Sew Witchy: Finding an Agent

I am an example of the saying “There’s no road map to success.”  I posted earlier about how I wrote the proposal for my book Sew Witchy.  It was accepted by the first publisher I submitted to.  That’s not the way it usually works out and I found myself caught off guard.  Once I got over the surprise of Llewellyn Worldwide‘s acceptance, I realized I needed to get started on finding an agent.

I have experience with publishing contracts, but I wasn’t under any illusion that I would be able to negotiate a contract on my own.  Also, I want to have a writing career, and having an agent will help with that.  Finding an agent now would help with both those issues.  And, I figured, having a contract in hand would make it much easier to attract an agent.  So, much sooner than I had expected, I found myself once again engaging in caffeine-fueled Google searching.

Because of the complicated nature of the book, and my desire to have both a nonfiction and fiction career, I realized that potential agent pool was going to be limited.  I needed to find an agent who repped not only fiction, but also pagan nonfiction.  And if they had some experience with craft and/or sewing books, that would be a plus.  Sure, no big deal, right?

I started off hitting Publisher’s Marketplace and Agent Query.  Both allow you to search for agents based on their areas of interest.  I didn’t want to query people who repped general nonfiction, so I started off looking for agents who repped “New Age”. (That seemed to be the catch all for pagan/metaphysical/Wicca/etc.)  Of those agents I noted those who also repped fantasy authors/titles.  Remove the agents who weren’t accepting submissions and that left me with a list of sixteen to query.

I didn’t send off my queries right away.  I took time to research them online.  If they had websites I checked it out and looked to see who else they represented.  That often gives you a really good idea of who would be a good fit.  If they are representing books and authors that you enjoy or think you would enjoy, there’s a greater likelihood that you and the agent will get along.

The first few queries went like this:

I'm writing to you because Elysia Gallo at Llewellyn has expressed interest in my pagan craft book proposal and I am seeking an agent.  

Elysia has already pitched my proposal to the editorial department and they have said yes if I can provide them with suitable photographs.  They are suggesting a full color craft book, about 192 pages.  I will be sending them the photographs on Monday and they will be getting back to me about a week after that.

I have attached my original book proposal to this e-mail.  It is the one that I sent to Llewellyn.

If there is any other information you need, please feel free to email me.

I look forward to hearing from you.

After I had sent some out I realized I should add why I was querying the particular agent so I started to add a sentence along the lines of “I am approaching you because you have [expressed interest in / have sold] [New Age books / craft books/ etc.].” I also realized that I needed to make it clear in the subject header of the e-mails that this was a query for a book that had an offer already.

The following days were nerve wracking.  Every time my e-mail pinged I had to prepare myself for rejection.  I got a few of those at first.  In fact, when it was all said and done there were six rejections and seven non-responses.  I did, however, receive three interested responses, with two responding within hours of each other.  And this is where it got anxiety inducing.

Agent #1 responded first and wanted to know if Llewellyn was the only publisher I had approached.  Agent #2 responded second and wanted to talk on the phone.  I emailed a couple of times back and forth with Agent #1 where it became clear they thought that another, larger, publisher might be interested in the book.  This made me a bit uncomfortable.  I had done research and I really felt that Llewellyn was the right publisher for Sew Witchy, however agents have more experience and maybe this one knew something I didn’t.  It didn’t feel right to go looking for another publisher, though.

I made plans to talk to Agent #2 on the phone, despite the fact that phone calls ratchet up my anxiety.  I was willing to deal with it for this.  So Agent #2 and I talked on the phone and it was good.  She agreed with me that Llewellyn was the best publisher for this book.  We talked about how I wanted to build a career.  She told me my writing was good.  And at the end I squeaked out, “So, do you want to be my agent.” (Because I’m smooth like that.)  And she said yes.

This left me with Agent #1.  We had emailed back and forth, but I hadn’t said that I wanted to work with her, I had just answered her questions.  I wrote her a note saying that I had just signed with Agent #2.  Her reply was, paraphrased, “That’s odd, I thought we were going to work together.  Oh well, good luck.” That sent me down a spiral of, “Oh crap!  Did I just screw up?  Did I make her think we were working together?”  It took a bit of time for me to claw my way back up from that feeling, after people pointed out that no mention of a contract had been made.

Agent #3 had responded the day after I had talked with Agent #2 and I sent another “Thanks, but I just signed with someone else.”  They replied with a note of “Good luck!”  I imagine this is business for them all.  Sometimes authors go with other agents, that’s how it is.

When it’s all said and done, the agent I signed with, Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger, is enthusiastic about my writing and doesn’t seem to be turned off by my supreme awkwardness.  And that is what I need right now.


This post originally appeared on April 26, 2018.

Sew Witchy: Pitching the Book

When I decided to try to find a publisher for my book, Sew Witchy (née Sew Craft) I had a vague idea of what I was doing.  A few year prior I had done a round of submissions on a fantasy novel.  I knew writing a nonfiction proposal would be a different process, so I did what I always do: turned to Google.  There is a wealth of information out there on what should go into a nonfiction proposal.  Most of it talks about what information to include and how to organize it.  Not many have actual samples of actual proposals.  I spent several caffeine-fueled days researching comparable titles, market demographics and making notes of those points I thought were the most important take-aways from the book.  What I ended up with was this:

Continue reading Sew Witchy: Pitching the Book

Monday Motivation: Tikkun Olam

The Hebrew expression “Tikkun Olam” literally means “to repair the world.” Ideologically, it suggests a wholehearted acceptance of the world’s brokenness along with our ability to repair it, or at least our ability to try. It does not point to a particular time or transgression. it does not cast blame. It does not indulge the notion of absolute good or evil. It simply accepts that we live in a broken world and can, or should (if and when we are ready), reach toward its repair. I consider this a reasonable position. Like the sentiment behind the lovely Buddhist saying “Live joyfully in a world of sorrows,” Tikkun Olam recognizes the folly of life but never shirks from reaching for the good.

—Harriet Fasenfest, A Householder’s Guide to the Universe

Friday Craft Day: Glycerin Leaves

It’s Friday and you know what that means: time for a weekend craft.

Now that fall has hit the Northern Hemisphere, it’s time to go for nature walks and collect leaves, nuts and berries and generally act like the hedgewitch we want to see in the world.

To that end, here’s a handy activity that will help you preserve colorful fall leaves for future crafts.

Spell for Overcoming Obstacles

Domestic witchery is a fascination of mine, I think because it seems like it would be the oldest and most common form of witchcraft.  Or maybe it’s just the lazy part of me that appreciates being able to accomplish two tasks in one.

This spell is one I’ve been working with over the last year or so, no only as I write Sew Witchy, but also in my daily life.  When you are facing a great task ahead—a job interview or a court case, say—the odds can feel overwhelming.  Using the spell below and visualization you raise energy to overcome all the small obstacles that can come between you and your goal and also provides you with a magickal talisman attuned to your task.

Materials

  • A wrinkled piece of fabric or clothing*
  • Steam iron
  • Ironing Board

*Circumstances should dictate the fabric you choose.  Clothing that you will be wearing during your challenge is ideal.  For example, a skirt you’ll be wearing to a court case or a shirt you’ll be wearing to an interview.  You could also choose a fabric scrap; about 18″ by 18″ is ideal.

Cotton and linen are best for this spell as they tend to wrinkle naturally.  Synthetics and non-wrinkle clothing is not recommended.

Spellwork

Clear space and cast a circle according to your tradition.  Call on any spirit helpers or deities you wish to aid you in the spell.

Place the wrinkled cloth on the ironing board.  Use a heat setting that is appropriate for the cloth you are using (consult the iron’s operators manual to find out what that is).

As you iron see the wrinkles as the obstacles you face.  See the steam and iron as you press as smoothing out not only the physical wrinkles, but those obstacles.  Visualize the obstacles clearly.  Name them as you work: people’s preconceived notions are smoothed away, distance becomes a non-issue, doors that were closed will now open, even traffic will not be a problem.

Continue working, ironing out all the wrinkles.  See the path you are treading becoming smooth: the road you travel is paved, the ocean you cross is calm, the sky you fly through is clear.  Everything is crisp and pristine, just like the cloth is after you press it.

When you are finished, hang up the clothing, or cloth.  Wear the piece of clothing to the event you are preparing for.  If it is a piece of cloth, hang it near your altar until the event—and your need for it—has passed.

Make your spell more potent by using a linen spray.  Before beginning, make a spray by mixing 1 ounce of witch hazel, 3 ounces of water and ten drops of essential oil together in a spray bottle. Choose an oil aligned to your goal. Spritz a light mist onto the part you are going to press then go over it with an iron.  If using on an article of clothing, test on a small, inconspicuous part first, like an inside hem, to make sure it won’t stain the fabric.


Originally posted July, 2 2018.

A Witch on Stolen Land

Driving through Wyoming last week drove home how much I had missed the land I grew up in.  At a rest stop I collected sprigs of sagebrush.  The familiar scent of Russian olive trees hung heavy in the air.  The wind sung to me through the aspens.  I left Wyoming twenty-two years ago and it was calling me home.

My longing is tempered by years of learning about social justice topics; especially colonialism and this country’s horrifying treatment of indigenous people.  The knowledge that I live on stolen land colors my dreams of the future.

As we drove, Charlotte pointed out places to build a castle.  “That’s part of the Wind River Reservation,” I told her.  “I don’t think the Shoshone or Arapaho would appreciate us building there.”  The entire trip back I was aware of all the reservations we drove through, all the casinos we passed, all the roads and creeks and passes we crossed that had “Indian” in their names.  I come from a place that has herded various tribes onto parcels of land and monetized their very identities.

If I am allowed to move back to Wyoming, how do I, as a witch, practice without adding to the harm already done.  The question is especially tricky as I have no cultural heritage of my own to fall back on.  My sister did the Ancestry.com test a year ago.  Genetically, we’re a mix of Irish, Western European and British.  That knowledge doesn’t give me any real answers, though. In the same way that I don’t feel part of football culture just because I am American, I don’t feel any more connected to those cultures just because of my DNA.

So where does that leave me?  I can make sure that I don’t appropriate any Native American spiritual practices, something I strive to do anyway.  But I don’t know if that is enough.  Do no harm doesn’t delineate levels of injury.  I feel a responsibility to go beyond, to do more than just the bare minimum.

I’m not quite sure what that will involve, or how it will look.  As I figure it out, I’ll write about it here.


Originally posted June 21, 2018.

Plarn: It’s Crafting and Magical Uses

In my book, Sew Witchy, I write about the magickal correspondences of fabric.  My focus there is on natural fibers (cotton, linen, wool and silk).  Not all crafters and sewists limit themselves to natural materials, though.  In fact I’d hazard to guess that very few do.  One could, I suppose, use only silk or cotton thread, eschew plastic buttons for only metal, wood, bone or horn, leave out zippers or plastic snaps, as well as iron on interfacing, etc.

There is an emphasis on only using natural materials in ritual and magick crafts.  While I can understand the reasoning behind it, I find the insistence to border on classism and elitism.  Not everyone can afford or has access only natural materials.  And, when we get down to it, everything comes from the earth in one form or another.  Everything is ultimately natural when it’s roots are traced back to its beginnings.  Even plastic.

Magick in the Plastic

Our witch ancestors didn’t use colored candles, or have access to the array of crystals and herbs available online.  And some might have turned their noses up at colored ribbons, grocery store herbs and store bought besoms as not “traditional” tools.  I think it behooves modern witches to see how the practice of witchcraft and magick have changed over the centuries, adapting as new technologies and products have come available, and be open to using materials that might strike us at first as non-magickal.

I’d go even farther to argue that plastic is decidedly magical.  It is alchemy at its most refined.  Taking the remains of dinosaurs and creating a material which is named after its defining characteristic: its shapeshifting ability.

Yes, plastic does have its drawbacks, its production and longevity make it a serious hazard for the environment.  This doesn’t exclude it from being considered a natural material, though.  The elements have their destructive aspects.  Sheep rearing, silk making, cotton farming and linen production all have their affects on the environment as well.

So, how do we approach plastic as a magical tool?  One way is through making and using plarn: yarn made from plastic bags.  Many crafters have found clever and practical uses for plarn, from making lightweight and rugged bedrolls for the homeless to arts and crafts to sell to support their families.  Plarn has the added benefit of removing plastic bags—one of the hardest items to recycle–from the system.

Plarn Correspondences

Let’s start with a few correspondences.  These are associations I have made on my own through study and meditation.  They are not meant to be set in stone, and if they don’t ring true to you, feel free to form your own correspondences.

  • Deities: Cerridwen, Janus, Kali, Oya (deities of change and transformation)
  • Element: Air
  • Color: White
  • Themes/uses: transformation, durability, flexibility, change

Making plarn is a straightforward process that lends itself to a meditative practice.  Use it just as you would yarn to crochet or finger weave a variety of items, or spin it into thread.  You can make tote bags, mats, jewelry, and baskets.


A version of this article was first posted on Idiorhythmic Designs on September 25, 2017.