The WonderLit Path
What is the WonderLit Path?
The WonderLit Path is a self-study course that invites you to experience the renewing, healing power of fairy tales by delving into a story and exploring it for yourself.
With the guidance of a published author who is also a seasoned storyteller, you will begin by choosing a fairy tale that you find meaningful. Then, going at your own pace, you will be offered a series of writing exercises that will take you into the story you've chosen to explore. Using your imagination, you'll move into the tale, meet the characters, follow the journey of the protagonist, and find your own story in the fairy tale.
Sound like fun?
Who is WonderLit for?
The WonderLit Path is for people who:
- are interested in fairy tales and what they mean.
- like to write and use their imagination along with other artistic skills like drawing and performing.
- wish to gain new insight into what is going on in their inner world and their path in life.
- wish to investigate the universal patterns of the human journey and make personal connections that will enrich their storytelling, teaching, speaking, and artistry.
- wish to deepen their conversations and make more soulful connections with other people and with the natural world.
In short, this course is for you if you want to strengthen the powers of your imagination, and become more deeply self-aware through the imagery of a fairy tale.
An Overview of WonderLit
There are fifteen chapters in the WonderLit course, and they are divided into three sections: WARM UP, JOURNEY and DEEP WORK.
When you enter the WARM UP, you'll receive guidance in choosing your fairy tale. If it's your first time through, I'll encourage you to choose a short tale—one that you feel connected to, with a strong structure and a classic happy ending. As you move through the WARM UP, you'll find out how you're connected to the tale. You'll learn to see like a storyteller, through different perspectives, and you'll map the story's terrain. By the end of the section, you'll know why you were drawn to the story, and you'll be able to tell it to friends.
After the WARM UP you'll embark on a JOURNEY, following in the footsteps of your main character. Starting in the protagonist's "home state," you'll discover the narrative that governs the status quo in your story. You'll explore how your protagonist departs from the status quo, and discover how your character's adventures relate to real life.
Throughout the JOURNEY, you'll be writing with more and more flow, and making a "breadcrumb trail" of insights as you complete each chapter. At the end of the JOURNEY, you'll know what your protagonist's liberation means to you. You'll be able to tell your story with power and conviction, through different points of view. You will also have written a lot of material that reflects your own wisdom and experience. Some people move from doing WonderLit to writing memoirs, or more powerfully telling personal stories.
If, at the end of the JOURNEY, you wish to get a better understanding of the negative powers that your fairy tale confronts, you'll be encouraged to go on to DEEP WORK. Here we do a "post mortem" on the powers that were overthrown in your story and find out how an old "spell" was broken. We also look at the characters that you're still wondering about and who aren't reconciled at the end of the story. By imagining ourselves into their stories, we can forge new paths of reconciliation that can be translated to our lives and times.
Throughout your journey with WonderLit, you'll be seeing the many facets of the jewel that is your fairy tale. You'll understand why you chose it, and feel some of the "medicine" it has to offer. The whole process will give you a firsthand experience of the transformative power of the mythic imagination, and enrich your experience as an artist and a human being.
How do I take the course?
You can take the journey by yourself or in a group. You may wish to go through the exercises on your own, or you might prefer to take the course with a small group of friends such as study partners, a writing group, or a book club. The exercises are not only lively and fun, they also lead to soulful conversations, so it can be advantageous to do them with trusted friends in informal settings.
You set your own pace. WonderLit is divided into three sections so you can celebrate your accomplishments at the end of each one. You set the pace. The best way to do WonderLit is to decide at the beginning when you'll be doing the course, and stick to that schedule. So, for example, you might choose to do one hour on Friday morning and one hour on Sunday morning. Then take a celebratory two-week break between sections.
Some people have gone on retreat to do a section of WonderLit, or they've taken the summer to do it. It's up to you.
Leaving it up to you is important because when you decide to take the WonderLit path, you become like the protagonist in your story. You're setting off on an adventure. All adventures require commitment and the resolve to move against forces of resistance, which makes the act of taking WonderLit more than an intellectual exercise. It is a real adventure, with all the boons that come to those who are willing to be brave and dedicated.
That being said, there's nothing wrong with committing to the process one section at a time, and going slowly into the water. You decide whatever is best for you, which is why you are most qualified to make your own course schedule.
You can return to explore a new story. If you have completed the course, you might wish to do it again with another character in the same story, or with a different story.
Alternatively, you may wish to do the WARM UP several times with different stories, and then choose one in which to embark on the JOURNEY. It's up to you!
What is the WonderLit method?
The WonderLit method is based on three premises:
1 To know a fairy tale is to experience it for yourself.
In WonderLit, we're not trying to find out what fairy tales mean in any absolute sense. We're focused on what the story means to you. When you relate to the events in the story, your personal experience will have universal resonance. For example, if you’re exploring Hansel and Gretel, you might think of a time when you were “lost in a dark wood." Now your personal story will have a strong universal resonance, because every human being knows what it is like to be “lost in a dark wood.”
2 Respect the lines of the story as it is presented and then go between them.
Charles Dickens once wrote, "In a utilitarian age...it is a matter of grave importance that fairy tales should be respected."
Respect is an important cornerstone of WonderLit. We're working with material that came down through generations of oral storytelling, or emerged out of the deep mythic imagination of visionary writers like Hans Christian Andersen.
The stories don't always sit well. They've got unsightly bits and pieces: the ending is too violent, or a character like a wolf or a stepmother gets a bad rap. That’s typical of fairy tales! They teach us to look symbolically, not literally. When you embrace the story, warts and all, you can come to know it symbolically.
What we do in WonderLit is to use our imaginations, not to change the lines, but to step in between the lines and look around with our own eyes.
3 The story is a territory.
In WonderLit, we’re entering the story as if it were a country, a space that can be explored. We can move around in this country, meet the inhabitants, and time-travel through the changing events.
It's powerful to see a story as a space you can enter, rather than just a time-line. As a space, there is much to discover in the story about the space we occupy in the world.
What People Say about WonderLit
WonderLit rocks! It is so much fun and multifaceted. The learning is applicable to where I have been, where I am now, and where I want to go. It’s been very interesting from the instructional design perspective to experience how Michelle Tocher, the course author, pegged so many of the things that learners are demanding these days—very personalized learning, total engagement, depth, relevance, and options (no single answer is the right one.) I'm much more able, after taking the WonderLit course, to expand my viewpoint as a writer, fully developing my characters, which substantially enhances my readers' experience. I loved this course, and I’ve gained immeasurable strength and peace as well as empowerment on this magical journey back to my strongest self."
Jen Berghage, veteran Instructional Designer, Penn State World Campus, Artist, Writer, and Beadweaver
Through Michelle, I learned how to enter into the story, discover the characters, and let the story unfold. The process was magical, and brought me back to my childhood love for fairy tales. Since then I've attended every class and workshop of Michelle's that I could. I've explored characters such as the Thirteenth Wise Woman, Cinderella, and the Fairy Godmother. And largely due to Michelle, I wrote a play "The Sorrowkeeper," which I later took to the stage. Michelle's work brings light to dark places, and magic to illuminate our everyday lives."
Katie Curtin, Life Coach and Founder of "The Creativity Cafe"
Following Michelle's guidance through such territories as "mapping the landscape," "deep spells and first awakenings," "allies in impossibility," and "when spells break," I discovered not only the depth-within-simplicity of fairy tales, but also previously unknown meanings within my own personal story. The exploration of (The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs) through writing, psychodrama, and Michelle's forms of understanding, enabled some spell-breaking and a welcomed further descent into my humble humanity. I do not exaggerate. I am very grateful for having encountered Michelle and her devotion to liberating the psyche through the magic of fairy tales."
Anthony Wilson, Psychotherapist and Singer-Songwriter
When I was working with Beauty and the Beast, Beauty did not attract me. In fact she repelled me. I was much more drawn to the Beast. I found Beauty to be icky and filled with false virtue. Sacrificial, Sickly sweet. Goody two shoes. I wanted to smack her. The Beast's raging and tormented self seemed more believable. Familiar. However, when I ventured into each of them, I found that Beauty needed to marry the Beast, as much as he needed to marry her! They needed to marry one another to become Real. For as with all of us humans, they were neither one nor the other. And surrender to love for one another was a way to make each one Real."
Sage Walker, Spiritual Educator and Counselor