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 Virginia Lowe and find out about her story,
"The Emerald Dress."
Virginia Lowe (an adjunct of Monash University) has had poetry and short stories published in thirty printed anthologies (both children’s and adults’) and also many on-line publications, such as Silver Birch Press.
She lectured at university – English, children’s literature and creative writing – and also worked as a librarian. Her diary record of young children’s responses to books (5000 handwritten pages) was the basis of her PhD, her book Stories, Pictures and Reality (Routledge), three chapters in academic collections, about fifty academic articles and a regular column in Books for Keeps.
She has run a manuscript assessment agency for twenty years – www.createakidsbook.com.au.
A Conversation with Virginia
1. Virginia, why do you write?
It’s just what I do – my whole life I’ve been reading or writing, or both. As I’m getting older, I’ve turned more and more to writing poetry, but also have two novels on the go, one for younger readers, and one which is probably a YA – or it might turn out to be adult. My autobiography in verse (a poem per year up to seventy) will be called A Myopic’s Vision. The academic book based on my thesis is Stories, Pictures and Reality, about young children’s responses to books (published by Routledge 2007) and I write a regular column for the English journal Books for Keeps, entitled ‘Two Children Tell’.
For twenty years I have helped others write for children through my assessment agency Create a Kids’ Book www.createakidsbook.
2. Why do you think fairy tales remain relevant today?
They are part of our cultural heritage, something that everyone can refer to in any context, and be understood. They also carry messages which are still relevant today, and can be reinterpreted and retold to fit more recent ways of thought. I’m depressed that many young people think Walt Disney invented them, though.
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 love Andersen’s The Snow Queen, especially the fact that Gerda and Kay had grown up when they fell in love and returned to Grandma. This part is often left out in modern retellings but it was most significant to me.
It may have been the first fairy tale I met, and I had to read it to myself – in the house next door. My parents were almost fundamental Christians, and didn’t approve of fantasy; consequently I heard no fairy tales from them and didn’t encounter any until I could read myself. I borrowed Kipling’s Just So Stories from the boys over the back, and I remember that vividly too.
4. What is your favourite fairy tale retelling by another author? Why is it a favourite?
I’ve recently read Egg and Spoon by Gregory McGuire which is a brilliant retelling of Baba Yaya and her chicken-legged house, with some warning on Global Warming thrown in. I loved it. Also Margo Lanagan’s Sea Hearts – the tale of the selkie seal-women of Rollrock Island.
I love them both because their starting point is a familiar fairy-tale world, but they go off into physical and emotional adventures, and even philosophy in a sparkling witty style.
5. Can you tell us a little about your re-told fairy tale?
I think it’s very valuable for children and adolescents to encounter an unreliable narrator (my own first was Esther in Dickens’ Bleak House). My Jane is not aware that her emerald green dress with red embroidery is not considered in the best of taste by the other girls at Prince Charming’s ball, but in the end it really doesn’t matter.
A taste of Virginia's story...
There I was at the Ball, put on by the king and queen for their son, Prince Charming. He was turning twenty-one, and I think it was for him to locate a wife – the Royals are supposed to marry youngish, especially to give them time to produce a male heir.
I had been invited because my second cousin, Felicity, is one of the little princesses’ Ladies-in-Waiting (actually Princess Gloria’s nanny, but they aren’t called by such a plebeian title, here at court). I had a new dress. It was emerald green, embroidered with pink and red roses, made by my mother’s seamstress, and very beautiful. I had no expectation at all of being selected as the Prince’s partner for dancing even, much less for life.
So imagine my surprise when he selected me for the fourth dance!
Want to find out what happens next?
Read the full story 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 firstname.lastname@example.org