SHELDON LEE COMPTON: Thanks for agreeing to talk with me, Arielle. Let’s start with how I first got to know you, through your online lit journal Fair Folk. It’s a journal that, for my money, really seeks to find the imaginative in storytelling today. Share a little about the journal and also about how did the idea for it started for you? Where do you see it going in the coming years?
ARIELLE TIPA: Fair Folk began as an “I know this has already been done before, but I’m gonna do it anyway” type of thing, since there are thousands and thousands of lit journals out there seeking out similar content. The fantasy genre has always been a favorite of mine since I was a kid, both in film and in literature. I was obsessed with series like The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper and The Unicorn Chronicles by Bruce Coville, and my favorite movies included Thumbelina and The Neverending Story. I was always that weird kid who scoured through the (pitifully small) mythology section of a Catholic school library just for fun. As I grew older, I began to question why people were so enthralled with the mystical concept of being or even existing, as well as the complexity of what it is to be human, and speculative fiction was really the only collective genre which echoed my own curiosities. Fair Folk, all in all, really stemmed from this attraction to the enchanted and the unknown, which still grows with me today.
I never had the courage to submit to literary journals until late last year, and that was very much a catalyst for developing Fair Folk – it was almost as if I wanted to do something worthwhile during my waiting period of getting a “yay” or “nay” for my lit journal submissions. To be honest, I was very insecure while starting this journal, since I really couldn’t consider myself a published writer (I really wasn’t, save for some contributive articles). But, I realized that starting Fair Folk wasn’t about me. It all boiled down to sharing diverse voices of speculative fiction, and yes, it does seek to find imaginative storytelling, which is needed now more than ever as the world today seems to sink further into a lecherous love affair with political chaos and correctness. The journal seeks out not only escapism, but a temporary alternative to reality. I believe a story is only worth reading if we are able to forget our own for just a short while, which is essentially Fair Folk’s purpose.
In the coming years, I hope to see the journal doing what it has been doing since its inception, and then some. Do I see it becoming more successful? Absolutely. Do I see it going into print? Maybe not. I have been (to an insurmountable degree) honored by having the chance to read some of the greatest spec fiction by international writers which both adheres to and shies away from the mainstream, and I cannot wait for more submissions to pile up. Being an editor-in-chief (as some will agree) is very rewarding.
COMPTON: Of course I agree that there needs to be a little more imagination in today’s fiction and poetry and, well, everything else, really. It’s a worthy goal, I think.
It’s interesting you should mention that you’re not really seeing Fair Folk becoming a print journal. In addition to the fact that realism has sort of had its day, so to speak, I also think the same can nearly be said of the print journal. I can remember hoping to get into a print publication back when I first starting writing, thinking, of course then, that it was more esteemed. I’m of a completely different mindset today. Print doesn’t begin to compete with online in terms of readership. And readership is the whole point, I believe. So Fair Folk remaining on online venue to me seems like the perfect situation. We need more of those, not less. Who needs another print journal that takes 437 days to reply to your submission and only accepts stories via snail mail. Man oh man, those days are way over in my book. What are your thoughts?
TIPA: Although I really, really prefer to read books in print, since it’s more intimate and concrete that way, my preference for literary journals is the complete opposite. Because content on the internet seems to be so much more easily accessible (and affordable) nowadays, the reason why I’d prefer the journal to stay immortalized through pixels and magical data is pretty much a no-brainer. As far as this modern, new-agey kind of era of reading, I really admire digital platforms like issuu, where you basically have the best of both worlds – a virtual print publication. I may (may) consider converting Fair Folk into virtual print and make it more like a seasonal type of publication. For now, WordPress is the easiest and most affordable option.
COMPTON: Let’s talk about your own writing. You were mentored by literary folklorist Ruth B. Bottigheimer at Stony Brook University. How did that experience bring you to the type of work you do today, especially in terms of the stories and so forth that focus on, in your own words, “fabulist to feminist, macabre to bizarre.” How much of that kind of writing did you bring to Stony Brook with you?
TIPA: To be honest, I barely even wrote anything besides scholarly papers while studying for my B.A. I was basically in starvation mode as far as writing for fun rather than for grades. I studied Comparative Literature and English, so the material I was required to read was extremely diverse: philosophical texts, cultural theories, biographies, nonfiction, sci-fi, Shakespeare, Freud, the works. While reading to get my degree, I was also, of course doing the usual – blogging, writing rough drafts, and leisure-reading on the side, and that same leisure reading included my personal favorites: fairy tales and dark fantasy, appropriately. This ultimately led to me into gathering ideas for my research project.
I ended up getting paired with this Professor Bottigheimer by the head of the Comp. Lit department and was like “Oh, cool…..who is she?” I then proceeded to Google her name at home, and basically lost it at “She has been hailed as ‘one of America’s foremost Grimm scholars’”. I became so intimidated that my anxiety was at an all-time high during the 4-month period of writing this gargantuan research project. But, meeting and working with her was rewarding. We ended up coming to an agreement for me to read and research the tales of the Grimm Brothers and Giambattista Basile, and to write a lengthy, comparative analysis of their usage of bird and tree imagery in as far as gendered functions and so on. That experience with Bottigheimer very much encouraged me to continue this obsession with writing and the fantasy genre, and to use it to the best of my abilities no matter what odd job I’m getting paid to do.
COMPTON: That is fantastic. I am now inspired to go back and read all the Grimm Brothers material. Dig deeply, you know?
So what’s coming up in the future for Arielle Tipa. What are some of you serious plans and then what are some of your pie-in-the-sky plans. For instance, my serious plans are to finish a collection of poetry and a third collection of stories by the end of the year. My fantasy plan is to retire from the day job, move to Norway, and write and play guitar for the next twenty years or so.
TIPA: Well, it’s been a while since we last have spoken, and a lot has changed in such a short period of time. I’ve been unemployed since last October, and these last six months have been some of the worst I’ve been through. But, I recently got a job as a full-time fashion and music writer for a small publication on Long Island. I love it so far, and I feel so fortunate to (finally) get paid to do what I love. I actually gained interest in fashion writing three years ago, and it became something I wanted to hone and delve deeper into. Since then, I’ve contributed for a few small sites, and I love that I get to incorporate my literary and poetic impulses into this type of journalism. This is a big leap for me and a stepping stone for my career, since I’ve wanted to work for some type of publication since community college, whether it was focused on fashion or music or any of the arts in general. Of course, I’ll still be writing poetry and short stories in-between.
As for my pet project, Fair Folk, I was recently thinking of making it into what I like to call an “inheritance” publication. That is, I would like to eventually step down as EIC and pass it down to someone I find worthy *queue villainous laughter*. Because I’m working now and have less down time, I would like to publish a few more stories and poems for Fair Folk until I feel that my time has come to an end. I’m currently tweeting updates as they come.
Lastly, I am also (as you, Mr. Compton, already know) working on a small, in-between endeavor of translating every Marilyn Manson song into Shakespearean. Seriously, like, straight-up Elizabethan stuff. Except it’s Marilyn Manson. I guess this would count as my pie-in-the-sky plan, but with the artist’s permission (followed by giddy and tearful fangirl reactions, since there is a personal, emotion connection I have with his music), I would like to publish these translations into print. Imagine that. Just imagine a printed discography of Manson’s songs bounded in tanned leather or sheepskin. If that’s not NYT #1 Bestseller material right there, then I don’t know what is.