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Artist: Arthur Rackham

As those close to me know. I am a collector of tales. Not just physical books—although I do have an ever-growing personal library—but the stories themselves. As a child I was a voracious devourer of text. I read constantly! Forbidden to bring books to the table during meals, I sneakily read cereal boxes and mayonnaise jars. On too-cold or rainy Saturdays, I’d curl up in a quiet place with the dictionary, the Lives of the Saints, Funk and Wagnalls encyclopedia, Bulfinch’s Mythology, or a torn old volume titled A Fairy Book, illustrated by Arthur Rackham.

One of the first stories I remember re-reading was the fairy tale of Frost in The Fairy Book. Rackham’s art was frightening and beautiful—and so was the story! Sure, Marfa, the good daughter, is sent home with furs and riches, but the other sisters are left to cruelly perish in the snow after being rude to Father Frost. I shivered, but I loved the juxtaposition of darkness and light. This was the beginning of my realization that, for a story to be truly great, it can’t be all rainbows and butterflies, but must also be shadows and monsters.

I’ve struggled to capture this idea in every piece of my own writing—the constant dance between darkness and light. And I’ll keep struggling, because that is where the truth lies in story.

My fascination with the Frost tale has continued. My original copy of The Fairy Book was lost in a house fire when I was a teenager, but I found an old copy at a yard sale a few years ago. And I’ve collected other versions—including the “original” published by Alexander Afanasyev, the Russian counterpart of the Brothers Grimm—I’ve also acquired illustrations, and even a 1964 Russian movie, Morozko, based on the story. Most recently, I finished reading The Winter Witch, the final installment of the amazing Katherine Arden’s Winternight trilogy. I highly recommend the series and am avoiding spoilers for those who’ve added it to their reading list—suffice it to say that Frost—Morozko—is a key player in the tale.

What is your favorite fairy tale? Did it make your heart pound? Give you nightmares? Make you laugh? Make you dream of adventure? Inspire you to write your own?