“New World Fairy Tales” began with a late-night conversation with friends. We were talking about the dangers of cultural misappropriation (we’re not normally this high-falutin’, by the way. A lot of the time, we just talk about zombie plans and what we’re having for dinner), and its absurd consequences. The subject I managed to rant about for the longest was “fairy-tale”.
Why, I demanded, do we feel compelled to pigeon-hole these dark, bloody, sexy, visceral stories as not just suitable, but solely intended, for children? For in their original, un-bowdlerised form, these are stories about the very bones of life – birth and death, love and jealousy, sex and violence…so why, why, why (this was a seriously big rant) do we make them over into Disney films? Why do we feel shy about admitting we like them? Why don’t we reclaim these stories for adults?
The more we talked, the more I could feel the project taking shape – that little itch at the back of your brain that insists you knuckle down and start writing. And finally, in a moment of wild-eyed, I-can-do-anything-I-am-invincible madness, I found myself committing to write everyone their own personalised short story, in a contemporary setting, but based on their own favourite fairy-tale.
It wasn’t until I got to the end of the project that I realised I’d accidentally written a short story collection. Since the one thing I “knew” about publishing was There Is No Market For Short Stories, I assumed that would be the end of it. Then someone sent me a link to a call for entries from the brilliant Legend Press. They were putting together an anthology called “Ten Journeys” and wanted contributions…and suddenly, one of my short stories was in print.
But (I brilliantly deduced, from a sum total of Zero Research) there was no way it was going to happen again. Not a chance. Nope. That was it. Fifteen minutes over. Put them in the drawer and move on. Then someone else sent me details of Salt Publishing’s Scott Prize for short stories.
Because I’m a coward, I nearly didn’t enter. Finding out I was one of the three winners was one of those moments you wish you could bottle, to be uncorked in old age when you’re bored and lonely and you’ve run out of violet liqueur.
“New World Fairy Tales” was long-listed for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize and the Frank O’Connor Short Story Prize, and is one of New Writing North’s “Read Regional” picks for 2012. Which isn’t bad for a collection that started with a frothing-at-the-mouth rant on Facebook.