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Peter Beagle

Fantastic Fiction Salon

The last weekend of April Peter Beagle flew in from San Francisco for a Fantastic Fiction weekend in Seattle. Until last summer’s WorldCon, I hadn’t seen Peter since he taught Clarion West in 1988, the year that The Last Unicorn was produced as a play at Seattle’s Intiman Theatre. Twenty years have passed, but Peter’s first two novels, A Fine and Private Place and The Last Unicorn, have remained in print since publication. They are enduring classics that have lasted because there is something archetypal in these stories that lives in people’s hearts. 
Peter worked in television and movies for many years and consequently there have been huge gaps of time between his novels. He only wrote two books in the first twenty-five years of his career, but that has changed in recent years as the number of novels and short stories has steadily grown. "The Line Between" Peter's all-new short fiction collection, which includes "Two Hearts," the Hugo-award-winning sequel to "The Last Unicorn," has had all of the eligible stories picked up for "Best Fantasy of the Year" anthologies. It’s well worth picking up a copy.
Peter read the mythopoetical story “Salt Wine” at the Fantastic Fiction Salon. It was an hour that went by in a blink. Peter has a wonderful, resonant voice for reading and singing, and he has the ability to make a story come alive and entrance his listeners. I brought my guitar to the salon and Peter sang a few of his original, folk songs for us, ending with a lively, humorous, talking blues.
People are always amazed to discover that Peter was a young man of nineteen when he wrote the urban fantasy A Fine and Private Place. His use of language is clean and though simple, conveys layers of meaning. His masterful facility with language is one of the things that continues to make his work so remarkable. 
At Sunday’s one-day writing workshop, Peter gave us some writing exercises geared towards helping writers create voices so distinct that you can tell who is speaking even without tags. The exercises helped writers think about writing dialogue from a different point of view that’s unique to each character as well.  The workshop day was peppered with a rich assortment of anecdotal stories as Peter told us about his life as a writer. At the end of the day I felt like I was taking a tiny bit of magic away with me. Peter is a unique and special writer and human being and I feel fortunate that we had time with him to discuss writing, music, and life.


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