Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Fairy post #4

Sirens - Oceanides - by Gustave Dore

February Faery events in Victoria:

Melbourne Fairy Tale Ring: 

Sunday afternoon, 1st February
3pm, City Loop, Melbourne. Email Louisa for location.
Mermaids, Selkies, Sea-merrows and other red-caps;
wolves to waterhorses, ghouls to glashtin...
Meet NSW storyteller Jenni Cargill-Strong visiting from The Story Tree Company
& Toby Eccles with Tentelina and the Wolves and a Selkie tale or three.

Mermaid Music: 

Sunday evening, 22nd February 
6:30pm-7:30pm, Prana House, Yoga Temple 885 High St, Thornbury, Melbourne. Book: Homepage    Facebook
The Sustainable Living Festival

Fairy Tale Rings have sprung from the Australian Fairy Tale Society and as one of its hosts, I'm gathering fey ventures to beam here. There's also a blog on the AFTS link above - and a forum.

Midsummer Faerie Rade 2015

Rave Rade Review

by Louisa John-Krol

The Midsummer Faerie Rade 2015 by Golden Owl Events

Hundreds of fairies swarmed the streets and gardens of Melbourne on Sunday 18th January 2015. We spanned all ages and styles of magical personae: sylvan damsels in diaphanous gowns and garlands; elderly mages bearing staves, wiccan women, gallant elf kings guiding their host with pride, a gangle of pirates, a spangle of gypsies, dogs with wings, healers with rainbow dreddies, greenmen, steampunk pixies, goths, toddlers with dino tails - or were they caterpillars? - also giant moths, and a charge of flower fairies in tutus, rainbow wigs & wings, from buffeting fluff to full pelting branches. Other costumery included mirror faces, necromancer capes and peacock feather fantails. I wore a carnival hat and long embroidered silk coat. There were tiaras, leafy crowns, body-hugging lycra with moonboots, and revellers in romanesque togas, touting tattooed tummies. Dancing through streets with us were a side of morris dancers, Brandragon (Northwest Clog Morris). 

After assembling in Treasury Gardens we flocked to the steps of Parliament. We filled them. Pics below: courtesy of Burton Imagery (thanks Andre Burton for permission to beam). 

A Parliament of Fairies - Midsummer Faerie Rade 2015 - above & below by Burton Imagery
Yes, the collective noun is a Parliament of Owls; well it's a Golden Owl Event, so... 
...purple fairy, front row with yellow bubble-wand, told me sweet charitable ideas... 
We frolicked down Bourke St to the old post office, tipping buskers and parading for tourists who leapt into our midst to photograph a Melbourne custom. Next, we slanted through an Arcade - passing one of my favourite witchy stores, Spellcraft - and swept back up the hill, this time on Collins St, trailing our fingers through leaf bespeckled waterfall-walls, peeping at baby birds under benches, jigging with pied pipers, stomping with bell-beribboned dancers, and parting for taxis that our elf-king called “yellow steads”.

Once back in the park, following a picnic and raffle (with donations from Fable Workshop & other magical contributors), we encountered such artistry as Mermaid Music (voices, chimes, table harps), crystal ball juggling from Ruccis, creative cupcakes, hoola hoops and - by my request - fairy storytelling. Roslyn Quin gave us stories of wild whimsy. 
Roslyn Quin, photo by Judith Gray

Treasury Gardens, photo by Judith Gray
I’d recommended Roslyn, having heard her storytelling at The Monash Fairy Tale Salon and Words on the Wind via Storytelling Australia Victoria. Already Faerie Rade royalty, she was a boon for fairy tales.

The photo of Roslyn Quin below will be enlarged with permission & removed if such is requested. It's a superb picture, from Roslyn's Facebook, posted by its photographer Snap Happy Ian.

Roslyn Quin by Snap Happy Ian
Origins of most fantasy characters are stories... from books, dreams, mouths or memories of ancestors, long before cameras, film, internet, video games or mobile phones. What is a fairy without a tale? The shift from oral to visual focus since Shakespeare's time might have reached a feverish pitch; but the dilemma has provenance. Consider Byron’s lines, in praise of the Medici Venus sculpture:

“Away! - there need no words, nor terms precise,
The paltry jargon of the marble mart,
Where pedantry gulls Folly - we have eyes.”
(Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, circa 1812, by Byron)

Wordsworth disagreed, suggesting the sculptor (if not the poet) had turned his back on Venus. Later, the great historian Kenneth Clark took Wordsworth’s side, remarking that Byron wasn’t using his eyes at all and “like most of his class and temperament, had himself been gulled by fashion”. 

In the late 19th century, Yeats hinted at perception beyond seeing:

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true;
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face.
(When you are old, circa 1892, by Yeats)

Perhaps artistic sensibility is an ever-shifting dialectical current? Faeries, Muses, Graces - natural allies of the Arts - spring from an alchemy that defies mortality. As William Blake declared, “Energy is eternal delight”. But what kind of energy? Perhaps both sensual and the heat of philosophic-poetic expression? Somewhere in the middle, Fairy and Tale meet.

Golden Owl Events, especially Olivia, deserve commendation for treating Melbourne to this annual picnic-rade, now spangling to its 5th year. With fairy tales entering the mix, I call upon the storytelling community, folklorists and fantasy authors, to join the next Rade, Sun 17th January 2016.

In keeping with the owl theme, I’ve included in this post (below) two paintings by Australian singer/illustrator Kristine Allan

Boobook Owl print by Kristine Allan
Boobook Owl by Australian singer-illustrator Kristine Allan

Can you spot my unicorn glove puppet, Ever-Sage? Peeping out near my blue wonderland hat. (She's since fallen in with sunflowers in a garden of minstrels, befriended an owl and slapped a lobster by a lava lamp. Faeries!)
Andre of Burton Imagery

Golden Owl Events are viewable on Facebook or their Website
or cybergalleries, such as Burton Imagery & Hummingbird Pictures 
(Log into Client Galleries, Click Mystical Art folder); or by googling Midsummer Faerie Rade, or... coming along!

Fey thanks to Liv, Roslyn & their Raders - Louisa John-Krol

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Fairy post #3: conference & review

Mermaid Mirror photographed by Louisa 1990s
Sunday 21st June: Australian Fairy Tale Society’s 2015 annual national conference, Winter Solstice, NSW Writers’ Centre:  Transformations: spinning straw into green and gold (abstracts due 30th January) Details 

Wednesday 14th January: Mabinogion - Myth and Reality (re. ancient Welsh fairy tales), 10am workshop & free 3pm story-share: Ballarat Art Gallery

Sunday 18th January: Midsummer Faerie Rade, with storyteller Roslyn Quin, start in Treasury Gardens 1:30pm. Info at Golden Owl Events

Bitter Greens & Golden Memes: review of Re-spinning the Magic

Re-spinning the Magic, with fantasy author Kate Forsyth, ran at Writers Victoria in 2014: scholarship, anecdotes, illustration, discussion, pre-Raphaelite shawl flowing over a podium; and authentic storytelling (telling without reading): a dramatic performance of a Scottish tale about a ring-stone worn hollow by elements, through which the protagonist saw/heard visions. Kate drew the gem from a miniature hut, alerting us to her new book The Puzzle Ring.

Kate has loved reading and writing fairy tales since childhood. Her focus is fantasy (for various ages), exploring terror and isolation of incarceration, prompting a seven-year journey of writing Bitter Greens, a dark, sexy novel from the viewpoint of Rapunzel, on which Kate wrote a PhD thesis. Her research included maiden towers, French vegetative myths (e.g. Florece & Blanc Fleur); Greek myths Danae & The Golden Shower and Cupid (Eros) & Psyche; Till we have Faces by C.S. Lewis; and Stuart Gray’s The Stone Cage: Rapunzel from the perspective of a witch’s cat. 

Seeking a seat beside a brilliant young fairy tale academic, Dr Rebecca-Anne Do Rozario (blog: Doc in Boots), whom I met through the Monash Fairy Tale Salon, I mentioned how I’d just discovered Kate’s books in WV’s e-news and bought The Impossible Quest in Readings by our State Library. Rebecca-Anne had read Kate’s Rapunzel retelling, Bitter Greens. I misheard. Amid hushed chatter, it sounded like “Better eat your greens”. Linguistic curls bounce well with fairy tales. And Kate has a musical ear for language. A rationalist might wonder if early optical injuries prompted compensatory auditory advancement. (Kate Forsyth is the first Australian to receive an artificial tear-duct.) Or fey magic, honed by passion for reading? There’s rhythm and rhyme, a skip and a hop in fairy tale phrasing; or as Kate elaborates: memorable poetic devices such as repetition, alliteration, assonance and onomatopoeia. “Bitter greens” can be - well, onomatopoeic. 

Other features of fairy tales that Kate spelled out include abstract style (e.g. golden bird); numbers and patterns; pure distillation of plot; and binary opposition with scope for imagination. Moreover, fairy tale language is archaic. Is this why so much fantasy stands a strong chance of longevity? It isn’t strapped to faddishness of pulp fiction, shambling shoe-gaze of street-credibility, or self-consciousness of the literati. It also clears other hurdles, like tendentiousness of the polemicist, or pride of the patriot. Even if there is a moral to the tale - say, a wishing well favouring the least greedy of three sisters - fairy tales encompass a larger space than other genres. We’re given a wide berth and a long rein to deal with taboos at our own pace, in our own way, thanks to metaphors. A gift of distance and time. Like the effort of digesting a nourishing vegetable. She hints at this in her character Quinn’s appraisal of riddles: “Riddles make us think harder and deeper and stronger. They make us look at the world aslant” (p.158, The Impossible Quest). 

In a tribute to anthropologist Joseph Campbell, Kate described the fairy story as “the one shapeshifting yet ever constant tale that we tell”, helping to explain the current boom in fairy tale scholarship. Apparently the past 25 years brought a renewed respect for fairy tales. Let’s hope the next 25 elevate fantasy to status of literary fiction. Long overdue.
Half a century ago, Rapunzel ostensibly exemplified passive womanhood - languishing, awaiting rescue by a prince. Deeper studies debunk this. Rapunzel’s creator, Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force, belonged to a movement of proto-feminists, living in a convent, inventing fairy tales for each other. Charlotte rescued a lover 11 years her junior, who was locked in a tower. Disguising herself in a bearskin, she slipped in with a troupe of minstrels and plotted his escape. Although later punished for seducing him, she had the last word by publishing Rapunzel in 1697. 

A listener asked: “If fairy tales reflect the times in which they’re told, might matriarchalism of some revivals indicate emergent feminism?” Films Frozen and Maleficent were cited. (I love Kate’s quip that Disney’s latest Aurora’s sleep was “more of a nap”. Alas, yes! I’d railed against this in my review a few weeks ago. The Long Dream is surely Sleeping Beauty’s sine qua non.) Kate distinguishes between three narrative strands of Rapunzel that possibly equates with a pagan trinity of maiden-mother-crone. She also notes how, in the film Tangle, the protagonist is not a peasant but a princess, swinging on vines of a palatial gym. Where is the claustrophobia of incarceration? Yet her enthusiasm is palpable. Like an architect of a cathedral or castle, Kate learned to construct plot stone by stone, from one counterweight to the next. And like Rapunzel, she became a powerful rescuer, indeed a self-rescuer, having survived a canine mauling, drawing power unto herself.
Kate’s presentation included a fairy tale timeline:

100-200 A.D., ancient Greece: Cupid and Pysche written by Apuleius.
850-860 A.D., China: first known version of Cinderella is written.
C. 1300: Troubadours spread tales across Europe. 
C. 1500: One Thousand and One Arabian Nights is first recorded.
1550 - 1553, Italy: Gianfrancesco Straparola publishes Le piacevoli notti (The pleasant nights).
1600s: Giambattista Basile’s Il Pentamerone (The Tale of Tales) presents The Healing Tears, with Petrosinella (little parsley); our heroine is born with a little parsley birthmark on her breast, earliest known version of Rapunzel. Straparola has been called the ‘grandfather of fairy tales’.
1690-1710: French Salons thrive, with Marie-Catherine Le Jumel de Barneville, Baroness d'Aulnoy, known as Countess d'Aulnoy, who invents the term ‘conte de fées’.
1697, France: Charles Perrault publishes Histoires ou Contes du Temps Passé (Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals), subtitled Les Contes de ma Mère l’Oye (Tales of Mother Goose).
1697: Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force (1654–1724) - Mademoiselle de La Force - publishes Persinette, who becomes the 1698 Rapunzel of brothers Grimm.
1740: Gabrielle-Suzanne Bardot de Villeneuve publishes Beauty and the Beast, drawing on earlier folklore.
1756, France: Jean-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont republishes an abridged version of it for children.
1812, Germany: Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm publish Volume 1 of Childhood and Household Tales (Kinder- und Hausmärchen). The red volume that Kate loved, looks like my 1973 edition: Crown Publishers, with black & white plate of Rapunzel on page 33, hair aswirl about her prince, his entreaty scrolling below: “O Rapunzel, Rapunzel, / Let down thine hair”.
1823: Edgar Taylor publishes the first English translation of these fairytales, featuring illustrations by George Cruikshank. (Kate displayed his picture of The Golden Root.)
1889: Andrew Lang publishes The Blue Fairy Book, first of a series of colour-identifiable volumes.
Kate highlighted a paradox in fairy tales. They are both Anywhere and Nowhere. (Aside from me: Sufis say “Once upon a time” means “Once and for all time”. Neverland is also here and now, and hints at the Arabic phrase “Alam Al Mithal”: The Land of Nonwhere.)
You can find the rest of this timeline up to the present, in Kate’s blog.

Paradoxically, fairy tales are both mimetic and relevant. They repeat and invent. Their champions deserve our support, when tertiary funding demands cutting-edge relevance or groundbreaking innovation, which literalists and materialists claim as their turf. Fairy tales deal in symbolic, archetypal language. Kate’s observation that Disney’s revival of another fairy heroine  (Snow White) echoed post-war regeneration, makes sense. Tell a tale, tell the time.

Kate mentioned Rudabeh, whom I’d read about in Abolqasem Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh, the Persian book of Kings. Here we have a woman whose name begins with R, dangling her plait of hair down to her lover, who impregnates her. Is Rudabeh a prototype for Rapunzel? Not so, Kate argues. A crucial motif is Healing Tears, rooted in the Mediterranean - classical and medieval Europe. I pointed out that Ferdowsi makes abundant reference to roses, rosewater and rivers flowing with rosewater as a restorative purifier, or for sooth-telling. For Rapunzel it’s rose briars that tear the prince’s eyes. True to the paradoxical nature of fairy tales, roses also symbolise passion or fertility; it is by these vines that Rapunzel’s regenerative tears flow. Could there be a clue in the word “tear” as a verb: “to tear”, to rip? Are roses the missing link? The same vines that bring thorns, also bring flowers. (As Kate, resplendent in her rose gown, spoke of how roses and thorns abound in her work, how could I not ask about rosewater?) Yet I defer to her scholarship, and note how she avouches that her focus on Tears that Heal never dispelled her interest in the motif of abundant golden hair, as demonstrated superbly in in the Scottish tale she performed, and in her displaying a picture of St Barbara: the first time red-gold hair appears in art.

We discussed the weeping for Tammuz, whom I equate with Tamuzi/Dumuzid/Dumuzi, consort of Inanna (who in the Sumerian liturgy circa 3000 BC, died to Ereshkigal before returning from the underworld). Kate adduces that Charlotte-Rose, as a Huguenot, was more likely to know of this figure through the Bible. Basile might have known about the Mesopotamian myth, since he worked for the Venetian Republic at the centre of trade with the East; but it was Charlotte-Rose who introduced the Healing Tears: evidence perhaps of matriarchal mythology in Gascony, through a memeplex or chain of motifs. Kate notes that The Thousand and One Nights (Arabian Nights) has long cast an influence on fairy tales. She’s employed its story-within-a-story narrative (a Russian grandmother doll structure) in her Rapunzel retelling, Bitter Greens, for an adult readership.  

In my collection there’s an old blue book by F.H. Lee entitled Folk Tales of All Nations in which he wrote: “Folktales may represent degraded mythology or… mythology in the making” (vi).  Kate prefers to call them “disguised myths”, providing distinctions (here with my embellishments):
  1. Myths: narratives of immortal or supernatural protagonists (e.g. gods, goddesses);
  2. Legends: narratives of extraordinary protagonists (knights, bards, sultans, mages, emperors, paladins, sibyls, seers, grande dames);
  3. Fairy Tales: ordinary folk (a peasant on his/her way to market, fishing, chopping wood, etc);
  4. Fables: narratives with animal protagonists conveying a moral (e.g. talking beasts).
Affectionately quoting Mircea Eliade’s description of fairy tales as “the easy doublet of myth”, Kate reminds us how fairy tales are rooted in ancient storytelling traditions. I like how she aims for the “quality of arresting strangeness”. She outlined contemporary fairy tale retelling forms: 

(i) Pastiche: new tales in an old style, e.g. fairy tales of Oscar Wilde or Hans Christian Anderson.
(ii) Spin-offs: further development of a particular thread, e.g. writing by Gregory McGurion.
(iii) Allusion & Contextuality: drawing on little-known tales, as in Kate’s book The Puzzle Ring.

Emphasizing “personal transformation”, revelation of truth disguised, or “magic and metamorphosis”, she cites Jane Yolen’s Briar Rose and Juliet Marillier’s Daughter of the Forest, among others. When someone asked about Thumbelina, Kate replied that it’s the mother in that tale who transforms. She recommends The Snow Child. In The Impossible Quest, Kate’s Grand Teller (albeit not necessarily an authorial voice) advises: “If you are brave of heart, sharp of wit, strong of spirit and steadfast of purpose, there is nothing you cannot achieve” (p.93). A tincture of noble Narnian chivalry? Despite loving such ideals as one who breathed the wild sweet air of Narnia, I suspect that fairy tales aren’t about internal magic alone. What about circumstance, chance, luck, fate, fortune? Faerie comes from the French Fay/Fey, with Latin Fatae (classical Fates) replacing the old English elf during the Tudor period. Magic-realist Jorge Luis Borges elucidates in The Book of Imaginary Beings (p.60) that the Latin Fatum (fate, destiny), relates to Faery folk. If we take another path, would we still find that token, charm, rune or guide? Perhaps some magic inhabits the world independently of us? Do fey folk always reward mortals for being good, brave or clever? They can be capricious. Whimsical. Amoral. Perhaps they play into an ageless struggle between harming and healing. Thorns and petals. Tearing, restoring, regenerating.

“I dwell in possibility”, wrote Emily Dickinson. In fairy tales, impossible things happen. Not merely from reversal of fortune, or subversion of norms; but through currents between binaries. Once upon a time, a little girl lost a tear duct to a savage hound. She faced life-threatening infection. That girl loved Rapunzel’s healing tears, and wrote Bitter Greens. Could there be a greater way to overcome bitterness than to spin loss into love, like hay into gold? Tears that Heal.

Review by Louisa John-Krol, November-December 2014

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Fairy post #2: dates & Interview

Wishing you a winged New Year!

Dates for fey calendars:

Wednesday 14th January 2015: Myth and Reality - the magic and realism of “The Mabinogion” (collection of 11 of the earliest Welsh oral stories, first committed to writing in 1350) with visiting UK storyteller Christine Willison at Ballarat Art Gallery (short walk from station), brought to you by Storytelling Australia Victoria at Ballarat. 10am workshop: fees apply. 3pm story-share: free. Info & Bookings here

Sunday 18th January 2015: Golden Owl Events are holding a Midsummer Faerie Rade through Melbourne and fairy enthusiasts are welcome to participate in costume. Assemble 1:30pm Treasury Gardens, Spring St. 
Info (no bookings required, but spirit of goodwill & creativity essential)

antique fairy bellows
Interview with Fiona Price, contemporary Melbourne fairy tale author who agrees to speak at a future ring gathering about her fresh spin on Rapunzel: Let down your hair:
new fairy retelling by Fiona Price
(With a puff of fairy bellows, gift from an antique dealer, to fan the magic of our curiosity...)

Author: Dr Fiona Price
Book title: Let Down Your Hair
Mode: Novel
Genre: Fairytale adaptation/Women’s fiction/Coming of age
Publisher: Momentum Books (digital imprint of Pan Macmillan) Publisher’s website
Blog: Dressing the Salad

Plot, setting & characters:

Let Down Your Hair is a modern retelling of the Rapunzel fairytale. I relished the challenge of adapting the plot, symbols and archetypes for a present-day setting while keeping the scaffolding faithful to the original. I took the liberty of adding a second tower, ruled by a different wicked witch, but otherwise events in the novel parallel the fairytale closely. Not the sanitised versions of Grimm and Disney, but the earlier, darker story! First part is set in a university, where I draw on the concept of the “ivory tower”, where academics live in lofty seclusion. Presiding over this first tower is Andrea Rampion, unhinged hardline feminist and Professor of Womyn’s Studies. Her daughter Emmeline went off the rails in her teens, and left her baby girl Sage in Andrea’s care. Andrea blames patriarchal messages for what happened to her daughter, and is determined to keep her granddaughter away from them. She home-schools Sage, and vets the company she keeps and everything she watches, hears and reads. At 22, Sage moves into her grandmother’s top floor office to start a PhD in Women’s Studies. She looks out the window, and below her, through a skylight, sees a completely naked young man. Andrea is angry, and marches off to Buildings to complain about indecent exposure. But he waves up at Sage, and his grin is the warmest thing she’s seen in her strange, isolated life. She rushes down to warn him that Andrea’s on the warpath, and begin a secret romance that prompts Sage to begin asking questions about how she was raised and what happened to her mother. She and Ryan start looking for answers to those questions, and find more trouble than they could possibly have foreseen…

Education & background:

Where have you studied? At which institution? What was your PhD topic?
I did a BA at Adelaide University, majoring in Psychology and Chinese. After completing Honours in Psychology, I won a scholarship to study Chinese at Xiamen University, where I studied Advanced Mandarin for a semester before heading to the University of Melbourne to do a PhD in cross-cultural psychology. My doctoral research was on how taking part in a international exchange program shapes students’ knowledge of an attitudes towards other cultures. And yes, like Sage, the office where I wrote my thesis was in the tallest building on campus.

How are your studies relevant to your creative interests?
In the intercultural field you gain insights about how people’s values and judgments are shaped by their culture and upbringing. In my studies and career I look at what happens when people from different cultures work together, and teach people how to manage challenges. For example, in November 2014 I ran workshops for Monash about how the Chinese education style differs from the Australian one, and the implications this has for the Australian academics who teach students from China. Understanding friction between people from different cultures is useful for a fiction writer. Writers like Zadie Smith and Amy Tan have built careers on exploring how cultures intersect, and the friction that occurs between them. The next two novels I’m working on will have a more cross-cultural flavour. For these, I’ll be drawing on insights from my career and upbringing in a bicultural family (Anglo-Australian and Malaysian Chinese). The world of Let Down Your Hair is essentially a white Anglophone monoculture, because I wanted to focus on gender. Even so, I explore value clashes throughout the novel... clashes between subcultures rather than cultures. I throw Sage, who grew up in a closed world of hardline academic feminism, into a series of different subcultures, each with their own values and code of conduct. The Handsome Prince, Ryan, is a classic tortured artist, who rejects all things mainstream and commercial. She also encounters suburban ‘slut culture’, corporate high flyers, fashion models, women working in adult entertainment, inner city intelligentsia and mountain dwelling new age types. Through escaping Andrea’s influence and moving in different circles, Sage figures out who she wants to be.
Why did you choose this particular fairytale for your adaptation?
I’ve always been a great fan of hair. Wonderful stuff, especially the way it comes in a range of different colours and textures. The symbol of the young woman imprisoned by a stronger personality is also one that resonates with me. I always wanted to be a writer, and while writing my thesis, I too felt like the ivory tower was a prison!
What else have you published / written and can you share with us any future plans?
So far, most of my significant publications have been professional rather than fiction. In 2007, Allen and Unwin published my non-fiction book Success with Asian Names, a guide to structure and pronunciation of names from 15 Asian languages. I was also a co-author for the 2014 HarperCollins International Students Guide. On the creative side I published poems and short stories, including ‘Happy As Lari’, which won the 1999 Tom Howard Short Story Contest. I spent some years having children, writing and recording songs (both lyrics and music) before I turned my attention back to fiction. At the moment, I’m working on the first of a high fantasy trilogy tentatively called Pictures in the Sand. In this, I’m looking at issues of religion, culture and colonisation. Doing this in a made-up setting with made-up cultures gives more leeway to explore these things without treading on toes. Once I’ve written the first book, I plan to move on to a modern retelling of Snow White.
Which other roles or opportunities have you enjoyed, that might interest fantasy buffs? (e.g. weren’t you in some kind of committee for a Harry Potter cyber fan-base?)
About twelve years ago I was a Moderator on the Harry Potter For Grownups (HPFGU) mailing list, to which I posted several times a day. What I loved about that list was being able to analyse stories and characters with clever people who didn’t think they were above popular fiction. I made a lot of great friends there, and visited them overseas; they’re all still on my Facebook.

Viewpoints on aesthetics, philosophy and the relationship between academia & society:

I once read (in World Tales by Idries Shah) that there are 300 versions of Cinderella around the world, from Oriental to Amerindian. There are, it seems, scholarly reservations about imposing too much universality upon fairy tales; that we risk imperialistic appropriation, loss of contextual distinction, or over-simplification. Nevertheless, I suggest that renowned anthropologists such as Joseph Campbell, Jungians, and folklore collectors like Shah, made genuine attempts to foster harmony between the world’s peoples by focussing concerns that we hold in common. There are many ways to express curiosity and respect. Where do you stand on this issue?
Like most things relating to cultural differences, it depends on what level you’re looking at. On a biological level, human beings of all cultures have the same basic drives and needs. It’s the way people manage those needs that differs. What one culture considers appropriate ways to secure food, sex and shelter may be ineffective or considered immoral in another. The cosmetic elements and props you see in well-known Western fairytales will differ from those you might see in non-Western societies. Things like apples, and cottages and long blonde hair are obviously culture- or region-specific. When you pare fairytales down to basic themes, however, most can cross cultures. The need to protect vulnerable and desirable young women (as in Rapunzel and Little Red Riding Hood) is managed differently in different cultures, but it’s a theme that would resonate across them. The same goes for rags-to-riches of Cinderella, and ageing beauty resenting a young beauty in Snow White. The thing writers and theorists need to be careful of is assuming that characters in all cultures behave according to values and social structures that are in fact specific to modern-day Anglophone cultures.
What are some of your most memorable literary influences? Some artists try to liberate themselves from influence in order to become “truly authentic”, claiming that mentorship is a stifling hindrance on artistic development. Others prefer to rove widely, believing that authors who write without reading might as well be talking without listening and that poor cultivation leads to arid vocabulary or reliance on platitudes. Scientists, by contrast, seem quite happy to reconcile innovation with tradition: “standing on shoulders of giants”. How much merit do you find in the popular notion of total originality?
As with culture, I think there are different levels on which a writer can be original. I’m not sure whether “total” originality really exists in fiction, and suspect any work which approaches it would appeal to a small, elite audience at best. Novels are written to be read, and most readers like to identify with at least some familiar elements. In retelling Rapunzel, I’m not aiming for an original plot or characters. What’s original in Let Down Your Hair is my interpretation. Setting an old German fairytale in a modern-day English-speaking country takes a fair bit of creativity, especially if you want to avoid all magical elements. At the core of my retelling is tying the main symbols to the idea of the ivory tower, and links people draw between women’s politics and sexuality and how they wear their hair. I’ve also updated the archetypes in the story and drawn on more recent ones that people will recognise from US popular media—The Humourless Hairy Feminist, The Alpha Girl, The Frump Turned Beauty Queen, The Rich Man Who Dates Blondes—and fleshed them out, giving them personal histories and inner worlds of their own.
What I love about Belinda and Rebecca-Anne at the Monash Fairy Tale Salon is that they welcomed me as a layperson, and trialled a conference format of presenting academic papers between oral storytelling and music. How did you come to hear about the Salon, Fiona?
I discovered the Salon on the night my agent emailed to tell me Momentum wanted to publish Let Down Your Hair. I was really excited, and went online in search of people interested in fairytale retellings. When I found out there was a Fairy Tale Salon, I immediately decided to get in touch.
Which other groups in Australia, China, or elsewhere, have caught your interest in recent years? E.g. Writers Victoria, book clubs, blogs, or a journal to which you subscribe?
My recent years have been very full; I doubt that I’d know of any groups of interest that the Salon don’t already know about! If I discover any, I’ll definitely let you know. 
I’m keen to develop links between academia and grass-root folk community across the arts. I’ve attended festivals overseas where book signings occurred in the midst of pageantry. So, thanks for agreeing to speak at future fairy tale event. This would be in conjunction with related groups including Storytelling Australia (Vic) and Australian Fairy Tale Society. Publishers of fantasy and fairy tales might benefit from such interdisciplinary gatherings. Would you like to recommend a fellow author for a future fairy festival? 
Again, no-one specific comes to mind at the moment, but I’ll let you know if someone does!
Thanks for your time, and please let us know when / where / how to buy your book.
Thank you for asking me to do a Q&A! It’s been interesting, with far deeper and more intellectual questions than the ones I’ve answered elsewhere. Let Down Your Hair is available as an ebook through Momentum Books and Amazon, iTunes and Kobo. If it sells over 500 copies, it will be available in hard copy as print-on-demand and Momentum will do a print run if it sells over 2,000. I’ve started a writer’s blog, and I’m now on Twitter as @FionaSLPrice.

I wish everyone at the Fairy Tale Salon & Fairy Tale Rings a wonderful 2015.