Q. Tell us a little bit about your background, and your evolution as a writer. If you’ve taken more than one workshop at the Storied Imaginarium, what is it that keeps bringing you back?
I love folk tales and fairy tales. When I immigrated to Canada at 13, my books of folktales were among the few books that I chose to bring to the new world. So far I’ve taken two of Storied Imaginarium classes. And I will take more. I have a huge respect for the work Carina does in crafting the packages of material for each fairy tale. It’s not uncommon for me to end up writing two (or more) new pieces from each story prompt, I end up so inspired.
Q. Have you published any stories that have come out of the generative workshops at the Storied Imaginarium? If so, what inspired your pieces, and where can we read them?
My short story “The Frog Prince’s Reluctant Bride” was recently published in Daily Science Fiction. “The Frog Prince” was never one of my favourite fairy tales. I understand that she needs to keep her word, but marry him? That seems an excessive trade for a ball (even for a golden ball.) In the original version of “Iron Henry” not only does the manservant get a name, he gets agency. The Princess gets none of this. That made me cross. And so, during my first Storied Imaginarium workshop, I was inspired to tell her side of the story.
Q. What advice do you have for writers working with fairy tales and myth as well as combining them with current science and social issues?
I think every writer has a different process. I can only tell you what seems to work for me. Read everything. The stories, the retellings, the articles. Then let it all go. Do the dishes, take the dog for a walk, bake a pan of cinnamon buns. Trust your creative mind to make the connections. But when the idea comes, stop everything and write.
Q. How did you come to writing and who are some of your influences?
In the final year of my BFA (visual arts) at University I kept adding words, stories, to my intaglio prints. Once I graduated I began writing in earnest. Then life got in the way, and I did other things: got married – repeatedly, had kids. I came back to writing about 6 years ago and began to pursue it more seriously, taking classes, writing (almost) every day and finally beginning to submit.
Q. Can you give us an insight into your writing process? Any habits when you sit down to write?
This is my process, right now. It works for me, but it probably wouldn’t work for everyone. I’ve realized that I’m fundamentally a storyteller. So, I often dictate the first draft of any story onto my phone while hiking in the forest, and I prefer to draft the whole story in one sitting. Later, I sit at my computer and begin to make sense of what I’ve written. There’s a lot of rewriting, but it seems to me the cadence of speaking is captured in the voice of the story.
Q. What is next in store for your readers?
I spent the last workshop exploring the relationship between creative nonfiction and fairy tale, and was extremely pleased at the way some of those stories worked out. I’m looking forward to being able to share those stories with a wider audience.
Alison Colwell spends her time creating imaginary worlds, crafting memoir from fairy tales and learning how to blur the lines between creative non-fiction and fiction. Her creative non-fiction work can be found in the climate-fiction anthology Rising Tides, and her flash fiction has been published in The Drabble.
When not writing she can be found teaching kindergarten kids how to bake bread, or grown-ups how to cook stinging nettles, or caring for her two kids and a menagerie of animals, including a feral peacock.