Metamorphoses: Medusa

Write 4 a Day: 25 June 2017

Write 4 a DayDon’t you deserve at least one day to write?

Write 4 a Day is a series of monthly one-day writing retreats in upstate New York. There is:

  • no workshop
  • no agenda
  • no required activities
  • no assignments
  • no schedule
  • no WiFi!

Unplug. Write. Don’t write. Think. Daydream. Doodle. Outline. Come for the whole day or just for part of it; network, collaborate or write solo; wander the woods, hills, fields and streams of Universal Pathways for inspiration (bring sturdy shoes) or sit in a comfy chair and brainstorm. It’s up to you.

WHO – you! We haven’t had to limit attendance yet, but it’s getting to be a consideration. If you want to be sure to reserve a space, email me via the contact form.

WHY – because you deserve a day to devote to your writing (or daydreaming or sketching or scheming or knitting or…)

WHAT – $22 fee for the space (cash/check/PayPal/$20 for HVWG members) and food (a dish to share or your own lunch)

WHEN – 10am-5pm

2017: June 25, July 23, Aug 20, Sep 17, Oct 15, Nov 19, Dec 17

WHERE – Universal Pathways, 692 Pleasant Valley Rd, Berne, NY 12023 – Phone: (518) 872-2272

Detailed directions:

90 west to exit 1S

20 west to

146 west to

156 west to

254/Pleasant Valley Road (the left turn after the turn to East Berne)

The road winds along. Continue past the stop sign at Barber Corners, around two bends to the right and then down into the valley; look for the yellow house with a green roof and garage on the right hand side, just past the Browne Farm’s big brown barn with all the quilts.

Daphne Oram’s Wonderful World of Sound

Isobel McArthur as Daphne Oram

Photo via Dundee Rep

We had a chance to catch the Blood of the Young and Tron Theatre presentation of Daphne Oram’s Wonderful World of Sound at Dundee Rep. This show is touring Scotland, so if you can do be sure to see it. If you don’t know anything about Oram, there’s a good primer at her official website. You may recall that her book on sound theory An Individual Note was kickstarted last year, a project spearheaded by the fabulous Sarah Angliss.

Co-written by star Isobel McArthur (pictured above) and director Paul Brotherston, the play gives an overview of key moments in Oram’s life from her childhood interests in music in archeology, to the 1942 séance where the 17 year old was encouraged to pursue music instead of a more traditional ‘girl’s path’ to safety and suffocation. Sheer determination and unflagging confidence in the power of sound eventually brings her to co-founding and becoming director of the famed BBC Radiophonic Workshop. McArthur embodies Oram with an enthusiasm and a dogged primness that allows the passionate creative force to burst out to great effect when it’s been denied too long.

The ensemble cast Robin Hellier, David James Kirkwood, Dylan Read and Matthew Seager move adroitly between parts, shifting accents and body language to make transitions clear. Ana Inés Jabares-Pita has designed a set that supports that nimbleness of the cast. The true magic of theatre is creating places and people in an instant that you completely believe. A small ensemble can sometimes feel like Tommy Cooper changing hats. With a minimum of props, this group portrayed a succession of situations with vivid clarity.

The live sound score by Anneke Kampman was simply amazing. She created ambience, soaring melodies, a wide variety of sound effects and really brought the whole philosophy of Oram to aural life. You can follow her on SoundCloud to hear more, but if you can catch her live do. The frisson between the music and the players energised the whole audience.

You can get a taster here:

Free – Hard-Boiled Witch: Abra Cadavra!

Free now through Saturday on your local Amazon while I’m working on episode 5:

HBW 4 Abra Cadavra

When a new burlesque club opens in Dundee, the owner calls on Hecate Sidlaw to deal with some strange attacks — by a skeleton! She and her familiar Henry need to get to the bottom of the magical threats, if she can get him away from the performers long enough to investigate. Looks like they need someone with expertise in calaveras…

Enter the dark streets and weird magic of HARD-BOILED WITCH and your life will never be quite the same.

This 28-page ebook single is the fourth in the series from the author of WHITE RABBIT, UNQUIET DREAMS, DREAM BOOK, OWL STRETCHING, and the CHASTITY FLAME thriller series.

“Laity has been proving for quite some time now that her noir prose ranks right up there with the likes of Meg Abbott, Dorothy B. Hughes, and Sara Paretsky.”
~ Vincent Zandri

Many thanks to Bertie for mailing me my series notebook >_< which I forgot!

Conquered: First Draft

‘I have Conquer’d, and shall still Go on Conquering. Nothing can withstand the fury of my Course among the Stars of God & in the Abysses of the Accuser. My Enthusiasm is still what it was, only Enlarged and conform’d.’

Which is to say I think I’ve finished the first draft of the comic academic roman à clef. Another pass tomorrow to make sure most glaring idiocies are gone before I pass it along to my beta readers. I’m not usually one who prevails upon beta readers, but being so close to actual events I need to ascertain that I have sufficiently skirted specificity to be safe in my spoofing.

And how better to celebrate than with Blake’s Melancholy — well, endings are beginnings, beginnings endings. One thing crossed off my to-do list, a moment to celebrate and then onward. Much to create: busy, busy busy.

melancholy-1820

Supernatural Scotland

Charles I Angel as charm

Angel of Charles I, the last minted for circulation © Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Friday’s voyage to Edinburgh was a delight. I attended the IASH workshop ‘The Supernatural in Early Modern Scotland’ (thanks to Cailleach’s Herbarium for the alert). It was a bit tricky finding the Institute due to both construction and its rather hidden corner, but I only missed the very beginning. I thought I might feel a bit of an interloper as a medievalist in their midst as well as a stranger but I must say people went out of their way to be welcoming all day.

The event kicked off with the esteemed Julian Goodare (if you don’t know him, you might know the database he helped create) who spoke about the emotional relationships between humans and spirit guides. The history of emotions is an emerging field so it was interesting ground to tread, looking at the ways people engaged with the spirits or fairies whether it was a patron/client relation or something more close (many reportedly had romantic relationships) and looking into their backgrounds for evidences of trauma.

Liv Helene Williumsen explored the tale of the ninety-nine dancers of Moaness in Orkney. The geographical location suggested a remoteness well within sight, while the number suggested that the whole village must have been there, but the influence of ‘stark aill’ (strong beer) was blamed for whatever did happen.

Lizanne Henderson opened up the topic of supernatural animals in the period as everything from familiars to spirit guides to shapeshifted humans (is a human who’s shifted to animal shape still human or animal?). She brought up a variety of strange stories of animals and the supernatural, including the pig put on trial for murder (I had to mention to her the Colin Firth film The Advocate/Hour of the Pig which portrays that story).

After lunch coordinator Martha McGill presented a lot of material on angels in folk culture, including the angel coins pictured above and worn as protective charms. She touched on the unfortunate effects of the Protestant Reformation in destroying so much of the art history of Scotland though angels had been as plentiful as ‘brambles’ despite the kirk’s disapproval.

Michael Riordan focused on ‘The Whole Prophesie’ of Thomas Rhymer which had a variety of uses in the early Modern period and linked up everything from Jacobites to Rosicrucians and Masons. If you’re familiar with Thomas the Rhymer who met the Queen of Elfland, it’s the same one. I was most inspired because I think this will play into my Raven King paper for next month, so now I’m reading up on this.

Domhnall Uilleam Stiùbhart looked at the cultural contexts of second sight in the islands and Highlands. As in the Icelandic medieval stories, this wasn’t about seeing ghosts but seeing the fetch of a living person and knowing what would happen down the line. It was interesting to hear that novice seers would have to defer to older and more experienced practitioners, perhaps to exercise a kind of community control over the nature of the experience.

Before the roundtable discussion Hamish Mathison spoke on the nature of the supernatural in Burns’ Tam o’Shanter. He argued that Burns offers a nuanced balance of the ‘wild’ and the ‘domesticated’ in the landscape of the ruined church, a mixture of the comic and the Gothic which makes for a certain discomfort. It was a great note to end on.

If you’re wishing you could have been there, it may comfort you to know that there is a forthcoming collection of essays with a few additional folk who were not able to be there. You’ll want to pick that up.

22075803496_9bc360b47e_o
Tam o’Shanter by Thomas Landseer

Charcoal Burners, Black Sails & Magic

Uskglass Charcoal Burner

Admittedly I’ve not left the house since I got here, but don’t let my indolence fool you! I am ready to rise to the opportunity and sure enough, I will be. Thanks to Cailleach’s Herbarium mentioning it on Facebook, I got on the waitlist and now have ticket in hand to attend ‘The Supernatural in Early Modern Scotland’ this Friday. A workshop at The Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh, it looks to be a fascinating day (see the whole list of speakers here).

So many interests colliding in useful ways! It’s great to have the feeling you’re in the right place at the right time.

And speaking of collisions: the above illustration is of course the lovely Charles Vess. It’s for the last story in Susanna Clarke’s collection The Ladies of Grace Adieu. In my usual way I had hoarded the last few stories last summer, thinking when I read them there would be no more of her writing to read as she has nothing else out at present (yes, that’s how my brain works). I didn’t know the interest I would develop in charcoal burners in the meantime! So it was the first thing I read when I got back here. A delightful tale with saints (including Brigit), Uskglass and of course the titular charcoal burner.

Total collision count: dissertation subjects, two forthcoming conference papers, and the new all-consuming medieval project, Rauf Coilyear. I’m teaching Rauf in the upper division medieval class this fall. I love it when a plan comes together.

Meanwhile I am playing dolls with Miss C and catching up on Black Sails with my sweetie. Life is good.