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:


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.


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!

Monday Earworm: Depeche Mode

I had mostly only known the instrumental version of this song until recently, and while I enjoy the slightly slower pace of that Dave Clarke acoustic version, I really like this original too. Enjoy!

Don’t forget, there’s still just a little time to weigh in on my poll for the October series. Thank you to everyone who already has done so, with your votes and/or comments!

And particularly if you’re on the Texas Gulf Coast, good luck this week.

Monday Earworm: The Killers

This song has been on constant loop the past week, so now you can deal with it, too. (It’s a bit of a torment, but also it’s actually one of my favorite Killers songs, to be honest.) It’s the kind of song that seems to inspire a wildly different interpretation from everyone who listens to it. What do you think?

In other news, there’s still time to weigh in on the survey I posted last week about the annual Witchy Weekends series here on the blog next month. Be sure to vote for your favorite!

September Poll Plans For October

Hello! Welcome to September. I don’t know about you, but I’m desperately happy it’s not August, The Official Worst Month Of The Year In Texas. This September is admittedly not ideal, but we’re going to press on forward, onward and upward, and fake it till we make it around here.

One of the things I really love about September is its proximity to October, which actually is my favorite month! (Or one of them. Or probably my actual favorite. I mean, October is just grand.)

And October on the blog means the triumphant return of Witchy Weekends, one of the seasonal celebrations we do around here. This series has taken on a variety of forms over the years, and this time I’m in a bit of a quandary deciding what to feature. There are just so many options!

So I thought I’d pose the question to you, dear readers: what would you enjoy seeing here on the blog this October? Please let me know in this totally informal and unscientific poll, and feel free to expound upon your opinions in the comments section. I will take your preferences into account.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts!


Monday Earworm: Journey

So the song that has been played on the radio nearly every time I’ve gotten into the car over the past couple of weeks is catchy and fun to dance to but probably not one whose video I should post here on the blog. This other one, however, caught my attention today, and it is truly lovely. In fact, I liked the song so much that I made it my first non-classical piece to learn on the piano, back when I was still playing regularly, once I had the freedom to choose what I wanted to learn how to play.

This video footage is from a Journey concert here in Houston back in 1981. (I was not at the concert, alas; that was a couple of years before I started attending big stadium rock concerts.) This show was at The Summit, one of the best venues for rock concerts and live sports our fair city has ever had. It’s something else now, but I can assure you rock concerts and Rockets games are the finest, purest things ever to happen in that building.

I read an interview of Steve Perry once that noted his voice was the closest thing to opera that rock music ever had, and listening to this song, it’s not hard to believe that. Have a good week.

Too Much, Frankly

School starting normally feels like drinking from the proverbial firehose, but last week and this week are something extra special. So, no earworm tonight. I’m sorry, but you’ll get one next week (I assume). Instead, please enjoy the following video, which is part 5 in one of my favorite series ever. (If you haven’t seen the first four parts, please do that. I’m sure you can find them in the links around the video I’m posting here.)

Rock on, Julie Nolke, you’re amazing.

In other news, if you’re a Sonic Chihuahua subscriber/reader/fan and haven’t received your August issue yet, hold tight. The last of them are going into the mail tomorrow morning, including all the ones going to Canada and the UK. I had to get more postage, which meant going to the post office after school today. (Fortunately I think I got enough for September’s issue, too.) Cheers!  

Monday Earworm: Aretha Franklin (Because It’s Always A Good Time for Ms. Franklin)

Last week the new biopic Respect came out, starring Jennifer Hudson as the Queen herself, reportedly chosen by Aretha Franklin to play her. If it felt safe enough to go to a movie theater in Houston right now, I’d be there, but since it doesn’t (hello, red zone), I’ll have to wait a bit longer. Unfortunately. I’m so eager to see it!

Anyway, I meant to get this up yesterday, but events conspired. Another busy day today before classes start tomorrow. Here’s some danceable fun from a straight-up goddess to get your day in gear.