with Kate Wolfold
[Dear readers: My deepest apologies go out to the delightfully friendly people at World Weaver Press and to Kate Wolfold for the late publication of this interview. I'm so embarrassed I got the dates mixed up! Ms. Wolfold's answers are edifying and a good glimpse into what her new publication, Beyond the Glass Slipper, is about. She also has some good advice for fairy tale writing hopefuls, so pay attention and enjoy!--C.]
How were you first introduced to fairy tales, and what kept you coming back to them?
I can't be absolutely sure about when I first learned about fairy tales, but I remember quite clearly when I first realized that I could read tales of wonder and enchantment on my own.
I was about seven or eight, and was lying on my stomach in the bedroom I shared with one of my many sisters. As in all rooms in my parents' home, it was filled with books. I pulled one out of a pile and began to read. The Wonder City of Oz was not by L. Frank Baum, but rather, his illustrator. John R. Neill, but the story of the temperamental Jenny Jump who lands in Oz. There's a chocolate star and lots of other Oz craziness. I don't think it's a very good book.
I loved it.
This gave me a taste for all things magical and transformative and fairy-tale like. After that, I remember reading a fairy-tale book illustrated by Edmund Dulac, and I was hooked on fairy takes for life.
You say in your Introduction that the idea for Beyond the Glass Slipper was spurred by EC reader feedback. How do you think the interactive nature of fairy tales form them in a modern, electronic setting?
I think it's speed and spontaneity. Even literary fairy tales have a kind of immediacy to them. The give-and-take nature of blog commenting, for example, allows for the chatty kind of cross talk I think must have been common in the oral telling of fairy tales. Yet, because the comments are an actual written record, fairy tale writers can use comments and conversation online to help understand what readers are inspired and intrigued by--they can return to the conversational well to get ideas for modern tales.
Beyond the Glass Slipper is not a scholarly work. In what ways does a non-academic approach to fairy tales encourage their proliferation and discussion more than an academic text?
I think both scholarly and non-scholarly works encourage the tales, but I also know that a more casual tone often makes readers feel more open to the idea that they, too, can be writers. Make no mistake, scholarly works by Maria Tatar, Jack Zipes, Donald Haase, etc., have had enormous influence on me as a teacher, a fairy tale fan, and as editor of Enchanted Conversation. And, as academic works go, many fairy tale scholars write in ways that are quite user friendly for the casual fan. Yet, I think there is a space in between the tales themselves and the scholarly works that can be filled by books like Beyond the Glass Slipper. The book is very conversational and relaxed in tone, and I hope it will give readers ideas about retelling stories that will make them think, "Oh, I can do that." The book is about tearing apart the actual tales, and, maybe, for some readers, rebuilding them into something new.
You're the editor of Enchanted Conversation, the e-world's most popular genre-specific fairy tale magazine. What is the single most important piece of advice you have for writers of fairy tales?
Read. I mean read for pleasure. Every single day. It's not necessary to read fairy tales every day to be a good fairy tale writer (but it is necessary to read very widely in the genre). But if you do not have time enough to read for pleasure, then you are not in a place in life to write. Everything connected to writing flows from reading. I'm 51 years old. I didn't always have time to write a book (or read as much as I would have liked to do), but eventually, I did. Not surprisingly, the amount of voluntary reading I do in middle age is very high. Hours per day, and I am a very busy person. There would be no Beyond the Glass Slipper without a lot of other books going into my head and heart.
These are lesser-known fairy tales from Europe and were chosen by you with great care. What is your personal favorite fairy tale from this collection, and why?
"The Nixy" is my favorite. I have been married a long time, and I think the story is really about the joys and pitfalls of partnership and what it's like when couples rediscover each other during the course of many years. It's the only truly romantic fairy tale I have ever read. It has a true happily ever after, because it is based on knowledge and experience.
Now that Beyond the Glass Slipper is complete and in publication, what is your next fairy tale project?
I hope to edit a collection of new fairy tales inspired by "The Glass Mountain." It's an exquisite Polish fairy tale about a princess who lives in a castle atop, of course, a glass mountain. All of those poor princes attempt the climb and slide down and die. It's really quite ghoulish, and yet beautiful. If you haven't read it, go, read it! You will be enchanted.
I don't know if the project will happen, but I remain hopeful.
Thanks so much for this opportunity!