With Wish Upon a Southern Star soon to be launched in September, it is my pleasure to introduce you in advance to each of the contributing authors and to give you a taste of their work.
Today, meet Kate O'Neil and find out about her poem,
"Cinderella with Umbrella."
Kate O’Neil teaches Drama and Performance to children of all ages and enjoys sharing with them the delights of 'literature out loud'. She and her husband live by the sea in the Illawarra Region of NSW. They have three adult daughters and four grandchildren.
Kate writes poems for both children and adults and has been published in a number of magazines and anthologies. She was short-listed for the 2014 Manchester Writing for Children Prize.
You can find out more about Kate at www.kateoneil.com.au
A Conversation with Kate
1) Kate, why do you write?
I was a bookworm of a kid, and I guess my admiration of what writers could do with words made me want to do it too. Words well-used can be so powerful in so many areas of life. A good essay or political speech can be really influential in changing opinions, and fiction lets us ‘live’ lives we’d never know otherwise. This expands our ability to empathise. Poetry’s condensed expression can do this too – with real punch.
2) Why do you think fairy tales remain relevant today?
The popularity of fractured fairy tales shows the timeless relevance of the originals. Like house-plans, sewing patterns, theatre scripts, they can appear in a whole range of manifestations. The idea of ‘fracturing’ a tale makes me think of Leonard Cohen’s image: “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in” – but in reverse. The fracturing of a fairy-tale lets the ‘light’ get out, over and over again and in all its colours.
3) What was your favourite fairy tale as a child? Why did you like it so much then and is it still a favourite or has it been replaced and why?
I don’t think I had a particular favourite, but I definitely had a preference for the happy ending - particularly if it involved a baddie getting his or her come-uppance. I liked ‘Cinderella’ because it presented the possibility of transformation from lowliness to triumph, with the additional satisfaction of seeing the bullies put down. ‘Cinderella’ is a favourite now for these same reasons. There are so many wonderful re-tellings and adaptations of this story – and new ones being written; its possibilities are inexhaustible. The ‘Princess and the Pea’ made me a bit sad, because here was clear evidence that I was no princess.
4) What is your favourite fairy tale retelling by another author? Why is it a favourite?
I’ve enjoyed more re-tellings than I can recall but I’ll single out ‘Beauty’ by Robin McKinley (novel) and the film ‘Shrek’ as favourite examples of a story re-told (Beauty and the Beast). This pairing hints at how versatile fairy-tales are. They can be twisted, parodied, up-ended, cast in a variety of genres, and still have the magnetic pull of a universal story.
A favourite re-telling in poetry was the winner of the 2nd Caterpillar Poetry for Children Prize (2016) –‘Dear Ugly Sisters’ by Laura Mucha. It’s short, the humour is dead-pan, and the bullies are dismissed with a flick. Nice. You can read the poem here:
Kate Llewellyn, Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath have also written thought-provoking poems inspired by this fairytale– all with the title ‘Cinderella’. Ron Koertge’s ‘Cinderella’s Diary’ is another poem written from Cinderella’s perspective. ‘Colonel Stoopnagle’ has even ‘Spoonerised’ many fairy tales including ‘Cinderella’ (‘Prinderella and the Since’). Lauren Child’s picture book ‘Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Book?’ is a delightful encounter with a medley of fairy-tales.
5) Can you tell us a little about your retold fairy tale?
You know that feeling when you get to the end of a story? How I hated that when I was a child. Something must have happened after the last page. My poem leaves Cinderella’s future open to speculation.
A taste of Kate's poem...
If you’re writing a poem about Cinderella,
(a poet once told me) don’t rhyme with “umbrella.”
Such rhyming is lazy. It’s not a good look,
and poems like that don’t wind up in a book.
But it did make me think that some kind of umbrella
could prove to be useful to poor Cinderella.
The godmother’s gift was the fairy tale kind,
and problems of weather weren’t on her mind,
but what if it happened? What if it poured?
Such practical questions are often ignored
in fairy tale stories, but let’s say we get real
and think what the rain might do to this deal.
Want to find out what happens next?
Read the full poem in
Wish Upon a Southern Star
(release date 2 September 2017)
Pre-order an e-copy from Amazon
(or wait for the release date to order your paperback copy from Amazon)
Attend the launch
Saturday 2nd September, 2pm
at the South Library, Christchurch
For Christchurch residents and launch attendees,
preorder a paperback direct from the editor at email@example.com
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