Friday 21 September 2012

Happy 75th Birthday - Bilbo, Gandalf, Thorin, Elrond, Gollum, Smug...

Happy 75th Birthday - Bilbo, Gandalf, Thorin, Elrond, Gollum, Smug...

The Hobbit is 75 today. So I thought I do a quick blog about what The Hobbit has meant to me through my life.

I’m dyslexic so reading has always been difficult, The Hobbit was the one book that made me want to read on further despite it no being an easy endeavour,  opening me up to reading other more difficult books.  Its endearing characters and  enchanting story seemed to transport me into middle earth. Through my adolescent years I was toally obsessed by it. The obsession was a good one, for instance, my, The Hobbit, illustrations helped me achieve A grade in A-level Graphics, and my painting of Gollum, an A grade in A-level Art.

Just as my Tolkien fascination was subsiding, along came Peter Jackson's, Lord of The Rings Trilogy. The un-filmable book crafted into three stunning movies, which instantly became my favourite trilogy of all time.

But Hollywood aside, its J R R Tolkien’s skills as an author (and illustrator) especially in world building,that make the stories so inspiring. His ability to weave together his love fairy tales, myth and folklore to make the intricate tapestry of Middle Earth. I'm certain if it hadn't been for reading the Hobbit and Lord of The Rings, I’d never have picked up a pen.  

Tolkien’s inspiration for Middle Earth came from his children, The Hobbit; was born out of bedtime stories he told them, about a small man who lived in a hole. So how apt it is that on the 75 anniversary of The Hobbit’s publication, I’m in the midst of reading it to my Small People. They love it. Together we read a chapter and then use my Tolkien encyclopaedia to see what the characters and places look like, and see how far they've journeyed on the map.

So Happy Birthday to The Hobbit, & roll on December for the release of the movie! 

Monday 10 September 2012

Surviving My First School Visit

Surviving My First School Visit

The last week of summer term I did a talk to class of year three students’, twenty eight children in total ranging between seven and eight. I did a talk on Fairy Tales, which was tricky as I write for Young Adults, and the usual things I say about fairy tales; the murder, cannibalism, sexual undertones were all out of the question, in fact, even the feminist’s slant wasn’t really an option.  So I decided to go for the changing nature of fairy tales and how they’ve stayed relevant to society through their evolution.

I was terrified, but determined to do the best job I could, and most of all, I wanted the kids to enjoy it. So, I penned a brief outline, decided to have visual aids and physical props, learnt how to use PowerPoint, and then tried to figure out how to talk and engage the children.

Luckily I’ve been fortunate enough to have helped at some events organised by my local book shop, the wonderful ‘Mostly Books’ in Abingdon, watching the likes of Frank Cottrell Boyce, Moria Young, and Cathy Cassidy enthral their audiences. Watching these fabulous authors made me realise the importance of passion, confidence, and most of all interaction.

So that was it. I decided on an interactive quiz using my PowerPoint presentation and props, and even decided to wear a Red Riding Hood t-shirt. With everything ready, I waited, prepared.

The day came and I went in to school to find that I couldn’t use the projector as my version of PowerPoint was not compatible with their PC – so with my nerves even more on edge, I sat down and waiting for the inevitable tearing apart – or worse bored faces!

Worst Nightmare Board Faces

The teacher introduced me, and told them I was going to talk about Fairy Tales, at which point some rather louds cries of “BORING” rose from the boys at the back. (now I was really really nervous!) So, with the children sat on the carpet, and my laptop precariously balanced on a box on a table, I began.

I started with my quiz that challenged their perception of Fairytales. I asked a question, and they all shouted out the answer – because of course, 8 year olds know all about fairy tales (that’s why they’re are boring!) But HA!, they were wrong. Using my slides I illustrated the right answer and moved on. This continued, and by the last question they thought they had me pegged and picked the less obvious answer, only to find it was a trick, and all answers were right!  There was lots of talking, giggling and excitement, and from there on I talked about the amount of different versions of fairy tales there are, how therefore they are not as predictable as you might think.

The children seemed to be really intrigued, the boy’s especially by witches’ houses made out of crows feet and bones, and the girl by squirrel slippers. We talked about story tellers, and then did a little story telling exercise. We discussed Grimm, and the up and coming bicentenary of the publication of their fairy tales. Here I asked which children had Kindles, and got them to sniff my 186 year old first edition of the Grimm’s tales – this was a particular highlight.  Finally, I finished off by using Disney princesses to show how fairytales have changed since snow white was realised in the 1939. The evolution from obedient and unquestioning early Disney princesses, whose main aim was to marry well, through to the princess of the 1990’s, Belles book worm, Arial’s fight for independence, Jasmines’ challenging traditions, and Tangled’s warnings about vanity. 

All in all it went really well, even the boys who had written me off as boring before I started were asking questions, and becoming animated and involved in the discussions. So much so, some of them didn’t want to go for break. 

Sunday 2 September 2012

Once Upon a Time we Pondered; Why do we use Fairy Tales in our Work?

Once Upon a Time we pondered; Why do we use Fairy Tales in our Work?

This is the third install met of our Fairy Tale blogs, inspired by recently discussions about, what fairy tale are, over at the SCWBI (Society of Children’s book Writers and Illustrators) British Isles Facebook page. This made us think a bit more about what fairy tales mean to us, so we posed three questions which we have answer in the series of blog posts; 

1)What do we think fairy tales are?
2) What is our favourite fairy tale and why?
3)Why do we use fairy tales in our own work?

 The first blog; Once upon a time, we wondered, what is a fairy tale?  can be found over on Emma Graham's Blog; press here. 

The second post; Once Upon A Time we Thought, What is our Favourite Fairy Tale? Was posted on this blog last week press here.

Why I use Fairy Tales in my Writing by Donna Vann writing as D.V. Hawkes

I’ve written historical adventures, picture books set in the real world and a contemporary teen novel. But from now on, I’d like to write what I would classify very loosely as fairy tales – stories in which the magical appears, not for its own sake but in order to take the heroine out of her ordinary world and give her a new stage on which to learn courage and compassion and come home changed.

In the book I’m currently writing, characters live in reality but the numinous can break through at any moment. Hovering just out of sight is a world of wonder and marvels. Why does the mountain near the castle hum day and night? Why does Meg see stories when she hums along with it, or when she touches someone? Gifts from that unseen world are bestowed on my heroine, who will have to make brave choices in order to use them well in this one.

Why I use Fairy Tales in my Writing by Sally Poyton 

In the year 2012, after thousands of years of stories been told and written, it is a hard task for any of us to come up with something completely original. So unless you have lived your entire life living under a rock, anything you write will be influenced by something you have watched, read or heard. To tackle this I try to use lots of influences to come up with different ways of looking at things, trying to bring a fresh perspective, but referring and/or commenting on what has been before.

 The best books I’ve ever read are layered, their stories constructed on foundations of what has been laid before; fairy tales, mythology, history, science… the list goes on.  They make for a rich manuscripts, their worlds seem real, and tangible.. J K Rowling and Terry Pratchett are good examples - so much so, there are now books on the Science and Folklore that’s found in discworld.

I use fairy tales in my work; firstly I love them, and secondly because they have a perennial appeal, adapting to culture as it changes. Ultimately I use them because they are about the things that matter. Love, life, death, survival. They don’t shy away from the dark matters; seclusion from society, cannibalism, incest, murder, and yet they have a universal appeal to people of all cultures and ages.
Through Mortal Eyes
is my YA Fairy Tale Themed Fantasy 

Why I use Fairy Tales in my Illustration by Emma Graham

As an illustrator I have always been fascinated how different illustrators interpret the fairy tales. I was brought up in a very art filled environment. Books, music, painting. Both my Nana and my Mother were artists and my Father a photographer. My parents collected old books, mainly children’s books, which I still have and treasure. Illustrators such as Edmund Dulac, Kay Nielsen, W Heath Robinson, Harry Clarke, and of course Arthur Rackham filled my bookshelves and bedroom walls. These fantastic illustrators works somehow infused into my passion for books and were the foundation of my passion to illustrate.

I love to read and draw, my great inspiration is from the old stories, whether you class them as fairy tales, fantasies or fables. They are full of colour, crazy mystical beings and enchanted worlds, perfect for an illustrator to create from and stories I will always go back to over and over again and always get new ideas.

Little Mermaid by Emma

But I do wonder what ‘modern’ stories will one day become the fairy tales of the future? But that is another question!

Hi there!

Thanks for checking out the blog. We really hope that you enjoyed the Fairy Tale series.  Please do leave a comment and tell us whether Fairy Tale influence you and if so how they inspire you work.