What is Women’s Visionary Fiction: Part II – Guest Post by Mary Mackey

(Editor’s note – In November we posted Part 1 of Mary Mackey’s article  ‘What is Women’s Visionary Fiction ‘ )

Like all Visionary Fiction, Women’s Visionary Fiction gives us visions, magic, prophecy, spiritual experiences, the ability to see the future, to walk through the past, to hear the dead speak, and see other worlds that exist behind the thin veil that separates us from them. But Women’s Visionary Fiction gives us something more. That something, simply stated, is women.


Women write this fiction. In it, all the world, visible and invisible, mystical and real, is seen through female eyes.

Inside Women’s Visionary Fiction

In Part II of this series, I want to take you inside one novel written by a woman, and show you how the visionary aspects unfolded. The novel, which was only published a few weeks ago, is The Village of Bones: Sabalah’s Tale. I am the author, and I know it inside out, having researched it for three years and put it through at least twelve complete drafts.

As the subtitle suggests, The Village of Bones: Sabalah’s Tale is written from the viewpoint of a woman named Sabalah, a young priestess who lives six thousand years ago in a Europe inhabited by Goddess-worshiping people who are on the verge of being invaded by marauding nomads who are about to bring male gods, warfare, and genocide to lands that have known peace for thousands of years. It’s an epic adventure of magic, prophecy, and passion that involves a perilous journey, a deadly threat, and a lover who is more than human.

So what, you may ask, are the visionary elements that make The Village of Bones Women’s Visionary Fiction, as opposed to simply Visionary Fiction? Well, first, as you can probably guess from my name (Mary), I am a woman. But more to the point, I wrote the first draft in a trance that produced a novel deeply saturated with female consciousness.

I didn’t write all of The Village of Bones in a trance, of course. You need your entire mind and all your rational facilities to structure and polish The-Village-Of-Bones-Low-Resa novel, not to mention that I can’t type on my computer with my eyes closed. But the visions I describe in The Village of Bones are visions I saw as clearly as if someone had been running a movie inside my head, and the director of that movie was definitely a woman.

Was She me? That’s a good question. I developed this creative trance technique several decades ago, and I still don’t know whether the someone who gives me visions is my Muse, a Goddess, a spirit, or simply my own imagination. All I know is that when I called up the story of The Village of Bones, I saw female things: A Sea Goddess, dressed in coral and foam, who told Sabalah she would give birth to a magical child. A Huge Snake Goddess floating in mid-air who warned Sabalah to take her newborn daughter Marrah and flee west to escape the nomads. A powerful Oracle, neither completely male nor completely female, who gave Sabalah a sacred text called the Mother Book, which contained all knowledge past and present, and which could destroy all humanity if it fell into the wrong hands.

As I entered this prehistoric world of visions and prophecies, I saw everything through Sabalah’s eyes. Dolphins that would let you ride on their backs. Great temples sacred to the Bird Goddess built in the shape of birds. Powerful beings with psychic powers who could shape-shift. And one of the most powerful of all these strange beings was a not-quite-human woman.

I tell you all this to let you know that Women’s Visionary Fiction is not simply a category or a sign in a bookstore that tells you what kind of books you can find on the shelves below. Women’s Visionary Fiction, in my case and in the case of other women writers I have spoken to, is not only ecstatically visionary. It is crafted from women’s lives and emerges from the deepest recesses of their unconscious. It is, in short, the stuff women’s dreams are made of.


  • Syllabi for courses in Women’s Visionary Fiction, Women’s Visionary Poetry, and Women’s Visionary Film can be found on Mary Mackey’s Educators Page at http://marymackey.com
  • To get the latest news about Mary Mackey, Women’s Visionary Fiction and The Village of Bones, click here.



  • Mary Mackey, D. writes novels, poetry, and film scripts. A Professor Emeritus of English at California State University, Sacramento, she is the author of thirteen novels and seven collections of poetry including Sugar Zone, winner of the 2012 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award. Garrison Keillor has featured her poetry four times on The Writer’s Almanac. Her novels have made The New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle Bestseller Lists and been translated into twelve languages. Her visionary novel The Village of Bones: Sabalah’s Tale is a prequel to the three novels in her best-selling Earthsong Series (The Year the Horses Came, The Horses at the Gate, and The Fires of Spring). Mary welcomes your questions and comments at www.marymackey.com where, you can sample her work, read her interview series People Who Make Books Happen, and sign up to get the latest news about her visionary fiction and poetry. You can also Like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @MMackeyAuthor. Mary’s literary papers are archived at the Sophia Smith Special Collections Library at Smith College in Northampton, MA.
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11 Responses to What is Women’s Visionary Fiction: Part II – Guest Post by Mary Mackey

  1. reanolanmartin says:

    Lovely, Mary! Wishing you great success with this novel!


  2. Women’s Visionary Fiction – such a unique, important visionary perspective. That says it all. Thank you, Mary! And continued success to you!


  3. Can’t wait to read it, Mary.


  4. Hi Mary. I love this simple description of Women’s Visionary Fiction that says so much. “…is crafted from women’s lives and emerges from the deepest recesses of their unconscious. It is, in short, the stuff women’s dreams are made of.” I just bought THE VILLAGE OF BONES and will start reading it soon.


  5. janinecanan says:

    Good statement, Mary. May she fly!


  6. Rebekah says:

    I am definitely adding Village of Bones to my must-read-immediately list. 🙂

    A question: do you have any workshops or articles detailing how to achieve creative trance? I am feeling stuck in my creative writing, drawing, and other artworks.


    • Mary Mackey says:

      I’m going to be writing a guest post about my Creative Trance technique. Look for it here in late September. Meanwhile you might want to check out my website where you will find some useful hints about how to overcome Writers Block. I taught Creative Writing for many years, and Writers Block is a common, but solvable, problem. My website is http://marymackey.com


  7. Victor Smith says:

    Male person checking in here, and you’ve made me very curious, Mary. Will certainly read your work. In my first VF historical novel, The Anathemas, I had two viewpoint characters telling the story, one male and one female. Writing from the female VP definitely took more work, but I think the exercise gave me some idea re Women’s VF, as you explain it, versus sexually undifferentiated VF. Do you think a male could write Women’s VF and vice versa? (I believe Robert Bly’s Iron John: a Book about Men does a good job of presenting what Men’s VF might be like, but that’s a different story and one that still needs to be written.)


  8. Mary Mackey says:

    The question of whether or not men can write convincing Women’s Visionary Fiction, is a very interesting and complex one that goes straight to the heart of what constitutes the imagination and the creative process. I actually am in the process of writing a piece on this that attempts to explore the various aspects of this issue. I’d rather not give you a quick “yes” or “no,” because either reply needs a long explanation to be coherent.


  9. I’m late to this conversation, but in my experience, a visionary experience of storytelling may well carry the writer beyond birth gender–as well as other resume- and DNA-bound limitations.


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