Falmouth graduate Pete Jordi Wood: Amplifying voices in LGBTQ+ folklore
01 June 2023
Meet Falmouth graduate, Pete Jordi Wood, a talented writer and illustrator whose work has recently caught the attention of international publishing houses and Hollywood producers.
While studying a master's degree in Illustration: Authorial Practice at Falmouth, Pete began his research into marginalised voices and positive LGBTQ+ representation in folklore. Since then, Pete's dedication to this subject has led to the creation of two remarkable books for Puffin, including Tales From Beyond the Rainbow, which is released on 1 June, and The Dog and the Sailor. Pete's work has also been picked up by Hollywood producer Freddy Wexler, paving the way for an animated musical feature based on his book.
We caught up with Pete to hear more about these exciting projects and how his research and creative practice offers a fresh perspective and a much-needed voice in the field of literature.
What have you been up to since completing your MA in Illustration: Authorial Practice?
Since graduating from the MA, I've been working on two books for Puffin Books. The first is Tales From Beyond the Rainbow, an anthology of LGBTQ+ folktales, out on 1 June 2023 with Puffin Classics, and for that project I collaborated with a team of predominantly LGBTQ+ illustrators from around the world.
The second book is a new Puffin version of The Dog and the Sailor, an LGBTQ+ fairy tale I found in a rare folklore collection from the 1800s which I originally wrote a queer analysis of for my master’s thesis. I then adapted, illustrated and published it in 2020 as an interactive exhibition and book for my MA final project. I've now written and illustrated an extended picture book version of that tale for Puffin, coming out in early 2024. Having sold the rights to develop the book as an animated musical feature, I’m now working with the amazing producer Freddy Wexler in Hollywood and his production company.
Could you tell us about your research into LGBTQ+ folklore?
I’ve always loved fairy tales, but as a young gay and non-binary person, I couldn't find fairy tale protagonists I connected with… so as an adult I went in search of them. I’m interested in uncovering neglected stories from folklore with positive portrayals of queer characters, and shining the spotlight on them.
Folklore shapes societal perceptions, so diverse representation really, really matters. While studying at Falmouth and since graduating, I’ve conducted LGBTQ+ scholarship in this field, like an archaeological dig, because there was such limited research by openly LGBTQ+ people. I just felt like, for once, maybe my perspective mattered - that it potentially represented other queer people too, and that it was needed in a field of academia that didn’t seem to hear our authentic take on historically grounded folklore very often. So, I offered mine and used my voice.
Could you tell us more about Tales From Beyond the Rainbow?
Tales From Beyond the Rainbow is a collection of ten international LGBTQ+ fairy tales. It celebrates adventure, resilience, and positive LGBTQ+ representation in folklore. Each story is adapted from historical sources and beautifully illustrated by an artist sharing the same heritage as the origin of the story.
An authenticity reader with an LGBTQ+ identity and shared cultural background with each tale guided each adaptation in the book. Tales From Beyond the Rainbow ultimately explores queer narratives in folklore with happily-ever-afters.
How did the course at Falmouth help you to develop your skills and career?
Studying the master’s degree in Illustration: Authorial Practice at Falmouth University helped my artistic and professional growth. I think I had confidently found my ‘voice’ as a storyteller in my previous professional career... that was born from a life-long journey of authentic lived-experiences and struggles and not something I discovered in a book or an academic course!
However, the MA course encouraged me to explore my authorial voice specifically in academic research. It helped me discover the stories, quite literally, that I wanted to adapt and share through creative writing and illustration. The process of that also pushed my creative practice into a new arena, because I’d previously focused on social realism and drama for adults. However, I then pivoted into the fantasy genre during my master’s degree, and I'm happy about that because writing and illustrating fairy tales is fun!
What’s next for the future?
I'm returning to Falmouth University for a PhD Studentship to continue my research into marginalised voices in folklore.
I just pitched the sequel to Tales From Beyond the Rainbow and am hoping to extend the book into a series. I'm also excited for my new picture book, The Dog and the Sailor, to be released next year and will be helping to developing the movie as one of its Executive Producers.
Despite rejections for such a long time in my career as a writer and illustrator, which is a journey many of us have to go through, I am so pleased that I now have the opportunity to tell stories. I love working with talented people on projects I connect with, and hope others find joy in them too!
Pete Jordi Wood is a writer and illustrator from Cornwall. His Instagram is @petejordiwood and his website is petejordiwood.com. 'Tales From Beyond the Rainbow: 10 LGBTQ+ Fairy Tales Proudly Reclaimed' is now available to order from book stores or online.