The Tales that Really Matter and A Life of Our Own

A great article by Stephen Winter about the nature of control in our lives….through the lens of LOTR, of course!

“And as we consider our own lives so we too must think of the tension between our desire to live a life that we can call our own and the tales that really matter.”

Source: The Tales that Really Matter and A Life of Our Own

To Begin Again

Crown Image

I realize that’s it’s been awhile since my last post, but I thought I would start up again with this intriguing article



Fantasy, and Why We Need It

by Laura VanArendonk Baugh

Today I intend to justify fantasy as a genre. Not that it needs justified, no more than any other genre, but I’m going to anyway.

But first, I’m going to tell you a story.


I’ve taken only one real writing class, if we don’t count that Creative Writing hour every Wednesday afternoon in third grade. I’d always written stories, since elementary school, and my senior year of college I finally took a real class on writing fiction. I was terribly excited and I felt like a Real Writer.

We had a lot of guided writing assignments, of course, but once we were given free rein to turn in whatever we wanted. I chose the opening chapters of a novel I was working on, The Sightless Sisters. My instructor called me in for a private meeting. “This is pretty good,” he said. “But you realize this is fantasy. It’s schmaltz. Nobody but twelve-year-old boys will ever read this stuff.”

And for the next decade, I told myself I didn’t write fantasy. I wrote historical fiction, I said, and sometimes I would write historical fiction for places that didn’t exist, with histories I made up, but that was okay, wasn’t it? If I wrote a little fantasy on the side but mostly in a legitimate genre?

And whenever I would notice that I had written a lot more words in fantasy than in historical fiction, I’d tell myself that when I got serious about writing, I’d write more historical work. I was just goofing off with the fantasy stuff.


I’m mostly over that, but if you pay attention, you can still detect traces of embarrassment and denial. If one asks what I write, I’ll answer with a joke about Big Fat Fantasy. My body language will change subtly. I may mention more than one genre, camouflaging.

And I do write other genres, too. But it’s okay to write fantasy.

Fantasy is not just a step-child genre for sci-fi and historical writers who were bad at research. And it’s not just a place to explore Myth, though of course that’s important too. It has its own purpose in helping us assess who we really are and who we should be.

Oh, right, the skeptic responds. A story about dragons and wizards in a fake medieval country is going to tell me who I am in suburban Middle America. Riiiiiiight.

Stick with me a minute.

Read the rest of the article

New Press Release for My Public Speaking Class

Course Image


Udemy Class Offers Dynamic Public Speaking and Storytelling Skills

APRIL 7, 2015 – Josh Withrow holds a Master’s degree in English Literature and has 13+ years of classroom experience, and his Udemy class reaches students from a fresh, exciting perspective to deliver dynamic public speaking and storytelling skills by using fairy tales as a model.

Public Speaking: Using Story to Engage, Intrigue, and Connect helps people enhance their public speaking and storytelling skills with a jam-packed course that includes an introduction to the unique angle of teaching public speaking via fairy tales, the history of fairy tales, a comprehensive review, and more.

Public Speaking: Using Story to Engage, Intrigue, and Connect helps people advance their public speaking skills by harnessing storytelling techniques made popular by fairy tales. Storytelling is about connecting with audiences, and the same can be said for public speaking. In Withrow’s course, he delivers 52 lectures and 8 storytelling techniques that offer new and unique ways to connect with audiences and teach how fairy tales communicate deeper meaning.

Fairy tales provide a conduit for public speaking because they offer organization, style, and emphasis. This creates a model for better public speaking methods and helps improve writing and creating connections with audiences. The course is open to anyone who wants to sharpen their public speaking and storytelling skills, including teachers and communicators. To date, more than 1400 students have enrolled for Public Speaking: Using Story to Engage, Intrigue, and Connect. The course holds a five-star rating on Udemy with many positive reviews.

One recent student said, “Josh clearly and succinctly presents a great selection of fairy tales, providing a text for each story, and giving suggestions on its symbolism and underlying moral(s). In some cases it would be interesting to provide cultural variations of the same story. This was a very good course to take, as background for teaching about fairy tales.” More information is available at


About Josh Withrow


Josh Withrow infuses his 13 years of classroom experience and his Master’s degree in English Literature to guide his students to higher creativity by presenting his classes in a way that is both creative and informative.



Josh Withrow


Fairy Tales are like Vegetables for the Brain

10 Reasons Why Kids Need to Read Non-Disney Fairy Tales

by Melissa Taylor


Say “fairy tales” and your mind likely flashes to Disney and its animated versions of children’s classics. But old-school fairy tales — stories by authors such as Hans Christian Andersen, Oscar Wilde, Sophie, Comtesse de Ségur, or Andrew Lang — are filled with a richness and complexity that is often missing from their big-screen renderings. Here are ten reasons it’s worth reading the original stories with your young reader.

  • 1. Life Lessons

    Remember the line from The Princess Bride: “I do not think it means what you think it means”? Many of the moral lessons in the original stories are quite different from the Disney versions. Hans Christian Andersen didn’t write “The Little Mermaid” to teach us how to marry a prince, but to warn us that our actions have consequences. As Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller explained, “Deeper meaning resides in the fairytales told me in my childhood than in any truth that is taught in life.”

  • 2. Hope

    Many fairy tales offer hope — hope of redemption, hope that good can conquer evil, hope that our enemies will be vanquished. G.K. Chesterton said it best, “Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”

  • 3. Shared Mythology

    When kids know a familiar canon of stories — such as “Goldilocks and The Three Bears” or “Rapunzel” — they have a shared foundation, a common mythology. From an educator’s perspective, this is invaluable.

    What’s more, this background knowledge helps us to have a richer, more fulfilling literary experience. For example, last year my kids and I read several books about fairy tale lands (The Land of StoriesEver After High, and Storybound). To fully enjoy each of these books, we needed knowledge of the original fairy tale stories that they reference.

    Read Full Article at Brightly

Press Release for my new “Hack the Classics” Education Series

“Hack the Classics” Education Series Launches Promotion for March

Source: Josh Withrow Dated: Mar. 03, 2015

Instructor Josh Withrow makes Jane Austen-focused literary course available for five dollars through March.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Jane Austen’s classic novels (Pride & Prejudice, Sense and Sensability, et. al.) are well known, but many people haven’t taken the leap to read her stories. Whether it’s a case of limited time, or the daunting nature of classic literature itself, there are countless book lovers who haven’t yet tackled Austen’s work.

Enter Josh Withrow, an educator who intends to introduce students to these classics works through his online course series, hosted by Udemy. The idea is to build students’ confidence through high-quality rich media, giving them the mindset and tools needed to truly grasp the scope of Jane Austen’s novels.

Says Withrow of his method: “In the classroom, a teacher builds ‘scaffolding’ to help his or her students understand the material. In construction, scaffolding is a temporary structure used to support people and material while the real structure is being built. This class is the scaffolding to understanding Jane Austen.”

In Withrow’s “Hack the Classics” course, this “scaffolding effect” is accomplished through engaging rich media, including animated summaries, thematic intros, and bite-sized lectures. The course will address themes, characters, and important quotes from Austen’s most well-known books.

WIthrow is as passionate about education as he is about literature, and he’s making this course available for $5 throughout the month of March.

For more information, or to sign up for the course, please visit:

About the Instructor

Josh Withrow is an experienced classroom teacher of 13 years. He holds a Master’s Degree in English Literature, and has lectured at numerous educational conferences. He most recently spoke at Magdalene College in Oxford.

How George MacDonald Has Affected Our Lives by Teresa Churcher

There are few moments in life which we remember with acute clarity.  There are even fewer moments in our life where we experience a frozen moment of time.  Some moments like this are pivotal for obvious reasons such as holding a new born baby or a first kiss.  When you are a child these moments can be anything from a loving embrace to a surprise A on a school paper.  For me, I only remember one as a child.  I was at the school library and I saw a book with an intriguing title that caught my attention: The Princess and The Goblin.   I was eight years old and I loved fairy tales but hadn’t yet attempted to read a volume as large as this.  Still I remembered the moment of reaching for the volume, taking it down from the shelf and feeling a sense of awe for THIS looked like a book really worth reading!  I borrowed the book (needless to say) and took it home and read it.  I don’t remember how long it took me to read it but I remember two things clearly.  I remember beginning the book and loving the illustration of Princess Irene in her starry bedroom and I remember the moment I finished it because I did something I had never done before or since.  Immediately after finishing the last page in the book, I turned back to the first page to begin reading it again.  I remember after that looking in my basement for a secret door which would lead me to a secret staircase but I never found it although I had dreams that I did.

Two years later at the same school library, I came across The Princess and Curdie.  I never found any other books by GM until I was in my early twenties and came across two paperback books with interesting covers at a book store.  I didn’t realize who the author was until I was sitting on the train on my way back home looking at my purchases and discovered it was the same author I had loved as a child.  So I then read Phantastes and Lillith.

Years later, I discovered more books by GM through a catalogue I received.  After that, when I had the internet, I decided to do a search on George MacDonald.  I found two websites (yup, only two then), one of them mentioned an email list to join to discuss his works.  I joined the community and gained so much more knowledge and insight into GM and his faith.  I eventually began corresponding with one of the other email subscribers.  One day, he told me of a dream he had where we were in a dark cave along with a bunch of children searching for Princess Irene’s ring.  He found it first and then tossed it to me.  Three years later I had moved from the US to the UK and married him.  Together we visited GM’s birthplace in Huntley.

Last year, I read George MacDonald’s Unspoken Sermons and felt as if I have really come home to my faith.  I read all three volumes slowly and took notes and felt my spirit soar to new heights.  His views on God resonated and added new depths to my faith.  I consider George MacDonald to be a 19th century Christian mystic with a huge heart and a wonderfully wild imagination.

Read more by Teresa at: