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March 2017

Fairytale Forests: where adventures wait

In case you missed it, last week Bri outlined the “blueprint” of a fairy tale, two of the most important ingredients being, of course, the hero and the villain. But there’s another more subtle character in many fairy tales that plays an equally important part:

The Forest

hansel-and-gretel-nielsenForests and fairy tales go together like tea and scones. Folk have been mythologising the Forest since trees came into fashion! Ancient, mossy trunks, bluebell patches and burbling brooks, tangled briar patches and shadowy caves… the perfect backdrop for a tale of magic and adventure. But the Forest acts as more than just a backdrop to the tale’s action; it’s often what sets story in motion. The Forest is home to fairies as well as monsters. Home to the magic, the danger and the adventure that our hero must face. It is in the red riding hoodForest that Little Red Riding Hood meets the Big Bad Wolf, where Hansel and Gretel are lured into a trap by a witch’s gingerbread cottage, where Belle is pursued by hungry wolves only to be rescued by the Beast.

Forests have been inspiring storytellers through the ages, from the ancient Greek to Tolkien. The Brothers Grimm were particularly inspired by the dark, spooky Forests of their native Germany. The opposite of the town, the Forest was the place where the hero could escape ordinary life and enter a world of otherworldly beauty. Of course one was bound to meet with dangers: conniving hungry wolves, evil sorcery, you name it!

Just imagine some of your favourite fairy tales without the Forest? What if Red Riding Hood visited her grandmother in a beach condo? Or Hansel and Gretel got lost in a shopping mall? What if the witch hid Rapunzel in the top story of a metropolitan high rise?

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These make for interesting retellings, but certainly no other setting carries with it the deep magic and ancient mystery of the Forest. Anyone may lurk just behind the next tree; anything may happen if you walk just that little bit further in…  The Forest is a world of endless possibilities.

Need inspiration for your own Fairytale? Go for a walk in the Woods!

Brimming with ever-changing sights, sounds, smells and textures, the Forest is a storyteller’s treasure chest! If you want to write your own fairytales, I recommend a regular diet of forests. Get to know the trees, observe life under the leaves or up in the branches. Forage for forest treasures, and then write a short fairytale based on those object… what magic might an acorn possess? Who might live in that nook between that tree’s roots? You get the idea! Have fun, and don’t forget… the best ingredients for a fairytale adventure are magic + danger. No better place to find them both than in the Forest!

*REMINDER: Still SEVEN days left to take part in our Fairytale Retelling Competition! Click HERE for details.

 

Maybe you could get some inspiration from the Forest… or you could always tell the metropolitan version of Rapunzel! 😉

What’s your favourite foresty fairytale?

 

 

Beauty and the Beast Retellings

This is my absolute favorite fairytale. Beauty is brave, loyal, and usually portrayed as a book-lover. The Beast is a wonderful portrayal of character change. Plus, they don’t fall in love at first sight!

Being the obsessive person I am, I of course have numerous retellings of Beauty and the Beast on my shelves, in both book and movie form. To keep this post from becoming a beast itself, I’m going to rate the retellings according to their closeness to the original story and how much I like them.

In case you are only familiar with the Disney version, here is a very quick rundown of the basic plot. Beauty is the youngest of three daughters of a prosperous merchant, her two sisters jealous of her beauty and kindness. The merchant, who loved his daughters, especially Beauty, lost all his money, forcing his family to leave the city and take up farming. Months later, news came one of his ships survived, so he sets out, hoping to be rich again. The two older sisters ask for dresses and jewelry, Beauty for only his safe return and a rose. The merchant returns to the city only to learn there is nothing left so he goes back home, poor as before. He gets lost on the way back and finds himself at a castle where all his needs are met. Upon leaving, he plucks a rose, inciting the wrath of the Beast, forced to choose between being dying or giving up one of his daughters. When he goes home to say goodbye, Beauty takes his place. The castle is magic, the Beast turns kind, but every night asks her to marry him and every night she says no. Finally she can no longer stand the loneliness and asks to visit her family. He agrees, but only for a week, or he will die. She goes home, but her sisters trick her into staying an extra day. When she returns, she finds the dying beast and confesses her love to him. This breaks the spell and they live happily ever after.

Whew! I’ll try not to go overboard with the rest of this post, but I do so love this story! The first rating is how close it is to the story; the higher ratings are retellings of the story, lower ones use the story as just a base. The second rating is how well I liked the book.

Books

Beauty by Robin McKinley beauty

4/5 and 5/5

Easy to read with a Beauty who hates her nickname and loves her horse. Two invisible servants tend to her, and the Beast and her spend days reading and walking together. As her feelings towards the Beast change, so does the castle, slowly stirring to life.

Rose Daughter by Robin McKinleyrose dauther

4/5 and 5/5

A more serious tone than her other book, this Beauty loves roses and strives to save the Beast’s roses while trying to unravel the mystery of the Beast and a castle that changes around her.

Belle by Cameron Dokeybelle

3/5 and 4/5

When Belle stands next to her sisters, she is lost when compared to their extreme beauty. She loves to carve wood and longs to find the Heartwood Tree, which would reveal her true love. When events take her to the Beasts castle, there is the Tree and he asks her to carve for him, but it is not as easy as it seems.

Beastly by Alex Flinnbeastly-book

2/5 and 4/5

Told from the point of view of a modern day beast, this is a very different take on the story. Kyle was arrogant, spoiled, and cruel, so a girl in his high school curses him to live as a beast for three years. IF he can get a girl to kiss him, the spell would be broken. After trying to trick his girlfriend, then scanning for girls online, he manages to force Lindy to live with him. As he tries to make her fall for him, he finds himself changing in fundamental ways. There is also a movie of this, pretty good.

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodgecruel-beauty

2/5 and 2/5

Nyx has been trained to kill the man who would become her husband and free her people from his curse. But he isn’t like she had been told. Charming, kind, and seemingly enthralled with her, Nyx has to choose between her people and her love.

Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillierhearts-blood-us

2/5 and 5/5

Caitrin is on the run from an abusive home and finds herself in Whistling Tor, a place of ghosts and fear. The ruler of the ghost horde is Anluan, a man with a crippled body and soul. He gives Caitrin a home and a job as a scribe, but the trapped ghosts ask her to search for a way to save them. An ancient curse, a new enemy marching towards them, and a traitor all work against her as she tries to save the tortured souls, including Anluan’s.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. MassA-Court-of-Thorns-And-Roses

1/5 and 1/5

I don’t usually include books I don’t like, but it seems most people do like this series, so I’m including it. Feyre’s family is starving, so when she sees a chance to kill a wolf, she takes it, only to find it was a Faerie. The Faerie’s master, Tamlin, a masked Faerie, demands her imprisonment for the wolf’s life and she goes to save her family. Once in his home, she searches for a way to escape and instead learns of the curse on Tamlin and his people, and of the terrible ruler who threatens not only Faeries, but humans as well. I liked this book until the end. Hated the end. Found out it was a series. Ticked off Bri will not be reading the rest.

Movies

La Belle et la Betebelle et la bete

4/5 and 4/5

Belle loves her new life in the country, but sacrifices herself to save her father from the Beast. This movie is visually stunning, especially the rose covered castle. I don’t really like the reason the Beast was cursed, but it works, and the ending is perfect. It is in French, so gotta use subtitles.

Beauty and the Beast: A Dark Taledvd-beautybeast-splsh

2/5 and 4/5

This is NOT for the faint of heart, lots of sci-fi gore. Belle is saved from wolves by a deformed hunter, but there is something worse killing people, a troll controlled by an evil sorceress. Belle and Beast join forces to stop it and find out who the Beast really is.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (cartoon)Beauty-and-the-Beast

3/5 and 5/5

Most people know this one, but if you’ve never seen it, it’s a treat! Belle doesn’t fit in with her town and worse, is being wooed by the narcissistic Gaston. When she is imprisoned by the Beast, she finds herself in an enchanted castle-with an immense library-and a Beast she is increasingly charmed by.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (2017)g_beautyandthebeast2017_07_3e0250bb

3/5 and 5/5

SO GOOD!! I know most people haven’t seen this yet, including Mez, so I will try not to give away spoilers. The plot is extremely close to the cartoon, but the beginning is weird. Like so weird my heart sank and I was thinking I was going to be disappointed, but fortunately I was not. It was beautiful and perfect. On a cautionary note, if you have sensitive kid, might want to watch it first. The knife scene, at the end? Yeah, times that by like ten. I was a little startled, but the kids next to me didn’t seem to care, so maybe I’m making too much of it. They had a great time dancing to every song. And the songs were amazing, new and old. The ‘Be Our Guest’ scene was incredible, had me smiling the whole time. And Emma Watson was a perfect Belle!

So those are the ones on my shelves (or will be), but there are also lots of good versions on YouTube (and some not so good versions). One of my favorites is in German, though the subtitles are awful. There are also two TV shows, and older one (I think like the 60s) and a remake, both very good!

Also, if, like me, Beauty and the Beast is your favorite fairytale, check out East of the Sun, West of eastLthe Moon. It’s a Norwegian fairytale that I think was a precursor to the French Beauty and the Beast. The three retellings I love are East by Edith Pattou, Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George, and Ice by Sarah Beth Durst.

Okay, this post is definitely starting to grow hair and fangs. If you know of any other Beauty and the Beast retellings, book or movie, or if you’ve seen the new one and want to let me know what you think comment below!!

 

Irish Fairytales & Folklore

Up the airy mountain, Down the rush glen, We darent’ go a-hunting, For fear of little men; Wee folk, good folk, Trooping all together; Green jacket, red cap, And white owl’s feather!

– from “The Fairies” by William Allingham

Happy St Paddy’s Day! This March-long, we are celebrating our favourite fairy tales, and it has to be said that nobody on Earth does Fairytales quite like the Irish.

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In Ireland, to this very day of Science & Skepticism, Fairies are still as much a part of the landscape as the rolling emerald hills, the crumbling cliffs and sparkling waters. Ask any local about them, and you may get a very different account – after all, the Celtic fairies are changelings and come in a host shapes and sizes. But you will always find the same love, respect and possibly a tad of fear or annoyance at these capricious wee folk who share Ireland’s past and present with its ordinary people. 51zwfOyE0uL

Just who are these Fairy beings, and where do they come from?

Unlike the fairy tales from France and Germany that took place long ago and far, far away, the Irish fairy tales are often told as if they happened yesterday, and to someone living in your own village. That is because the fairies of Ireland are still at large, causing as much mischief as ever. Our cultures may change, but theirs never does. Here are just a few of the folks you’re likely to meet in an Irish Fairy Tale:

  • The Sheehogue This word is simply the Irish word for “fairy”; Fairies are called deenee shee, which simply means ‘the wee folk’. Though of course they are not always little, and can in fact appear rather terrifyingly enormous at times!
  • The Banshee appears in the form of a woman, either young or old, and is said to wail as an omen of someone’s death.
  • The Pooka is a changeling and may appear in the form of a dark horse with yellow eyes, a small goblin or a large bogeyman. Whichever way he comes, farmers know better than to forget to leave a bit of their grain for him. To do so would mean disaster on their livestock, for he is known to shoot them with his paralysing fairy darts when angry.
  • The Grogoch is a less intimidating fairy. He looks like a sort of small, hair-covered ogre… that is when he isn’t invisible. His aim to please by helping about the house (much like a house elf), and only asks for a bit of cream left out in payment. When not helping about the house, he lives in caves and crags. Look out for one of these “Grogoch” houses if ever you’re out exploring the Irish hills.
  • The Leprechaun which means “the shoemaker” is, as Yeats put it, the only industrious person among the fairies. Whilst the others favour revelries & non-stop dancing to their favourite tuneleprechauns, the leprechaun busies himself with shoe repair (a useful profession, no doubt. considering how many pairs must wear out with all the dancing!).

 Those are just a few of the many Deenee Shee familiar to Irish fairy tales, not to even mention the Black Dog, the Merrows, Merpeople, or sheanagigs!

What sort of mischief do the Irish Fairy folk get up to?

To answer that question, I’m enlisting the help of one of the great Irish fairy tale collectors, W.B. Yeats. **For MUCH more on the subject, I recommend his collection called Irish Fairy and Folk Tales. 

Favourite activities of the fairies include: feasting, fighting, dancing & playing beautiful music (and be warned, if you ever you chance to hear a fairy tune, don’t imitate it! They have no patience for human renditions of their music!). They are also known to make Fairy Rings around special trees, and dance and play such sweet music than many a mortal has been bewitched!

Fairy Festivals include: 

  • May Even when they fight over the best grain 
  • Midsummer Eve when the fairies frolic at the witching hour, and occasionally steal away a human maiden or appoint a human Fairy King for the night to join in their revelries 
  • November Eve when the fairies are quite gloomy at the start of winter & may cause a bit of trouble. Also, the Pooka is abroad and goes about spoiling the blackberries.

fairy ring

There is just a wee taste of Irish Fairytales for you on this St Paddy’s Day. Interested to know more? You can find some brilliant Irish story tellers telling the tales as they were meant to be told (orally by the fireside) on Youtube, including this telling of The Black Dog by Eddie Lenihan

Enjoy your shamrock shakes, dance a jig, and don’t forget to leave a bowl of cream out for the fairies!

Fairytale Blueprints

Fairytales are special. We all know that, the way they endure through the years, capture our imaginations, and inspire authors to put their own spin on them.

They also serve as a great blueprint for us writers. Though they differ story to story, many of them have similar elements that can offer us writers guidelines in our own stories. For simplicity sake, I’m going with the most known versions of the tales, and I’m just pulling some generalities. Here we go!

The Hero

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Kind – It doesn’t sound like much, but almost always the heroes of fairytales are kind people, usually surrounded by not-so-kind people to make their kindness shine even more. Now, I’m not saying our main characters need to be sweet, cheerful, singing princesses, but there does have to be something the readers will like about them. There has to be some reason for us, as readers, to want the hero to succeed and not want them to jump in the nearest volcano. Almost always, when I put a book down, it’s because I don’t like the main character.

Brave – Fairytale heroes are almost always brave. No one wants to read about a wimp who does nothing. They can be scared, shaking in their glass slippers, but heroes have to keep moving despite the fear. It took a lot of guts for Cinderella to step into that ballroom all on her own, or for Snow White to flee into a forest she had no skills to survive in. Our heroes have to move, respond to what is going on around them. Belle could have let the Beast have her father, but she took his place. And we love her for it!

The Villain

Disney-Villains-Line-Up-disney-villains-30603523-2560-1920 (2)

 

The villains in fairytales are strong, stronger than the heroes. Snow White was against a queen who used black magic. Cinderella had a stepmother who had complete control over her. Giants, witches, evil queens, tyrannical kings, and, of course, Gaston, the narcissistic chauvinist we all love to hate. Villains need to be strong, whether they are human, forces of nature, or whatever you can come up with! The hero should have to struggle to overcome the villain. There should be no chance in a normal world the hero can take on the villain.

The Supportside (2)

 

Snow White had seven dwarves, Cinderella had a fairy godmother and some mice, Mulan had Mushu. Witty, funny, interesting side characters who support the heroes and give them aid when they need it. Good support characters can really make a story and also provide handy ways to keep things interesting. Heroes can argue with their sidekicks (Eugene and Maximus from Tanlged), get into trouble because of them (Mulan and Mushu), or use them as sounding boards (Sherlock and Watson).

The Conflict

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Something has to happen for a story to form. A ball is announced, a queen’s jealousy boils over, a prince is turned into a frog. Something, good or bad, has to change in your heroes life, and that is when the story begins. If war had not come to China, Mulan would never have joined the army. Many fairytales simply have the hero embarking on a journey , usually to find a treasure. Childless couples trying to have children or getting a child and things not turning out right is also very popular. The point is change.

The End

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Satisfying. That is the biggest thing I look for in the end of any story. Fairytales almost always end with a marriage and the villain suffering a suitable fate…sometimes involving nails and a barrel as in the Goose Girl story. And if it’s Disney, a girl in a beautiful dress. Stories need to wrap up, tie off all the loose ends, leave a resounding feeling. Villains get their comeuppance, heroes get their happiness. That seems to be a little more up in the air nowadays; for some strange reason some people like unhappy endings and sometimes villains get off scot-free, but even then, the best books leave you satisfied that everything ended the way it had to end. Tie a bow on it, it’s done!

So there you go, my take on how fairytales can show us how to write! And three and half days until Beauty and the Beast comes out. CAN’T WAIT!!!

What Are Fairy Tales Made of?

When you hear the word Fairytale, what images immediately infuse your mind?

**(By the way, that’s a genuine question- we really do want to know, so please leave us a comment!)

For many folks, the word Fairytale will conjure up an illustration from a favourite childhood bedtime story, long locked away in a mental keepsake treasure chest. Maybe it’s Goldilocks confronted by three disgruntled bears, Little Red Riding Hood facing off a ferocious wolf, or Ariel singing on a rock in a mist of ocean spray.

The Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson and Walt Disney have all contributed to our notions & mental images of fairytales, whether or not we can put our finger on just what makes a Fairy Tale… well, a fairytale.

fairy books.jpg

So what is it that all these stories have in common. What makes them a patch in the vast fabric of Faerie? 

A Fairytale is impossible to define academically. Even one of the greatest Masters of Fairy Stories in the English language, George MacDonald, admitted in his “The Fantastic Imagination,”

Were I begged to… describe the Fairytale, or define what it is, I would make answer that I would as soon describe the abstract human face… a fairytale is just a fairytale, as a face is just a face.

If MacDonald couldn’t describe it, I’m sure as anything not going to try! Perhaps it’s easier to say what a Fairytale isn’t. In his essay “On Fairy Stories,” J.R.R. Tolkien clarifies that,

Fairy stories are not in normal English usage about fairies or elves, but stories about Fairy, that is Faerie, the realm of state in which fairies have their being.

Of course by “fairies,” Tolkien doesn’t mean tiny wee, winged folk with flower-pettle tutus and bonnets. Did you know, that picture of fairies didn’t come around until the Victorian period? And that’s really quite recent in the long history of Faerie.

Far from being being a bunch of Tinkerbells, the residents of Faerie include King Arthur, Robin Hood, and many other larger-than-life heroes and heroins. The borders of Faerie stretch far away, and long ago… across time and space. And the laws of Faerie, though formidable when broken, are not the same as our laws – man can speak to beasts, magic enchantments can transform a prince into a toad, or a servant into a princess! And, for those who adhere to the laws of that magical realm, there awaits justice, triumph over evil, a Happy Ending. But be warned! For those who dare to break its laws, it is a Perilous Realm.

So there’s a hint of the ingredients in this Fairytale Soup we’ve all tasted, and all recognise even if we can’t describe it.

But where do fairytales come from?

The fairytales we know and love have their roots in many different cultures: French, German, Celtic, Nordic, Russian… the list goes on.  It would seem the Realm of Faerie dates back further than any of our modern cultures, a sort of common ancestry that knits us all together. As Tolkien points out,

The history of fairy stories is probably more complex that the physical history of the human race, and as complex as the history of the human language. All three things: independent invention, inheritance, and diffusion, have evidently played their part in producing the intricate web of Story. It is now beyond all skill but that of the elves to unravel it.

It’s no wonder we love fairy tales so much! It’s as if they’re in our blood; part of what makes us human. This “Web of Story” connects us across age gaps, cultures, even time periods! Fairytales remind us that we were made for more than the mundane: we were made for the High Romance, the heroic deed, the unexpected & hard-earned Happy Ending. Long live the Fairytale!

What pictures come to mind when you hear the word “fairytale”?
Which fairytale is your all-time favourite?
Don’t forget to enter our Fairytale Retelling Competition happening this month!

So Many Fairy Tale Retellings…

Fairy tales have always held a special place in my heart, and judging from the amount of fairy tale retellings I just pulled off my shelves, I’m not the only one! I love new spins on classic tales and so I am sharing my favorites with you! Or, you know, all of them…I apologize for the following post. I couldn’t narrow them down. So sorry.

Quick note, since Beauty and the Beast is coming out in ELEVEN DAYS I’m saving all of my Beauty and the Beast retellings for another time. I will also have another post on film retellings.

I figured it easiest to group them by their base fairy tales.

Snow White

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A princess persecuted by her stepmother runs away and finds herself hiding with seven dwarves. But because of her beauty, the evil queen still pursues her, poison apple in hand.

Snow (Once Upon a Time Series) by Tracy Lynn

Snow is the daughter of a duke with a cruel stepmother devoted to dark magic. When she can’t take anymore, she runs away and ends up with a group of thieves that aren’t quite human. Love this book.

Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis    

This is a sci-fi retelling where the dwarves are robots and Snow White is a brave independent girl determined to save her planet. Very good, though gets a bit political.

Cinderella

cinderella

A beautiful girl reviled by her stepmother and stepsisters, forced to live as a servant, sneaks into the royal ball and captures the heart of the prince. Forced to run, she leaves behind a slipper and the prince uses it to search for her.

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Meyer

Cinder is a cyborg and therefore a lower class citizen. Chance brings her into the life of Prince Kai just as the planet teeter’s on the verge of war with the Lunar people. And Cinder with her mysterious past just may be the key to victory. Love it, but does have a cliffhanger.

Before Midnight (Once Upon a Time Series) by Cameron Dokey

Raised as a servant because her father cannot stand the sight of her, La Cendrillon grows up alongside Raoul, a boy with a mysterious past. A not so evil stepfamily and a royal ball change their fates and their relationship. Not my favorite, can barely remember it, but a quick read.

Shadows of the Moon by Zoe Marriott

Suzume is a shadow weaver, able to use shadows to form illusions. Instead of a stepmother, she has as an evil stepfather. When she learns the truth of her father’s death, she sets out on a path of revenge against her stepfather. It takes her from drudge to courtesan and into the life of Otieno, another shadow weaver who sees her no matter her illusion. Beautiful and sad but with a perfect ending.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Ella has a spell on her: she must always obey any order given to her. Despite her forced obedience, she is fiery and independent, determined to make her own choices. Quick fun read with great characters.

Red Riding Hood

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A girl travels through the forest to visit her grandmother and encounters a chatty wolf.

Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Meyer

Scarlet is searching for her grandmother and Wolf is helping, but he has secrets. Very good book, great romance, but also a slight cliffhanger.

The Scarlet Moon (Once Upon a Time Series) by Debbie Viguie`

Years ago, Ruth was attacked by a wolf. Now grown up, she meets a young noble on her way to visit her grandmother. William has a secret, a dark curse that may keep him and Ruth apart. Great short book.

The Swan Maiden

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Seven brothers have been turned into swans and their sister has to save them. She weaves a spell of silence and stinging nettles to save them, even at risk to her own life.

Spinning Starlight by R.C. Lewis

Another sci-fi retelling, this time of a girl forced to flee to another planet, her brothers trapped in wormhole like conduits. A chip in her throat keeps Liddi silent as she searches for a way to save her brothers and the planet she is coming to love. Great book and a beautiful story.

The Swan Kingdom by Zoe Marriott

Alexandra’s father has just come home with s new wife, powerful and dangerous. When she tries to kill Alexandra and her three brothers, Alexandra ends up banished and her brothers turned in to swans. To save them and her country, Alexandra will have to face the power inside of her. Good book, sweet romance.

Rapunzel

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A girl with long golden hair is locked in a tower by the witch who traded her for lettuce.

Golden by Cameron Dokey

Rapunzel was born bald and her mother willingly gave her up to a witch. But the witch has plans for her, her real daughter needs Rapunzel’s help. Another quick read, very different from the original.

Zel by Donna Jo Napoli

Zel is raised in semi-isolation by her mother. The moment she shows interest in a boy, Konrad, her mother whisks her away to a tower. There she fights madness as Konrad frantically searches for her. This book is very true to the original tale, harsh and beautiful.

Okay, so this list is getting a little long. Here are some others really quick with the fairy tales they are based on.

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale – Based on the fairy tale Goose Girl, a story of a princess forced by her servant to switch places. Good story with some spin-offs.

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier – The Twelve Dancing Princess; twelve girls dance the night away in the realm of the fairies. Great book!

Deerskin by Robin McKinley – Donkeyskin, a heartbreaking story of a princess running away because she is forced to marry her father. This is a wonderful, sad, happy story. Older YA.

And finally, the rest of The Lunar Chronicles that are on my TBR list, and The Once Upon a Time series, several authors retelling various fairy tales.

Sorry this got so long! And this doesn’t even include Beauty and the Beast! I’m planning on seeing the movie the moment it comes out in Athens and will let you all know my thoughts on it. If you know of any other retellings, please comment below, I’m eager for others!

Announcing Fairytale Month + Competition

Have you seen them? The first tentative snowdrops lifting their sleepy heads… the first golden daffodils trumpeting out the arrival of Spring! Soon drab, grey England where I live will transform into a Faery Realm of apple blossoms, forsythia hedges and cool, green forests… the perfect setting for fairy revelries!

So Keep your eyes peeled for sprites, leprechauns and the like, and join us here at Brewhaha Book Café as we celebrate our favourite Fairytales all March long!

From the Brothers Grimm to Walt Disney, from Irish Folklore to German old-wives tales, we’ll be exploring the depths and heights of the Realm of Faery… including a look at fairytale retellings through the ages. 

And now for the creme: We are inviting YOU, fellow fairytale enthusiasts, to take part in a month-long competition of fairytale retelling!

Here’s how to take part.

  • Pick your favourite fairytale and give it a twist; retell it as it’s never been told before! Maybe that means setting it in modern day, or telling the story from a different character’s point of view, or imagining what might have happened if… Sky’s the limit here! 
  • Email your submission (no strict word limit, but maybe aim for 1,000 words or fewer) to us at sippitsisters@gmail.com along with your name & any other tidbits about yourself you’d like to share.
  • Bri & I will announce the Winner & Runner Up on 31 March + feature the retellings on the blog!

We can’t wait to read your fairy-retellings! Now go take a walk in a magic wood, pull out your old Disney collection or sit down for an hour with Hans Christian Anderson… whichever portal takes you to the Realm of Faery. We look forward to journeying there with you this month!

The World of Publishing: a sneaky peek behind the mystique

I quite recently had the good fortune of attending an event with Mantle Books (an imprint of Pan Macmillan Publishers) called simply & promisingly “Getting Published.”

While the event didn’t quite deliver a silver bullet for getting my novel on the shelves in 30 days, editor Maria Rejt did drop many a little gem of insight to be snatched up by all 200+ author-hopefuls in the audience. So I deem it only fair to pass on the to you lot, our  dreaming of one day breaking through the barrier between the realms of wanna-be-writers and published authors.

In no particular order…

The Voice

We’ve all heard it. Agents and publishes are ever and anon referring to “the voice” in a novel. “Oh, I just really loved ‘the voice’.” “I’m looking for a unique, strong, fresh, fill-in-the-blank ‘voice’.”  But just what is this Voice and how do I capture it? Please somebody tell me!!! Well thank heavens, Maria unmasked the mystery of “The Voice”, explaining that there is no definition or description for it because “it” is merely the “intangible thing that grips you and keeps you up at night…that inspires you.” In other words, when agents & authors talk about “the voice,” what they really mean is that the book spoke to them personally, whether because of the language, plot, character they related to, or any combination of things. I  don’t know about you, but I feel a great sense of relief knowing that this “Voice” isn’t some secret key successful authors out there have discovered & are all sharing a joke about while I wonder aimlessly in search of it. It’s just a matter of writing in my own way & hoping, one day, that speaks to some agent or publisher who just loves “My Voice.”

What’s in a Title?

Apparently a lot. As an editor, Maria stressed that a catching title is essential if she is even going to open the manuscript and start reading. There’s simply too large a pool out there for her to waste time on lifeless titles. I asked her just what makes a title good, and here were a few pointers she offered. A good title will be Memorable (hence not too long or wordy), Immediate (hit you in the face sort of effect), potentially Narrative (ie. Little Neddy Goes to War), and may Incorporate the theme/s from the book. Ha! Good luck!

Helpful resources for getting published

Maria recommended two books that she believes every struggling author ought to read. STEPHEN KING ON WRITING by Stephen King and MAX PERKINS BIOGRAPHY by A. Scott Burgh. The first one is partly King’s personal journey into the World of Publishing and partly his practical guide. The second book is about one of the most successful editors in English literature history, and is, according to Maria Rejt, still entirely relevant to the publishing world. If you want a better look behind the veil at what editors want and do and the whole thing roles, give it a go!

Looking into the world of Publishing from an editor’s-eye-view was, for me, both enlightening and a little terrifying. Sure, the odds of a debut author getting snapped up just like that are slim indeed. BUT it does happen, all the time. There are more big success stories than I was ever aware of (yes, believe it or not J.K.Rowling is not the only writer to land a writing career with her debut). So I figure it’s well worth keeping up a valiant attempt, because one thing all those successful published authors have in common is this: they didn’t give up!

**Many thanks to Foyles Charing Cross Rd. for hosting the event, and to the folks at Mantle for the great insights & goody bag filled with free books & sweets!

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