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.

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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!

National Poetry Month — Day 23

Okay, I admit that I’ve chosen this one of Marie Marshall’s Gothic poems in part because I love the picture she paired with it. The arched window which suggests the shape of the moon. The checkered floor. The drape of her gown, so detailed that I can see even from a black-and-white painting that it’s a particularly sumptuous velvet — and, by the way, a dress I would totally wear.

 

***

 

The crystal ball

 

Where has the seeress lost herself?
In what relentless seas
Sails she, with helmsman sprite or elf,
To seek elusive ease?

What worlds are cupped within her hands?
And where her steady gaze
Falls, are there rich, exotic lands
In sunlit ancient days?

Her lips that seem to wish a kiss,
Her beauty gowned in red –
Is all her being wrapt in bliss,
Or does she see the dead?

See there! Her grimoire and her wand –
Behind, a grinning skull –
Are spirits summoned to respond,
Or are her senses dull?

What knowledge, what enlightenment
Seeks she in realms arcane?
Beware, my sweet! All’s transient,
Your loveliness will wane!

Whatever is the magic lore
Whose secrets now entice
You through a dark and one-way door –
You pay too high a price!

So lady, lay that lore aside,
Forswear your mantic ball
For mind’s health, beauty’s morningtide –
Or, hazarding, lose all!

 

 

The Crystal Ball, by Waterhouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Poetry Month — Day 22

Here is another of Marie Marshall’s Gothic poems. This one, a love poem.

In related news, it always makes me chuckle a bit when my younger students read love poetry for the first time. Some of them never had any idea that poetry had anything to do with passion…which makes me wonder what they’d been reading in the past.

 

***

 

Come, bathe with me by candle-light

 

Come, bathe with me by candle-light
Rose-petal-strewn thy bower be
Thou art desire, thou art delight
With soft caresses sadden me

Come, lie with me in pale moonlight
Sweet-scented grass receiving thee
Be ever pleasant in my sight
With tender kisses gladden me

Come, love with me by sharp starlight
And share my joyful ecstasy
Be never hidden by the night
With reckless loving madden me!

 

 

 

National Poetry Month — Day 21

Poet Marie Marshall, whose work you’ve seen featured and reviewed here before, wrote a charmingly sardonic collection of Gothic poems, some of which I’d like to feature on the blog this month. I like them because I like Gothic stuff in general — I do, after all, teach an AP English course in Gothic Literature — but also because these poems are contemporary (written in 2010) yet honor a very traditional style that we don’t often see being used in current American letters. (And no, Marshall is not an American; she’s based in Scotland.)

There are some who argue that the state of page poetry has become too esoteric for its own relatability. Maybe. I know there are poets I’ve read in the last few years whose work doesn’t really mean anything to me at all. Perhaps I’m too narrative-bound. Perhaps I just appreciate poetry that is trying to relate to the reader in a human way. Who knows?

Marshall’s poems, several of which I’m featuring here in a series, pay homage to rhyme and meter and form and traditional storylines, but in fresh ways. And that, I believe, has value.

 

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Selena

 

For each night’s revelation here I stand
transfixed, to view the rising of the moon;
I take my aged wooden flute in hand
and play a lifting, lilting, falling tune.

I sound my serenade by softest breath,
in semi-silence, half-afraid to break
by step, by slightest movement, into death
the perfect mirror-image in the lake.

Selena is the secret name I give
myself at this deep, magick time of night;
in castle-clouds and hues of grey I live,
and sigh alone in silver, shifting light…

When sunlight comes, and reds and ochres whirl,
I am a very different kind of girl.

 

 

 

 

The Roots of Destiny

In my AP Gothic Lit. class we’ve been studying Frankenstein. Sometimes my students come up with questions and discussions so fascinating I feel the need to share them. Today during a seminar discussion, I was inspired to suggest the following question. Please discuss (in the comments section).

Kenneth Branagh as Victor Frankenstein

Is destiny a function of egotism or irresponsibility?