Saturday, May 21, 2016

Fairy post #20 - Interview with Catherine Snell

Faerie News & Recommendations

Australian Fairy Tale Society:

Register here for the annual Australian Fairy Tale Society conference
at Glen Eira Town Hall, Caulfield, Melbourne, Sunday 26th June 2016

Fabled Nights:

Third Friday of the month, in the Newport Scout Hall (complete with open fireplace), 2 minutes from Newport station.  (There'll be other locations, e.g. Eltham Library, later in the year.)
WHEN: 3rd Friday of the month from April to September, 7:30 - 10pm 
NEXT DATES: 17th June, 15th July, 19th August, 16th September
WHERE: Newport Scout Hall (unless otherwise advised), 6 Market Street, Newport
COST: $3.00 members $5.00 non members

Claudette D'Cruz at Fabled Nights 2016
Louisa John-Krol is a proud member of SAV

Interview with Catherine Snell

Catherine Snell


Catherine Snell is Treasurer of the Australian Fairy Tale Society and member of The Monash Fairy Tale Salon. Her Bachelor of Arts - majoring in History and Literary Studies - culminated in Honours 2015, examining representation of the environment in Australian fairy tales. She attributes her interest in the latter to a childhood love of reading.


L: How did you become acquainted with Dr Rebecca-Anne Do Rozario and her PhD graduate Dr Belinda Calderone? I assume it had a lot to do with the aforementioned Salon and Society, but would love to know how your first encounters unfurled.

C: I met Rebecca-Anne through Monash as she was my supervisor for my thesis, and Bel through the Monash Salon. We really hit it off from a mutual love of reading, and Rebecca-Anne and I especially have many similar interests, including being crazed fans of Harry Potter.

L: Whereas the Monash Fairy Tale Salon is free, there is a small fee to join the Australian Fairy Tale Society (AFTS). Why did you join, and what are some advantages of joining, given that we can forge networks at no cost online?

C: I joined because I wanted to be involved in a group of people who were interested in the same things I was interested in! And boy, was I right! The members of the AFTS are so lovely and passionate about all things fairy tales and it’s just wonderful. I love the passion. One of the advantages of supporting the AFTS through the membership is that you get the opportunity to support a growing non-for-profit organisation that is not only a network of fairy-tale creators, lovers and academics but a society working towards developing resources for its members. Although certainly you can forge other networks for free, I was interested in financially supporting the development of a society that only continues to grow.

Knocking on a tree door - photo courtesy Priscilla Hernandez, a fairy diva in Spain

L: You presented a fascinating paper entitled “Cuddly Creatures and Caution: Environmental Concerns in Australian Fairy Tales” at the 2015 national conference of the AFTS, held in Sydney. For those who missed it, can you please share the abstract or a few lines of summary with us?

C: Thanks Louisa! I loved your performances at the conference, too. My paper explored the theme of environmental conservation in Australian fairy tales and I argued that the rise in environmental promotions in the stories was linked to a growing sense of nationalism in Australia that was tied to having to look after the land.

L: Any other conference papers or journal articles you’d like to discuss here?

C: I highly recommend to anyone who is interested in fairy tales to check out the international journal Marvels and Tales or to get into a bit of fairy tale scholarship through Marina Warner’s From the Beast to the Blonde - a wonderful book. There is also some interesting film analysis of fairy tales emerging in scholarship at the moment too.

L: In 2015 you won a 3-minute thesis competition at Monash University. Tell us more about this contest. How does it work? Congratulations, by the way!

C: Thanks so much! Well, the 3MT (3 Minute thesis) is a public speaking competition based around the idea that you need to be able to summarise and explain why your research is so important to anyone, anywhere and in a short space of time. It’s a great opportunity to speak to an intellectual audience from a whole host of backgrounds about the things that you are passionate about- your research! Think of it like a small-scale TED talk. I was surprised to have won, and it was a fun competition.

L: How does your love of fairies dovetail (so to speak) with your love of fauna and flora? 

C: Well they tie in perfectly together because it’s the magical environments that fairies live in that make them so special! Whether it’s woodland or the bush, I love the magic that place can bring to storytelling.

Whitfield: The Spirit of the Bush Fire and Other Australian Fairy Tales

Above: J. M. Whitfield. The Spirit of the Bush Fire and Other Australian Fairy Tales. Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1898. 5. Print.

L: If you were to choose a vocation outside of academia, what might it be? You have considered teaching in the secondary sector. Which subjects would you like to teach, and where?

C: Well, at the moment my vocation is definitely teaching! I’m currently working on a Masters of Secondary Teaching. I would like to teach English, Literature and History. I don’t particularly mind where- but the ideal school would have students enthusiastic to learn.

L: A wizard school, perhaps? Now then, have you ever written your own original fairy tales? If so, what about? If not, is that a creative path you’d consider? Would it be YA, adult fantasy fiction, children’s books, fables, gothic horror, Sci-Fi, magic-realism or another genre? Perhaps your own eclectic concoction?

C: I haven’t! But I would really like to try writing them at some point. I think it would probably be a fairy tale in the present era with a bit of magic realism. We need more magic in everyday life!

Elves & Fairies by Ida Outhwaite
L: Please share some insights or ideas about links between ecological and ethereal consciousness in Australia. Not that I’d cast disparate terms like “eco-pagan”, “holistic faerie”, “hedgewitch” or “flower fairies” into the same basket, but there is environmental appreciation across Australian Faery Arts. Our largest annual fairy event in Melbourne’s history, The Midsummer Faerie Rade, signals a season in its title, and is part of a long tradition of fairy picnics / festivals in our public gardens, as in the heyday of Wonderwings Fairy Shop in the early 1990’s. Melbourne’s Fitzroy Gardens even has its own historic fairy tree. Comments?

C: Yes, there’s a wonderful movement of people in Australia that find magic in the environment. From my personal standpoint, I am especially pleased when any of those groups mentioned are keen on their environmental duties as well. I went to the Faerie Rade a few years ago and it was lovely to see so many fairies (and people) come out of the woodworks.

L: What is your favourite Australian native animal in any fairy tale, of any time?

C: Oooh, I think it would have to be Hush the possum from Mem Fox’s Possum Magic. It was a favourite as a child and still a beloved tale.

L: How do you feel about the integration of indigenous with imported beasties in fairy tales? Our fellow fairy tale member Robyn Floyd has expressed fascinating views on this subject in an earlier interview at this blog

C: I think there’s some interesting work to be done on the convergence of Indigenous storytelling and Australian fairy tales. In some ways I feel like the tales are symbolic of early settler conflict with Indigenous traditions, in another I think it tells a problematic story of appropriation of Indigenous culture. But there are so many viewpoints to consider, and it can be quite a political issue.

L: Any other favourite characters in fairy tales - of any cultural or geographic origin?

C: I’m a big fan of any kind of princesses in fairy tales, who are able to hold their own and have some agency, it doesn’t matter the culture or geographic origin. Neil Gaiman’s new fairy tale The Sleeper and the Spindle is a brilliant example.

L: Which fairy tales influenced you most deeply in childhood, and what about in more recent years?

C: I loved a range of fairy tales growing up and was exposed to the classical trio of the Grimms, Andersen and Perrault. In more recent years I’ve been interested in looking back at early versions of those tales and realising that like any good literature I can revisit them again and again, with more to gain in each rereading.

L: If you could make three wishes for The Australian Fairy Tale Society, what would they be?

C: I wish people would continue to keep their passion for the group, so that the society might grow. I wish that we had the resources to support our members’ projects and ideas. I wish that members were to realise the profound impact they have on the society- the passion and love for it is amazing and I’m so grateful to be a part of it. 

L: How do you hope your life will unfold over the next decade... and the next fifty years or more?

C: Goodness me! I have no idea! I would like to start work in a high school, perhaps do my PhD and travel to fairy tale sites all over the world. And write a novel. Health and happiness for my family, friends and me would also be a hope for the future. 

Postscript: Since this interview, the Australian Fairy Tale Society announced that Catherine Snell would be presenting at its 2016 annual conference. Her topic is “Australian Fairy Tales and the Quest for Nationhood”. Click here to register.

Catherine Snell's Fairy Tale Blog

Fey thanks,

Louisa John-Krol  - leader of our State Fairy Tale Ring, May 2016.

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