I connected with, and I absolutely adored her enthusiasm and can-do attitude. She has experience in game design, and in programs that encourage and educate young women. I loved the life in the comic illustrations that I found on her Behance page, and I was so excited to be in touch with her.

Pepi is from Mendoza, Argentina. She is an entrepreneurial designer who is passionate about video game development and user experience. She started to work in the gaming industry as a 2D artist in 2014, illustrating some characters and designing interface elements. In Mendoza, she works as an Arts and Design instructor at Probot's Video Game Course, which is a 12-week workshop for students from 10 to 17 years old. Probot School, part of the Tomás Alva Edison Foundation, was featured in 2018 by Microsoft's Flagship School Program. Now, Pepi is working with Game User Experience. Once in a while, she sketches for fun.

In regard to the illustrations Pepi did for Meg: she feels very connected to Michelle's definition of Meg's personality. Pepi tried to make a mix of a Punk style and Australian outback.

Over the past three years, Pepi has been promoting the video game industry and female participation in Mendoza. She had the opportunity to organize multiple workshops and events like "EVA-Mendoza" (Exhibition of Video Games made in Argentina) which is one of the most important Game Development conferences in Latin America, and Global Game Jam.

In 2017, Pepi volunteered as an artist to remotely help on the "Girls Make Games" program. This eventually helped her win a scholarship to attend GDC, or Game Developer's Conference 2018.

In Pepi's words: "Working with two talented and amazing women like Juliana and Michelle, makes me comprehend the importance of what we are doing, not only we were promoting and emphasizing the representation of middle-aged and elderly women in video games, also we were working from our different countries and realities to make changes in real life, in our daily lives. I'm very grateful. Wise Not Withered is a possibility to celebrate the alliance between women, defend our conquered rights, motivate younger generations and start to promote women's new roles all over the world. There are so many stories to tell."

Looking back at our first emails to each other almost feels nostalgic right now! So much has happened with the project over the last year, and seeing how warm and friendly and enthusiastic Pepi was right at the beginning makes me really happy and inspired again. I had been sending dozens of cold emails, hearing back from a handful of people—a tinier handful of that already smaller group accepted the offer and collaborated with at least me, and sometimes as a trio, to create beautiful art of middle-aged and elderly women in stories and illustrations.

I started to develop a tougher skin, in terms of being more readily able to accept rejections and keep moving forward... Where we circle back to Meg! It takes a strong woman who has seen hardship to be able to be so tough and rough—Meg brandishes a gun in the first chapter of the story. She means business! When I first created the character, I didn't realize that it would make sense—and in fact be essential—that she'd also need a more gentle and kind side, to balance out the rough exterior.

When I found the writer for this character, I honestly had been simply searching for a writer specifically from Australia. Not for that character, I just wanted someone from Australia. At this point in my search, I was making games for myself. I have a world map taped on my wall above my computer where I've colored in the countries where artists on the team live. I wanted to have as much diversity as I possibly could, and it was quite frankly very easy to find people from all over the world. With this kind of technology available to us, there's really no excuse not to find new talent and diversify our content!

I started searching Instagram using #australianwriter. I had an interesting interaction with a writer that I may possibly share in a post later with a collection of uncomfortable interactions! The writer who ended up responding and joining the team was Michelle Greening, an author, poet, and lovely soul who lives in West Australia. She will share her thoughts about the story and character later on in the episode.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B7XjxxkFcKx/

Michelle was so nice to talk to over Instagram, and at one point I ended up sending her the list of characters, in the format of "Description (Age)". I added that some of them are very comedic and some are very serious. Some of them would probably make a more interesting game than others, but the focus is to just showcase that women can and do still have adventures and stories worth telling into middle-age and beyond.

Immediately Michelle's interest was piqued when she read "Wild West Tavern Owner". She said she is a previous restaurant owner and had a dream to have another restaurant, called "Wild Meg's Saloon and Cabaret Lounge". Since that first interaction we had, Michelle has written a compelling collection of diary entries to set the stage of Meg's character and shed some light on why she is the way she is. She wrote a couple chapters of Meg's daily escapades, one of which I will include at the end of this post!

Honestly for this character as well as last week's... and a lot of them... I just don't have the voice or maturity to read these amazing stories. This is why the next phase includes voice actresses that can really bring the stories to life! I can't do the whole project by myself, and I don't need to!

I couldn't be happier with how Michelle's story about Meg is unfolding, and I absolutely adore Pepi's illustrations, with their sketchy, comic book, papery look. I really think that Meg's entire story could be told through comic illustrations like these!

WildMegsShowcase-03.jpgIllustration by Pepi

Michelle added in so much warmth and depth to Meg's character. She still has the exact kind of no-nonsense attitude and spark of humor that I envisioned, which is now rooted in Michelle's actual experience in owning a restaurant and loving Western movies (she even said to me near the beginning "I should have been born in Texas.").

But not only does Meg have a rough exterior, she is also very caring and protective of the other women in her restaurant. That was an important quality that I wanted a few of the Wise Not Withered characters to have: none of my characters' defining quality would be their maternal nature, but rather that would be simply a part of some of them. Another important aspect of the project is also to show that nobody has just one "defining" quality. Meg is close with and trusts a few women in her saloon, and the interactions that Michelle wrote about them are so real and lovely.

MegShowcaseChanges-01.jpgIllustration by Pepi

Now, here is Michelle, introducing herself and talking about Wild Meg's Saloon and Cabaret Lounge!

"Hi, I'm Michelle.
I live in Perth, Western Australia.
The written word has been a love of mine since I was a little girl.

Most of my writings are random quotes, ramblings and poems about love in all of its guts and glory. I am a huge romantic at heart and believe love never hurts, only people do. Our social conditioning and expectations can hurt us. But love heals.
All in all, my inspiration behind my writing is love and life.

Wild Meg's Saloon and Cabaret Lounge is actually a name I created many moons ago for a restaurant which is still yet to eventuate. I am a little, some might say, overly keen on The Wild West Theme and all things Country and Western. If I found out I was Annie Oakley in a past life I'd be pretty happy.
The name Meg comes from my initials. Michelle Elizabeth Greening. When I saw the list of characters, I jumped at the chance to create a Tavern Owner who takes no nonsense from anyone. Bringing Meg to life is a wonderful way of putting me in to the character. The me who cannot tolerate people who mistreat others. People who believe they have the right to intimidate.
Meg is there to make sure those who do the wrong thing are held accountable. Meg and I are firm believers that if you don't like how someone has spoken to you or treated you, then you have every right to put them in their place. My motto is, it's not what you say, it's how you say it.
Meg's Story has taken on a life of its own and watching it unravel is exciting. As I develop the Diary Entries for her not-so-nice back story, you'll fall in love with her strength and tenacity as she defends the innocent against those bullies.

Empowering young women and girls is a subject very dear to me, so I jumped at the opportunity to join the Wise Not Withered project when I was invited.
Having created a positive self esteem Programme for teenage girls many years ago, I was keen to be part of such a wonderful and unique project such as this. I am very grateful to you, Juliana, for this opportunity."

And now, an excerpt from the story: Chapter 1.

“Quiet!”

Both hands on the bar, Meg takes a calculated breath. The waves of her recently unravelled hair cascade across her shoulders. Slowly and with an edge to her calm exterior, Meg turns to face the now hushed madness before her.
The dancers, who appear to be frozen in time, discretely, one-by-one, step off stage. This is a scene all too familiar to many and they know it’s best to vacate at a time like this.
Staff and patrons are silenced while bracing themselves for the inevitable.
A red glow filters its way through the front windows, adding drama to the already sombre scene, another Western Ranges sunset bringing the day to an end.
“I suggest that you holster your revolvers and step outside.” Meg glares at the men before her.
“Lady, the owner of this establishment might have a different opinion. I suggest you step outside before you get hurt,” the stench from this man turns Meg’s stomach. It is disgustingly all too familiar.
“I know the owner agrees with me Mister. Now holster your pistols gentlemen and remove your stinking selves from these premises.”
A tiny giggle erupts from the silent yet crowded saloon as Meg raises, in one hand, the rifle that nobody noticed by her side.
“Wait. You’re Meg?” the smaller man finds his voice, drops his revolver and makes a hasty exit.
Meg’s gaze is still fixed on the outspoken man. “You need an escort or are you leaving willingly?”
“Meg hey? Is that who you think you are? She’s but a legend, not real I heard.”
Meg aims the rifle between the man’s legs. “Left or right?”
“Left or right what?”

“Left or right knee?” Meg remains calm, “My aim might be a bit off but I am happy for you to find out.”

The people closest to this man quickly disperse. Five women, who had been standing separately throughout the saloon, are now on either side of her. Charlotte, Francis, Suzette, Lila and Claudine are the only people Meg trusts.

“Lady, my knee is already busted.”

She allows herself a hint of a smile. “As I said, holster your pistol, NOW.”

“Alright, I heard you.” With his pistol now back in its holster, he grins, “Can I at least get a drink?”

“Don’t push your luck. While you remain intact and before you say or do anything you will regret, leave my Saloon.”  Meg steps alongside and sees him to the door. “On the outskirts of town you’ll find a place full of your kind. When you get there, tell Joey the girls sent you. He will make certain you are looked after.” Meg watches as he mounts his horse and rides away.

MegShowcaseChanges-05.jpgIllustration by Pepi

Stay tuned for more Wise Not Withered Character Showcases, every Sunday until mid-2020!

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