Archive for Fairytales

What dynamite we handle when we lift a mirror or bend towards one!
Elizabeth Coatsworth, Personal Geography

Whenever I read tarot for new clients, I tell them that the reading is a mirror, providing perspective and clarity on the direction and challenges of their concerns. We know that the future is determined by past actions and present choices. The tarot is a mirror that makes it easier to see those actions and choices.

Still, bending toward the mirror is not always easy.

I celebrated my 64th birthday last week. While I celebrate the gift of another year lived, noting how many more years I’ve lived than my mother who died at 53, I also find bending toward the mirror (never mind bending at all) much like handling Read More→

When I only begin to read, I forget I’m on this world. It lifts me on wings with high thoughts.
Anzia Yezierska

Summer is a time to kick back, stretch out in the hammock or on the beach, and escape.Young woman reading a book lying in a hammock

Escape through the pages of a good book.

An ability to escape, at least in the imagination, is important. Escape into a well-told story has helped many a person meet life’s challenges with a little more perspective, insight, encouragement and hope. And after the events of the last few weeks and months, I would bet that, like me, you are ready for an escape.

With a book, you don’t have to go far. But whether you are traveling by plane, car, train, or just by foot to the nearest seat, here are a few of my favorite escape artists, er, authors:

1. Eloisa James. This is the pen name for a tenured professor of English Literature at Fordham University, and the daughter of poet, Robert Bly, and short story author, Carol Bly. James, one of my favorite authors, writes intelligent, often thought-provoking Regency historical romances with well-crafted plots and engaging characters. One of my favorite series of hers is based on fairy tales and includes When Beauty Tamed the Beast, A Kiss at Midnight, The Duke is Mine, The Ugly Duchess, and Once Upon a Tower. If you love escaping to other times, then James promises you many happy hours.

2. Julia Quinn. A friend and colleague of James, Quinn also writes historical romances. I love her books for their crisp, witty dialogue and smile-inducing sense of humor. Her novels have been translated into 26 languages and she has appeared on the NY Times bestseller list 18 times. One of my favorite of her many delicious novels is Ten Things I Love about You. For those of you who love lists and romance…enjoy.

3. Janet Evanovich. If you haven’t read one of her books yet…what is wrong with you? If I really need to get out of my head, if I really need the good medicine of a belly laugh, then I read one of Evanovich’s books in the Stephanie Plum series. Plum works at catching criminals who have jumped bail. She has two hunky guys ready to jump her bones, one of whom might even consider marriage. Her friend, Lulu, inevitably does something to make you laugh. Then there’s Grandma Mazur. Find your escape in any Plum book from One for the Money to Turbo Twenty-Three.

4. Juliet Marillier. This award-winning, New Zealand author writes fantasy novels that are rich tapestries of character, time and place. And she isn’t afraid to mine the shadows for details and elements that add to the power of her stories. I discovered her work when I read Daughter of the Forest which was the first book in her Sevenwaters Trilogy. The series was inspired by one of my favorite fairy tales, “The Seven Swans”. Her stories often have a foundation in fairy tale, folktale and myth so you can see why I enjoy reading it.

5. Jayne Ann Krentz. Under this name, the author writes edge-of-the-seat romantic suspense. I just finished reading her most recent book, Trust No One. Under the name, Amanda Quick, she writes historical romance still with that edge of suspense, her newest one ‘Til Death Do Us Part. But if you like more of a futuristic bent to your reading then look for her work published under the name Jayne Castle. Under any name, in any of her books, summertime escape is on the way.

I am a voracious reader and obviously listing only five escape artists here is just skimming the very top of all the great reading available this summer. So whether you like the pleasure of turning pages or touching screens, these authors provide you the opportunity to escape back in time, forward in time, and everywhere in between.

Happy reading.

Categories Fairytales, Seasons, Writing

I love books, in any format. If you are a writer, then you love books too. And, I bet you were introduced to their magic early in your childhood. I also bet that, like me, you have memories of several favorite books that introduced you to that magic and set you on the path to storytelling.

Three of my favorite impression-making books that I read before I turned twelve and that even today are still magical are:

The Fairy Tale Book: A Deluxe Golden Book. The Fairy Tale Book Published in 1958, this large format (10×13″) book was a Christmas gift to my siblings and me from an aunt. The illustrations, by French artist Adrienne Ségur, are rich in detail and have a delicate quality to them that captured my imagination. The collection of 28 tales range from the well-known, like Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, to the lesser known (at that time) Donkey Skin and Green Snake. And the stories originated in France, Germany, Denmark, Russia and Japan, and from sources that included Hans Christian Andersen, The Brothers Grimm, Madame d’Aulnoy, and others. One of its stories, “The Wild Swans”, inspired the name of my weaving business, Nettles & Green Threads. This book gave me a deep and lasting love of fairy tale and fantasy. I still have it.

The Secret Garden. This edition, published in 1962 and illustrated by Tasha Tudor, was a gift from my maternal grandmother, also for Christmas. I loved this story about a young girl who struggles to find a place to belong and a boy who longs to walk again. But I especially loved the idea of a secret place where you could be yourself while also working your own magic in alignment with Nature, a place where you could create beauty.

Little Women. Oh yes, I read this book before I was 12. And in it, I discovered that there was a character who, like me wanted to be a writer, who longed, more than anything, to tell her stories, who was both actor and observer of her life. And it was one of the first books I read where everything doesn’t end happily. I cried and cried when Beth died. But, then loss is most definitely part of life, isn’t it? I knew that, had experienced it already, but still — in a story? Yes, in a story. That book made me a grow up as a reader — and a writer.

Magic books, each one. Books that captured me and held me until the last page, the last story.

What about you? What books introduced you to the magic and power of storytelling?

And the baby bear’s bed was just right.

This past weekend, Bob and I went shopping for a new mattress. I felt like Goldilocks, moving from mattress to mattress, looking for the one that felt just right.

This bed was too hard, that one was too soft, this was one was …almost. Mattress

There were probably 30-40 styles of mattress in that store. Not only that but many of them could be purchased with a frame that let you raise and lower the head and foot of the bed, could vibrate the mattress for a massage effect, and even provide USB ports if you wanted to work on your laptop or tablet from your bed. The choices were almost too much.

Bob and I finally decided on one that we thought would work best for both him as a back sleeper and me as a side sleeper. We found the mattress that is just right for us.

As I looked around the store while Bob filled out the paperwork for our purchase, it occurred to me that like cars and mattresses, our purchase did not reflect the quality of the mattress as much as it reflected Bob’s and my personal “just right”.

The same is true for you as a writer.

If you’ve built your book or story well, then acceptance of your manuscript by agent or editor, and purchase of your book by a reader, has more to do with fit and that “just right” than with you as a writer.

Your story, your book, whatever it is about, is not going to be a good fit for everyone. You can’t write a book for everyone. No one can. Even best-selling authors like Stephen King, Nora Roberts, Wayne Dyer, and Elizabeth Gilbert don’t sell books to everyone.

And you’ve heard all the stories about how many rejections J.K. Rowling received before she finally found an agent to represent her.

It’s usually not about your writing or your story. It’s about that “just right” fit.

Agents and editors have to have a story they enjoy enough to really get behind in today’s market. They have to feel passionate enough about it to get behind it and push. It has to be a “just right” fit for that agent or editor.

Even if you self-publish, you have to find the readers, the market, with that “just right” fit for the book you’ve written. I’m generally not going to buy a horror book. I don’t like horror—in print, or on screen—because I can’t stand that kind of tension. You may not like romance or fantasy. I’m not going to take it personally because you need your just right fit as much as I do.

You also need to find your just right fit the story you write. Write a story you can feel passionate about. One that keeps you awake at night or has you stepping back in fear that you can’t tell it well enough. Write a story that you sometimes have to force yourself to stay with because it pulls something from you that feels deep and powerful and important.

Write the story that as you write, “The End”, you give that sigh of relief, yes, but also that sigh of satisfaction and a sense of pride. The story that feels “just right.”

Everyone has her just right. What is yours?

Once upon a time…

A princess took her favorite toy,Frog Prince a golden ball, into the woods. Sitting by a well, she repeatedly tossed her ball up into the air and caught it. After several tosses, she missed the ball which fell into the well, disappearing beneath the water. She began crying.

“Why do you cry so, Princess?” a voice asked. The speaker was a frog sitting at the edge of the well.The frog offered to fetch the ball for the Princess if she would promise to take him home with her, let him be her close companion and sit by her side, eat at her plate, and sleep in her bed.

Thinking the stupid frog couldn’t leave the water of the well, the princess promised him his reward. So once the frog had given her the ball, she ran happily home without the frog.

But the frog followed her…and her father, a wise and just king, insisted that the Princess make good on her promise… So she had to let the frog into the palace, and then onto the table next to her to share her plate, and then into her bedroom. But when he insisted on sharing her bed, the Princess, now totally disgusted and frustrated, threw the frog against the wall.

Whereupon, he turned back into the Prince he had been before an angry fairy cursed him. The Prince asked for the hand of the Princess and they lived happily ever after…

That’s the Grimm version of the story. In other versions, the Princess has to let the frog sleep in her bed for three nights. And in still other versions, for those who don’t like sexual undertone of those three nights, the Princess has to kiss the frog.

The lessons here for you as a writer or other creative?

1. Sometimes what seems to be the best treasure often leads to an even better one. Just like the Princess loved her pretty, fun-to-play-with golden ball, we love those initial inspirations you and I have for a book or a painting or composition. They are so shiny and sparkly when new. But often, those initial inspirations appear only in order to lead us deeper into the woods of creative instinct and the discovery of something even more magical.

2. What emerges from the depths is not easily left behind. The Princess thought that ugly frog couldn’t possibly leave the well. How could a denizen of forest and well, of instinct and intuition, follow her home and survive in the light of day? So often, when in the midst of a novel or a painting or any other creative act, the shadow aspects of the work are what demand attention and respect, warts and all. But what appears ugly and unlovable in the work is often where the power is, even though the urge is to run away from it, escape back into that place of light and naiveté.

3. Creative commitments must be honored and even slept with. Oh boy! Really? Wouldn’t it be easier to just abandon this project and start work on something else? Something prettier, lighter, happier…more fun? Sigh! No, this frog of a project with its warts and muddy feet, must yet stain my pillowcase, or make me so angry and frustrated that I throw it against the wall. Haven’t you felt that way? Only in honoring my commitment to the project I thought was a pretty golden ball, but is actually a deeper, more challenging muddy frog, can I finally reach the prince of a project that is fully revealed and integrated.

The golden ball is just a plaything.

But that frog…that frog is a challenge and a gift, a burden and a guide to a deeper awareness. The frog is part of me—and you—as a creative.

How you interact with it is up to you. Kiss it, sleep with it, or throw it against the wall.

Just don’t run away from it.

(PS: No frogs were cursed or thrown against the wall in the writing of this article.)

Hey there, Little Red Riding Hood, you sure are lookin’ good.
You’re everything a big bad wolf could want.
~ Rolling Stones

Did you grow up hearing the fairytale of Little Red Riding Hood?Red Riding Hood And were you clear about what happens to good girls when they stray from the path of the straight and narrow?

But look more closely. There’s more to this popular fairytale. Here is a story about female power, and a path for the creative process.

Remember the story? Granny is sick in bed and her beloved granddaughter, to whom she has given a red velvet cap, is instructed by her mother to take cake and ale to the grandmother to help her get well.

“And mind,” the mother admonishes Red, “you are to go straight there and come straight back. Do not stray from the path through the woods.”

With the beginning of the story, you are Read More→

“Are you content now?” said the Caterpillar.
“Well, I should like to be a little larger, sir, if you wouldn’t mind,” said Alice: “three inches is such a wretched height to be.”

Remember when, after Alice in Wonderland falls down the rabbit hole she discovers a doorway that opens into a lovely garden but the doorway is less than a foot high? And Alice can’t fit through it—-until she discovers a bottle that says “Drink me”, which she does, shrinking herself to only ten inches high.

Then she realizes she might need the door key which lies on the table now high above her head. So Alice eats cake to get larger, uses a fan to get smaller (almost drowning in her own tears) and so on.

All of this in order to get out of the rabbit hole (even though there were plenty of books!) and into Read More→

Categories Creativity, Fairytales, Myth

Every time one of our three sons approached his mid-teens—you know, that time when they want to learn to drive, attend late-night parties, and start experimenting with alcohol and other things you don’t want to even imagine—I yearned to install a very tall tower in our backyard and stick that son in it. A tower with only a window, with a ladder that Bob or I could put up or take down. That way, I’d always know where that son was and that he was safe.

But no one in their right mind would do that to their kid. Right?

So imagine how desperately protective (and possessive)that witch felt about Rapunzel when she put her in that tower.

Seems reasonable. That witch had to go to work every day to gather her herbs and to see her clients, leaving her precious “daughter” alone. Who knows what trouble could have befallen Rapunzel without the safety of that tower? After all, the world is a very scary and dangerous place!

Ironically, even though Rapunzel couldn’t get out into the world, Read More→

“Would that I had a child as white as snow, as red as blood, and as black as the wood of the window frame.” The Queen from Snow White

As with all creativity, first there is the wish, the dream, the idea. The Queen spells out the picture of her perfect child.

But, when Snow White is still a child, her mother dies. Enter the wicked stepmother who measures power and lovableness through her appearance, using a mirror to see that, at least on the surface, this Queen is indeed the fairest in the land.

Yet, as Snow White grows, she becomes more beautiful with each day. And each day, as the mirror reflects back the girl’s growing beauty, the Queen’s confidence and power is threatened. Jealousy grows.

Jealousy is a terrible thing, arising out of comparisons. As Shakespeare wrote, comparisons are odious. With comparisons come self-doubt, self-sabotage and jealousy. Imagine if the Queen had gone about her work, never Read More→

In the Disneyfied version of the popular fairytale, Cinderella,our heroine is more acted upon (i.e.victim) than acting. Her mother has died and her father has remarried the equivalent of the Wicked Witch of the West, with her two equally mean daughters. What’s a good girl to do?

Cinderella by Richard Redgrave

Well, definitely not some of the things Cinderella does if you don’t want to sabotage your creative work and career. In an attempt to always be loving, good and kind, like Cinderella, are you guilty of: Read More→

Categories Creativity, Fairytales