August 31, 2020

Enchanted Creators: Lauren Spinabelli and tiny fairy tales

A few months ago, as I was scrolling through Instagram, I came across some watercolor-drenched images of clouds and stars and sneakers and simple daubs of magically merged colors. They were sweet and soothing, but the words with them took me by surprise. Witches and wizards worked. Nightmares escaped through morning breath, hearts were broken and healed. 

I felt like I’d discovered some tiny antidotes to the spiritual and existential crisis that is 2020.

What I'd found was tiny fairy tales, and I have been enjoying them ever since. They inspire and delight the eye and imagination, so, for the first in an occasional series called “Enchanted Creators,” I interviewed Lauren Spinabelli, the writer and artist behind the series. 


1) What inspired you to start these? Have you been at them long?

I started tiny fairy tales as a Twitter account in June of 2019—I already had my own personal account for jokes and stuff, but wanted a separate space to stretch my brain in a new way. It started when I wrote this one, “in another universe, there is a witch. she can erase your worst memory like an etch-a-sketch— shake it into oblivion— or launch it into deep space, whichever you prefer. she charges a fee, though, and it’s your best memory, dissolved like sugar in hot tea.” I tweeted that to my personal account originally and I was like, oh that felt good—writing that felt good. I want to write more stuff like that. So I made tiny fairy tales.

2) Tell us a little about your background as a writer and artist. Are you a fairy tale fan? What are your favorite ways to create? Tell us whatever you want to tell us about yourself, too! Who are you?

I’m a writer and a teacher and a reader. I loved magical books as a kid—there was this series called Pixie Tricks I remember reading when I was young, then I think it was Inkheart, The Spiderwick Chronicles, Once Upon a Marigold, Ella Enchanted—I could probably list magical books I read as a kid all day. I went on to study English in college. I got a Master’s in Creative Writing from Penn State. My thesis was 100 pages of short stories, most of which were magical realism or had some sort of “fairy tale” vibe to them—an eeriness, a sense of wonder, whatever. There was one about a teenage ghost girl who couldn’t pass over to the next realm until she got her first kiss—something she never got to do when she was alive. There was another one I wrote about a witch doctor who cured her patients by telling them fairy tales. I was really inspired by Karen Russell’s short story collections in college, and Aimee Bender’s. Right now, I’m reading Get in Trouble by Kelly Link, and I think I’m obsessed with her. So, yes, I’m a fairy tale fan, and I probably have been ever since my Nonni told me the “Princess and the Pea” as a bedtime story before I could even read.   

3) Why the (deceptively) simple colors and shapes? Do they just work for you?

I think there’s two ways to answer this question. To be honest, they’re simple because I know my limits as an artist and I’m not really capable of anything more complex. I’m just a doodler, my stuff is always simple. But also, I do want my stories to live in people’s imaginations, and with more detailed illustrations, there’s less room for imagination. Especially with fantasy stuff. I love that if I told a hundred people to picture a monster, none of them would picture it in the same exact way. Some would give it scales, or fangs, or bloodred eyes, or make it breathe fire. So I guess I don’t want my illustrations to dictate what they’re seeing when I say “monster” or “witch.” Your witch could have a hunchback, my witch could have purple hair. I think that’s cool. All witches are valid! (All witches ARE valid! KW)

4) I’ve been writing for over 30 years, and I’m flabbergasted at how many new, beautiful tiny fairy tales you’ve come up with. They’re very original. Do you write a lot? 

Wow, thank you! It’s so funny, sometimes I don’t consider them “real” writing because they’re just tweets. I just open up the app and type it out and if it doesn’t fit the character limit I adjust from there. I’m usually doing it to distract myself from my “real” writing—the YA book I’m working on, or an essay, or a short story. So I guess I do write a lot but most of the time I don’t consider it writing. I guess I have to expand what I consider writing. I think the reason they’re so original and sometimes just plain weird or ridiculous is because it feels so low risk. If it’s dumb or if it flops or if no one likes it, at the end of the day it’s just a tweet. If I take it too seriously or overthink it, that’s when they stop being fun to read and fun to make. Maybe I should transfer that philosophy over to my “real” writing projects.

5) Is there anything else you’d like us to know?

Sometimes people will ask me for permission to write poems or create art inspired by my fairy tales and my answer is always yes, just send it to me so I can enjoy it, too! One of my Twitter followers wrote and recorded a ukulele song based on one of my tales, “there is a wizard who knows everything. he is profoundly, universe-shatteringly sad.” It was so so good! I can send you the link. So I guess just, if my art makes you wanna make your own art, please don’t hesitate to share. There’s no such thing as too much art.

Lauren shared two links of people who have been inspired to create thanks to tiny fairy tales. Here’s a ukulele song, and here’s some fan art.

Lauren isn’t offering her work for sale right now, but perhaps she will do something on Redbubble in the future. I hope we can convince her to do so. There’s no such thing as too many tiny fairy tales. For now, you can find Lauren’s tiny fairy tales on Instagram @tinyfairytales and on Twitter at the same handle. KW


Lynden Wade said...

How lovely. Thank you for opening my eyes to this writer, Kate.

Katew said...

You’re welcome! I think it’s great.

Molly said...

I love these! Beautifully written and illustrated.

Maxine said...

These are so creative and inspirational.

Katew said...

I know! If you have an Instagram or twitter account, it’s really worth visiting her work. Taken in total, it’s really impressive.

Kelly Jarvis said...

I love everything about this!

diane said...

Love this so much! How creative and magical and a great way to use social media to share fairy tales!

Katew said...

I think so too.

AMOffenwanger said...

Oh, I love this! How very magical.

Katew said...

It is!