Vision: A Resource for Writers

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Book Review:

Fairy Tales for Writers by Lawrence Schimel

Reviewed by Margaret McGaffey Fisk
Copyright 2008 by Margaret McGaffey Fisk, All Rights Reserved


A slim volume of prose poems, Fairy Tales for Writers is just what the writer who is struggling through those piles of rejections and lack of validation needs.  In the true tradition of fairy tales, Lawrence Schimel reworks the original narratives into allegories (both positive and negative) of the writing process, from accepting the calling to write all the way through submission and publication.

Opening with The Little Mermaid, Schimel recounts the tale of a writer captivated by a conference presenter who then gives up all that made her unique to follow in his exact footsteps, hoping to capture his heart.  She stands before the man she's pinned all her dreams upon only to find out he's married and so not waiting to join his life to hers as they achieve writing excellence together.  The book takes us through twelve other fairy tales that, like this one, are very different from those we heard growing up.  He takes on Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Hansel & Gretel, alongside lesser known tales such as Rampion and The Juniper Tree, in a humorous, at times biting, look at the pitfalls and victories on the path to a career in publishing.

Little Red Riding Hood speaks of the captivating promises of poetry contests that lead aspiring poets astray only to kill any chance of true publication and recognition.  They leave the poet's wallet lighter and her dreams caught up in the mistaken belief that any day now she'll become famous.  The power of this scam is so strong that the well meaning soul who points out its falsehood becomes the villain of the poet's tale, instead of the wolf who cut out her heart.

Sleeping Beauty touches on the dangers of harsh criticism too early in a career, how it can crush fragile hopes until a talented writer lets that talent fall into a deep sleep and never picks up the pen again.

But lest you think all the tales here are only grim warnings, Cinderella speaks of a chance discovery, a writer who was dared up on stage at a public reading only to vanish before the captivated editor can speak to her.  Never fear.  Like the original, this tale has a happy ending through the auspices of a true friend.

So too does Snow White end well.  In this tale, a new writer full of vision and unique talent joins a critique group headed by a successful author.  Instead of the support she'd hoped for, she's seen as a threat by the leader who, along with her sycophants, tries to crush the new writer's spirit.  But the story doesn't end there.  The new writer casts aside their sneering comments and takes a different route to success, choosing small presses that welcome her over the stress-filled battleground of the big publishers.

Others of the fairy tales talk about fiction presented as memoirs, unscrupulous ghost writers, plagiarism, the sole reader in a non-reading family, persistence, chance, hope, and hope dashed.  Lawrence Schimel manages to touch on many of the myths and the struggles facing writers at all stages of their careers.  The poems have a touch of humor along with a dose of warning.  If you recognize yourself in one of the cautionary tales, it might be worth taking a second look at your situation.  If you see the same parallels in one that has a happier ending, who knows but that your story might follow the brighter pattern.

The road to publication and success is complicated, dangerous, and exciting.  This book can offer a laugh along with a serious nod or two, all wrapped up in well-written tales of both familiar and unknown potholes standing between the writer and fulfillment as a published author.

Fairy Tales for Writers

Lawrence Schimel

A Midsummer Night's Press

ISBN: 0-9794208-0-6

ISBN-13: 978-0-9794208-0-1