From the Editor’s Desk
"Do people choose the art that inspires them — do they think it over, decide they might prefer the fabulous to the real? For me, it was those early readings of fairy tales that made me who I was as a reader and, later on, as a storyteller."
— Alice Hoffman
Welcome to our 20th Anniversary Fairy Tale Issue. We’re celebrating this milestone by mixing new articles, stories, and poems with older articles and stories from the Endicott archives. But even the older articles are "new," in that they’ve been updated and expanded for this issue.We hope you enjoy them!
It’s hard to believe that twenty years have passed since I first opened the door of the loft space in Boston where the Endicott Studio was born. When I look at pictures from that time,all I can think is: Lordy, we were young! That original studio space is long gone. Today, thanks to the Internet, Endicott is a trans–Atlantic organization with staff members spread between southwest England, Milwaukee, New York, California, Virginia, and Minneapolis.Our home base is now in Tucson, Arizona, at the Endicott West Arts Retreat.
Not long ago, Chandra Cerchione–Peltier wrote an article on the Endicott Studio for Faerie Magazine. She has kindly allowed us to reproduce some of her interview for that article here, discussing how Endicott was formed:
CCP: In the late 1980s, you left a full time job in New York publishing in order to focus more on your own art and writing. It was at that time you started commuting between New York and Boston, and set up the Endicott Studio. Can you tell me more about that?
TW: I’d been going up to Boston quite a bit during the ‘80s, working on various book projects with my friend Tom Canty at his "Newbury Studio" on Newbury Street. In 1987, I decided to rent my own work space on Endicott Street in Boston’s North End.It was a large loft space in the Castignetti Building: a ramshackle, 19th century warehouse with a lovely view of the Boston skyline. Candy Nartonis, Lois Fiore,and the writer James Carroll were some of my neighbors on the building’s top floor.
A little while later, Sheila Berry — a watercolor artist — came to share the studio with me. Sheila and I started a Women’s Arts Group — meeting regularly to discuss our on–going work as well as issues of particular concern to women in the arts. It was a wide–ranging group,including women working in a variety of media: painters, printmakers, potters, etc.
During Endicott’s second year, the painters Rick Berry (Sheila’s husband) and Phil Hale rented a studio space one floor below us; andtwo more artists, Anita Roy Dobbs and Elisabeth Roberts, joined me and Sheila up on the sixth floor. We all helped to organizeOpen Studio shows for the Castignetti Building, and shows on specific themes — such as "Urban Romanticism," "Fairy Tales," "How to Be a Pre–Raphaelite," and "Surviving Childhood." We also hosted conversational salons, all under the name The Endicott Studio.
CCP: How did the Endicott Studio "mythic arts" group form?
TW: When I started the Endicott Studio, my intent was to support creative arts inspired by myth and fairy tales, because of my own personal interest in these things — and I invited the writers and artists I knew who also loved myths and fairy tales to become involved in various Endicott projects.Not just writers and artists in Boston or New York, but also folks who lived farther afield. Since I had worked in publishing before this, I had already worked with many of these same people before: Midori Snyder, Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman, Charles de Lint, Charles Vess, Emma Bull, Will Shetterly, Jane Yolen, Neil Gaiman,Greg Frost, etc., etc. Most of us had entered the fantasy field together in the early 1980s, and most of us were still fairly young (20s or early 30s) when Endicott started up in 1987. Today, the Endicott mythic arts group is still a loose, informal circle of colleagues and friends. It’s more a network than a collective, and it grew organically over time.It now includes writers, artists, performers and scholars from across the United States and Great Britain, as well as a few from Canada, Australia, France, and Italy.
CCP: You describe some of the cultural exchanges that took place at the Endicott Studio in Boston as "salons," a reference to the French literary salons of the 17th and 18th centuries. How did your own salons mirror the salons of the past, in the desire to inspire and educate the participants?
TW: I’m not sure we saw ourselves as doing anything quite so noble! Here’s how they came about: Ellen Kushner and I had been friends (and housemates) in New York City. She moved up to Boston shortly after I did, where she worked at that time as the host of a fabulouslate–night radio program called Night Air. (This was prior to her long–running show Sound & Spirit.) Ellen was running in slightly different circles than me, and between us we knew a lot of interesting people. We thought it would be intriguing, and creatively fertile,to create a space where people from disparate areas of the arts could meet each other, discuss their work, make connections. . . so we began to host "Endicott Salon" evenings. These were informal evenings at the studio where people could come for wine and conversation and meet folks from other areas of the arts. The salon gatherings were popular,and people wanted to have them on a more regular basis — but I wasn’t quite up to hosting a weekly crowd at the studio. So the salons evolved into something we jokingly called "Art Bar," which was an open gathering of people in the arts at a specific bar in Cambridge every Sunday.
The French fairy tale movement of the 17th century grew out of literary salons hosted by influential writers such as Madame D’Aulnoy. So there’s a historical precedence for writers and artists interested in matters of the fantastic to meet, mingle, and collaborate this way.
CCP: At what point did Endicott Studio evolve from a Boston–based place of gatherings and exhibitions to a collective that merged with your role in the publishing world?
TW: The physical studio in Boston existed only for three years. It seems like longer because we packed so much activity into that time! But in fact the Boston studio closed its doors in 1990, when I left the city and began dividing my time between England and Arizona. However, I continued to work with many of the same writers and artistson various myth–related publishing and exhibition projects, and at that point "The Endicott Studio" became the name under which these projects were produced.
In 1997, we launched the Endicott website, with the intention of re–creating, online, the spirit of the original studio space: a "cyber–salon" where writers and artists could gather together to exchange ideas, discuss various aspects of mythic arts, and show mythic work to the public. We’ve always run the websiteas a kind of magazine, but in 2001 we formalized this by establishing the quarterly publication of our Journal of Mythic Arts. 2007 marks the 10th anniversary of the Endicott website, as well as the 20th anniversary of the studio itself.
CCP: Please tell me about the efforts on the part of the Endicott Studio to revive the fairy tale and restore its "teeth."
TW: We do this in a variety of ways:
- We publish articles on the history of fairy tales in our webzine, the Journal of Mythic Arts.
- We promote the work of writers, visual artists, and performance artists who use fairy tale themes in the Journal of Mythic Arts and on the Endicott blog.
- We encourage writers to create fiction based on fairy tale themes by providing a market for such work in anthologies and book series, such as the "Fairy Tales" series of novels (Tor Books) and the various fairy tale anthologiesI co–edit with Ellen Datlow.
CCP: How else have the research and aims of Endicott influenced the writers and artists associated with it?
TW: I don’t know if we’ve influenced folks in the wider Endicott circle to create mythic fiction and art, since most of them had a strong interest in myth and folklore to begin with. But to the best of our ability we support their mythic works, promote them, and provide a forum for scholarsto review and discuss them. Perhaps most importantly, we’ve helped to place their fiction and art within a historical tradition of mythic arts. We also place it in a contemporary context that deliberately ignores genre boundaries. Readers who love mythic fiction don’t see anything strange about reading Charles de Lint one dayand Alice Hoffman the next, or loving art by Charles Vess alongside paintings by Paula Rego. At the Endicott Studio, in our webzine, reviews, and publications, we strive to be equally genre–blind.
I suppose it’s possible that we’ll have a certain influence in the years to come as younger writers, artists, and performers grow up with the Endicott Studio. The idea of "mythic arts" as a field in its own right is one that we’ve had to forge, promote, defend… whereas following generations will take its existence for granted.And that’s an excellent state of affairs.
While we have a core of old friends and colleagues that we work with, it’s also been important to us to support younger writers, artists, and scholars in the field. I look at some of the younger writers coming up today, like Christopher Barzak, Theodora Goss, Jedediah Berry, Catherynne Valente; or artists like Virginia Lee and Oliver Hunter; or scholarslike Helen Pilinovksy and Veronica Schanoes, and I see the future of mythic arts.
CCP: Many Endicott members, including yourself, are also involved with the Mythic Imagination Institute, with the mission of bringing myth into the 21st century. Do you see myth as a vital element for survival in a world troubled by famine, hate groups, and terrorism; and if so, why?
TW: That’s a big question! Okay, I’ll give it a go: I think that as a society we’ve forgotten the importance of metaphor. Our thinking tends toward the reductive and literal, rather than the metaphoric, the symbolic, the poetic. People hear old tales about Coyote the Trickster, for example, and they say: "Well that’s not true. Coyotes can’t walk in human shape,they can’t fling stars into the sky, they can’t have conversations with their own turds. It’s not literally true and therefore it’s ridiculous, meaningless, primitive, false, a lie." But when we approach such stories metaphorically, poetically, we get to the very heart of truth, finding subtle teachings and sophisticated wisdom encoded in seemingly simple tales. Coyote tales tend to be funny,yes, but under their humorous or ribald surface they have very serious things to say about right and wrong and, most importantly, about that vast grey area between the two. I think some of the problems we face today come from people reading the Bible and the Koran too darn literally, missing the metaphors within, missing the many shades of grey in their black and white world of fanaticism(whether it’s the fanaticism of the Islamists, of the Christian extreme–right, or the fanaticism of those who turn capitalism itself into a kind of god who must never be questioned). You can’t "prove" the truth of a myth or a sacred tale with reductive thinking or the scientific method. We need to learn to hear stories again, and stop asking: "But is it literally true?" Literally? No, probably not.But metaphorically, symbolically, spiritually, such stories contain profound truths that speak directly to the soul. As metaphorical tales, they enlarge our capacity to wonder, to question, to think, to experience — whereas reading myths or sacred texts in a literal, reductive fashion tends to close our thinking down.
CCP: Are there any new projects that the Endicott Studio is looking to take on in the future? What sort of collaborative projects might be forthcoming, either here or in the UK?
TW: Midori Snyder [co–director of the Endicott Studio] and I have got all sorts of plans, dreams, and schemes for the future: adding audio files to the the website of Endicott poets reading and discussing their works, adding video clips of various mythic writers and artists discussing various mythic topics, and creating a small Endicott Press. But this all requires funding,which we’re always terribly short of! We’re determined to keep the Journal of Mythic Arts ad free and subscription free so that readers of all income levels can enjoy it. That means we depend on voluntary donations from our readers to cover our costs. In order to get some of these larger projects off the ground, we’re going to need to find some larger sources of funding — so if anyone out there can help,we encourage them to get in touch.
In the 20th Anniversary Issue
In the Reading Room, Midori Snyder and I look at the histories of these classic fairy tales: Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, The Armless Maiden (a.k.a The Handless Maiden), Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, and Bluebeard. Greg Frost discusses The Arabian Nights and the history of its publication in the West. Heinz Insu Fenkl goes East to presenta Korean fairy tale that is, in that culture, as familiar and beloved as Beauty and the Beast is in ours. (In fact, as Heinz points out, the two tales share some similarities.)
Our new fiction offerings this time come from a New York Times bestselling author and an eighteen–year–old making her professional debut. The first is "King Rat," by Karen Joy Fowler — a thought–provoking meditation on the Pied Piper of Hamelin. The second is "The Princess and the Ghost" by Jessie Suk Roy, a lyrical re–examination of Sleeping Beauty’s story. From the archives, we have a very different takeon Sleeping Beauty in Kim Antieau’s dark story "Briar Rose." And Jane Yolen, the undisputed queen of the modern fairy tale, offers a gorgeous re–working of Godfather Death in her short story "Godmother Death."
In the Writing Room, fairy tale scholar Helen Pilinovsky discusses Donkeyskin (a.k.a. Deerskin, Allerleirauh, and Tattercoats), examining the ways the tale has been used in three works of contemporary fiction. Ellen Steiber reconstructs the creative process of writing her story "In the Night Country" (published in The Armless Maiden), and how it lead her to delve deep into the fairy tale Brother and Sister.Midori Snyder’s "The Monkey Girl" is a lovely autobiographical essay about magic, marriage, and creativity. My own autobiographical essay, "Transformations," is a more melancholy piece, looking at the importance of unvarnished fairy tales for children from difficult backgrounds.
In the Crossroads, two of our favorite articles from the archives look at fairy tales in performance arts. English theater director Howard Gayton discusses the creation of a Portuguese fairy tale play, and Los Angeles artist and critic James Graham looks at Russian fairy tales as portrayed in Soviet children’s films. (For more on Russian fairy tales, look at Helen Pilinovsky’s articles on the subject in our archives.)
In the Coffeehouse, something new this month: we’re spotlighting a single writer this time. Jeannine Hall Gailey is a poet whose work I’ve recently become acquainted with, and have grown to deeply admire. If you like the fairy tale poems presented here as much as I do, then go get her new book, Becoming the Villainess, filled with poetry ranging from mythic subjects to Buffy and Wonder Woman. Great stuff!
In the Gallery, we look at the magical work and tragic life of Danish artist Kay Nielson. From the Gallery archives, we’ve also got a look at female fairy tale artists, past and present, accompanied by an essay on the subject of women and fairy tales.
Information on all of the writers and artists who kindly contributed to this issue can be found at the bottom of this page.
Coming up in the Journal of Mythic Arts, Summer 2007, is our special Young Adult Mythic Fiction issue, with stories by Christopher Barzak, Holly Black, Jeffrey Ford, Elizabeth Genco, O.R. Melling, Will Shetterly, and others. Sign up for our Newsletter if you’d like to be informed when it goes online; or keep an eye on the Endicott blog.
We hope we’ll see some of you at Wiscon this year, where Midori and I will host an Endicott discussion on "20 Years of Mythic Arts," and participate in a panel discussion on Baba Yaga and Armless Maiden narratives. We’ll also be co–hosting a party on Sunday night with the Interstitial Arts Foundation. All Wiscon attendees are invited.Come help us celebrate 20 years of Endicott, and also the publication of the IAF’s new "interstitial fiction" anthology, Interfictions.
Thank you, once again, for dropping by the Endicott Studio, and for supporting the Journal of Mythic Arts. Let’s raise a glass to the next 20 years. . . .
Contributors, Spring 2007
Heinz Insu Fenkl
Karen Joy Fowler
Jeannine Hall Gailey
Jessie Suk Roy
Featured Historical artist: