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Strong Beginnings

Excerpt: Tell Everything by Sally Cooper

We are collaborating with the Luminato Festival, and reaching out to Canadian writers to find out about the decisions they made when choosing to open their most recent works.

Here is an excerpt from Sally Coopers' latest work Tell Everything. Afterwards, be sure to check out our Q&A with her about how she chose to begin the story.

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My mother told me a story once about a foolish princess. We were hiking up the path to Banana Rock. Sunlight slanted through the branches. She made up the story, and I held her hand and matched my steps to hers. The princess was vain and not very pretty. When an old baron asked to marry her, her mother celebrated. The baron called the princess beautiful. She believed him and fell in love. The night before the wedding, the baron invited her to his house. Her mother insisted she wear a veil until she’d sealed the union. But the princess wanted her fiancé to admire her. When the princess walked into a hall of mirrors inside the castle, she threw off the veil and found herself in a dungeon packed with demon brides. A sorcerer turned her into a toothless old woman with a smelly, aching body. Because the princess was vain, the sorcerer made her sit in the hall of mirrors, where her ugly image stretched out in every direction. She warned each of the baron’s new brides-to-be not to look at herself, but none would listen. Even her mother said she’d be better off dead. “It’s not my fault,” cried my mother in the foolish princess’s voice. Her own voice rang with a smug glee that meant she thought it really was.

My mother took short steps and looked down at me while she talked. As she told her story her hand heated up, though it stayed dry. Her voice flared too, then got thin, flowery. I could hear how much the princess wanted to be beautiful and loved. I heard how silly she was, and how doomed. The story got me angry, and I kicked at the sand. At Banana Rock we took off our sandals and wiggled our toes in the sun. I cried a little and threw stones into the pool below. My mother took my chin in her free hand and said, “Don’t worry. One day a smart girl comes along who doesn’t need a mirror or a prince to know how beautiful she is. The crone becomes young again and escapes with her beautiful new friend.” My mother pulled me into her lap, even though I was getting too big for it. Then we climbed down to wade in the water and the story left me until long after my mother was gone.

Excerpted from Tell Everything  Copyright © 2007 Sally Cooper. Published by Dundurn Press. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

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