Showing posts with label fairy stories. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fairy stories. Show all posts

Monday, 20 June 2016

The Limos Circle The Block, by Susan Price and Andrew Price

                Hi again!

     There's such an atmosphere here at the launch for Three Billy Goats Gruff!
     The limos are circling the blog and we'll soon be welcoming our first star!

     And wait!
     A limo is pulling up!

          I can't see who's getting out yet....
          It's sure to be someone exciting!
          It's - it's - 

                                         Ooh, I'm thrilled!

It's the Bridge!

I was another bridge, further down river, but the part was written out.
That's how it is in this business.  
I was the original bridge too far and one of the bridges of Toko-Ri.
You don't see me. I was behind a building.

Who is this arriving?

Can it be - ooh, can it be Great Big?
      Oh, girls, he's so dreamy. For a goat.

Art work: Andrew Price

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Fairy Tale v Hollywood v Bollywood v Hopeless by Savita Kalhan

For both the reader and the writer, endings are extremely powerful things. I know I feel like celebrating when I’ve typed the words THE END on a manuscript, even though I’m fully aware that in the life of a finished manuscript the hard work has only just begun. Which type of ending did I go for? Fairy Tale, Hollywood, Bollywood or Hopeless?

Fairy tale endings represent the typical ‘happily ever after’ ending, as in the Hansel and Gretel variety.

Hollywood endings are much more sugary, (sometimes sickly) sweet happily ever after endings with everyone riding off into the sunset.

Bollywood endings are happy endings too, but tempered by the extreme tragedies that have taken place; and they’re happy because everyone, who hasn’t died, is reunited at the end.

Hopeless endings are few and far between, and rarely have a place in children’s literature.

I don’t tend to write light humorous stories, oh, okay, I’ll be honest – my writing is actually quite dark. The Long Weekend was a story of two boys who are abducted after school. It’s labelled by the publishers as ‘not suitable for younger readers’ without stating a specific age on the back of the book. The boys are eleven years old, so you might think it was suitable for perhaps ten year olds to read. Well, it might be for a few. It’s the kind of book that cannot have a hopeless ending because it is for kids and because of what happens in the book. My agent actually asked me to write an epilogue because she was of the opinion that you could not end a children’s book, particularly a book like The Long Weekend, without some element of hope for the reader to take away at the end. I think she was right.

When I read books as a child ...and they lived happily ever after, was an ending I expected. I read lots of fairy tales from all across the world and they always ended like this too, no matter what terrible things had befallen the main characters. Years later when I read books to my young son, little had changed. They nearly all had happy endings. I remember once finding a book in the library that didn’t end happily and reading it to him. When we reached the end, he was really angry at the writer for not writing a proper ending. He’s a teenager now and although he still reads teen/YA fiction, he also reads adult books. I asked him about a book he read recently – Aravind Adiga’s Last Man in Tower, and he said, “It’s full of broken dreams,” but it’s really good. I haven’t read it yet, but I guess its ending must not be so dark, or maybe because he’s a little older he’s more ready for the occasional ‘hopeless’ ending.

I guess we’re generally conditioned to expect the happy ending. I suspect it’s what most children want, and perhaps what most adults want too. Imagine reading lots of books where the whole book is dark and grim and the ending no less so, the outcome so hopeless that you wonder what frame of mind the writer was in, or what he or she had gone through in their life, to end a book in that way.

Numerous studies have shown that a person’s reaction to a traumatic event can be significantly leavened by an ending that is positive – as long as the peak pain felt during the experience is less than the pain experienced at the end.

Recently, debate has intensified with regards to the darkness in teenage literature, specifically the supposed rise in ‘Sick Lit’. Alongside the waves of paranormal romances and dark dystopian thrillers, are readers looking for escapism or to be protected from dark issues and themes? Is it time for a return to ‘lighter’ teen/YA fiction? Or should we be encouraging authors to continue to explore the dark themes that teenagers need help coping with?

I’ll be interested in hearing what other authors and industry professionals have to say, but regarding endings specifically, I think most people would want an All’s Well That Ends Well ending.

The Long Weekend book trailer


Saturday, 31 March 2012

Pauline Fisk on Secret Heroes [Who are yours?]

I was sitting in a local coffeehouse when the background music struck up with a few immediately recognisable guitar notes, followed by Leonard Cohen’s voice intoning Suzanne takes me down... Immediately a shiver ran down my spine, not because I loved the song so much, but because I’d been reading about Cohen in the Guardian [the Dorian Lynskey interview] and had just got to the bit about Suzanne when up she popped in Starbuck’s music stream. Synchronicity, or what?

Who are your heroes? The names that spring to mind for me always start with Gabriel Garcia Marquez and end somewhere around Bob Dylan, passing through the likes of Marilyn Robinson, Graham Greene, Flannery O’Connor, Annie Dillard, Robert McFarlane, Ella Maillart, Raymond Carver, Raymond Chandler and Gerard Manley Hopkins. In fact, if you bring in poetry, the list could go on and on, and the name Leonard Cohen probably wouldn’t spring to mind. Yet his song in Starbucks sent shivers down my spine. Suddenly I was transported back to the girl I used to be, lying in a darkened room, being young and green about some stranger’s lonesome voice.

Beyond my public heroes, it seems, are other heroes - secret ones who’ve so thoroughly woven their way into my life that I don’t even know they’re there. Plainly, Leonard Cohen is one of them. Even when he’s talking about how he writes, he’s speaking for me:

I think you work things out. I wouldn’t call those things ideas. I think ideas are what you want to get rid of. I don’t really like songs with ideas. They tend to become slogans. They tend to be on the right side of things: ecology or vegetarianism or antiwar. All these things are wonderful ideas but I like to work on a song until those slogans, as wonderful as they are and as wholesome as the ideas they promote are, dissolve into deeper convictions of the heart.

But Leonard Cohen’s not the only one. In any list of influence-wielding secret heroes, that giant of children’s literature, Hans Christian Andersen, has to come top. It was he, after all, who first stirred my imagination when I was young.

Hans Christian Andersen was a complex character, revered and reviled in equal measure. Welcomed throughout the palaces of Europe, he was regarded as puffed-up and vain by many, including some of his own countrymen. In a letter, Georg Brandes described him as ‘a mind completely and entirely filled by himself and without a single spiritual interest.’ When he stayed with Charles Dickens, the Dickens children couldn’t wait for him to leave. But when he met the Englishwoman, Annie Wood, she told him she’d kept his fairy tales under her pillow as a child, and believed him to be an angel. ‘At last,’ she wrote in an article in ‘Temple Bar’ in 1875, ‘I was in the presence of the man whose writings had been the joy of my early life, dearer to me than aught else in the world.’ Clearly, to those read his stories, Andersen had the power to enchant.

And I know why. I grew up in a decidedly unbookish family, apart from a single copy of Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Stories, which I read so much that it nearly fell apart. In fact, I still have that book to this day. I love everything about it - not just the stories themselves, but the illustrations, the feel of the blotting-paper thick pages and even the shapes of the words. You say the words ‘Big Claus and Little Caus’ to me and I feel the way I did when Cohen sang that first word, ‘Suzanne…’

The same goes with ‘The Tinder-Box’ or ‘The Swineherd and the Shepherdess’, ‘The Nightingale’, ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ or ‘The Snow Queen’.

Oh, ‘The Snow Queen’...

As a writer who delights in what some people call ‘magic realism’ and others ‘fantasy’, the influence of Hans Christian Andersen is all over my writing - and I’m not just talking about his stories but his choice of words. The same Georg Brandes who above criticized Andersen’s self-centredness later acknowledged Andersen’s influence on children. ‘What author has a public like him? His book of fairy tales is the only book we have spelt our way through as children and still read today.’ Certainly for me, coming to Andersen as the child of a new century, I learnt that stories are made of words and every one of them matters. And as a young writer, Andersen’s fascination with the magical amid the ordinary had me delving into folklore to enrich my own stories - and I’ve been doing it ever since.

If you’re interested, there’s an excellent programme on Scandanavian Children’s Literature to be heard on Radio 4, hosted by Mariella Frostrup. And if you’ve never read Hans Christian Andersen - or at least not since you were a child - give him a go. ‘It was Orpheus that he called to mind,’ August Stringberg wrote of him, this poet who sang in prose so that not only animals, plants and stones listened and were moved, but toys came to life; goblins and elves became real, those horrible schoolbooks seemed poetic; why, he squeezed the whole geography of Denmark into four pages – he was a perfect wizard!’

The Tiina Nunnally deluxe edition of Andersen’s Fairy Stories, published by Penguin, is worth every penny of its current price on Amazon of £8.44. [Oh, and if you want to listen to Cohen, you may find him playing at a Starbuck’s near you.]

All quotes in this post are taken from Hans Christian Andersen, by Elias Bredsdorff, which is worth a read.

Pauline Fisk blogs on and