For over thirty years, Reece Michaelson has been helping busy people bring their three-dimensional voices to life in two-dimensional formats, including for educators at Berklee College of Music, Emerson College, Radcliffe College, and Harvard University.
Reece studied at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts with the gods and legends of Broadway and Hollywood. As an adjunct faculty member at Emerson, she taught writing at the College’s overseas program in the Netherlands at their 16th Century Kasteel Well, utilizing the magic of the region to support her students’ creative writing projects.
She provided editorial consulting on a range of book projects from architecture to alternate realities, and convinced 5-time Saturn Award winner Rockne S. O’Bannon to collaborate on a sci-fi TV show pilot that sold to ABC-Touchstone. Reece co-wrote a success principles book, Your Success GPS, with former VOLVO North America CEO Anne Bélec. In collaboration with renowned mythologist Pamela Jaye Smith, Reece wrote a middle grade/crossover novel, Journals of Petra Volare.
MYTHWORKS – Where did you get the idea to write The Journals of Petra Volare?
REECE – A successful Hollywood writer told me in an interview that she felt if people didn’t like where their life was, they should change their archetype. When I researched what an archetype was, none of the female ones felt applicable to me, they were somehow very restrictive. It reminded me of when I was a kid and I always had to “translate” my reading experiences of adventures. So I decided to create a new archetype! When I mentioned it to Pamela Jaye, her positive response told me I might be on a worthwhile track. At the time, I was living in Palm Springs, with a relentless, searing sun…and within a month, I heard in my head “Icarus’s Sister” and then Petra’s final lines of Scroll I: “I was born to fly, and I am not afraid of the sun…Time To Fly….”
MYTHWORKS – The book focuses on the mythological story of Icarus and Daedalus. Why did you choose this particular myth for Petra’s story?
REECE – This myth—if you read it carefully and follow the etymological threads (like Ariadne’s Thread!) — is actually a remarkably contemporary personal story, a story of quirky family dynamics and choices, flawed people, dreams and ambitions, abuses of power, double crosses and double standards and unjust besmirchment of one’s character in the press, blaming the end user instead of the inventor. The stuff of 21st Century life! And therefore very relatable.
REECE – First, I don’t know how many books of this kind have a co-author who is an internationally-acknowledged expert in Applied Mythology and mysticism; that alone is a distinguishing feature!
Petra is designed intentionally to be a new archetype for girls (and women!), and while that archetype is still evolving, at the core it involves being someone who deliberately and courageously steps out from the shadows (you might even call her The Little Girl Who Leaned In), in the way we see girls and women today stepping forward to claim their most creative destinies. As such, Petra Volare’s readers are smart, inquisitive, inventive people who enjoy being challenged, so we’ve maintained a level of complexity that requires a bit of stretching.
What’s cool–and is different for this type of book—is that boys like it too. They say it’s because they like the myth (Icarus and the Labyrinth always get mentioned in school), and the mystery has strong enough appeal that slam-bang action isn’t missed. I suspect it’s also because Icarus, the iconic boy with hubris and wings, gets such a different spin in this re-telling.
Another difference is that Petra’s Journal is functional, an inventor’s sketchbook as well as a place to record musings, so just as her historical male counterparts (e.g., Leonardo da Vinci) allowed us a window into their thought processes, Petra lets us participate in hers. Women and girls have been solving problems through tremendously valuable inventions since the beginning of time, but we don’t tend to hear much about it or see their processes.
And finally, it does seem that the book is, on a lot of levels, uncannily in step with what’s going on in our culture, with the Maker Movement encouraging all people to become citizen inventors, an increased awareness of STEM’s potential for girls, and the media’s increased efforts to positively portray smart girls. In that vein, it was thrilling to have the Entertainment Industries Council ask for 15 copies of the book to give to the young winners at their S.E.T. Awards in November.
MYTHWORKS – How did you go about developing your original idea into something you could turn into a story?
REECE – I have a very scavenger hunt-ish approach to writing, so prior to doing the Petra Volare book, for example, I gathered images and phrases associated with the myth (‘gathering’ included picking Pamela Jaye’s amazing brain!), then got more visual input from a graphic artist and a potential cover art artist – in a meeting on the sands of Laguna Beach, because Petra’s story takes place on the island of Crete, and I wanted to capture the visceral influence of textures and colors. Pamela poured forth an abundance of spot-on story ideas and imagery, and by the end of the meeting we had a 2’x3’ paper with all the ideas, phrases, snippets, and images needed to dive in and stay focused.
MYTHWORKS – Tell us please about your actual writing process.
REECE – When I got stuck, I’d either use Pamela Jaye’s great idea of using music to stimulate the writing (the way we used the beach for visuals), or hold the question “What does the story need now?, What would my character be feeling/noticing?” in my head while walking around. At the time I was in a small town and its smallness gave me the exact insight needed for Petra to get the story moving forward. I wrote the first draft in about 5 weeks.
MYTHWORKS – Since it’s self-published, how are you handling the marketing?
REECE – Talk about the need to be inventive! We’ve gotten absolutely stellar reviews from professionals in education, advocacy, and children’s media along with kids and others. In fact, several teachers and librarians from international schools in other countries (Zambia, Hungary, France, India) are reviewing the book right now. We’re on Facebook, and Pamela Jaye has done incredible outreach to her phenomenal cadre of supporters and fans.
Soon we’ll be doing a Kickstarter Campaign to raise awareness as well as funds to provide copies of the book to domestic abuse shelters. If we reach our ‘stretch goal,’ we’ll do another print run and sell them at a deep discount to encourage more people to read it. It’ll help us kick off our summer reading campaign.
MYTHWORKS – Tell us one random, unique, or weird fact about yourself?
REECE – I lived for a year with the widow of the metallurgist who helped invent the atomic bomb at Los Alamos, which provided interesting insights into some of the people responsible for one of the most profoundly impactful inventions of our time. She herself was a notable historian who wrote A Peril and A Hope, a scholarly treatment of the subject. That experience definitely helped me with some aspects of Petra Volare’s story.
MYTHWORKS – What’s next for you?
REECE – Excitingly, this writing process – using scavenger-hunting in the world to jumpstart a book – is going to be used in a pilot program for unique getaway packages at a lovely and magical hotel in the Danish town of Solvang on California’s Central Coast. If you’d like to hear more about it, email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
For over thirty years, Reece Michaelson has been helping busy people bring their three-dimensional voices to life in two-dimensional formats. Early training included years of drafting and editing correspondence and other written documents for high level educational administrators at institutions such as Berklee College of Music, Emerson College, Radcliffe College, and Harvard University.
Then she got to study at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts with the gods and legends of Broadway and Hollywood. Her graduate degree in writing musical theatre lyrics honed Reece’s ability to say more with fewer words. Emerson College gave Reece a chance to help others develop their writing skills as an adjunct writing faculty member, teaching courses such as Writing on Contemporary Issues and Writing for the Media, and for two semesters she taught writing at the College’s overseas program in the Netherlands at their 16th Century Kasteel Well, utilizing the magic of the region to support her students’ creative writing projects.
Much of Reece’s work on the West Coast has centered on engineering and public works projects, often requiring translating somewhat ‘dry’ topics into accessible and appealing persuasion/information pieces. For the County of Santa Barbara, Reece twice wrote award applications for the “Oscar” of the waste industry in 2001 and 2009, and both times won the top award in North America.
In between those wins, she provided editorial consulting on a range of book projects from architecture to alternate realities, convinced 5-time Saturn Award winner Rockne S. O’Bannon to collaborate on a sci-fi TV show pilot that sold to ABC-Touchstone, co-wrote a success principles book, Your Success GPS, with former VOLVO North America CEO Anne Bélec.
In collaboration with renowned mythologist Pamela Jaye Smith Reece wrote a middle grade/crossover novel that has been self-published: The Journals of Petra Volare – Scroll I: From the Shadows. Marketing this book has offered further experience in writing to persuade and inform, bringing together all the other kinds of writing and editing she has done through the years.