A Temporary Farewell

I have to admit, before this week, this was not the blog post I was expecting to post.

 

But alas, as the title says, I will be taking a short break from the blogging world.

 

As some of you may know, I am moving in June to take up nannying again. I’m super excited, but as you can imagine, things are a little crazy for me right now! When I do have the time and mental energy to be working on writing, I need to work on my novel series instead of blogging right now.

But never fear, my few but illustrious readers! I will return the end of June, beginning of July at the latest. I have a lot of posts planned out that I am very excited to share, and I can’t wait to start this up again. It just is not very pratical for me to try to balance this along with everything else right now.

I will be continuing with my monthly newsletter however (which you can sign up for here. Just specify in the message box that you would like to be added), with the May issue going out today, and then the one in June sometime a month from now. My goal is to be blogging again before the July newsletter, and I should be settled in enough by then to make that happen. 🙂

 

I hope you all have a splendid month or so, and I wish you all the best!

 

Until then,

~ Hannah

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The Wizard Who Ate My Heart: In Which Hannah Expresses Her Love of Howl’s Moving Castle

The Wizard Who Ate My Heart - In Which Hannah Expresses Her Love For Howl's Moving Castle - HannahMcManus.Wordpress.com

 

In the land of Ingary, where such things as seven league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of three.

If I have ever held even a brief discussion with you about books, there is an extremely high chance that I have at the very least mentioned my favourite book, Howl’s Moving Castle. If you have also read it, I have probably melted and flailed over it, and hopefully did not scar you with my over-enthusiasm too terribly much.

 

During my flailing, I have discovered a few things: Outside (and sometimes inside) hardcore reader circles, Howl’s Moving Castle is virtually unheard of. And also: Much more common if people have heard of it, they have heard of the Studio Ghibli animated film adaption.
 

This has made me a little sad, as this book has very quickly become my favourite book of all time. Three years ago, if you had asked me what my favourite book was, I would have hemmed and hawwed and stressed over an answer for hours, and finally told you I could not choose. While in some ways, that has not changed, for there are many books very precious to my heart that I would say are my favourites, but now I have One Favourite To Rule Them All.

And so today, I am here to tell you why you should read this book. Because it’s my favourite. And it would make me happy. You want to make me happy, right? Yay, good. Go read this book. Stop reading this blog post now if you want, just go read the book, then come back and tell me what you think.

Or if you need further convincing, continue reading and I will be happy to convince you.

 

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Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes. 


In some ways, I almost think it is better not to know much about the book before going into it. I’ve discovered that recently I like to know as little about the book as possible, because it makes me even more curious, and I don’t have any built up expectations before reading. If that is you too, then stop reading this here and go to the library/bookstore and start reading the book.

 

I did not know much about the book going into it. I first read it as one of the books we read in a small book club type class on fairy tales (and books reminiscent of fairy tales) I participated in with a group of friends. We read one book or fairy tale a week, and then met via video chat to discuss it. I didn’t even read the summary of the book before starting, because the copy I got from the library did not have a synopsis on the back. I just knew the title was intriguing, the cover was dated but interesting, and I had to read it in a week.

That did not turn out to be a problem. I read it in two days. Had I had no other obligations, I would have finished it in one day (I did with both of the sequels).

 

What first caught my attention was the opening line. (At the top of this post) Second, the characters.

Sophie (appears to be) a very ordinary girl. And she uses that ordinary-ness as a sort of crutch. Because she is the eldest of three children, she is the one who will fail first and worst if the three sisters set out to seek their fortune. That has become her identity, and she clings to her worthlessness. 

I identified with that. Her growth inspired me to grow.

Howl is heartless. Howl is caring. Howl is a coward. Howl is brave.

Howl is a very big, wonderful contradiction in case you have not figured that out.

That’s all I will say on him for now.

Sophie is also a bit of a condratiction. She’s shy. She’s snarky. She’s mousey. She’s fierce. She’s anxious. She’s brave. 

Most people are condratictions. People are never one thing only. We are never just a stereotype. 

And that is one of the strengths of Howl’s Moving Castle.  The characters really shine through like perfectly imperfect people. All of the side characters feel like they have their own agendas and goals and lives, even if we don’t know them very well. They are very realistic and very “real people” like. And very lovable.
Here I will get into slight spoilers. Not more than you would get from reading the synopsis, but if you want to go in with as little of an idea of what the plot will be as possible, stop reading here, and go read the book.

(Yes, I am fully aware I sound like a broken record. With all the unbearable screeching that accompanies one. I shan’t apologize.)
 

Sophie is just starting to realize she is unsatisfied with the monotony of her life (“Interesting things did seem to happen, but always to somebody else.”) but does not know what to do about it, when a rather strange mix up occurrs. The feared Witch of the Waste comes sailing into Sophie’s family hat shop and puts a curse on her, turning Sophie into an eighty year old woman. Sophie decides to leave, not wanting her family to see her like this. Out on the hills, she discovers the floating castle that belongs to the feared Wizard Howl, and inside it, meets a cranky fire demon, Howl’s flustered apprentice, and finally the distracted Howl himself. She strikes a bargain with Calcifer, the fire demon, that if she can break the secret contract between Calcifer and Howl, Calcifer will break the spell she’s under. Sophie discovers a lot of very unexpected things. One of which just happens to be something very extraordinary about herself.

 

Howl’s Moving Castle is a story of the heart. It is a story of youth, of self-discovery, of love, and of finding a missing heart.

 

Those of you who have read the book, tell me what your favourite thing about it is in the comments below! (And if you caught the “hints” I dropped like Calcifer did 😉 ) 

For those of you who have not read it, what are you waiting for? A beautiful new adventure awaits, if only you have a heart courageous enough to undertake it.

Guest Post on the OYAN Blog!

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This week, my post is actually over on the One Year Adventure Novel blog! I was asked to write a guest post about something very close to my heart:

What do you do when creativity dries up?

 

I’ve always been a writer.

When I was little, I loved coloring in my Barbie fashion coloring book, creating a story in my head to tie all the seemingly unrelated pictures together. My toy cars all had personalities and names (before Pixar ever used the idea, thank you very much). I acted out stories in which I was a singer, or a missing princess, or a valiant warrior in front of the mirror when brushing my teeth. When I was seven, I wrote and illustrated my first book, The Caterpillar Family, about a family of caterpillars who went on a picnic and found an abandoned castle.

I have always been creating stories. I thought I always would.

Read the rest of the post on the OYAN blog here.

Common Myths About Fairytales

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Once Upon A Time…

How many times have you heard that phrase? Followed not too long after by and they lived happily ever after.

The prince and princess are happily married, the evil witch/stepmother/dragon (or all three) has been defeated, and the children who listened to the story leave with a firm belief that good always conquers and bad is defeated – possibly with the bonus motivation of scaring them into behaving. All in all, it’s just another, typical, run of the mill fairy tale.

Or is it?

Today I would like to address some very common – and often very wrong – ideas most people have about fairy tales.

Ready? Settle into your chair by the fire, and get ready… for a tale you’ve very likely never heard before.

 

Once Upon A Time…

 

All fairy tales have a moral tacked on to the end.

While there are certainly exceptions, and certainly tales or fables where the message is rather heavy-handidly portrayed in the story, the majority of fairy tales never have “and the moral of the story is…” at the end. Aesop’s Fables and a handful of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales do employ this though, which may be where this thought comes from.

(And then there are *gasp* fairy tales that either a) don’t have a moral to the story at all or b) feature characters that get away with or are even praised for negative morals!)

 

All fairy tales are for children.

It seems to me that it was during the Victorian era, when it was becoming more popular and common to write down and publish traditionally oral tales, that fairy tales started to be labeled as children’s stories, though adults certainly still enjoyed them too. I don’t know exactly why people started to push fairy tales as for children. Perhaps I will look into this more and write another blog post about it. 😉

But prior to whenever this push for fairy tales = children’s stories started, fairy and folk tales were told and enjoyed by everyone. No matter their age, gender, race, social class, anything. Fairy and folk tales surpass all those self-imposed barriers.

 

All fairy tales were to scare children into good behavior.

I honestly don’t understand this one.

Who here remembers being a kid?

When you watched a movie or read a book, and the bad guy was defeated and the good guy won, did you ever think “oh I had better not steal/lie/cheat/eat someone else’s food/etc or I’ll end up getting punished”?

No. Of course you didn’t. You thought, “Yay, the good guys won! Let’s go defeat some more bad guys!”

Are there fairy and folk tales that were perhaps specifically created to get a certain message across? Of course. Y’know what, maybe Great Aunt Lucinda told little Tommy and Sally a story with the express reason of making them behave. But that is not what fairy or folk tales are about, and assuming that it is creates a much more simplistic view of them than is accurate.

 

All fairy tales are for girls – and they’re sexist/all about passive damsels in distress.

This I would assume is also because of the Victorians. I have a very strong suspicion that many of our filters actually come from the Victorian era, where everything was prim and proper and in its place. So of course the fairy tales where the little girls are passive heroines would be more popularized then.

Additionally, some where in history, for some reason, when oral story telling started to fade away and the writing down of them began, passing stories on became regarded as a women’s art. So it seems natural that in an era where they were very much looked down upon, women would focus more on stories where they were the protagonists rather than the men.

All of that aside however, fairy tales have no gender. There a stories where boys, girls, men, women, animals, gods, goddesses, and even ungendered inanimate objects becoming animate are the heroes or featured characters. There’s something here for everyone.

 

All fairy tales have happy endings.

I don’t really even know where to start with this… Just to say this is very not accurate. Some fairy tales end very badly for the heroes.

 

No “original” fairy tales have happy endings.

Reversely, I’ve heard this said by a lot of people. But again, this is very inaccurate. Disney did not invent the happy ending. The majority of the most popular fairy tales do have happy endings, as do many of the more uncommon ones.

 

All fairy tales are from Europe.

To be fair, most of the most popular fairy tales people have heard of are from Europe. That’s because we live in a Western civilization that’s a bit self-absorbed. But EVERY culture has fairy and folk tales. Literally every culture. I am not exaggerating here. And it’s a bit silly to assume that only one area has stories with magic and wonder in them.

 

All fairy tales are sexist/racist/noninclusive.

Are there sexist/racist/noninclusive fairy tales? Absoverypositivelylutely.

Here’s the thing. Fairy and folk tales were created for people, by people. Are there sexist/racist/noninclusive people in the world? Yes. Then of course there will be stories that those people tell. Are there people who are NOT sexist/racist/noninclusive? Yes. Then of course there will be stories that are not sexist/racist/noninclusive.

 

The Disney adaptions of fairy tales are the “real” versions.

Ahahaha…. No. The Disney versions of fairy tales are fairy tale retellings. In the nature of fairy and folk tales, they have been added to and changed, just like the stories have been countless numbers of times by countless oral story tellers. Disney has told excellent versions of these stories. I love Disney. But the Disney stories are often times vastly different from their source materials. (I plan on writing future posts comparing Disney films to the original stories in the future, actually, which I’m looking forward to a lot)

 

 All fairy tales are simplistic in nature.

Oftentimes people think that fairy tales “simple”. This goes back to thinking they are children’s stories (and that in itself is based on another misconception, that children’s stories have to be “simple”). The knight rescues the princess from the dragon, they get married, and live happily ever after. That is a pretty simple story. And if you are comparing a tale that was traditionally told orally to a thirteen book long series of 1,000 pages each, fairy tales are “simple” compared to “high fantasy”. (and sometimes when “simple” means “concise”, fairy tales have an advantage over an overly drawn-out bajillion page series)

But fairy tales hold more depth than people think. Fairy and folk tales are a reflection of humanity, just like any and every kind of story. By reading a tale that has survived for hundreds or thousands of years, you can get a picture into what values humanity has held on to. You can see the core hopes, the dreams, the passions, the faults. Beneath a “simple” tale with a straightforward plot (and not all fairy and folk tales are straightforward by any means), is a mirror into how we see ourselves.

 

Fairy tales are not “sophisticated” enough for scholars.

Because of the conception that fairy tales are “simplistic”, some people (scholars among them) think that fairy and folk tales are not a “real” type of literature, and thus the study of them is a waste of time. I do not understand this method of thinking. If we are going to study books written fifty or a hundred years ago, why would we not also study stories passed down for hundreds and thousands of years? Why would a tale that has literally survived from since before Christ not be worthy of study? (The tale in question here is Cinderella, in case you were wondering) In some ways, the study of fairy and folk tales is a little like literary anthropology! Modern literature has been shaped by these tales, whether we know it or not.

 

Fairy tales are about roles or stereotypes rather than characters.

Again, like the morals, this is one where yes, there are tales like that. And there are also not. Some tales are about “the princess” or “the poor person”. (I for one, am not inherently bothered by that.) Some tales, the characters do not have names. And some do. Most of the most popular fairy tales though, the characters all do have distinct personalities and names. For instance, Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, while she is not given a name, most certainly has her own personality. Cinderella and Snow White both handle things differently. Fairy tales are not so commonly populated with the cardboard stock characters people seem to think.

 

The Brothers Grimm wrote their fairy tales.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen retellings or things reference a fairy tale like this: “Based off Cinderella, written by the Brothers Grimm”. (It’s even worse when it says that for a fairy tale like The Little Mermaid which was written by Hans Christian Andersen, and the Brothers Grimm had nothing to do with it) The Brothers Grimm collected traditional German fairy and folk tales in an effort to preserve Germanic tradition and heritage . They did make changes to some tales, adding their own spins, or cleaning them up to make them more family friendly. Of course they would make changes in taking stories that were told orally and transcribing them in written form. But the stories they wrote down were not of their own creation.

 

In the end, the moral of this tale is this: Fairy tales are not merely one thing. Like any other kind of story, they are complex. They vary between people and culture and time, and the values held by the people telling them. And thus, they appeal to a wider audience than one might think if they limit what they believe fairy tales to be.

 

What misconceptions have you seen about fairy and folk tales that bother you the most? Sound off in the comments below!

And may we all live happily ever after…

 

 

 

 

 

An Unexpected Blog : An Introduction & Hello

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In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit.

Greetings, everyone! Welcome to my blog! I hope you will enjoy your stay. Please help yourself to the tea and cookies on the table in front of the fireplace.

My name is Hannah, and I am both Hobbit and Hufflepuff at heart. I am an as of yet currently unpublished author, striving towards that goal. This blog will be a way to get to know me better, and since stories are my passion, is what I will talk about most here, from fairy tales to tv shows, books to video games.

The reason this is a bit of an unexpected blog, because up until recently, because I did not think I was going to get back into blogging. I used to dabble in it when I was a young thing, and was never very consistent. I plan to change that, and am pretty excited to do this now!

But before we jump completely into the swing of things, I’d love to introduce myself a little more, and I would love to learn more about you, too! So I’ve come up with a list of questions for myself in three different categories that I will at the end of this post extend for you to answer in the comments below! Ready? Kay, set, go!

 

AUTHOR QUESTIONS

  1. What do you write?
    Spec fic! Which is slang for speculative fiction, which means everything weird and unusual. Primarily, I write fantasy, though I occasionally dabble in science-fiction.
  2. How long have you been writing?

I’ve been creating stories ever since I can remember. I have very clear memories of coloring in my Barbie fashion coloring book and coming up with a running storyline that tied all of the seemingly unrelated pictures together. I’ve loved reading ever since I learned, and that has certainly helped fuel my love for stories. I wrote and illustrated my first book when I was around seven, The Caterpillar Family. I really started writing hardcore when I was eleven to twelve, starting with a self-insert Scooby-Doo fanfiction. I never got more than a few paragraphs written of it, but I do believe that I drew a pretty awesome Bubblegum Phantom.

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Look at that. Spooky, right?

I started but never finished many other stories, until I was thirteen and I discovered the One Year Adventure Novel writing curriculum. I could go on, and on, about how this curriculum not only enabled me to to write excellent stories, but also changed my life. But I’ll save the sales pitch for another post. 😉

With OYAN, I finished my first novel, and have written four others since then.

  1. What’s your favourite part of the writing process?

It really depends on my mood honestly! Characters are my favourite things about stories, so I’m tempted to say character creation, but I love both the exciting thrill of writing the rough draft of a story for the first time, and of putting the final, polishing touches on a last draft.

READER QUESTIONS

  1. Quick! The first five books that come to mind are? (Doesn’t have to be your favourites, just the first five books that come to mind)

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

The Mitten by Jan Brett

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Mutt in the Iron Muzzle (Adventures of Wishbone #7) by Michael Jan Friedman

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Well, that’s a bit amusing! I have no idea why The Mutt in the Iron Muzzle popped into my head! I don’t think I’ve ever read it,and I haven’t thought about the Wishbone books in years!

  1. How many of those books are in your top five books?

Only two! Howl’s Moving Castle and The Lord of the Rings.

  1. Do you have cute, nice, or fancy bookmarks, or do you use whatever is lying around?

Yes to both… I have lots of fun bookmarks, but I tend to use library receipts, tissues, or tiny scraps of paper I’ve scribbled random notes on.

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A few of my favourite bookmarks… that I rarely use… Oops…

 

FANDOM QUESTIONS

  1. Top five favourite fandoms!

Star Wars, Marvel (particularly the MCU), the How to Train Your Dragon films, Disney, and (this is hard to choose… but I think I’ll have to go with:) Avatar: The Last Airbender.

  1. Favourite piece of fan merch? (Bonus: Post a picture!)

I’ve recently started collecting Funko Pops! And I’m in love. I’m probably cheating, but I can’t decide who I love more, my Peggy Carter or Newt Scamander Pops.

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Aren’t they just both adorable?

 

  1. If you could meet any fictional character, who would you choose?

This answer changes daily, honestly. But right now, I really want to meet the Doctor (Either Nine or Eleven), and then (ha, maybe I’m cheating on this, but I didn’t say I and the fictional character couldn’t go meet a non-fictional person…) we’d go meet C.S. Lewis.

Now hopefully you know a little bit more about me, and I expect as I continue blogging, we’ll get to know each other even better. 🙂

Tell me more about yourself! Answer as many of these questions as you’d like in the comments below, or if you’d prefer, send me an email!

AUTHOR QUESTIONS

  1. What do you write?
  2. How long have you been writing?
  3. What’s your favourite part of the writing process?

READER QUESTIONS

  1. Quick! The first five books that come to mind are? (Doesn’t have to be your favourites, just the first five books that come to mind)
  2. How many of those books are in your top five books?
  3. Do you have cute, nice, or fancy bookmarks, or do you use whatever is lying around?

FANDOM QUESTIONS

  1. Top five favourite fandoms!
  2. Favourite piece of fan merch? (Bonus: Post a picture!)
  3. If you could meet any fictional character, who would you choose?