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“Whoa! I almost threw this one out with the coupon flyer,” said Simplia.

She bent over and fished an envelope out of the recycling bin. She tore it open and started reading silently, but faster than it takes to tell, Sagacia stood behind her, reading over her shoulder. Aloud:

Dear At a Loss in Altoona —

I have nothing to add to all the wonderful advice and insights that others have offered in defense of fairy tales as fare for children. But I haven’t yet seen much in defense of fairy tales as fare for grownups. I suspect all the people who wrote to you are themselves so steeped in the truth and wisdom these stories hold that it might not occur to them that other intelligent adults dismiss them as “kiddie lit.”

Listen, Altoona — If it’s art, it’s art. If it’s literature, it’s literature. If it’s nothing more than “kiddie lit,” it’s schlock. If your fairy tale isn’t strong enough to embrace listeners across generations … it isn’t strong enough, period. If your style of telling stories to very young listeners strikes intelligent adults as sappy and infantile … you might want to listen deeper for your own authentic voice.

In short: If that producer you refer to in your letter knows your work and has decided that your treatment of fairy tales wouldn’t be appreciated by her erudite adult audience — believe her. Choose other material for this gig. Choose material you can perform as your own unvarnished self. And when the gig’s behind you and you are working on new material, listen for a fairy tale that you believe in enough to learn and polish and perform without getting in its way.

If your troublesome producer’s first encounter with fairy tales or her most lasting impression of them involves singing mice, fairy godmothers with pastel hair, step-mothers drawn like bad caricatures of Joan Crawford, and Princes Charming resembling Ken dolls… I can’t blame her for wanting to steer you in another direction. She’s got an audience to please and take care of, just as much as you do. And if the program bombs, she’s doesn’t get to disappear as soon as it’s over, like you do.

Maybe your circumstance calls for a little subversive activity. Maybe you can sneak a fairy tale in, wrapped up in a personal story. Or in your first story in the program, you could set up a fairy tale — one that you know is good and strong and smart and true — to tell as the second story in the program, which in turn, might inform and enhance the final story in your program.

I realize, Altoona, that this is a tall order. It’ll be a lot of extra work for you. You’ll have to decide whether or not blazing this trail is worth the trouble.

I wish you great success —

megan hicks

“Well,” said Sagacia, “I guess strong opinions are better than no opinions at all. Let’s get to the post office while there’s still some daylight.”

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