Thursday, March 4, 2021

Carterhaugh’s "Spellcraft" Is Like Joining A Wizarding School Especially for Fairy Tale Writers (+ Bonus Interview w/Drs. Cleto & Warman)

"Books are a uniquely portable magic."

(Stephen King)

You've heard this.

You nod your head in fervent agreement every time you do.

And you not-so-secretly wish to hold "portable magic" in your hands that you created.

But - and this is a perfectly logical thought: if books are portable magic, do I need to be a witch or wizard to create one? 

Yes. Yes, you do.


Writing books, especially ones that draw powerfully on folklore and fairy tales, seems like a special, magical talent, beyond the ability of regular mortals but here's a secret: if you're reading this, if you're curious about writing and love folklore, you can learn to be a Word Wizard. Words are spells. And you can learn how to wield them to create magic. You can become a Word Witch. Anyone who truly wants to - and is willing to get themselves a little magical learnin' - can.

Best of all? There is now a course for wannabe Word Witches and Wizards that anyone anywhere in the world can take. 

You can learn how to be a Word Witch or Wizard and use your love of fairy tales and folklore to springboard you into your new magical role!

Your course?

Spellcraft: Write Like A Witch

The place?

The Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic

You can think of it as an inclusive, accessible "Wizarding School for Fairy Tale and Folklore Writers"; with award-winning Word Witch Professors who have hundreds of hours of Spellcrafting under their belts as your guides, different tracks for Word Witches and Wizards looking to specialize, magical reading lists, a uniquely beautiful Spellbook you can literally add your own spells to (available in digital format to type or touchscreen-scribe on, with instructions should you wish to transform it into something to hold in your hands to use with your favorite quill and ink), an enchanting group of peers - all with great magic potential - who will cheer you on and point out magic they've found in the world along the way, and much more!

Yes, there are even t-shirts if you want them. (For real!)

Magic is rarely easy. It takes work, effort, and persistent concentration. Sometimes it even makes you sweat. Writing is no different. But then there are also times where it feels like you've stepped through a portal, lost time, and emerge with a world and characters on a page that never existed before. It really is Magic. But how can those two things both be true at the same time?

Spellcraft will show you how; how to survive the first and harness the second. Now there's a way to learn how to become a real Word Witch or Wizard, so that your spellcraft becomes - not hit or miss- but a solid skill, with you becoming more capable of accessing real magic more often. 

So what does Spellcraft: Write Like A Witch have that no other writing book or course has?

  • it's designed specifically for folks who love fairy tales and folklore and want to write
  • the course comes with TWO built-in fairy godmothers to guide you personally (if you wish)
  • you get invited to be part of the inclusive Carterhaugh community, many with similar Word Witching goals to you
  • you have front-row access to scholarly insight into how folklore and fairy tales can richly inform your writing (any writing)
  • it includes a magical library's worth of writing resources specially curated for folklore and fairy tale folk, like you
  • it goes beyond the book - Spellcraft is intrinsically attached to the extended resources and community of The Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic, so, if you do the course and complete the workbook, it really is like joining a Wizarding School!

We assume, if you've been following Once Upon A Blog even a short amount of time that you familiar with who and what Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic, is, so we'll just add that Dr. Sara Cleto and Dr. Brittany Warman are very active writers themselves, continually publishing creative works, as well as scholarly ones, in various journals, magazines, and books, even while they’re teaching; these women can teach AND can do! (If Carterhaugh School is new to you, or you need an overview-refresh, please click HERE.) 

Perhaps, though, you're wondering if this new writing book-and-course is really for you. Perhaps you're thinking "but what if this is too niche/not niche enough?" or "how could my love of fairy tale and folklore possibly help me with 'real' writing that will get me published?"

Dr. Brittany Warman (standing) & Dr. Sara Cleto
The Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic

We thought we'd take some of the questions to our Magical Professors friends of Carterhaugh, Dr. Brittany Warman and Dr. Sara Cleto, and ask them directly.


Hi Brittany and Sara!

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions about Spellcraft. It's a HUGE resource - over 100 pages, with bonus options on top too - so we want to be sure our OUABlog readers get a good idea of just how unique Spellcraft is, and how it's been created specifically for writers just like them.

First of all, how would you "elevator pitch" Spellcraft to a folklore and fairy tale fan who's looking for a way to access the wizardry of story writing?

Accessing the magic of writing can be like trying to capture a will-o’-wisp (complete with getting lost in various swamps of despair)! If you’ve read a library’s worth of advice and none of it can connect your love of fairy tales and folklore to writing the stories of your heart, we get it. Enter Spellcraft: Write Like A Witch. We created a tailor-made grimoire for writers who prefer a little wonder in their world, and it's filled with keys to help unlock quality "spellcraft" that’s unique to you. Words are spells  - as certified folklore and literature experts we can prove it! - and writers are witches. If you’re wishing you could find that elusive portal to the magic of writing and you’re passionate about creating fairy-tale and folklore-infused work, Spellcraft is for you!

How is Spellcraft different from other "how-to-write" books and courses?

We made Spellcraft: Write Like a Witch because writing is hard enough without pretending it’s just for melancholy bros. Because there are tools, prompts, and inspiration galore for writers who steep themselves in magic, folklore, and fairy tales and we’ve pulled them together just for those writers. If you want to write with confidence and to feel like writing is fun again, this is for you!

Why will writers who love fairy tales and folklore find the writing tips and exercises in Spellcraft more relatable than regular books?

The prompts and tips in Spellcraft were all written with lovers of fairy tales and folklore in mind. It’s literally custom-made for you. There are sections titled “20 Ways to Start a Fairy-Tale Retelling” and “Folklore & Worldbuilding.” You’re just not going to see that kind of focus in other writing books.

I love folklore and fairy tales but what if I don't really want to write a fantasy novel, a fairy tale retelling, or kid lit (which is what people usually think about when they hear you've written something using folklore or fairy tales)? What other genres can Spellcraft be used for?

The great thing about fairy tales and folklore is that they are “all genre friendly”! You can find fairy tales in fantasy, mystery, sci-fi, literature, ad copy, scripts, romance, horror, YA.. all of them! The tools in Spellcraft can be customized for any genre that appeals to you.

That said, while there is a ton of material in Spellcraft about fairy-tale retellings in particular, there are also tips and exercises about other genres. We talk about “The Art of the Ghost Story,” for instance, and how fairy tales can help shape memoir. There’s also a lot of writing advice and tools that aren’t genre-specific - as long as you’re interested in fairy tales and folklore, these are materials that will resonate with you!

Can Spellcraft help me with my non-fiction?

Absolutely! Folklore is a huge part of everyday life, so it can also be a powerful force in non-fiction. And there’s tons of writing advice and inspiration that can be applied to non-fiction, from discussions of folklore itself to tips for writing dialog to guidelines on starting a writing group and giving (and getting!) useful feedback.

I want to write a memoir but my life isn't exactly magical, even though I love reading fairy tales. How can using the Spellcraft workbook and doing the course help me write something like that?

There’s a prompt and corresponding exercise in Spellcraft that will help you do exactly this! It will help you see your life, and all its non-magical events, through the lens of a fairy tale. We’ve used it with dozens of students, and we’ve seen its power first-hand!

Then again, what if I really DO want to write a retelling of a fairy tale or folktale - a GOOD one - how will Spellcraft help me write something fresh and, well, "good"? Can Spellcraft help me avoid the dreaded cliched fairy tale retelling pitfalls?

Yes! We talk a lot in Spellcraft about what makes something a good fairy-tale retelling, and we take a look at what can make a retelling fall flat, too! Between the many (many) fairy-tale prompts, the close-ups on some of our favorite fairy-tale retellings, and a deep dive into a retelling that just doesn’t quite work, you’ll be armed with a ridiculous amount of knowledge and strategies for crafting your own successful retelling.

Spellcraft help me get my fairy tale/folklore-based work published?

If you’re interested in publishing your work, we put together a special package called Bewitch: Getting to Publication, which you can grab along with Spellcraft! If you don’t know where to begin or you're feeling discouraged after another rejection or maybe you'd just like to figure out how to make publishing easier and less stressful, Bewitch is definitely for you! Bewitch gives you access to our submission tracker to keep your pieces organized, a publication-ready checklist to make sure you're setting your submissions up to succeed, insider knowledge on some of our favorite fairy-tale-friendly markets, and a template for submitting your work.

I want to write but I seriously-no-joke have
zero time. I can't even watch Netflix like regular people! Is there some magical way to write anyway? Does Spellcraft have something that can help me too? What about if what I truly want to write is a novel? Can Spellcraft help me do that or am I forever doomed to write flash fiction and short poems until I a) win the lottery or b) can free up hours of my schedule?

Oh yes. If you’re in this place (we call it the “I’m going to die if I have to write today but I will also die if I don’t write today” place), we’ve whipped up another toolkit for you called Magic Momentum: Master Your Writing in 15 Minutes a Day. It’s basically all the tools, rituals, and mindset practices that we used to write and finish our dissertations for our PhDs (basically - 300+ page books that we revised a million times.) It was BRUTAL, and we wish we’d had Magic Momentum at the time - but it’s our hard-won knowledge of how to write and keep writing when the situation is dire!

Finally, if Spellcraft was a magical helper in a fairy tale, who would it be (and why)?

Pretty sure Spellcraft would have to be Cinderella’s fairy godmother. There’s even a fairy godmother pep talk in Magic Momentum to help you get to the ball/ finish your manuscript!

Thank you for answering our questions about your new (incredibly expanded) Spellcraft course and workbook! 


Write Like A Witch


- and you can begin making your own portable magic immediately.


Words are spells.

Writers are witches.




Image credits from top: photographer/artist unknown, The Secrets by Mikeila Borgia, Personal by Valeria Heine Photography, Neverending story by Patryk Morzonek, Fiction by Dasha Pears, Official Carterhaugh Portrait of Dr.s Warman & Cleto, Floating Books/Red Library (cropped) by Zuzana Uhlíková, Every real story is a neverending story by Joan Carol Photography, With books by Elena Tatulyan, Carterhaugh's promotional pic for Spellcraft, Spellcraft Workbook Cover by Carterhaugh. official logo of The Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic

Monday, March 1, 2021

"Once Upon A Time in Japan" Project Makes Us Want To Hunt Down All the Japanese Variants of These Tales

(Please note: credit not given on project page to identify the artist who created the banner)

 "What if fairy tales of our childhood would have happened in old Japan?"

That's the question put to a group of illustrators in Spain for a collaborative project in 2017, which makes for an interesting intercultural study of both fairy tales and Japanese folklore as seen and combined by outside peoples (both the stories, all of which shown here are referring to the German origin in the tales, even more than the American Disney lens, as well as Spanish interpretation of Japanese storytelling, culture, and folkloric characters).

Snow White by Aitor Prieto

There's definitely a subtext here showing how universal the tales of fairy tales are; that they are human stories, but we very much wish this project had included Japanese illustrators in the mix and had been expanded to Japanese writers, so they would write those stories rooted in their culture, as suggested by the illustrations.

Red Riding Hood by Nuria Tamarit

We feel there's a lot that could be unpacked here, in both positive and negative terms, but for now, we are thrilled to see a different lens applied to well-known fairy tales, which helps everyone look at them differently, and reminds people that people all over the world are people and that these tales resonate, no matter what form they take. 

Bremen Town Musicians by Xulia Vicente

It's not an approach without some risk though, For example, it is a little jarring to see a Japanese version of Cinderella as your brain figures out the multiple issues it just hit on. For one, most fairy tale fans these days are aware that one of the oldest variants found was from China (not Japan) and the illustration below isn't, perhaps, as clearly Japanese in style and design as it could be to distinguish this a different interpretation. To add further disruption, the character fondly considered to be the "Japanese Cinderella", Chūjō-hime, is depicted quite differently due to the fact that there is no "shoe" and "prince". Or perhaps that's just us being picky. Whatever the case, these are important conversations to have when considering other cultures, but it's also worth acknowledging that this doesn't make the idea of considering other settings (and how to represent that) as being invalid. The commonality is a love of fairy tales in "different clothes" and that can be very unifying. The important key here, though, is that a common love of something, while good, isn't enough. Using that commonality, however, to open the door to respectful and constructive conversations that aid proper representation can build bridges and bonds where nothing else could. (Yay for fairy tales!)

Cinderella by Alfonso Salazar

It's no secret that one of the big reasons we at Once Upon A Blog love fairy tales so much is that they show us how the human experience is the same all over the world while simultaneously showcasing just how widely variant the flavors of those experiences can be; they celebrate our shared experience as well as our cultural differences, and, as complicated as explaining those two things can be, fairy tales do it simply and clearly, and encourage an appreciation of people and peoples from every corner of the planet.

Continue scrolling down for some more lovely, interesting, and thought-provoking interpretations!

Bluebeard by Marina Vidal
The Wolf & the Seven Six Kids by Cristian Robles
Snow Queen by Aliz Fernandez
Sleeping Beauty by Miquel Muerto
Pinocchio by David Navarro
Puss In Boots by Paco Sordo
Snow White (Evil White) by Raquel Rodenas

There are more illustrations we haven't included here, so be sure to go check out all the various artist's contributions on Behance HERE.

The illustrators involved in this project are: 

Aitor Prieto, Alicia Fernández, Héctor Molina Fernández, David Navarro, Raquel Ródenas, Paco Sordo, MªLaura Brenlla, Elena Serrato, Jordi Villaverde, Michael Sanchez, Miquel Muerto, Cristian Robles, Adrián Rodríguez, Xulia Vicente, Núria Tamarit, Marina Vidal

All the individual portfolios can be found via this project page by scrolling to the bottom and seeing the list of "owners" for the project.

Are you pumped to read some Japanese "fairy" tales? We recommend the book "Once Upon A Time in Japan" by Japan Broadcasting Corporation (Nhk) (Author) Roger Pulvers (Translator) Juliet Carpenter (Translator), to get you started, though there are many beautiful individual-tale books and collections out there. [Please note this book has no relation to the project in this post!] Each Japanese tale (told in Japanese but translated to English) is illustrated by a Japanese artist, with an eye to representing their beloved tales and culture beautifully and magically for modern readers. (Amazon has a great preview showcasing the variety of illustrations used for different tales, which you can see HERE.)

Here is the blurb and a list of the tales included:

When wily animals, everyday people and magical beings come together in a collection of Japanese fairy tales, wonderful things are bound to happen.

Each story is brilliantly illustrated by a different talented Japanese artist. The tales recounted here are among Japan's oldest and most beloved stories. Entertaining and filled with subtle folk wisdom, these retold stories have been shared countless times in Japanese homes and schools for generations. Like good stories from every time and place, they never grow old. Kids (and their parents ) will enjoy hearing these stories read aloud on the accompanying CD.

The fairy tales and classic stories in this collection include:

  • The Wife Who Never Eats--the story of a man who learns the hard way the evils of stinginess.
  • The Mill of the Sea--the story of how a greedy man was responsible for the saltiness of seawater.
  • The Monkey and the Crab--the crabs teach a tricky monkey a lesson in fairness and honesty.
  • The Magical Hood--an act of kindness reaps great rewards.
  • Sleepyhead Taro and the Children--a story about what can be accomplished at the right time, and with the right help and the right spirit.
  • The Fox and the Otter--how a fox pays the price of deceit and selfishness.
  • The Gratitude of the Crane--a story about the rewards of kindness and the danger of curiosity.
  • The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter--a girl who starts life very tiny turns out to be big in many ways.