Charms Conference #FolkloreThursday

Sneaking into the last few hours of #FolkloreThursday and finally sharing a bit about the Charms Conference I went to last month at Harvard. It was great: even better, there’s a proposed proceedings volume in the works so you may be able to share some of the exciting things I heard and saw that weekend. It doesn’t include a CD alas, so you won’t hear me singing a medieval charm* but I will write about the process involved. More pix going on the ‘book.

*Given the enthusiastic response, I am working on recording some medieval charms in a variety of ways. More to come —

Out Now: Tarot in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Mythlore36.2My essay “The Unlikely Milliner & The Magician of Threadneedle-Street” has been published in Mythlore: A Journal of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Mythopoeic Literature. Click the 1st link to read a free PDF; click the 2nd to find information on ordering the issue (you can get it through your library, too).

There’s a whole special section on tarot edited by Emily Auger (whom tarot folk likely know well), as well as pieces on Tolkien, Lovecraft, Le Guin and Sayers.

Here’s the abstract for the essay which may intrigue your interest:

Susanna Clarke uses the tarot in her novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell much as she uses history: twisting it to open up spaces for magic and playfulness. She offers modifications on the traditional Tarot de Marseille that accurately predict the narrative events, yet deftly obscures the outcomes by leading the readers (and the characters) to jump to the wrong conclusions.

With another conference paper proposed on the novel, I guess I’m going to have to admit to maybe writing a book about this book…

My Schedule @Worldcon75

header-1200x200WorldCon in Helsinki is coming up shockingly soon. Hope to see you there. I’m unlikely to have much time to post while I’m there, but I’m sure to be tweeting. I hope to meet up with a lot of friends I’ve not seen in a while (relatives, too!). My schedule is conveniently grouped for single day attendance (though I’m arriving Wednesday night):

Screen Shot 2017-08-01 at 09.29.15Screen Shot 2017-08-01 at 09.29.46

For the academic track I will be talking once again about Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (yes, when I get obsessed, I stay obsessed to adapt John Irving’s words). The title of my presentation is ‘Lollard Magician: Jonathan Strange & the Reform of English Magic’ so you can get a sense of where it’s going (assuming you know who Wycliffe is).

But I better get back to finishing it —

The Great Grey Beast

thiefusp3‘The great grey beast February had eaten Harvey Swick alive. Here he was, buried in the belly of that smothering month, wondering if he would ever find his way out through the cold coils that lay between here and Easter. He didn’t think much of his chances…’

It’s rare that those words do not pop into my mind when February begins. Clive Barker’s hero in The Thief of Always is bored in school and desperately longs for excitement. I’m rather the opposite at present. I’ve been so busy I long for boredom and quiet but it’s not on the horizon.

This weekend I got two complicated grant applications done; one sent off, the other will be today once I look it over again. I’m contemplating a third. Next weekend I’m off down to the city for a fab conference with an amazing art exhibition attached to it — and staying with a friend so excitement abounds.

I’m trying hard to remember my Happy No Year declaration as exciting calls for stories and papers come my way. So many opportunities! But I must remember I have neither the time nor the funds for all the shiny shiny things. No, you can say it, Kate. No.

I’m glad to see February in a way. September and January both seem like the longest cruelest months. Transitions between my two lands, return to teaching, meetings, forms, etc. all add up to a hectic time which makes the month seem even longer. So hello February, hail Brigit. Have you put away your Yuletide decorations?


by Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

DOWN with the rosemary, and so
Down with the bays and misletoe ;
Down with the holly, ivy, all,
Wherewith ye dress’d the Christmas Hall :
That so the superstitious find
No one least branch there left behind :
For look, how many leaves there be
Neglected, there (maids, trust to me)
So many goblins you shall see.

2015-09-12 07.06.08

Happy ‘No’ Year

Happy New Year! I plan to make this the year of ‘no’: it’s not as negative as it sounds. For many years I have said ‘yes’ to far too many things. I am always hungry for experiences. And I generally only do things I actually want to do (I’ve become much better at not doing things I don’t want to do). When it comes to writing though, much as I write, there are only so many hours in the day. I use them well, trust me.

However, there were those years I had off from the usual working-two-jobs life. Yes, I work two full time jobs, which a lot of people seem to forget. I am a full time faculty member: I had a note to amend this depending on what we heard in December from the CSR administration. We lost 23 faculty members, many tenured, and more than two dozen programs. Make no mistake: this is part of an ideological battle for the soul of academia in this country. At present we’re losing. If we cannot prevail, true education will be only for the elite. The rest of us will just be part of the corporate supply chain. This is taking a lot of my energy.

I am also a full-time writer. It’s not a hobby I do sometimes when the muse finds me. The muse knows where to find me and I am always working even when she isn’t. I have deadlines and responsibilities. I make and remake to-do lists.

That’s how I get things done.


But those two years I had off for the Fulbright and for my sabbatical (which have since been suspended by the growing phalanx of administrators who don’t think faculty ‘deserve’ such ‘luxuries’) skewed my expectations for how much I could get done. Fall term is always busy, but this year particularly so because there was so much time spent at meetings organising, protesting and planning on campus. I took on administration of two new websites, including directing the new Digital Humanities Initiative, which taught me that it’s extremely difficult to get a new project off the ground at a campus where people fear they will be losing their jobs (no surprise).

That’s in addition to managing my own four (?!) websites, as well as a variety of social media for both Broad Universe and our local Sisters in Crime chapter, Mavens of Mayhem. Oh, and the website for Universal Pathways. And this was the first year I didn’t edit an anthology for Fox Spirit (technically, I start reviewing stories for the next anthology now). I tried not to take it personally that it was also the year they won a major award.

Writing will always come first — fiction and non-fiction, short long, middle lengths.  Then there’s the reading, too. Not enough of that happening except when I’m traveling. The thing is I’m a bit of a casualty of my own success in teaching people How to Keep Writing with a Full Time Job: I have to remember I don’t have to do all the things. I don’t have to Always Be Writing.


So, I’ll be saying ‘no‘ a lot more. I will say no to things I probably would enjoy doing, to things that I will feel sad at passing up, to opportunities that will probably launch other people into success (because I can always be counted on to do the wrong thing — or maybe just the impractical thing — at the wrong time), and to things that I ‘could’ do but probably shouldn’t.

Of course, there are a very few people I can never say no to (*cough* Adele *cough*) and gigs that pay upfront will be given priority. However I plan to have more golden hours of luxury (i.e. reading) and not give in to the lure of the hectic life. Idleness will once more be my aim on a daily basis, not just when I escape. In short, I plan to be dull.

I began writing this over Thanksgiving weekend. I suspected even then that I might delete the post or just keep it to myself. Yet I think part of keeping myself to the task is a public repetition of the message. I suspect I’m not alone in this endeavour. Maybe other folks are feeling overwhelmed by the need to always do more, too. Let us enjoy our lives. It’s okay.

Barrie Golden

And to remind myself that I got more done than I remember — and to remind myself that I don’t have to feel nervuos when a week or a month goes by without something new coming out (I swear I will get used to that), here as far as I can remember are the things what I wrote and/or published this year:

Airships & Alchemy. Women’s League of Ale Drinkers (Aug 2015)

Dream Book. Short Story Collection. Fox Spirit Books (April 2015) which had 2 new stories.

Knight of the White Hart (as Kathryn Marlowe). Tirgearr Publishing. Jan 2015.

“Elf Prefix.” (as Graham Wynd) Short story. You Left Your Biscuit. Fox Spirit, forthcoming.

“Inevitable.” (as Graham Wynd). Short story. Stories for Henri, forthcoming.

“Broken Bicycles.” (as Graham Wynd) Short story. Drunk on the Moon anthology. Blackwitch Press, forthcoming.

“Intoxicate Me.” (as Victoria Squid). Song. Open the Window. Linear Obsessional Recordings, Dec 2015.

“The Ransom of Red Witch.” Short story. Things in the Dark: A Fox Pocket Anthology. Fox Spirit Books, Dec 2015.

“Life Just Bounces.” (as Graham Wynd) Short story. Murder Under the Elms: Bouchercon 2015 Anthology. Art Taylor, ed. forthcoming Oct 2015.

“Mesquite.” (as Graham Wynd) Short story. Protectors 2: Heroes, ed. Thomas Pluck: forthcoming Sep 2015.

“Batter My Heart.” Poem. Medium: 24 Jul 2015.

“Pink.” Flash fiction. Spelk Fiction: 12 Jun 2015.

“The 9 stages of a new Fall album.” Humour. Medium: 26 May 2015.

“Wicklow Street Lobster Reel.” Humour. Short Humour Site: 11 May 2015.

“This is Just to Say (Forgive Me, William).” Poem. Short Humour Site: 12 Apr 2015.

“Bonkers in Phoenix.” (as Graham Wynd) Short story. Rogue: A Near to the Knuckle anthology. April 2015.

“Ham on Heels.” (as Graham Wynd) Short story. Pulp Metal Magazine. March 2015. Illustrated by S. L. Johnson.

“Toy Monkey.” (as Graham Wynd) Short story. Pulp Metal Magazine. Jan 2015.

“Frenching Mr Ripley.” Clues 33.2: September 2015.

“Tyrant Muse.” Journey Planet 24 – In Memory of Richard III: 17 Aug 2015.

“Strange Men and Magic.” The Cultural Gutter: 30 Jul 2015.

“From Ritual to Bad Romance: Drums and Dogma in Mad Max: Fury Road.” Vex Mosaic: 5 Jun 2015.

“The Myth of the Medieval Setting: Masculinity and Heroism in Modern Film.” VexMosaic: 18 May 2015.

Why Women Witches?

Over at my History Witch column, I explain something that I’ve come to call ‘The Great Conflation’ or what Michael D. Bailey theorised about how a Dominican theologian might have inadvertently changed history, leading to the specific gendered nature of the witch hunts of the Early Modern era and the so-called Age of Enlightenment. Of course I have been spurred to finally write this in anticipation of the last [sob!] episode of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell this weekend. Those who have shaken fingers at me will be glad to know I ordered a copy of Susanna Clarke’s novel despite my usual trepidation about modern doorstop novels.

If you have an interest in history or magic or both, you may want to check out my essay.

Yes, I may overuse this lovely meme of Mr Norrell expressing the cri de coeur of introverts everywhere, but so what?

FYI if you haven’t done so already, check out John Reppion’s posts at the Daily Grail on the magic & fairy traditions touched on by Strange & Norrell.