In Which There Is Updating

Well, it seems I’ve fallen behind again, and though I really do have quite good excuses, I am quite sorry to neglect my little space on the Internet! A few catch up items…

* The biggest thing to mention is that Sara Cleto and I had our first long course for The Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic, “The Fairy Tale,” and it went so, so well. So many people have said just phenomenally wonderful things, and I am so blown away by our students… I honestly can’t believe some of the amazing things that have come out of the course. For example, the incredibly talented Jenny Davies-Reazor crafted these gorgeous block prints for several of the fairy tales we discussed – you can see the pints and read about her process in this fantastic blog post she wrote. We’ll be adding more projects to our Final Project Showcase on the website soon, but do check out what’s up already… it really is incredible. We are SO excited to keep going with this project and hopefully expand it as well – we already have summer and fall courses coming up, so please do sign up for our newsletter and keep up with what’s going on over there!

I’m also thrilled to say that the amazing, endlessly inspiring Terri Windling has linked to both Carterhaugh AND Through the Twisted Woods on her “Mythic Resources” page for her redesigned website. The honor of her even knowing these things exist, let alone liking them enough to link to them, fills my heart with unspeakable joy.

* In academic news, work on the dissertation continues and I’ve attended a few conferences since I last posted: AFS in Miami, INCS in Philadelphia (where Sara and I cavorted with Shveta Thakrar!), and ICFA in Orlando (which my friend and colleague Jeana Jorgensen has a great write up about.) All were wonderful and helpful and inspiring as usual, but ICFA was particularly fantastic (ha) this year, as, due to the hard work of the Fairy Tales and Folk Narratives group (particularly Christy Williams), we now officially have a Fairy Tales and Folk Narratives division. As Jeana discusses in her post, this is huge break for our field and I am so honored to have been a small part of it as a board member for the group that worked toward the move. It’s an exciting time to be a fairy-tale scholar!

* In creative writing news, my story “C is for Catechism” was published in Rhonda Parrish’s D is for Dinosaur anthology, which seems to be doing quite well! A few reviews have called out my story in particular for praise, which of course makes me feel like dancing :). I also contributed a poem to Sihaya and Company’s Spring Box on the theme of “Persephone Rising” that has also been received really well – I designed the background for the poem and printed it on vellum paper, these sheets were then put in art cards by Vasilion Photography.

(Photograph of some of the Spring Box items, including my poem, by the fabulous jewelry designer Meenoo Mishra!)

The supremely talented Rachel Oakes created this perfect drawing in response to the poem too, and I really don’t know how to express how honored I am by it <3

She has also been kind enough to allow me to purchase the original piece… I can’t wait to hang it up when it arrives :).

* And lastly, a few things I’ve found around the Internet that have inspired and excited me:

More soon! Thanks for reading!

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Long Time, No Posts!

So I posted about the new site design… and meant to post again right after to address the fact that I haven’t posted in so long about anything that’s actually going on in my life… but clearly that didn’t happen promptly. Everything’s just been so busy… but there is so much news to share!

Academic News:

* I’ve been working like a fiend it seems… working on my dissertation (admittedly less than I wanted to this semester due to an unexpectedly busy start to the school year, but still), writing articles, attending conferences, being generally crazy with work (but a good kind of crazy?) I attended three wonderful conferences this past spring – the 2016 International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts, which was even most fantastic than usual for a variety of reasons (including the ‘wonder tales’ theme and getting to hang out with people who inspire me in about a million different ways), the British Folklore Society’s “Reflected Shadows: Folklore and the Gothic” conference at Kingston University in the UK (which was, for obvious reasons, kind of like dancing on air for me), and the OSU/IU Student Conference in Folklore and Ethnomusicology, which I helped organize (more on this below!) All were incredibly inspiring and affirming.

* Going to the UK conference was largely supported by the fact that I applied for and received money from a few different sources! I received a travel award from OSU’s Project Narrative, a Valerie B. Lee conference travel grant, an Arts & Humanities Graduate Small Research Grant from the OSU College of Arts & Sciences, and some additional funding from my department, all of which I am enormously grateful for.

* Almost immediately after coming back from the UK it was time for the 9th Annual OSU/IU Joint Student Conference in Folklore and Ethnomusicology!

Embodied Expression Conference

Sara Cleto and I were the joint lead organizers for it this past year and, while it was a huge amount of work, I’m so, so happy with how it turned out. Our theme this year was “Embodied Expression: The Body in Academia, in the Field, and In-Between” and our keynote speaker was the always inspiring Jeana Jorgensen. She gave a wonderful talk on folklore and the body that was, as one professor said, one of the best discussions of the body he had ever heard and I 100% agree (you can check it out in six separate blog posts on Jeana’s blog at Patheos now – this is post one and you can follow the talk via links from there!) The presentations were wonderful (because it’s online and awesome, shout out to the presentation on ballads and “crankies” by Zoe van Buren and Anna Keneda of UNC: Chapel Hill, who made their own crankie of Donna Ray Norton singing the ballad “Young Emily”!) and everyone seemed to have a great time. Check out the mermaid logo I designed, which we had on t-shirts, tote bags, and stickers too!

I presented as well, the same paper (edited a bit) that I presented at ICFA on fairy-tale fashion, embodied narrative, and gothic aesthetics. It seemed to go over really well, I got a lot of great feedback and I’m excited to develop the project further in the future.

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And yes, there was of course a bit in there about Daily Fae-shion :).

* The encyclopedia Folktales and Fairy Tales: Traditions and Texts from around the World (the 2nd edition of the Greenwood Encyclopedia of Folk Tales and Fairy Tales), edited by Anne E. Duggan and Donald Haase with Helen J. Callow, was published in February and contains three entries written by me! I contributed “Fashion,” “Gothic Tales,” and “Pre-Raphaelites,” all of which should surprise no one :). Such an honor to be asked to contribute to such a fantastic publication – check it out in a local library if you can, it’s truly one of the best resources for folktale and fairy-tale study I’ve ever come across.

* My amazing friend Erin and I won the OSU English Department’s Digital Media Prize for Outstanding Graduate Student Work for our collaborative webtext Facets! The project is a creative endeavor that critically looks at the ways in which digital media and multimodal digital composing might offer insight to traditional folk narratives, particularly fairy tales. We hope to expand it and get it online soon… I got a lot of prep work done for it when I attended OSU’s Digital Media and Composition Institute (DMAC) this summer and we’ll be presenting on the project at the AFS/ISFNR Annual Meeting later in October so *fingers crossed* it will see the light of day soon!

* And lastly (for now), my article “I Am the Wolf: Queering ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ and ‘Snow White and Rose Red’ in the Television Show Once Upon a Time was just published in a special issue of the online journal Humanities on “Fairy Tale and Its Uses in Contemporary New Media and Popular Culture” edited by the wonderful Dr. Claudia Schwabe. It is available for anyone to access online for free, so please do check it out if you can. I first started working on this idea before the confirmation of Red’s bisexuality on the show, so I was of course psyched by the recent big reveal (if also a bit frustrated, something I talk about briefly at the end of the article.) See the full piece for more!

So whew! You can see why I haven’t had much time to do much of anything else!!

Half Academic/Half Creative News:

* I, with Sara and the ever inspiring Derek Newman-Stille, have launched a new online hub exclusively for the exploration of folk narrative, particularly adaptations that push boundaries and embrace diversity called Through the Twisted Woods. I’ve mostly been working behind the scenes on this project and sadly haven’t been able to post any articles myself yet, but I do have several things in the works that I can’t wait to put up there soon! I’m really excited about the potential of this space so please do check it out and consider contributing if you’re so inclined!

* Speaking of projects, Sara and I have just launched something else as well! We are going to be hosting online classes devoted to folklore and the fantastic at our new website The Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic! Sign ups are open right now for our special Halloween folklore pilot class at a special price – we’d love to have you if you feel as giddy about this kind of stuff as we do!

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Check out our gorgeous logo by the incredibly talented Rachel Oakes!

Creative Writing News:

* My poem, “Mother Doll,” was in issue #78 of Apex Magazine! So honored to be part of such an incredible place :).

* My short story, “Documentation Related to Case #688,” has been released in the latest of Rhonda Parrish’s awesome alphabet anthologies C is for Chimera!

* The new anthology Les Cabinets des Polythéistes: An Anthology of Pagan Fairy Tales, Folktales, and Nursery Rhymes edited by Rebecca Buchanan, was released! It contains Sara and I’s collaborative piece “Snow and Rose,” a pagan retelling of the fairy tale “Snow White and Rose Red” using moon and sun worship. I haven’t gotten a chance to read the rest of the pieces in this one yet but, knowing Rebecca, I’m sure they’re all incredible.

* My poem “Wearing My Old Woman’s Skin” was chosen by Layla Al-Bedawi as one of the three poems for her issue of Volume 1 of Remixt Magazine! The whole project is the brainchild of the fantastic Julia Rios and features 6 different editors all choosing poems from the same pool of submissions. The idea is to demonstrate how subjective the editing process is, to look at patterns, and to examine what makes poems stand out. It’s a fascinating project and I’m delighted to have my work in it.

* Sara and I have also published a co-written poem in issue #1 of recompose that’s about Alexander McQueen and “Beauty and the Beast” and pain and death and beauty. It’s very weird and experimental in some ways and I’m particularly proud of it :). We have another co-written piece coming out soon (and hopefully more on the way) so please do keep an eye on the creative writing page!

Other Wonderful Things:

* Literary Witches, a new comic by Katy Horan and Taisia Kitaiskala, is so. incredibly. brilliant. and. beautiful. I don’t even know how to describe how great I think it is. Electric Literature added postcards of the images to their shop too (which I totally bought, obviously.)

* My dear friend, the magical Shveta Thakrar, was profiled on TOR.COM!! The article is beautiful and so very reflective of her incredible work. Check out the links to some of her stories and poetry at the bottom to see for yourself!

* Super psyched about the new Sabat Magazine! I picked up a copy of the first issue from the awesome Treadwell’s when I was in London and it’s SO great. Hope to grab the new one soon!

* This Washington Post article about a Princeton professor’s “CV of failures” is really interesting. When you’re feeling jealous of someone’s success, perhaps particularly in academia but really anywhere, remember that they too have failed numerous times, that they just *kept going* despite failure, and that that’s just part of how this crazy game works. There’s been a bit of criticism about this idea (most importantly the inherent privilege of being able to write a CV of failures in the first place) but I do still think it’s important to remember how much struggle goes into success.

* Sharon Blackie’s blog post “Why Enchantment Matters” is wonderful (though I would admittedly tweak one tiny thing about it, which is actually the subject of a later blog post I’ve been working on for Through the Twisted Woods, so more on that later!)

* Theodora Goss’ equally wonderful blog post on “Being a Changeling” that made me scream yes, yes, yes, YES! Her recent poems “The Sorceress in the Tower” and “The Witch’s Cat” have also been especially fantastic and resonant for me. I love her work so much, there is just such clear magic in it.

* Sarah Elwell’s post on “The Dance of Secret Magics” at Between the Woods and the Waters speaks to my soul too. I also love her “White Lace Witches” post, of course… I’m a big advocate of never having to be only one thing (though I think I’d probably ultimately describe myself as a burgundy lace witch? ;).)

* And, lastly, two things my boyfriend found to make you smile – Patsy Gibbons and his rescued foxes and the four music-loving kittens who came to listen to a street performer :).

Whew, okay, I think that’s all for now! As I said in the last post, please do continue to check out the new site design and let me know if anything is amiss. Some people have expressed some doubt over the way you have to scroll down to get to content if you don’t have your monitor set to an enormous resolution but I actually don’t think I mind it? Please weigh in if you have thoughts though! :).

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Surprise! A Total Redesign!

I have completely redesigned my website! Surprise!

Okay, it actually isn’t all that much of a surprise ;). For a long time I’ve felt that brittanywarman.com didn’t really speak to me or my ‘brand’ in the same way that older websites I’ve had did… before getting a ‘professional’ website, I placed a lot of emphasis on design and then, when I decided to let go of those projects and focus on bw.com, I let a bit of that go in favor of practicality and what I thought was right for a professional academic/writer/etc’s website. Having recently found several inspiring professional websites that did NOT let design go, however, I soon began to question that idea and wonder what I could do to make bw.com feel more like me.  I admit I wasn’t quite sure where to begin though.

The other night, completely out of the blue, I felt an urge to tinker with some photo editing software, to mess with code, to examine every single detail of a design until it was just perfect – this may or may not have to do with the abundance of actual work I’m facing at the moment, I’ve always been one of those “productive procrastinators!” Anyway, this is the result – a far more design-focused and enchanted website that feels much more like the person I am AND the person I want to project professionally. You might recognize the main part of the main image, as it was the background for the site before, but otherwise things are pretty new around here and I encourage you to explore! I’ve added a bunch and have plans for more :). Do check to see that everything is working properly too!

I do have a lot of news and links to post as well – I went WAY too long without posting, I know I didn’t at all this whole school year and I apologize! So, with that in mind, look for another post in just a bit!

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Summer News

Apologies for the long gap between posts, things have been pretty busy around here! A few things I must mention though! –

* My flash story, “The Sea Does Not Need Me,” appears in the new issue of Scheherezade’s Bequest – Something Rich and Strange: Tales from the Sea. It was inspired by the ballad “The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry” (Child 113). This collection is truly gorgeous (as the cover demonstrates admirably!) and I hope you get a chance to check it out! I am honored to be a part of it :).

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* Also, my poem titled “Ink” is in the latest issue of Liminality Magazine. This one really means a lot to me, as it was written shortly after my brother died as a way of attempting to cope. I’m very happy it found a home alongside so many interesting, moving, beautiful poems.

* My other big news is that I’ve relaunched my faerie tale fashion blog, Dress of Stars! It’s about time, right?

dressofstarsThe official description says it’s meant to be “the fashion diary of a witch faerie folklore & literature grad student who loves to tell stories, even with her clothes,” so outfit posts for sure, but I also want it to be a place where I can write about this kind of fashion more broadly, post about my own fashion/jewelry related creative endeavors, look at new things others are doing, and even examine faerie/fairy tale fashion through a more academic lens. I’m interested in the drive to bring magic into everyday life in all aspects and, as fashion is one of the ways I personally tend to do it most, I’m fascinated by exploring that world more consciously. As some of you may know, I recently contributed the entry for “Fashion” in the new Greenwood Encyclopedia publication Folktales and Fairy Tales: Traditions and Texts from Around the World, 2nd Edition (which will be officially released in December of this year), and I’m excited to do more with the concept in my academic work. Some of you may also remember my post from a while ago, “Fashion and Academia,” in which I talk about the issues surrounding being a woman who is interested in fashion but also an academic. I still stand by everything I said in that post and I hope the new blog will also give me a dedicated space to write more posts like it.

I’ve already made several outfit posts but for more on the blog’s restart specifically, please read my first post upon being “back” :). As I talk about in more detail there, I’ve been contemplating a relaunch for a while now but actually doing it was largely inspired by the new Facebook group I co-admin called Daily Fae-shion!

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My friend Grace Nuth and I wanted a place online where those of us who are inspired by and encourage “magic in daily attire” could gather and share their outfits, their finds, their creations, and their inspirations. The official group description, written by Grace, sums it up quite nicely I think –

This group is devoted to inspiring and encouraging magic in daily attire. If your dream wardrobe would be at home among the ephemera of a Brian Froud painting…if flowers in your hair aren’t just for Renaissance Festivals…and even if your taste runs more to bat pendants and crow feathers among the spikes on your shoulder pads…this is the group for you. Pinterest is wonderful, and can inspire, but we are hoping to share with each other *real* examples of *real* people wearing their daily clothes and trying to infuse them with a touch of fairy tale. Maybe you work in an office where you have to mostly “hide your wings,” but you still find little ways (through jewelry, footwear, etc) to feel magical. We’d love to see that too! If you have a knack for altering or accessorizing Goodwill and thrift store finds to create a whimsical ensemble, we would love to know your tricks!

If the words Bohemian/Boho/Mori Girl/Black Forest Mori Girl/Goth/Medieval/Faerie/Flower Child/Princess/Witch describe the clothes you wear and/or love, then please join!

The group has *really* taken off and I encourage you to join if you’re at all interested! I’m delighted with how inspiring it’s been to so many people and how fantastic and inspired it makes *me* feel every day :).

There should be some more things to announce soon but that’s all for now.  Otherwise work continues (slowly) on the dissertation and the various other commitments I probably shouldn’t have made but did ;).

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2014 Creative Publishing Round Up

Time for a brief summary of the creative things I published last year! Each section is from latest to earliest.

Poems:

* “The Crane Wife” @ Through the Gate
* “Year Forty-Nine” @ Mirror Dance
* “L’Unicorne Qui S’Endort” @ inkscrawl
* “Song from the Islands of Sirenum Scopuli” @ Liquid Imagination
* “Rep/ercussions (Carmina)” @ Stone Telling

Flash Fiction:

* “Q is for Queen” in A is for Apocalypse, edited by Rhonda Parrish
* “The Second Mrs. Chapman” in The Rogues Gallery, edited by Alex Scully

My poem “WereMoonMother” was also reprinted in the Mythic Delirium Anthology :).

All in all a very good year, especially considering everything else that was going on (candidacy exams, kittens, mono, etc!) I do hope to be able to do a bit more creative writing this year though, despite the looming dissertation and all that will entail. Writing creatively often really helps me with writing academically though, so fingers crossed!

Other fun things to share:

* Spencer Byles incredibly fae organic forest sculptures are just breathtakingly awesome.

* I’m delighted to point out that almost a third of the top 20 Journal of American Folklore articles most viewed, printed, or downloaded from JSTOR during 2014 were fairy-tale studies related :).

* The incredible “Palace of Mystery” Quinta da Regaleira in Portugal (photographed by Taylor Moore.)

* Ukranian photographer Anita Anti’s beautiful fairy-tale photography.

Have a lovely day all!

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Lovely Things

Well, I don’t really have any fascinating, exciting news (new semester’s just started, things are in motion but nothing really to report just yet) but I do have a ton of amazing links to share!

* “Elegy for a Dead World” is a video game that helps players write. It’s beautiful and brilliant, full of Romantic poetry and strange worlds. You can buy it here.

* Guillermo Del Toro is making a “dark Victorian fantasy series” for Amazon that features fairies. I can’t even describe how excited I am.

* Mirror Mirrored is very cool book project pairing an eclectic mix of contemporary artists with Grimms’ fairy tales. I’m so eager to see how this turns out!

* A thesis about dragons in 13th century Iceland! And speaking of Iceland, how about some awesome witches staves? My sister brought me back a necklace from Iceland with one of these on it and I’m delighted to now know what it represents!

* The “Brothers Grimm Wanderings” landscape photography series by Kilian Schönberger is absolutely enchanting.

* So in love with this house. And this converted bus.

* Two incredible Russian photographers doing fairy tale inspired photography – more fantastic shoots by Margarita Kareva, more surreal shoots by Uldus Bakhtiozina

* More gorgeous, magical photography by Nona Limmen – she’s very inspired by Albert Einstein’s idea that “the most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious” :).

Whew! Go explore!

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ABD! 30! Kittens!?!

Wow, so I’ve had a crazy, crazy past several weeks :). In a very good way!

* On November 17th I PASSED MY CANDIDACY EXAMS!! I took my oral exam and defended my written portion plus my prospectus for two hours and I passed! All that work and reading paid off – I subdued the fierce dragon :). This means I’m officially a PhD candidate and ABD (which stands for “all but dissertation,” meaning I’ve thus far completed everything necessary to get my PhD except for the dissertation itself.) Now on to the last, biggest part – writing!

* Then just after that, on November 19th, I TURNED THIRTY. My gosh, that still feels bizarre to even write. My birthday was quite lovely though :). It’s the beginning of a whole new decade! It’s admittedly a bit daunting but eh, I think it’s okay. I’ve had several people tell me that the thirties are the best decade of all so I’m excited for the new adventure :).

* And last but certainly not least… I ACQUIRED TWO KITTENS. Yes, you read that right :P.

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A friend from school found them outside and I just fell in love with them. I knew they were meant for me :). Their names are Grimalkin (Grimmy, the grey/cream/brown/black tabby girl) and Pyewacket (Pye, the all black boy) – of course I had to go very folklore-y!  “Grimalkin” is the name of a legendary Scottish faerie cat (and also likely the inspiration for the witch’s familiar Gray-Malkin in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.) “Pyewacket” is the name an accused witch in the early modern period stated was the name of one of her familiars and also the name of the witch’s cat in the film Bell, Book, and Candle (which, for the record, I loved until the very end when she has to give up her powers for love… what the heck?! I *hate* that motif! But the cat is still awesome :P.)

Grimmy is very delicate but rambunctious, totally fae-like, with eyes that change color from this opal-y green to a light amber and back again. She’s gray/cream/tan with black stripes and spots and “tarnished” brown ears, is super fast, and has an adorable little “old-lady” meow (another way her name suits her perfectly, as “grimalkin” can mean old woman too!) She loves to climb and she’ll even jump up and sit on my shoulder sometimes! In fact, she is very like an Egyptian Mau in everything from color to personality, which makes me think there must be some ancestor from that breed at least! Pye is a perfect Halloween witch’s cat – all black with orange eyes! He loves to play with anything long and string-like and he’ll do crazy jumps and twists while he’s playing. He tends to be a bit shyer than Grimmy, but he’s getting braver now that he’s getting bigger. Breed-wise he is very close to a Bombay – we’ve even been calling him a little panther, as he is quite big for his age and has the loudest purr I’ve ever heard (and it’s almost always going!) Obviously they are the perfect kittens for me, I can’t even begin to describe how adorable and sweet they are :).

I took them with me to Virginia for Christmas and they were good little travelers too! Mimzer, my family cat at home who I adore (I’ve posted pictures of him before!), is trying very hard to be a good mentor to them – though they do sometimes drive him crazy I fear. They like to… swarm?… and surround him, trying to study and play with the “big cat.” He looks at them sometimes like “… ? What ARE you??” but I actually think he’s been pretty lonely since we lost our dear dog Annie so I think/hope he’ll warm up to them more and more and eventually really enjoy having two little minions to boss around :P.

A few other things:

* I was one of the top referrers to the Hedgespoken project, which finished with £30,816! Thanks so much to those of you who took my word for it and checked out the project – I’m so happy to have pointed a few of you to it! Being a top referrer also means I get a special print from the project too, which is really cool :D.

* Bewitching photographs inspired by Lithuanian forests (where my uncle’s family is from!)

* Cat Befriends Young Autistic Artist– :*).

* This TED talk video that my boyfriend Josh found and showed me is crazy inspiring: Jane McGonigal: The Game That Can Give You 10 Extra Years of Life. I know she’s not really doing anything related to my own stuff at all but I’m just so psyched to see someone out there doing this amazing, unconventional work (with a PhD in Performance Studies no less!)

Have a beautiful, magical new year everyone – it’s going to be a great one! :)!

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Sickness, AFS, and Other Updates!

So you probably noticed that I disappeared for a while there but I am back! I sadly have been very sick this semester, a terrible bout with mononucleosis that I would much rather forget. I’m on the mend for sure, and back to most regular activities, but I probably won’t be 100% until December (mono tends to stay in your system for a while.) Practically what this means is that I still get very tired sometimes, have a bit of vertigo every once in a while, and am dealing with a very compromised immune system. Trying my best to avoid all the crazy colds and such out there at this time of year!

I did get to be Maleficent for Halloween though ;).

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And I was happily able to go to AFS in Santa Fe, NM this past weekend as well! It was awesome, as it usually is. It’s such a fun conference and I love seeing friends and colleagues from all around the country. I presented my section of the essay I wrote with Jeana Jorgensen for the new book Channeling Wonder: Fairy Tales on TV, which I’ve written about before, and it went well! Wayne State University Press also hosted a book launch/reception that was very cool to attend :). I’m the new junior co-convenor (with Victoria Harkavy) for the Folklore and Literature section too, which has a lot of awesome stuff planned for the next few years!

A few other things of note:

x. New Poem in the fantastic Through the Gate #5!

x. This very thoughtful review of A is for Apocalypse calls out my story! :D!

x. The Mythic Delirium Anthology is officially out! I already mentioned the starred Publishers Weekly review, but here’s another great one from Amazing Stories!

x. My short story “Kitsune, Fox” from Jabberwocky #7 has been listed on the very cool StoryFox “database of vulpine science fiction and fantasy,” run by Jenn Grunigen!

x. The Hedgespoken project is so, so fantastic! I love the idea so very much – what could possibly be more awesome than traveling the country, telling stories and sharing magic in a moving theatre?

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Please chip in if you can!

x. Crazy excited for the new Sleeping Beauty/Snow White book by Neil Gaiman.

x. And lastly, I absolutely love Kat Howard’s piece “The Princess and the Witch” from the special Women Destroy Fantasy issue of Fantasy Magazine – yes, yes, yes, yes :). Resonates so much with me and is so beautifully said.

That’s all for now, more soon!

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A Prize, Publications, and Other News!

Whew, the fall semester has started and, as predicted, things are already quite crazy. I’m teaching a new course (the second level literature based writing course, my theme is “US Literature and the Fairy Tale” of course!), still reading crazily for candidacy exams, and trying to fit in conferences, article writing, reviews, all the other stuff I want to do as well!

As some of you may know, I also went on a whirlwind, awesome Baltic Sea cruise right before school started. I wanted to do a post about folklore-y stuff I saw but sadly I’m not sure that’s going to happen anytime soon. In the meantime, a few things of note –

* I won a prize! I am the recipient of the first ever annual Polly Stewart Student Travel Stipend from the Women’s Section of the American Folklore Society, presented to “an emerging scholar who shows promise of furthering the study of women’s folklore, gender issues in folklore, and/or feminist approaches to the study of folklore” :D! This is an incredible honor and I’m so happy and excited about it!

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* In other professional news, I received my contributors’ copy of the about to be published Channeling Wonder: Fairy Tales on Television (which includes an essay on “Sleeping Beauty” I co-wrote with Jeana Jorgensen) and it’s gorgeous – I highly recommend giving it a look on October 6th if you’re interested in such things!

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* The new Mythic Delirium anthology of the first four online issues, featuring my poem “WereMoonMother,” is coming and it’s already received a STARRED review in Publisher’s Weekly! They call it “a winner from cover to cover” (which is especially lovely as my poem is the last piece in the book :).) More on this soon!

* I’ve got a new poem up at the lovely Mirror Dance called “Year Forty-Nine” :).

* The International Fairy-Tale Filmography has launched and it’s lovely – check it out when you get a chance!

* Rose Lemberg’s Kickstarter for her “anthology of unclassifiables,” An Alphabet of Embers was successfully funded and the submission guidelines are now up here! She’s looking for “lyrical, surreal, magical, experimental pieces that straddle the border between poetry and prose.” This is going to be a beautiful collection and I hope I can put together something to submit :).

That’s all for now, enjoy the beginning of fall – my favorite season!

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Maleficent: Retellings, The Fae, & Embracing My Fairy Tale

At last, my long awaited post on Maleficent is here! I promised it was coming and I’m going to deliver to the best of my abilities. Because “Sleeping Beauty” is my fairy tale. I think everyone has one of these – the one fairy tale that they really identify with, that they’ll always love, that has somehow shaped their life. It might not be the one you intellectually think is the “best” or the most important or even the most interesting. It’s just yours and you know it. I love “Sleeping Beauty”: I write about it, read about it, retell it. It’s shaped my academic and creative life in more ways than I can properly name. ATU410 will always be a part of me.

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So, as you can imagine, I was practically crazy with excitement upon hearing that Disney was making this film. I’ve been following all the updates, drooling over the merchandise (and maybe buying a Maleficent doll…), planning a Maleficent costume for Halloween, and reading all the blog posts people have been making in anticipation. I wound up being able to see it a couple days early with my family and then quite soon after that again with my boyfriend. I’d totally see it again too.

Warning! The following post is FULL of spoilers for the film!! Don’t read until you’ve seen it :). There are also a few spoilers for the Disney film Frozen as well so be warned about that too?

The Especially Good:

For me, the absolute best part of the movie was the incorporation of faerie folklore with the fairy tale, something that isn’t done nearly enough and really should be.

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This really dives into the core of my love for “Sleeping Beauty” itself – it is an enchanted story, a tale about the fae world in a way that most fairy tales really aren’t.

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This embracing of Faerie is perhaps best reflected in the concept art for the film, which you can view here. Gorgeous, strange scenes and creatures – clearly inspired by Brian Froud’s work. Strongly connected to nature – perfect.

Disney's "MALEFICENT"..Conceptual Artwork..?Disney 2014
The fae are typically very much a part of nature and I loved how the film showed this, from Maleficent’s magical healing of the trees to the organic looks of many of the fae creatures. I loved that their weakness was iron, that there were so many different kinds of fae, that some of the promotional material for the film included things like Yeats’ poem “The Stolen Child,” and I loved Diaval too, particularly the way in which his transformations always echoed his original bird form – brilliant touch.

Disney's "MALEFICENT"Conceptual Artwork©Disney 2014
Aurora herself was also beautifully linked to nature. As one of the Disney princesses typically associated with nature (mainly due to her forest creature friends), I thought the way this film ran with that idea was fantastic. From her immediate acceptance of the odd, unexpected creatures of the faerie world, to her demonstrated love for the creatures of the human world, to her (gorgeous) forest themed bedroom and flower crowns, Aurora’s connection to nature really cemented her for me as the ideal choice to bring together the fae world and the human world.

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For me, this vision connects with the heart of the “Sleeping Beauty” fairy tale as well. The sleeping princess is frequently seen as a representation of the sleeping spring beneath winter, the new life waiting to be born. To have Aurora be the catalyst to forming a new world in which both fae and human can exist together fits this model in a lovely way.

It can nearly go without saying that Angelina Jolie was fantastic – nearly all the reviews focus on this and I can’t disagree. She was elegant, otherworldly, mischievous, vulnerable but powerful – Jolie clearly relished playing the role and it shows in every scene she’s in.

The way the film changes the iconic kiss is, of course, also a subject of much interest to many reviewers. I loved it and thought it was perfectly appropriate – and am, I admit, a bit annoyed with the constant assertions being made that it’s just a copy of Frozen‘s depiction of true love between sisters. What reason are we giving filmmakers to show different kinds of love when the first major subversion of the typical male-female “true love’s kiss” after Frozen is treated like old news, or worse, read as a copycat attempt to ride on Frozen‘s coat tails? True love can be so many different things and I welcome this new trend to show that.

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I also really like that the traditional male hero wasn’t demonized here either. Prince Phillip doesn’t have a big role but he’s not a villain either. Tellingly, my boyfriend’s verbal reaction to the arrival of Prince Philip was something like “NO. Stupid boy is going to ruin EVERYTHING” … and he could have done that, easily. I thought the same thing. That would have been an easy way to go for the filmmakers, right? Prince Philip turning out to be a bad guy, undermining the feminine connection of Maleficent/Aurora, yet another male representation of destructive/anti-nature humanity, etc. etc. – but they didn’t do it. Philip is a good guy, who really likes Aurora and doesn’t even want to kiss her without her permission when she’s asleep. He has nothing to do with the fight to take down Maleficent. He appears at Aurora’s coronation ceremony, not as a rival for attention or to undermine it in any way, but simply as a guy in the audience who has a crush on a girl who he thinks is really awesome. That’s pretty great.

Interestingly, Frozen does do a bit of a weird male demonizing thing, by making Prince Hans the surprise bad guy, but also tries to make up for it at least a little with Kristoff?

The Not-So-Good:

Of course, the film isn’t perfect by a long shot.

For me, the main problem is that, structurally, the film doesn’t really work as a fairy tale retelling. It’s… sloppy, for lack of a better word. There are numerous plot holes, poor character development/motivation, and several other problems. And the narrator. Oh my gosh, I hated the narrator! Completely superfluous with a syrupy sweet old woman voice, her lines about telling the “real” story are what ultimately dooms the film as a successful retelling. Because the film ends with the redemption of Maleficent and the kingdoms being united through Aurora, there’s no reason at all for there to have been any other version of the story. The original Disney tale should not exist because who would tell the story that way? There’s no reason to do so. What makes a story like Wicked work is that you can see how the “winning” side twisted the witch’s story in order to make her the evil witch they needed her to be, even though there was far more to her life than they allowed to be told. Considering the happy ending of Maleficent, why would anyone paint her as a straight villain, particularly in Aurora’s lifetime (as in the film she’s supposed to be trying to set the record straight?)

Does that mean that I wanted Maleficent to die? I don’t know. I certainly loved the character and didn’t want her to die but I think at the very least the human kingdom should have wound up believing that she did. I’ve spoken with numerous people about how the ending could have gone differently and most people seem to agree that there was something off about it. It wasn’t a bad ending, just ever so slightly the wrong ending.

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Other strange choices annoyed me as well – for example, why change the names of Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather and then alter their personalities and looks so much? They were overly silly when they didn’t need to be.

I was also pretty disappointed with the music. The original Disney film’s genius move of weaving in the music of Tchaikovsky’s ballet was so spot on and gorgeous that the score they came up with for Maleficent just felt… dinky to me in comparison. Why not use at least a little of that same music? Iconic scenes felt incredibly different – and not as powerful – without it to me. The exception, of course, is Lana Del Rey’s brilliant cover of “Once Upon a Dream” that played during the credits. Her haunting vocals combined with the way the film shows the early interactions between Maleficent and Aurora almost as dreams (note how Maleficent puts Aurora back in her bed each night after their adventures) puts a completely different, fantastic spin on the classic.

But seriously, all that said, with stuff like this going on, a mainstream fairy tale film with a powerful, complex, magical female lead is pretty fabulous and needs to be supported regardless of these problems. For me, they are small indeed when stacked up next to the good things about the movie.

A Few Other Thoughts:

What I’m really interested in, however, is that in the ramp up to this movie I’ve seen more than the average amount of “delving into Sleeping Beauty’s  – the literary fairy tale – history”, and from a much wider variety of sources as well, than for any other fairy tale movie remade, retold or sent to the “dark side”. People are being sent back to their libraries, searching google for this “Perrault” guy, buying up vintage fairy tale volumes with Sleeping Beauty (the extended version) and learning about it would really be like to have an ogre-ish mother-in-law. – See more at: http://fairytalenewsblog.blogspot.com/2014/05/maleficent-release-day-will-she-re.html#sthash.ibtJ1i9H.dpufBut seriously, with stuff like this going on, a mainstream fairy tale film with a powerful, complex, magical female lead is pretty fabulous and needs to be supported.

As Gypsy pointed out at Once Upon a Blog, it’s interesting how so much of the press for the film has centered on the history of the story itself. People want to see how this new version of the story matches up with older, more horrific versions of the tale. What’s even more interesting to me, however, is how little research has gone into many of those “histories.” There’s so much more to this tale’s history than what typically gets said and it drives me crazy to read things like “the first version of the story is Basile’s “Sun, Moon, and Talia”” or, far worse, “Perrault’s “La Belle au bois dormant” is the original “Sleeping Beauty” fairy tale…” Gah!

[For the record, “Sleeping Beauty” goes back at the very least to a medieval French text called Perceforest, a text that we know was largely cobbled together from various oral stories: it’s very likely that the “Sleeping Beauty” tale of the text, “Troilus and Zellandine,” was one of the stories pulled from actual folk narratives. How old those stories might be or where they’re from, however, we have no real way of knowing. There are several other medieval versions of the tale as well.]

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Right. Moving on :).

Here are a few articles on the film I liked:

Thanks for reading this far – I know this post was crazy long but I hope you enjoyed it! I certainly enjoyed writing it :).

Maleficent-LookHave a lovely day, beasties :).

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