Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Great 'Sleeping Beauty' Rewrite (IV of IV) - Winning Entry

Please note: there's both an interview AND an excerpt so this post is a little longer than usual for this blog. Don't worry - it's not the new standard!

In the past week we've been having a look at the short stories written and entered in the Diamonds & Toads "Great 'Sleeping Beauty' Rewrite" contest.

Today, I'm happy to present the winning author, Tahlia Merrill, in a brief interview and show you an excerpt from her winning story, "The Prince With Good Manners".

Here's what Kate at Diamonds & Toads said about why her entry won:
Her charming retelling, "The Prince With Good Manners," won for the following reasons: It had a completeness to it that showed a good management of the 1,000-word limit. It was very much a retelling, with a sense of newness to it. Tahlia's story also featured a non-passive princess. Most of all, her story found a very clever way to have the princess and prince get to know one anotherbefore she woke up.
Tahlia was kind enough to agree to a quick interview withe the fairy tale news hound for Once Upon A Blog, about her story and her love of fairy tales.
Fairy Tale News Hound: First of all, a well deserved congratulations on winning the contest! Tahlia: what an appropriate name to win a 'Sleeping Beauty' contest with!

Would you believe that I found out after the contest about that rather uncanny coincidence? I've read a lot of early versions of fairy tales, but somehow that one slipped through the cracks! I have a pretty uncommon name and I thought I knew all the cultural appearances of it in literature, but I definitely missed that one!

FTNH: What do you think of the first written version of 'Sleeping Beauty' in The Pentamerone (Sun, Moon & Talia)?

Tahlia: Well, it's not really a surprise that it's nothing like the Disney version, but it's amazing to see how drastically the entire spirit of the story has changed over time. When I read it for the first time, it actually reminded me a lot of a Greek myth, because it has the same crazy soap opera drama feel to it.

FTNH: Diamonds & Toads posted a small bio for you so instead of repeating that information I thought I'd ask you some questions about your story and your enjoyment of fairy tales in general.
What is your favorite fairy tale and why?

Tahlia: Probably the original Hans Christian Anderson version of "The Little Mermaid". It was the version that I was brought up on--we had a beautiful picture book version of that used dolls in the photographs. I also listened to it on a record over and over again when I was little. It's like an Andrew Lloyd Webber song--it grabs your emotions and connects you to the story in a way that many fairy tales fail to do. The image that always sticks in my mind is the little mermaid's new legs allow her to walk and dance with grace, but every step feels like she's walking on knives. It's that push and pull of wanting the thing that will hurt you that fascinates me every time I read it.

FTNH: What are some of your favorite fairy tale retellings and why do they appeal to you?

Tahlia: I will admit to being a sucker for Cinderella retellings. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine was the first retelling that I read for the first time and just thought, "Whoah!". I've read that book half a dozen times because it doesn't just retell the story, but it takes it to a whole new level that I never knew fairy tales could reach. Her Princess Tales series is also delightful. Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix is a slightly grittier version of Cinderella that I appreciate because of the daring twist it takes at the end. Vivian Vande Velde's The Rumpelstiltskin Problem is what initially inspired me to write my own fairy tale retelling because she puts SIX radically different spins on the story into one book. That's the book that got me starting to think about all the practical problems that classic fairy tales seem to overlook.

FTNH: What made you decide to give Deidre a 'voice' prior to being woken up?

Tahlia: Well, I started thinking about how awkward it would be to wake up to some random guy you've never met kissing you! That was my initial thought, and then I started wondering if there could be any way for the sleeping princess and the prince to actually get to know each other before the kiss. So I came up with a way to let them communicate and fall in love so that when they kissed, it actually meant something to them. Many fairy tale retellings are all about trying to break the damsel in distress stereotype, but I wanted to focus more on the prince and his feelings about the whole situation because he's the one who ultimately has to break the spell! Once I started running dialogue in my head between the two characters, everything else just fell into place.

FTNH: What did you learn/receive from the experience of retelling a fairy tale, especially one that had to include certain elements (besides the lovely prize, of course)?

Tahlia: For me, I have spent most of my writing years working on manuscripts for novels that I hope to publish someday, so it was extremely hard to keep this story under 1000 words. It was originally 7000 words, with a much fuller plot arc and character development. I had to save that copy and then cut out the first 3/4 of the plot and start the story there. So I learned the invaluable lesson of how to mercilessly cut down a story while still preserving the spirit of it. Thinking about creative ways to twist Sleeping Beauty has also given me lots of new ideas for more fairy tale related stories.

One unexpected gift that this contest has given me is a large spike in visitors to my website ( that features the current writing project I'm creating with my friend. I've never been published or won any writing contests before, so it's really helped me feel more confident as a writer and gives my parents some hope that I might not have to be the starving artist type.

FTNH: If you had been in an enchanted sleep for one hundred years what sort of breakfast would you order on waking up?

Tahlia: All perfect food is made by my mom, so that would be my first of my criteria. I think I'd want a berry smoothie with bacon and cheese quiche, some raspberry tarts, and LOTS of homemade doughnuts. Oh, and pancakes! And poptarts! And just the marshmallows of Lucky Charms! Gosh, I hope my prince has a good appetite, because there's no way I'm going to be able to eat all of my first breakfast without some help!

Thank you so much for chatting with the Fairy Tale News Hound today! We wish you every success in your studies and your writing.

You can find out more about Tahlia HERE at Diamonds & Toads on the August 6th entry.

Here's an excerpt from the beginning in which you can see this is no ordinary Sleeping Beauty:
“This is the last quest I am ever going on,” Patrick muttered to himself.

He struggled up the never-ending staircase, sweat weighing down his tunic. At the top, a door was finally in sight. Before he could reach it, his brother Prince Conrad burst out of it and rushed passed him, muttering to himself, “…didn’t work…bad omen…voices of ghouls…” Before Patrick could say a word, Conrad was gone.

“Well, I’m not giving up now that I’m here!” Patrick called to the sound of retreating footsteps. Plodding behind Conrad for hours chasing this legend had been bad enough. For Patrick, there was no turning back. Moving closer, he could read a stone plaque on the door.

“Here sleeps Princess Deirdre of Acrasia, until after a hundred years have passed from the twelfth day of Yune, 988. Whence that time arrives, she shall be awakened by a kiss, and the rule of the royal family shall continue.

“That silly ninny!” Patrick laughed out loud. “Con was a whole year too early!” It was the year 1087, not 1088. Stepping into the room, he saw an ornate canopy bed with the princess on it. “What?” A female voice said. “Back for more are you?”

Patrick spun in a full circle, frantically searching for the speaker. Confused, and a little frightened, Patrick crept over to the bed. The princess talking must not be asleep after all, maybe she was just pretending. There she was, lying on top of the covers. Her breathing was deep and relaxed. She certainly looked like she was sleeping.

Patrick swallowed hard and tried to remember his manners.

“Sorry to disturb you, err, Miss.”

“Oh! You’re a different one,”

You can read the rest of the story HERE.
Here are some more interesting interpretations of Sleeping Beauty. Click on the covers for more information on each. You can find even more HERE at SurLaLune.

NOTE: The illustration at the head is by Ivy Izzard. You can get a closer view and see more of her work by clicking on the image or HERE. The black and white illustration is by the legendary Gustave Doré. Click on the image or HERE to be taken to more information about him.
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