Witchy Weekends: Review of Deborah Blake’s New Book

I encountered this book when Alethea Kontis recommended it on her #FriendlyFridays series, and since I’m fascinated by spellbooks as cultural artifacts, I checked it out. While it was published earlier this year, it took several weeks to arrive after the presumed release date due to the supply chain woes currently hampering the book industry (as well as most other industries right now). But it was definitely worth the wait; this is a fun one!

The Eclectic Witch’s Book of Shadows by Deborah Blake is part grimoire, part journal, part recipe collection, and part friendly encyclopedia. It is both practical and entertaining, with a wealth of competent knowledge that any practitioner from New Age to hobbyist to pagan can find real value in. It also contains ample space for the reader to add plenty of their own knowledge and experience to make this a truly personal book of shadows.

This cover art gives you a good idea of what the interior illustrations look like.

The sections included in this book include herbs, stones, candles, magical recipes, divination, gods and goddesses, invocations and quarter calls, spells, rituals, recipes, and correspondences. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and yet radiates respectful kindness of the faith practices (and to some extent psychology) of a healthy swath of the population.

This book contains charming and colorful illustrations by Mickie Mueller, the kind that give off a peaceful and cheerful vibe. This is not the sort of book conspicuous Goths like Azrael Abyss and Circe Nightshade (from SNL’s Goth Talk, ca. 1997-2000) would gravitate toward, but a useful and fun book that could be appreciated by a young or new practitioner and an experienced one and everyone in between — as well as those who, like me, find this genre of literature interesting for its peek into another worldview.

Witchy Earworm: INTO THE WOODS

Hello! We’re having a long weekend here, so my days are a little disorganized and I have a ton of work to do for school, and I’m therefore combining this (long) weekend’s Witchy Weekends post with today’s Monday Earworm. But you get two delightful items in one blog post, so that’s something, right?

Here are two of my favorite selections, sung primarily by The Witch, from the musical Into the Woods, written by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine.

Fun fact: I have only a handful of musicals on the list of musicals I like. Into the Woods used to be my favorite, until Hamilton came along, and now that one is my favorite, but ITW is still definitely on the list.

The first song is the Witch’s Rap from the first act, and the second one is “Your Fault / Last Midnight” from the second act. I love them both for how beautifully they convey the complicated multiple facets of The Witch — not only in this play, but also in the rich pageant of literature and literary archetypes. (Maybe more on that later. We’ll see.)

A lot of amazing people have played The Witch in this musical. I’ve included here the original, Bernadette Peters, who is an icon and a legend to be sure. But Meryl Streep, Vanessa Williams, Hannah Waddingham, and countless others have rocked this character onstage (and perhaps also in film?). Who is your favorite? Tell us in the comments below, and feel free to link to a video of your favorite performance, too!

And the second one…

 

Monday Earworm: Ed Sheeran

I don’t even really know what to say about this video. It’s…just bizarre. And not in an entirely compelling way, either, but it’s the Hallowe’en season, so we’ll allow it.

I like the song a lot, though, because I love to dance. And it did successfully eject the Hamilton soundtrack out of my head after I watched that musical last week with my Creative Writing classes and could not otherwise dislodge Miranda’s abject genius.

This is definitely something different from that.

Witchy Weekends: Holiday Decor

Welcome to October and the return of Witchy Weekends! Thank you to everyone who voted in the poll last month to help me curate this year’s series. Turns out the votes were all over the place! So a seasonal smorgasbord it is…

This weekend I’m posting a book spine poem I created while I was decorating my house for Hallowe’en. So far only the library is done — okay, mostly done — but I will get to the outside of the house in the very near future; I just want the heavy rains to be finished for a while first. (I also have a mountain of papers to grade and report card comments to write this week, so…)

One of my favorite things about book spine poetry is that it illustrates the versatility and importance of punctuation. (Yes, I’m a grammar geek.) Similarly to grammar, punctuation is architecture: it gives our sentences structure. Book spine poems are just a bunch of seemingly unrelated or random words — until you add punctuation in there and create a story.

Enjoy!

The tale of Murasaki:
Cleopatra’s daughter,
witches of east end,
the lust lizard of Melancholy Cove,
tea,
Arabian nights.
Spoiler alert:
any rogue will do.
And for a bonus, here’s the rest of this year’s mantel.

24 Hours Left…

Hey there! If you were on the fence about taking my Gothic Story Elements class this Saturday afternoon, please note that you have about 24 hours left to sign up for it. (That *might* be flexible, but seriously do it before tomorrow evening.) The course will be conducted over Zoom — and you don’t need your own Zoom account, since you’ll get a link to join at registration — so you can take it from anywhere online.

Writespace sometimes offers discounts on classes at the last minute, and it looks like they’re doing that with mine, woot! If you want that discount code, let me know ASAP.

You can register for the course here.

Here’s the course description, too, in case you missed it before…

GOTHIC STORY ELEMENTS

photo by Bee Felten-Leidel on Unsplash

What do a darkly beautiful aesthetic, #WitchyGirlAutumn, and a tantalizing sense of foreboding all have in common? They can be part of the rich pageant of Gothic story elements that make so many “classic” — or “forbidden” — literary pleasures so deep. In this three-hour generative workshop, we will dip our feet into the chilling waters of Gothic literature to find out what that genre entails. Expect a multi-faceted exploration as we discuss a range of examples in visual art, film, music, and mentor texts. Our writing time will include the opportunity to use these Gothic  elements to begin a story or enhance one you’ve already started. Students will have the option of sharing what they’ve written during the workshop. Come with your favorite writing utensils (a laptop, a legal pad and sharpened pencils, a leather-bound journal and a fancy feather quill—whatever works for you). Let’s kick off the Gothic season in writing style!

All levels of writing experience welcome.

Dipping into the Gothic and Magical Waters

Here in the northern hemisphere, the autumn equinox fast approaches. Earlier this week, as my family was driving to my parents’ house to have dinner with them and my brother who was in town, we saw our first house of the season decorated for Hallowe’en. I saw two more this weekend, including one in our own neighborhood. We’re slated to get our first real cool front of the season in a few days. (I CANNOT WAIT. I’ve already got a sweater picked out to wear the minute one becomes even a little bit necessary, and I’m drinking pumpkin spice chai tea even now as I write this blog post.)

Partly in celebration of the season and partly because it’s going to be really fun, I’m teaching two new workshops at Writespace next month. The first is Gothic Story Elements, a three-hour generative writing class happening on Saturday, October 2nd. The second is a two-day workshop focused on Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, happening during the afternoons of two Sundays, October 3rd and 10th. You can click this link to learn more about and register for all the October and November workshops Writespace is putting on (including mine), but I’m also including the descriptions of both classes below.

I’d like to mention also a note about the formats of these classes, which are, as I said, generative. This means you will not be listening to me lecture for three hours. Far from it! I will teach you some interesting things, sure, but you will also be doing your own writing and idea work — generating, as it were. The Gothic Story Elements class will help you with writing stories in the Gothic genre, and the class about The Night Circus will include some focused literary analysis as a means to writing well. (And yes, you will be writing.) I’m SO excited about them both!

I sincerely hope you’ll join me for one or both classes. Since they’re being conducted on Zoom, there are no covid-related safety concerns, and you can join us from anywhere in the world where you have an internet connection. (My previous Writespace classes this year have included students from a variety of states in the US and even other countries. That has been awesome.) And while Writespace classes are typically an incredible bargain, the organization also offers scholarships with glee, so never feel embarrassed to ask for one.

Now without further ado, here are the course descriptions:

GOTHIC STORY ELEMENTS

photo by Bee Felten-Leidel on Unsplash

What do a darkly beautiful aesthetic, #WitchyGirlAutumn, and a tantalizing sense of foreboding all have in common? They can be part of the rich pageant of Gothic story elements that make so many “classic” — or “forbidden” — literary pleasures so deep. In this three-hour generative workshop, we will dip our feet into the chilling waters of Gothic literature to find out what that genre entails. Expect a multi-faceted exploration as we discuss a range of examples in visual art, film, music, and mentor texts. Our writing time will include the opportunity to use these Gothic  elements to begin a story or enhance one you’ve already started. Students will have the option of sharing what they’ve written during the workshop. Come with your favorite writing utensils (a laptop, a legal pad and sharpened pencils, a leather-bound journal and a fancy feather quill—whatever works for you). Let’s kick off the Gothic season in writing style!

All levels of writing experience welcome.

READING YOUR WAY TO WRITING WELL: THE NIGHT CIRCUS BY ERIN MORGENSTERN

In this series of workshops, Writespace instructors select a work of literature and guide participants in a deep dive into craft, style, technique, and device. In these six-hour workshops, the instructor will lead an analysis of the work, and participants will practice using the techniques and devices discussed, leading to generating ideas and techniques for their own writing. Participants will need to read the selection in advance and come prepared to discuss it. 
 
Erin Morgenstern’s highly acclaimed debut The Night Circus rocked the literary world with its lush writing, clever structure, magnetic characters, and gripping story. In this two-day course, we will explore some of the reasons why Morgenstern’s novel is so well written and use it as a mentor text to generate some innovative writing of our own. Expect to discuss various elements of the text and to write original creative work, using Morgenstern’s techniques for inspiration. Attendees will have the opportunity to share their writing in class both days. Homework involves reading The Night Circus in its entirety before the first class begins and one or two writing exercises between class sessions.

This course is open to all levels of writing and literary analysis. Reading the text before the class begins is necessary.

***

If you’ve been wanting to take a workshop from me but haven’t found the time yet, please note that these might be the last classes I offer before the new year. Jump on this bandwagon — you won’t be disappointed! You can find these classes listed under Writespace Houston’s offerings at Eventbrite, or just click on this link to register. Thank you!

Sonic Chihuahua Issue #5!

Coming out next week! Sonic Chihuahua volume 2 issue 5. Let me know if you want one.

In other news, my popular little zine is now going to be carried by my brother’s shop, Ella’s Apothecary, at their pop-up locations.

I’m also actively looking for zine fests and other venues where it might be well received. The response to the reboot of my zine this year has been…well, AMAZING. I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who is reading and subscribing and reviewing it online and contributing and generally squealing with joy when I show up to hand it over. THIS MAKES MY DAY!

I also have enough subscribers now to actually pay contributors. Yes, it’s still a token payment because the zine isn’t actually profitable yet. But also? It’s a project I love doing, and I’ve got the contents slate for the next five issues already mapped out (rough drafts, so it’s flexible).

Thank you again! And if you’d like to get in on this fantastic zine action, do let me know. Drop me a note in the comments (with a way to reach you if I don’t already know where to find you), and we’ll get that taken care of.

OH! And there have been multiple requests this last month for ways people can pay for the zine. I’m currently taking subscription payments via PayPal and Venmo (but cash works well, too, if I’m delivering it to you in person). Drop me a note to find out more.

Thank you again!

And…one last bit…I’m still working out the schedule for next month’s Witchy Weekends series, so if you want to cast a vote in the poll about what the series will include this year, go here. I appreciate your feedback!