Author Archives: amy leigh morgan

About amy leigh morgan

I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a B.A. (Honors) in English Literature in 1997. My mentor was Betty Sue Flowers, consulting editor for the Joseph Campbell/Bill Moyers series The Power of Myth. I've been writing short stories and reading fairy tales since I was old enough to do so. I've written and edited for publications ranging from to the Encarta Encyclopedia to indie magazines, but my first and deepest love has always been fairy tales. My influences are varied, but all share the qualities of being fantastic and visionary: Márquez, Morrison, Faulkner, McKillip, Tolkein, LeGuin, McCaffery, Gaiman. Diana Wynne Jones is a new passion. Garth Nix is also wonderful. Oh, and Phillip Pullman. And Terry Pratchett. And then we get into Carl Jung and Marie-Louise von Franz and their psychoanalytic interpretations of classic fairy tales. I could go on. But if you've made it this far, you might as well come to class and we can talk more there.

Stephen King Tells It Like It Is

Edmund Dulac's 'The Ebony Horse'

I’m no Stephen King, but I have been an honest-to-goodness paid professional writer for the past 15 or so years. And every time I read this wonderful bit from Mr. King, Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully: In Ten Minutes, I am struck with the raw, perfect truth of it. (Even though it was written in 1986! Before they even had teh innernets!)

Some of my favorite bits:

1. Be talented
This, of course, is the killer. What is talent? I can hear someone shouting, and here we are, ready to get into a discussion right up there with “what is the meaning of life?” for weighty pronouncements and total uselessness. For the purposes of the beginning writer, talent may as well be defined as eventual success – publication and money. If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn’t bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.

4. Remove every extraneous word
You want to get up on a soapbox and preach? Fine. Get one and try your local park. You want to write for money? Get to the point. And if you remove all the excess garbage and discover you can’t find the point, tear up what you wrote and start all over again . . . or try something new.

5. Never look at a reference book while doing a first draft
You want to write a story? Fine. Put away your dictionary, your encyclopedias, your World Almanac, and your thesaurus. Better yet, throw your thesaurus into the wastebasket. The only things creepier than a thesaurus are those little paperbacks college students too lazy to read the assigned novels buy around exam time…

Read the whole thing: Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully: In Ten Minutes

Fairy Tale Friday: The Legend of the White Snake

What’s better than a fairy tale? A fairy tale with KUNG FU!

Jet Li and Eva Huang bring an old Chinese fairy tale to life in this kung-fu-tastic film version of the Legend of the White Snake. The CG looks a little shady, and the storyline has certainly wandered far afield from the traditional version, but hey – kung fu!

For those who prefer their Chinese fairy tales to be text-based and not full of Whirling Fists of Death, please enjoy this lovely version of the traditional tale:

The Legend of the White Snake

“Good old man, please give us a ride!” Lady White shouted to the boatman from the bank. The young man asked the boatman to stop and let them go aboard. They thanked the young man and Xiaoqing asked him his name. He replied,”Xu is my surname. I am told that I once met an immortal near the Broke Bridge when I was a child so my father gave me the name Xian.” (Xian means immortal in Chinese.)

And so Lady White’s wish was fulfilled. The handsome young man was indeed the little boy who had always stayed in her heart.

Because of the downpour, Xu Xian lent Lady White his umbrella to carry home. Later, whenever she looked at it, she felt a longing for Xu Xian. Xu Xian also felt himself falling in love with Lady White. On the day he went to get back his umbrella, he asked Xianqing to act as go-between to arrange a match between Lady White and himself. Xianqing did her job well and the pair married.

After their marriage, the couple and Xiaoqing moved to Zhenjiang and set up a herbal medicine store. Lady White wrote out the prescriptions while Xu Xian and Xiaoqing gathered and dispensed the herbal medicine. Patients unable to pay ere given free treatment and medicine. The store quickly became well known and popular.

At the time of the Dragon Boat Festival, it was the custom for every household to fasten plants such as calamus and Chinese mugwort on the ground to drive away spirits. These were, of course, dangerous to Lady White and Xiaoqing, since there were spirits, after all. Lady White was by now pregnant so she had even more reason for staying at home. Xu Xian decided to spend the day at home with his wife. He prepared a pot of old wine with realgar, for realgar not only drove away evil spirits but was also considered beneficial to pregnant women. Under her husband’s coaxing, Lady White could not find a reason to refuse the drink and she took a sip, thinking that her superior magic skills would make her immune to the power of relgar. But she immediately was stricken ill and barely managed to get to bed. Xu Xian rushed to the bed and drew aside its curtain. Lady White was no longer there. In her place was a large white snake coiled on the bed. So great was Xu Xian’s shock that he fell to the floor and died.

When the power of realgar’s power faded, Lady White resumed her human form. She was heartbroken to find Xu Xian lying dead beside the bed. But she knew that the glossy ganoderma, a celestial herb on the Kunlun Mountain, could restore him to life. She flew to the Kunlun Mountain to steal the celestial herb but encountered the white crane and heavenly guards responsible for looking after the glossy ganoderma. They fought to prevent her from taking the herb and Lady White was losing the battle, when suddenly a voice commanded them to stop. It was the voice of the Immortal of the Southern End. Lady White begged him in tears to help her. Impressed by her sincerity and perseverance, he granted her the glossy ganoderma.

Lady White ground the herb and fed it to Xu Xian who soon came back to life. But he was still frightened at the memory of the snake that had appeared in his wife’s place.

Lady White made up a story to set his mind at rest. The snake he saw, she told him, was in fact a dragon descending from heaven. The sight was a good omen. She regretted that she was unconscious at that time, otherwise she would have burnt some incense to the dragon.

Xiaoqing added she also had seen something white resembling either a snake or a dragon and that it flew from the bed to the window and disappeared. Xu Xian’s suspicions were allayed by this colorful story.

Story courtesy of

Femke Hiemstra and the Secret World

Who wouldn't love a face like that?

If you’re a fan of the classic old fairy tale illustrators like Dulac and Rackham, you’ve probably enjoyed the many and marvelous artists coming up in the world of Pop Surrealism in the past decade or so. From intensely creepy (but still enchanting!) works from Ray Caesar to the light and sugary images of Julie West, magical landscapes and enchanted creatures seem to be hiding around every corner in the art world lately.

And I, for one, couldn’t be happier.

So it pleases me greatly to announce a new show by up-and-coming Dutch artist Femke Hiemstra at the Roq la Rue art gallery here in Seattle. Her beautifully realized paintings and drawings of magical creatures in the midst of peculiar circumstances make me swoon.

The show opens November 1, but if you can’t make it to Seattle you’ll have to content yourself with her marvelous blog and website. She’s got a rich online gallery and a nice selection of prints in her shop. Prints start around 80 euros, plus shipping, and are totally worth it.

She’s cute, too.
Ze artiste

Why bother to write anything at all?

How dare you want to write a story?

So I’m blatantly stealing this content from the Nanowrimo site. And I’m even lazier than that because I didn’t even find it there. My friend David sent it to me.

But since Nanowrimo is almost upon us (five short weeks, kids), and since this is a brilliant, beautiful, absolutely necessary piece of information, I think it’s okay.

Lemony Snicket’s Pep Talk to Writers

Dear Cohort,

Struggling with your novel? Paralyzed by the fear that it’s nowhere near good enough? Feeling caught in a trap of your own devising? You should probably give up.

For one thing, writing is a dying form. One reads of this every day. Every magazine and newspaper, every hardcover and paperback, every website and most walls near the freeway trumpet the news that nobody reads anymore, and everyone has read these statements and felt their powerful effects. The authors of all those articles and editorials, all those manifestos and essays, all those exclamations and eulogies – what would they say if they knew you were writing something? They would urge you, in bold-faced print, to stop.

Clearly, the future is moving us proudly and zippily away from the written word, so writing a novel is actually interfering with the natural progress of modern society. It is old-fashioned and fuddy-duddy, a relic of a time when people took artistic expression seriously and found solace in a good story told well. We are in the process of disentangling ourselves from that kind of peace of mind, so it is rude for you to hinder the world by insisting on adhering to the beloved paradigms of the past. It is like sitting in a gondola, listening to the water carry you across the water, while everyone else is zooming over you in jetpacks, belching smoke into the sky. Stop it, is what the jet-packers would say to you. Stop it this instant, you in that beautiful craft of intricately-carved wood that is giving you such a pleasant journey.

Besides, there are already plenty of novels. There is no need for a new one. One could devote one’s entire life to reading the work of Henry James, for instance, and never touch another novel by any other author, and never be hungry for anything else, the way one could live on nothing but multivitamin tablets and pureed root vegetables and never find oneself craving wild mushroom soup or linguini with clam sauce or a plain roasted chicken with lemon-zested dandelion greens or strong black coffee or a perfectly ripe peach or chips and salsa or caramel ice cream on top of poppyseed cake or smoked salmon with capers or aged goat cheese or a gin gimlet or some other startling item sprung from the imagination of some unknown cook. In fact, think of the world of literature as an enormous meal, and your novel as some small piddling ingredient – the drawn butter, for example, served next to a large, boiled lobster. Who wants that? If it were brought to the table, surely most people would ask that it be removed post-haste.

Even if you insisted on finishing your novel, what for? Novels sit unpublished, or published but unsold, or sold but unread, or read but unreread, lonely on shelves and in drawers and under the legs of wobbly tables. They are like seashells on the beach. Not enough people marvel over them. They pick them up and put them down. Even your friends and associates will never appreciate your novel the way you want them to. In fact, there are likely just a handful of readers out in the world who are perfect for your book, who will take it to heart and feel its mighty ripples throughout their lives, and you will likely never meet them, at least under the proper circumstances. So who cares? Think of that secret favorite book of yours – not the one you tell people you like best, but that book so good that you refuse to share it with people because they’d never understand it. Perhaps it’s not even a whole book, just a tiny portion that you’ll never forget as long as you live. Nobody knows you feel this way about that tiny portion of literature, so what does it matter? The author of that small bright thing, that treasured whisper deep in your heart, never should have bothered.

Of course, it may well be that you are writing not for some perfect reader someplace, but for yourself, and that is the biggest folly of them all, because it will not work. You will not be happy all of the time. Unlike most things that most people make, your novel will not be perfect. It may well be considerably less than one-fourth perfect, and this will frustrate you and sadden you. This is why you should stop. Most people are not writing novels which is why there is so little frustration and sadness in the world, particularly as we zoom on past the novel in our smoky jet packs soon to be equipped with pureed food. The next time you find yourself in a group of people, stop and think to yourself, probably no one here is writing a novel. This is why everyone is so content, here at this bus stop or in line at the supermarket or standing around this baggage carousel or sitting around in this doctor’s waiting room or in seventh grade or in Johannesburg. Give up your novel, and join the crowd. Think of all the things you could do with your time instead of participating in a noble and storied art form. There are things in your cupboards that likely need to be moved around.

In short, quit. Writing a novel is a tiny candle in a dark, swirling world. It brings light and warmth and hope to the lucky few who, against insufferable odds and despite a juggernaut of irritations, find themselves in the right place to hold it. Blow it out, so our eyes will not be drawn to its power. Extinguish it so we can get some sleep. I plan to quit writing novels myself, sometime in the next hundred years.

Lemony Snicket

Academics, now is your time!

Reposted from SurLaLune:

The Fairy Tale Vanguard Conference Call for Papers

You won't find academic glory faffing about in the forest - enter your papers!

Ghent University, in collaboration with the University of Antwerp.
Saint Peter’s abbey, Ghent (Belgium), 20 – 22 August 2012.

Confirmed keynote speakers: Jack Zipes (University of Minnesota) – Ute Heidmann (University of Lausanne, European Institute of the University of Geneva) – Cristina Bacchilega (University of Hawai`i)

During the past decades, a lot has changed in the field of fairy tale studies: moving away from typological, structuralist and hermeneutically essentialist approaches, scholars today have again come to appreciate the specificity of individual fairy tale texts, the historical context in which they originated, and the many ways in which they have functioned. This general turn to history has brought about a variety of interesting new approaches, many of them focusing on questions of a social, political or ideological nature.

However, when it comes to the fairy tale’s functioning as a literary art form, i.e. as partaking in the dynamics of larger literary fields, research interests have been much more moderate. During the upcoming conference, we intend to re-examine the fairy tale in ways that will shed light on the genre’s position within the conservative and innovative forces that make up for the historical development of literatures. More specifically, we will take off from the idea that throughout its history, the fairy tale has provided authors with a space in which they could engage in literary experimentation and self-consciously reflect on contemporary trends in the literary field. As a result, it was often tied up with or even constituted literary vanguard impulses.

Examples of this are plenty, perhaps most obviously in postmodernist writings, but also in the Grimms’ careful construction of a national Natur/Volkspoesie, the exploration of mondain préciosité by the French salon writers, the Baroque textual games of Basile’s Pentamerone, etc. When we go back further into the genre’s prehistory, we encounter even more texts, both in “sacred” and vernacular languages, which display this same propensity for reflection and innovation.

We can at least partially explain this phenomenon by considering the general traits of the genre itself: as fantastic narrative par excellence, the fairy tale has tended to ostentatiously distance itself from more realistic modes of experience and representation. Though often engaged with very tangible historical realities, its general discourse is not so much characterized by faithful mimetic description as it is by creative fabulation – by the act of weaving language into unconventional textures.

The tale’s relatively short format only aids to heighten our awareness of its (sometimes intricate) architectural construction as a textual artifact – as Angela Carter once said: “The short story is not minimalist, it is rococo. I feel in absolute control. It is like writing chamber music rather than symphonies” (The Bloody Chamber, Vintage 2006, xix). It is exactly this kind of textual control which far exceeds the boundaries of more conventional mimesis that makes the fairy tale into a world of words, at least as much as of things. Not surprisingly then, authors have used this little world of words as a laboratory in which they could experiment with the art of literature, self-consciously explore its subjects, forms, aims and boundaries and comment on other literary forms and cultural debates (both in meaning and in form).

We welcome any proposals for papers regarding these ideas. Possible topics include:

• Theoretical and historical reflections on the literary discourse of the fairy tale genre
• The metaliterary use of fairy tales
• The programmatic paratextual framing of fairy tale collections
• Literary experimentation in fairy tales
• Fairy tales and the formation of national literatures
•The fairy tale’s response to and impact on developments within the larger literary field, e.g. its active participation in literary vanguards and movements, its shifting properties in globalized literature, its response to the introduction of new media

A three hundred word abstract and five line biography should be submitted to fairytale (a)

Abstract deadline: 1 March 2012

Notification of acceptance: April 2012


Stijn Praet (°1986) is an FWO-funded doctoral researcher at Ghent University. He holds a BA in Latin and English, an MA in Comparative Modern Literature and a specialized MA in Literary Studies. He has recently published in Anti-Tales: The Uses of Disenchantment (Cambridge Scholars 2011) and is currently preparing his doctoral thesis on the Latin prehistory of the fairy tale genre. stijn.praet (a)

Vanessa Joosen (°1977) is an FWO-funded postdoctoral researcher at the University of Antwerp. She is the author of Critical and Creative Perspectives on Fairy Tales (Wayne State UP 2011) and has published in a.o. Marvels and Tales, The Greenwood Companion to Fairy Tales and Children’s Literature in Education. vanessa.joosen (a)

The Low-Down

Hi, everyone! It’s time to talk about why blog posts have been so sporadic and brief for such a long time. I try not to talk about myself on this blog, because this blog isn’t about me – it’s about fairy tales, art, writing, creativity, and inspiration. But today, it’s about me.

The honest truth is that I’ve been really overwhelmed, and failing at the work-life balance equation. Up until this past February (2011), I had a full-time job writing trivia for the Bing home page. On the surface, it might look like an easy job, researching beautiful photographs of exotic animals and places, then finding cool stuff on the internet to give people more information about them, then writing little clever trivia things, but appearances can be deceiving. One of the things I preach to my students is the lesson that the simpler the end result, the more difficult the creative process behind it.

In addition to working a full-time job writing stuff for millions of people on a daily basis, I train in aikido once or twice a week, take care of a high-energy dog (no back yard), have a relationship with a nice man who has a 5-year-old daughter, and try to maintain some semblance of a social life and give myself a little bit of down time. Plus keeping up with the blog, scheduling and teaching classes, and trying to get this illustrated anthology published.

So, you know. It’s a lot. And in February, while I was in the middle of trying to buy a house, I unexpectedly lost my job. Then my neighbor situation went crazy sour (there were bikers involved – bikers! From a gang!), and I had to find a rental house that would rent to an unemployed lady with a big dog, and I had to scrape together the money to move. Phew.

Now I’m finally getting settled into a new job that is a lot less stressful (though also less lucrative), and a new house in an amazing neighborhood. But I’m really tired. I’ve been burning it at both ends for two or three years now, and I need to rest.

What does this mean for the Fairy Tale Factory? I’m making a renewed commitment to the FTF blog, but classes are on hold until spring 2012. The anthology is illustrated, edited, and in layout, but I need to save money for an ISBN and printing costs. I’ve spent about $2000 of my own money on it so far (illustrations are expensive!), and I’m hoping to have it in stores for the Christmas shopping season, but I’m also trying to be very kind and gentle with myself about what I can afford, in terms of both time and energy.

Now you know. You can look forward to a lot more content on a regular schedule, but classes and workshops are mothballed through the holidays.

Thanks for reading and for caring!

-amy leigh

Design nerd + fairy tales = win

Have you ever wondered how illustrators choose which moments in a story they’re going to illustrate? How do you tell which image is the decisive image?

Christian Jackson has done an exceptional job distilling the essence of beloved fairy tales and children’s stories into single, potent images.

So good, right?

Image credit: Christian Jackson

See them all, and buy one for yourself – they’re really reasonably priced!

Thanks to Karen and Flavorwire for the news.

David Blair, Emily Dickinson, and Death

A bright light went out a few days ago. David Blair was a poet and a musician who was an active part of the renaissance that’s happening in Detroit, MI – until he passed away unexpectedly last week.

While we no longer have the option of seeing him in person, we’re lucky enough to have this incredible video of Blair performing an Emily Dickinson poem as a song — an a capella song, no less — that gives me chills every time I hear it.

Blair puts Emily Dickinson’s “Farewell” to Music at Detroit’s Institute of Arts from Erik Proulx on Vimeo.

Rest in Peace, sir.

The monk and the mermaid

Have you heard the one about the monk and the mermaid? I confess to having a soft spot in my heart for rhyming poetry, especially if it was written before 1900. How can I resist Pushkin’s sad tale of the old monk and his mortal temptation?

He looks; his heart is full of trouble,
Of fear he cannot quite explain;
He sees the waves rise more than double
And suddenly grow calm again.
Then, white as first snow of the highlands,
Light-footed as nocturnal shade,
There comes ashore and sits in silence
Upon the bank a naked maid.

Read the whole, tragic tale