FAQ #1: What does Writer and the Wolf mean?

1024 683 Writer and the Wolf Editorial

Hello, writerly friends! Welcome to a new series on the blog where I respond to some of my most frequently asked questions. If you have a question of your own, send it on over!

So: what’s with the title of my business? Where did Writer and the Wolf come from? Well, the writer bit’s easy. You – lovely, hardworking author – are the reason I do this job and you’re at the centre of everything I do, think, read and write.

And then the wolf part. I’ve been rather obsessed with fairytales ever since studying them on my Children’s Literature MA. I love how deliciously dark and gruesome the original stories were, and I’m fascinated by the transition they’ve made from oral tales in peasants’ kitchens to Disney musicals on the big screen. Although they were never meant for a young audience, original folktales like Hansel and Gretel and Beauty and the Beast serve up everything I love in children’s books: horror, magic, monsters and mystery. If you’re interested in the origins and theory of fairytales, by the way, here are some of my favourite academic texts you might love:

  • From the Beast to the Blonde by Marina Warner
  • The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood by Jack Zipes
  • The Use of Enchantment by Bruno Bettelheim

Little Red Riding Hood is one of my favourite fairytales. It featured in at least three of my MA essays and I spent a significant portion of my dissertation analysing the colour of Red’s cloak and comparing her to Dorothy in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (and I had SO much fun doing it!).

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, plate 8, and Denslow’s Little Red Riding Hood, second page opening

I adore the story’s sense of danger and macabre and all its secret, conflicting meanings (like that the wolf really represents a sexual predator trying to tempt little girls away from their mothers, or that he’s actually a symbol of all the men executed as werewolves in the 17th century). So, a wolf felt like the perfect companion for this fairytale-loving children’s book editor.

Also, that literary image of the little girl – or sheep, or pig, or fox – creeping cautiously through the woods while the predatory wolf waits in the shadows made me think a little of the editing process (stay with me here!). Handing your words over to a stranger is a scary thing and it takes a lot of courage to open yourself up to feedback from a professional.

But I think sometimes there’s this fear that an editor is there to scold or mock you for doing things wrong, like we live to tell you how terrible your work is. That is absolutely not what most editors do. We’re here to work with you, to help you make your story everything you want it to be. Most of us are patient and kind and cheering you on. The process should be exciting and encouraging, not off-putting.

We’re not scary. And wolves aren’t as bad as Charles Perrault and the Grimms make out, either. But if you see one in the woods, run. Just in case. (Wolves, I mean. Not editors.)

Thanks so much for reading, lovely writer! Want empowering, feel-good writing chat and fairy dust in your inbox? Plus receive a PDF of my recommended writing craft books for children’s and YA writers (including go-to genre guides and Children’s Lit MA reading list) AND £20 Wolf Credit to spend with me! Sign up today!

Siobhan O'Brien Holmes

Siobhan O'Brien Holmes is a developmental editor working with middle grade and YA authors. She specialises in speculative and genre fiction, particularly horror, fantasy, mystery, sci-fi and anything with a dash of magic or macabre. She is a member of the SfEP, EFA, ACES, British Fantasy Society, Horror Writers Association and SCBWI. She has an MA in Novel Writing and an MA in Children's Literature.

All stories by: Siobhan O'Brien Holmes