Category Archives: Inspiration

News on a Snowy Day

Ah, Ohio. Polar vortexes were not part of the deal when I signed up to come here! The ground is currently covered in snow and the temperatures are the coldest I’ve ever been exposed to – this means, however, that it’s a wonderful day to write and read and share some thoughts and news here :).

x. First, I am so proud to announce that my poem “Rep/ercussions (Carmina)” appears in the latest issue of Stone Telling entitled “Body.”

This double issue features some incredible work and I’m so honored to be a part of it. This poem in particular is one of the most personal, difficult poems I’ve ever written and speaks to an aspect of my life that I don’t often talk about. I suppose in some ways this is a sort of ‘coming out’ for me as a person with a serious mental illness but it felt important to me to try to illustrate obsessive compulsive disorder in a way that speaks to my own experience of it. The term “obsessive compulsive” is used very casually far too often and I hope this poem shows a different, more complex side of it than what is normally considered. Please check out and support this beautiful and important magazine and stay tuned for their new blog with more notes on this piece from me!

x. On a more spooky note, my flash fiction piece “The Second Mrs. Chapman,” has been published in Firbolg Publishing’s new anthology The Rogues Gallery: The Illustrated Police News. You can pick up the Kindle version of the anthology on for only $1.99 so check it out and be prepared for a collection of seriously weird, delightful stories! Mine is very steeped in fairy lore (of course!)

x. The amazing Ada Hoffmann, a writer whose work I always, always adore, was kind enough to list my poem “Loveless (I Am the Snow Queen)” as one of her favorite poems from last year. This made me incredibly giddy with joy :).

x. I recently stumbled upon this really cool online project called Subverting Laughter. It is an online “re-imagining” of George MacDonald’s Victorian Fairy Tale The Light Princess “through an international collaboration in visual art and reflective blogging among MacDonald researchers from Canada, England, Germany, Italy, Scotland, and the U.S.A.” They aim to use “a mixture of media to inspire new discussions of the tale in an online space, allowing a wide range of audiences to engage with MacDonald’s Victorian text. Each digital storytelling post responds to a chapter of The Light Princess through an illustration, a link to and a recording of the original text, and then a reflection on the chapter.” To me, this is exactly the kind of work that people should be doing with all kinds of texts – I love the combination of the digital and the fairy tale and this is such a cool way to do it. I hope this inspires more people to try projects like this (myself included!) and I look forward to following their work!

Thanks for reading and I hope you all have a beautiful day!

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The Wind Howls Outside My Window

Two big pieces of news! First, I am so honored and excited to report that my poem, “WereMoonMother,” is one of Mythic Delirium’s featured poems for November! This means that you can now read it for free on the Mythic Delirium website. I am particularly proud of this piece so please do check it out if you can – I promise it is delightfully bizarre ;).

MD-meSecondly, my paper proposal was accepted for The 35th International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts! I’ll be presenting a piece called “Circumnavigating a Subversive Otherworld: Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland as Folkloric Liminal Space” and I’m really excited about it :).

A Few Cool Things I’ve Come Across Recently:

* Speaking of CMV, she just did a great “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit!

* The French Oral Narrative Corpus is quite nice!

* “Why We Need Fairytales: Jeanette Winterson on Oscar Wilde”

* I absolutely *love* this retelling of “Little Red Riding Hood”! It’s called “Redden” and it’s a comic by Maya Kern.

The wind is absolutely howling outside my window while I read The Sorrows of Satan by Marie Corelli. This is appropriate I suppose?

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A Bit of News & Fun

x. I have to start with this “On the Fastrack” comic because it’s so great :).


x. Beyond the Pillars: An Anthology of Pagan Fantasy has just been released from Bibliotheca Alexandrina Press and features a poem of mine previously published in Eternal Haunted Summer called “Diana Remembers Actaeon” – it looks fantastic and I can’t wait to read it!

x. The Huntington Library in California has a fantastic exhibition going on right now called “Illuminated Palaces: Extra-Illustrated Books from the Huntington Library.” It features all kinds of books that have been “grangerized” or “turned [...] into extraordinary “illuminated palaces” — repositories for original art, prints and engravings, maps, autograph letters, and the excised pages of other, more famous books” (quotation from the webpage!)

I personally *love* this practice and think it’s fascinating. Check out the book in the picture above – it has a “Beauty and the Beast” illustration! I have a very small collection of these book/scrapbooks that I’ve gotten from various places (one my Dad found in a collection of stamps he purchased and I bought a fairy tale themed one off of eBay a while ago) and I hope one day to be able to scan them and put them online. I wish so much I could see this exhibition but luckily there are lots of cool things about it to explore online!

x. As you may have noticed, the blog has a new/old look! It’s similar to the one I had a while ago but with much less complicated (and less likely to get screwed up) code. I felt like it was time for a change and I like it! A bit more gothic and mystical and swirly (which are all always good things.)

I was so productive yesterday, it was amazing! I hope I can replicate that energy today… there are still, of course, about a million things to do. However – my room is now crazy clean, everything is washed – clothes, towels, and sheets, everything is filed, AND I got a bunch of school reading done. Gold stars all around. Here’s to today being even better!

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A Collection of Lovely Things This Morning

A small collection of lovely things for you to peruse this morning…

x. Mythic Delirium 0.2 has been released and is available for purchase here! It contains my poem “WereMoonMother,” a piece I am especially proud of. I’ll make an exclusive post about this when my poem is featured for free on the website in November but I highly recommend purchasing the whole issue if you can, it’s incredible :).

x. The Public Domain Review’s Pinterest is absolutely awesome. So many cool pictures to check out!

x. Karen Russell, one of my all time favorite writers, was recently awarded a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Fellowship! I love the video interview with her they have.

x. An absolutely gorgeous post on fox lore by Terri Windling :). I feel that the fox is one of my spirit animals (not to mention I just love them) and this post is wonderful. It made me go back and look at one of my favorite pieces I’ve ever written, “Kitsune, Fox,” a short story published in the sadly now gone Jabberwocky Magazine in 2011.

x. I love this video by Mary Epworth -

I just discovered her work and it’s really, really great. Also, ah, I want her outfits, especially that fantastic black dress!!

Hope you’re all having a good Thursday so far!

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Inspirational Writing Quotations

I woke up this morning and wrote, which I haven’t been able to do for a long time. I shouldn’t have done it, probably, there are many more pressing things that have to get done, but I’m so glad I did. I wish I could hang on to this feeling and write every day, regardless of what else has been going on.

I’ve been collecting inspiration writing quotations for quite a while now so I thought now might be a good time to finally share… these are quotations that inspire me in my own writing, maybe they will speak to you somehow too :).


“… a writer is very like a witch. With her cat, making magic with words. And maybe changing the world, just a little.” – Theodora Goss

“It’s magic – it’s not about magic, it’s not like magic: It IS magic. It’s real magic. […] Incantations, spells, ceremonies, rituals – what are they? They’re poems. So, what’s a poet? He’s a shaman, that’s what he is. A fucking good poem is a weapon. Not like a pop gun. It’s like a bomb. A bloody big bomb.” – Ted Hughes


“I believe that Magic is Art and Art, whether it be music, writing, sculpture or any other, is literally magic. Art, like any magic, the science of manipulating symbols, words or images, to achieve changes in consciousness… Indeed to cast a spell is simply to manipulate words, to change people’s consciousness, and this is why I believe that an artist or a writer is the closest thing in the contemporary world to a Shaman.” – Alan Moore

“Poetry is the journal of the sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air. Poetry is a search for syllables to shoot at the barriers of the unknown and the unknowable. Poetry is a phantom script telling how rainbows are made and why they go away.” – Carl Sandburg

“We write to heighten our own awareness of life. We write to lure and enchant and console others. We write to serenade our lovers. We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection. We write, like Proust, to render all of it eternal, and to persuade ourselves that it is eternal. We write to be able to transcend our life, to reach beyond it. We write to teach ourselves to speak with others, to record the journey into the labyrinth. We write to expand our world when we feel strangled, or constricted, or lonely . . . When I don’t write, I feel my world shrinking. I feel I am in prison. I feel I lose my fire and my color. It should be a necessity, as the sea needs to heave, and I call it breathing.” – Anais Nin


“Sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made. I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say. If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written.” – Ernest Hemingway

“So long as I have questions to which there are no answers, I shall go on writing.” – Clarice Lispector

“It’s all things mythic, fantastic, supernatural, as well as “the real” that combine in such a way that I feel represents the universe/world best for me, personally. Every time I begin writing a story that seems mostly realistic, at some point it takes a turn into one or more of these other modes of seeing and thinking, and I think it’s because “the real” is not enough to encompass all that I see and want to articulate in my writing. There is a writer named Michelle Richmond who blurbed my second book, and when I saw what she wrote about it, I felt she had expressed my mode of writing more succinctly than I have been able to so far, so I’ll quote her here: “Christopher Barzak spins the familiar yarn of the everyday world into a magical universe.” It’s the familiar encompassed by a much bigger and magical universe that does indeed attract me as a way of seeing and writing.” -Christopher Barzak


“One of the biggest, and possibly the biggest, obstacle to becoming a writer — I’ve said this from a slightly different angle in another answer — is learning to live with the fact that the wonderful story in your head is infinitely better, truer, more moving, more fascinating, more perceptive, than anything you’re going to manage to get down on paper. (And if you ever think otherwise, then you’ve turned into an arrogant self-satisfied prat, and should look for another job or another avocation or another weekend activity.) So you have to learn to live with the fact that you’re never going to write well enough. Of course that’s what keeps you trying — trying as hard as you can — which is a good thing. As I started off saying, writing takes practice.” – Robin McKinley

“Fantasy is not antirational, but pararational; not realistic but surrealistic, a heightening of reality. In Freud’s terminology, it employs primary not secondary process thinking. It employs archetypes which, as Jung warned us, are dangerous things. Fantasy is nearer to poetry, to mysticism, and to insanity that naturalistic fiction is. It is a wilderness, and those who go there should not feel too safe.” – Ursula Le Guin


“A book is made from a tree. It is an assemblage of flat, flexible parts (still called “leaves”) imprinted with dark pigmented squiggles. One glance at it and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, the author is speaking, clearly and silently, inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people, citizens of distant epochs, who never knew one another. Books break the shackles of time, proof that humans can work magic.” – Carl Sagan

“[Poetry] was a form of incantation, a means of welding the world inside his head to the one that surrounded him, words the fiery chain that bound it all together.” – From Radiant Days by Elizabeth Hand

“I have tried to write stories that go into the underworld of myth and bring out life and fire — where the old world looked at a woman alone and immortal and said: she must long to die, I have tried to say: look at her live!” – Catherynne M. Valente

“Who are you, reader, reading my poems an hundred years hence? I cannot send you one single flower from this wealth of the spring, one single streak of gold from yonder clouds. Open your doors and look abroad. From your blossoming garden gather fragrant memories of the vanished flowers of an hundred years before. In the joy of your heart may you feel the living joy that sang one spring morning, sending its glad voice across an hundred years.” – Rabindranath Tagore

“[My characters are] conglomerations of past and present stages of civilization, bits from books and newspapers, scraps of humanity, rags and tatters of fine clothing, patched together as is the human soul” – August Strindberg

“Artistically, [success] means getting as much truth and fondness for life as I can into a story without becoming sentimental — making a beautiful weird little life-evoking machine out of words.” – George Saunders


“… I thought I wouldn’t write a _poem_, but just write what I wanted to without fear, let my imagination go, open secrecy, and scribble magic lines from my real mind…” – Allen Ginsberg

“Now I see at last, Kostya, that in our kind of work, whether we’re writers or actors, the important thing is not fame, or glory, not what I used to dream about, but learning how to endure. I must bear my cross, and have faith. If I have faith, it doesn’t hurt so much, and when I think of my calling I’m not afraid of life.” – Nina in “The Seagull” by Anton Chekhov


As you can see, I’m especially fond of equating writing with working magic because that’s precisely how I see it. I’d love to know what quotations have inspired you?

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Mythic Delirium Kickstarter Signal Boost!

Hi all! I wanted to take a moment and share a new Kickstarter campaign that’s very close to my heart – Mythic Delirium: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry


If you know Mythic Delirium in its previous incarnation as a print speculative poetry ‘zine you know that it’s one of the most amazing places for speculative work out there. I am so so excited that Mike Allen is expanding out to fiction and creating a new online presence and I am especially excited to mention that one of my poems, “WereMoonMother,” will be featured in the second new online issue!


Having a poem accepted by Mythic Delirium has been one of the highlights of my writing career so far and I can’t wait to see these new issues. The new version of MD is going to completely rock the speculative fiction world and deserves your support! :).

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My Room in Ohio

Inspired by this Vogue piece on the amazing Florence Welch’s home, I decided that my own rooms were due for a good cleaning and re-organzing. In the middle of this I realized that I had promised pictures of my space here in Ohio and had never delivered so I am doing so now! There are a bunch more pictures on my Facebook page but here is a taste :). -





Again, many more on Facebook (with commentary too!)

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Would You Like a Bunch of Links?

End of semester. Things are crazy. Here are some cool things from the Internetz -

I hope you’re all surviving this busy time of year!

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A Much Needed Break + Some News

Hello! I apologize for not really being around, PhD studies have taken over my life for the present, but I wanted to use this brief Thanksgiving break to make a quick hello post at the very least :). It looks like things may be sorting themselves out into a more manageable routine next semester, so I am hopeful that I will get a little more free time to write creatively, blog, read non-school related things, etc. in the future. Coming to Ohio has been a big adjustment but it’s been a worthwhile and exciting time as well!

A few notes -

* First – reunited and it feels so good…

Me and Mimzer Reunited

:D! It’s really wonderful to be home for a bit. My birthday was on Monday and I got to celebrate with my family yesterday :).

* I meant to post more about my amazing time at the After Grimm conference but, sadly, I just haven’t had the spare time to do so. I met several lovely people, including more than a few inspirations of mine, and it was completely wonderful in all ways. One of the people I met was Janet Daniels who runs the FairyTaleTastic blog – check out her post about the conference for a few more details too! While we were there I was also lucky enough to get to see two incredible exhibitions, the Writing Britain exhibition at the British Library and the Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde exhibition at the Tate Britain, buy a fabulous Gothic coat in Camden Town, and visit a few of my friend Sara’s favorite haunts in Oxford.

* I also attended the American Folklore Society’s Annual Meeting in October in New Orleans (which is now absolutely among my favorite cities in the world!)… I was going to write about that as well but, again, did not get the chance :(. Just know that I had a great panel with several other fairy tale scholars and it was a really fun time! I went on a witches and vampires and voodoo walking tour, saw a few of the gorgeous original paintings of Kelly Louise Judd in person for the first time in a random awesome gallery we just happened to wander into, ate many beignets, attended the book launch of Transgressive Tales: Queering the Grimms in which my former professor at GMU, Margaret Yocom, and my friend Jeana Jorgensen each have a fantastic essay, spoke with a bunch of prospective OSU students and hopefully made a good impression, and saw a bunch of excellent papers.

* I’ve had a paper accepted for presentation at The International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts this coming March – huzzah! I attended this conference for the first time last year and it’s awesome, just full of people doing exactly the kind of work that I love. I’m really happy I get to go again this year!

* I set up my classes for the Spring semester and am really excited about them! I’ll be taking a Children’s/YA Lit. class on the “Roots of Fantasy” (aka the folklore, etc. that frequently inspires fantasy literature!) which is just so perfectly up my alley I’m kind of shocked it’s real, an independent study reading course on the 19th Century British Gothic (awesome texts and great dissertation prep), and a teaching apprenticeship class where I shadow a senior professor teaching an introduction to folklore class, a prerequisite before I can teach my own introductory folklore classes. I’m completely psyched about all of these things :P.

* I’m honored to note that the lovely magazine Niteblade nominated the poem that Sara Cleto (the same Sara as above) and I wrote together, “The Second Law of Thermodynamics,” for the Pushcart Prize. It is so kind of them to acknowledge our poem in this special way – thank you!

* Have you seen the Disney princess inspired windows at Herrods? The “Sleeping Beauty” one is absolutely gorgeous as far as I’m concerned, roses and cobwebs = A+!

Sleeping Beauty Display at Herrods

* Speaking of “Sleeping Beauty,” the wonderful Bryony recently made me aware of this production of Tchaikovsky’s “Sleeping Beauty” ballet – a gothic version!! It’s like my MA thesis in ballet form, crazy. There is a slim chance I may be in the UK during its run next year so please keep your fingers crossed that I can make it happen!

Happy Thanksgiving to those of you in the US and there will hopefully be more posts from me soon!

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More on Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone

A few more links that I think should be shared and a few more thoughts –

A fascinating post by Rose Lemberg, “On Bardugo’s Tsarpunk, Worldbuilding, and Historical Linguistics,” which looks at the linguistic failings of the novel and how much that really effects its worldbuilding. Rose commented on my original post on livejournal and her thoughts on the book have been completely eye-opening, I am so happy that she decided to speak up. The comments on her mirrored post on livejournal are very interesting as well.

The negative review that Rose links to and a follow up post.

The same writer’s thoughts on Catherynne M. Valente’s Deathless, another fantasy book in my ‘to read’ pile written by an American and inspired by Russian folklore.

Valente’s take on the novel Yellow Blue Tibia by Adam Roberts, a book that I admittedly have not read and don’t feel inspired to read but which deals with an American writing (poorly) about Russia.

For balance, a “so-so” review (actually by the writer who liked the short story tie in so much and pointed me to the novel in the first place.) Shara links to my original post there, and refers to me as someone more qualified to speak about misappropriation, but that’s certainly not true. I think my particular background prompted me to ask questions more than anything else. People with more knowledge have been upset with things that I didn’t pick up on at all, which appears to simply be my not knowing where/how to look. I feel that I have learned a great deal since my first post, thanks to wonderful people like Rose.

I still think that in many ways Shadow and Bone is a good YA novel. As I said before, it’s engaging, different, a fast read where the teenagers seemed real and the standard love “triangle” was subverted in a way I really liked. Purely on these levels, it is a well done young adult book in the newly established tradition of young adult books. This said, I don’t think my opinion of it will ever be the same as when I first finished it. I have learned a lot in the interim and the appropriation issues of the book that at first seemed mildly disconcerting things to wonder about now seem far more important and upsetting. I am grateful for all the pages I have linked in this post and the last one for helping me see these issues for what they really are.

(My Original Review + My First Follow-Up)

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