Faerie Week: Carolyn Turgeon Guest Blog



So in Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story, I hadn’t intended to write about fairies at all at the beginning. I wanted to write about Cinderella: glass slippers and castles and rags that transformed into sparkling dresses. Not to mention pain and abuse and all that dark underside in every fairytale. But when I decided to write from the perspective of the godmother, whom I named Lil, and to make it more about the godmother and Cinderella than about Cinderella and the prince, I knew it was time to start writing about some fairies. She’s a fairy godmother after all.

So I ended up writing a book with fairies in it: fairies flitting around streams and woods, whooshing from their world into our own, their wings glittering as they rushed through the air. With each draft I brought them more and more to life, brought the lines of their world more and more into relief, and realized I actually could write about such creatures without being too unbearably hokey. It was a challenge, but we all have our gifts. At one point I tried to do some research, but there is so much fairy lore from so many countries, so many varieties of sprite, I figured it was safe enough to just make it up. (Though I did give Lil white feathered wings of the Wings of Desire type variety, and was told quite vehemently by more than one person that fairies have insect wings, not feathered ones. When even my salient argument that fairies aren’t real failed to convince, I relented and explained that while regular fairies have shimmering insect wings, fairy godmothers are gifted with the feathered kind.)


Anyway, at some point during the writing of Godmother, I found out about Faerieworlds, an outdoor festival held every summer in Oregon for the purpose of celebrating faeries and the fey folk generally. Brian and Wendy Froud are always there, plus other writers, artists and musicians, and thousands of people in fairy wings and costumes. I had had no idea that such a thing, or place, existed. It struck me that I ought to go. Shouldn’t these all be people who wanted to read my book? I figured I could do some fine niche marketing there, sell some books, seduce some wing-wearers into loving a white-feather-winged fairy, though “there” was inconveniently and rudely across the country.


So last July I went to Eugene, Oregon, with my friend Barb. I had really underestimated what it meant to be a vendor at a festival–which I had decided to become since I figured if I was going to do it I might as well do it right and do it up (a philosophy that has not always worked out for the best, I’m not going to lie). I had rented a “booth,” for example, imagining that I’d show up and there’d be a gorgeous little structure waiting for me and ready to serve me tea, not just a plot of land which I myself was to populate with a festival tent and table and chairs, etc., not to mention some fetching décor. But I adjusted, and after putting out far more moolah than I would make if I sold every last copy of my book that I’d brought, and laden with gauzy fabric and plastic vines and impossible-to-put-up tents and fairy lights and boxes of books, I arrived.

What I experienced over the next few days was an entirely mixed bag. Now there was an unprecedented heat wave over those days in Oregon, which made the un-ethereal aspect of the whole experience even more pronounced. And I did, as it happens, expect an ethereal experience, forgetting that an outdoor summer festival involving camping might also involve such earthly things as sunburn, port-a-potties, bugs, trash, and bad tempers. I certainly couldn’t imagine my own fairy creations setting foot or wing in such environs–and I will admit that I myself am not exactly the camping type. After, on the second morning, approaching a shower line that was about five miles long, Barb and I hightailed it to a nearby Motel 6, which really significantly improved our experience, and really did seem downright ethereal in comparison.


And the book selling went well, though some people were more suspicious of me than I expected, asking if Three Rivers was a “real” press and clearly wondering if I was a “real” author (and pf course other people were totally lovely, as people often are). And there was the expected hokeyness, especially from the main stage, where there was much talk of the realm and the veil being lifted and some far more elaborate phrasings I have blocked out for self-survival. But at the same time, I have to admit, there were moments that were truly magical and that seemed to make it all worth it (almost). Especially as that horrible betraying heat-wave-having sun was going down, and I’d look out and see, in that sunset shimmer, visions like an old antlered man in fur pants dancing wildly and obliviously next to a winged toddler shimmying in a hula hoop, or a slinky, green-lashed mermaid mother with a spear-carrying, leather-clad father holding a baby girl with flowers in her hair, or just a whole field of be-winged and be-horned and be-sparkled people dancing, the fairy lights from the vendor tents glowing out like stars, and well. In those moments my own veil seemed to drop, at least for a moment, and I was–almost–a believer. Before packing up and returning to the Motel 6.



Photo © Kyle Cassidy

CAROLYN TURGEON is the author of Rain VillageGodmother: The Secret Cinderella Story, and the forthcoming Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale (3/2011). Visit her online at carolynturgeon.com.