Dressing the Bones of Old Tales: An Interview with Rosalynde Vas Dias

Fairy Tales starts on Sunday, July 10. The class runs for 6 weeks and is offered sliding scale $160-275. Long-time Frequency enthusiast, instructor, and board member Rosalynde Vas Dias will guide you as you rediscover fairy tales. She took the time to talk with us a little about why fairy tales are the most important form you might not know you’ve been missing.

There are still some spots open. Register today!

FREQUENCY: Why are fairytales useful to writers of all ages and genres?

ROSALYNDE: Fairy tales or other received stories are like a rag-bag or button box the writer can turn to at any point in a story or poem to see what might be useful there. Sometimes a folk or fairy tale might provide an entire foundation or framework for a novel or linked short stories or linked poems. In other circumstances, the writer might just steal a little element to tweak a character or create a mood.

Literary authors like A.S. Byatt & Margaret Atwood have used fairy tale elements in ‘serious’ fiction and Helen Oyeyemi seems to have built all or most of a fine career on borrowing heavily from the fairy tale form. Indeed, the strange flatness of the fairy tale almost begs the writer to re-create and re-imagine new permutations to dress the bones of old tales.

F: How have fairytales influenced your own work? Which are your favorites?

R: I think the most obvious way that fairy tales have affected my own work is simply that they were among the first stories I heard or read on my own.   So, they were places I borrowed from to make narratives for myself which would have been for amusement only or wish fulfillment maybe. Later—in high school or college—I wrote one or two things that directly connected to a fairy tale or mythical tale, but I think I also wanted to use other things—relational things maybe—the way characters are bound together in service to a narrative or an outcome—they must do what they will do. Also, anyone who’s read my work or heard me read might guess that transformation fascinates and worries me—though I would credit religion and nature as provoking that preoccupation as well as all my childhood reading (except did I separate those things in my mind neatly or were they all part of a private cosmology?).

My dad read me Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales pretty early on & then I read them for myself when I could. Wilde’s stories are tragic, socially pointed, & often ending with strong Christian messages. I don’t know if I loved it, but the Hans Christian Anderson tale, The Tinderbox was quite vivid to me—I was a dog-obsessed child and there are three dogs in that story that function more like djinn. One dog has eyes as big as saucers and guards a chest full of copper, the second dog has eyes as big as millstones and guards a chest of silver and the third dog has eyes as big as the Round Tower and guards a chest of gold—now I know I must have loved the progression of the largeness of the dogs’ eyes and the guarded wealth—that’s internal & inscrutable logic. Also, this story required my father to explain both what a tinderbox was and what a millstone was (our neighbor, incidentally, had some outdoor steps made from millstones so that would have certainly come into the vocabulary lesson that ran parallel to the reading of the story).

F: What will the class sessions be like?

R: I like to begin with a little bit of writing time and that is often a good way to close as well.   After the warm-up writing, we’ll discuss the reading, maybe do some reading aloud & possibly some processing of writing progress/goals. There should be plenty of time each week for a critique component, but I don’t necessarily want that to dominate the class.

 F: What excites you most about the class?

 R: Nerdtastically, the reading material & other source material I’ve been gathering together is the most exciting part for me. I like to offer audio-visual resources for writers to look at as well as course reading & there’s no shortage of fairy tale narratives and/or imagery out there in pop culture. I think one is always drawn to teach what one wants to study and I could spend a long time with fairy tales and not grow bored.

 F: Word association! 

R: Witch – Bernadette Peters

Unicorn  – Peter Beagle

Shoes – dancing to your death?

 

 

Rosalynde vas Dias’s poetry has appeared in Crazyhorse, The Cincinnati Review, West Branch, The Pinch, Laurel Review, The Collagist, The Four Way Review, and elsewhere. Her first book, Only Blue Body, won the 2011 Robert Dana Award offered by Anhinga Press.  In the fall of 2014, a selection of her linked poems, ‘Sweet Herald’, was a Campbell Corner Distinguished Entry.

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