For Diana Xin, “Weird Sisters” is a short story about the family troubles that arise when two sisters and their mother leave China for Minnesota.
For Simeon Mills, “Weird Sisters” means a series of drawings showing the trial and error of a beauty spell.
For Elin Hawkinson, “Weird Sisters” is the story of a girl dealing with having a noppera-bo, a face-less, human-like creature of Japanese folklore, for a sister.
And for Wilda Morris, “Weird Sisters” is a series of poems about Medusa, Goldilocks and fairy tale characters questioning who they’ve become.
These pieces are just a few in “Weird Sisters,” the third volume of “Lilac City Fairy Tales,” which is being released at a benefit for Spark Central on Saturday.
The poetry and prose collection is the brainchild of Sharma Shields, author of “Favorite Monster: Stories” and “The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac” and co-founder of Scablands Lit.
“Weird Sisters” follows “Magic is Normal” and “Marry a Monster.”
While brainstorming themes for the anthology, Shields was grappling with a few wordy ideas when her husband suggested she keep it short and sweet.
“I wanted to think of something with a lot of metaphorical possibility,” she said.
Thinking of witches led to “Weird Sisters,” taken from “Macbeth,” which Shields at first thought was too simple but then realized was the perfect fit, in more ways than one.
“It was perfect because siblinghood is a weird, fantastical thing,” she said. “The theme was on point politically too, with Hillary (Clinton) being called a witch and a nasty woman and the idea of sisterhood that ended up coming to the surface in the last few months.”
Once the theme was set, Shields invited writers to submit their work.
Expecting to receive 10 to 20 more submissions than last year, Shields and her team of editors instead received 80 more, eventually whittling down the submissions to the 77 writers printed in the anthology.
“There are people from farther afield, but there’s also a great regional focus,” Shields said. “It’s a fun place to get published because it features established artists like Shann Ray, Asa Maria Bradley and Shawn Vestal alongside people who have never published poetry before, so it’s a really cool artistic jewel box.”
While both men and women are published in the anthology, Shields is using the live event to highlight women artists.
A troupe of four actresses will open the event with a performance of Act I, Scene I from “Macbeth” directed by Sara Edlin-Marlowe, which Shields hopes will be a goosebump-raising start to the night. The troupe will return for a second performance following intermission.
Singer and fiddle player Caridwen Irvine-Spatz will also perform, as will local writers Elissa Ball, Bradley, Leyna Krow, Claire McQuerry, Kate Peterson and Kathryn Smith, plus Elissa Washuta, of Seattle, Alexis M. Smith, of Portland, and Missoula’s Henrietta Goodman, all sharing their “Weird Sisters”-inspired work.
Shields decreased the number of readers from last year’s 11 to nine to simply give the audience a mental break.
“There should be a cap on how long a literary event goes because you’re thinking so much while stories are being read,” she said. “It can be overwhelming or taxing if an event goes too long.”
Though “Lilac City Fairy Tales” is a benefit for Spark Central, a nonprofit creative space that provides the community with access to internet, technology, books and media, Shields said the event is also a great way for the Spokane community to support women artists.
“There are so many intellectually stimulating women; it’s a great way to see nine of them on stage, plus Caridwen and the actresses,” she said. “It’s really going to be a cool event stuffed with brilliant women. A brilliant women lasagna.”