Engaging with Fairy Tales

“The Power of Fairy Tales” at the Tucson Festival of Books

An interpretive reading of fairy tales put on in conjunction with Fairy Tale Review and Tiny Donkey literary magazines.

College of Social and Behavioral Sciences Tent
Sunday, March 13, 10-11 a.m.

If your exposure to fairy tales is limited to the sanitized versions popularized in Disney movies, you might be surprised to learn that there is a literary journal on fairy tales housed at the University of Arizona.

Founded in 2005 by Kate Bernheimer, an associate professor in the Department of English, Fairy Tale Review is an annual literary journal dedicated to publishing new fairy tales and to helping raise awareness of fairy tales as an international, innovative art form. 

Fairy Tale Review, and a recent offshoot, Tiny Donkey, attract about 20 student volunteers who are intrigued by fairy tales and interested in dipping their toes into the world of publishing.

“Working with students on Fairy Tale Review is one of the best parts of my job. Editing Fairy Tale Review has been a real labor of love since I founded it, and collaboration is the name of the game,” said Bernheimer. “The future of fairy tales depends on a new generation of readers, editors and authors who love these strange, beautiful stories, and I relish the opportunity to teach and mentor undergraduates and graduate students on behalf of the tradition. I learn as much from my students as I hope they learn from me. I am delighted to discover, every semester, that contemporary fairy tales are alive and well at the University of Arizona.”

Fairy Tale Review and Tiny Donkey provide students with an engaged learning experience before graduation, which is one of the hallmarks of a UA education and part of President Ann Weaver Hart’s 100% Engaged Learning initiative.

Joel Hans, an MFA student in creative writing at the UA, is the managing editor and the prose editor. Jon Riccio, a recent MFA graduate, is the poetry editor. Several other students serve as associate editors and even more are readers. All of the editorial assistants (around 15) are undergraduate students.

The students working on the journal gain valuable, real-world experience in the field. They are also listed on the official masthead—this offers international visibility for not only the students, but also for the UA’s commitment to providing meaningful faculty-student collaboration opportunities.

“I work on Fairy Tale Review because I genuinely love it,” said Hans, whose work with the journal was supported by a prestigious Graduate Incentives in Growth Award before that program was discontinued last year. “I know it’s a beloved journal. If it disappeared, there would be a big gap in the literary world.”

Hans said he didn’t realize how much of an influence fairy tales had on his personal writing until coming to the UA and working with Bernheimer.

“She helped reveal to me how fairy tales permeate so much of our culture,” said Hans.

The 12th and most recent issue of Fairy Tale Review, titled The Ochre Issue, will be released in two months. The journal is available from the publisher, Wayne State University Press, in print and in e-book versions, as well as on the academic database JStor. Hans estimates they received almost 2,100 prose, poetry and art submissions for the issue. They will publish 32 pieces.

Submissions may be innovative retellings of a traditional fairy tale or a brand new story that utilizes “fairy tale craft,” such as abstraction, emotional flatness and normalization. Hans explains normalization as how when something strange happens in a fairy tale, the characters don’t comment on the strangeness.

Fairy Tale Review tries to reach beyond the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson to embrace stories inspired by fairy tales from such cultures as Japan, Africa and India.

“Fairy tales have sort of been dominated by the Disney approach, which is a perfectly fine approach,” said Hans. “But we think there is still a lot of room for innovation. We are trying to show that fairy tales can also be dark and gritty and politically active.”

Hans says that students helping with Fairy Tale Review learn valuable skills such as a “sense of the writing community and the level that people are writing at. The work also helps them get used to critically reading a text and evaluating its effectiveness in a short period of time.”

Students not only are engaged as editors and readers but also may take on specific projects. For example, recently students began indexing the stories by which fairy tale they are related to. Undergraduate students have also contributed essays to the Fairy Tale Review blog.

Undergraduates can also build up publication credits on their resumes by submitting stories to Tiny Donkey, which was launched last year. Tiny Donkey is an online journal of short-form (up to 400 words) fairy tale nonfiction. At least every other published piece is produced by an undergraduate student.

Tiny Donkey is the brain child of Wren Awry, an undergraduate major in creative writing, who came up with the idea while doing an internship with Fairy Tale Review. Awry’s interest in fairy tales was ignited in Bernheimer’s course ENGL 248B, “Introduction to Fairy Tales.”

“I am Interested in the connection between fairy tales and things in the world, between fairy tales and history and science and memoir,” said Awry.

Tiny Donkey is expanding this year, adding a contest, an editor’s post, and monthly interviews with people—such as authors, scholars and actors—who work with fairy tales in various ways.

Hans cites Tiny Donkey as an example of how students can bring their own ideas to the table. “If students are interested in fairy tales and interested in publishing, they can come to us.”

Awry added, “I’ve heard Kate refer to it as a fairy tale incubator, a place for ideas to grow and develop.”

Published Date: 

02/16/2016 - 3:01pm