Witch Craft is a print magazine. They publish twice a year on the equinoxes and publish other tidbits on their blog regularly. They also run Sad Spell Press, where they publish a chapbook series known as Spellbooks and other magic as they find it.
VAGABOND CITY: You say that your idea of Witch Craft is “that writing itself evokes emotion and that’s what makes it magic: transferring or creating a feeling through a kind of ritual.” What is it about this type of writing that you value?
CATCH: I’ve found self-expression to be the most important of healing experiences. Although the results of writing can be shared with an audience, the act of writing is inherently intimate – honing in on our personal truths, reaching for those and pulling them out where they land on a page for us to read back and share – it seems like one of the most powerful forms of magic to me.
I think through this type of expression, we’re able to see the truths of our selves which I believe has the ability to make us more compassionate, starting with self-love and then allowing that energy to resonate with others. When we see darkness within ourselves and accept it, we’re able to refocus on growing the light.
VAGABOND CITY: If you could change one thing about the lit world, what would it be?
ELLE: It would be awesome if there was a lot more community and connection, especially in the support of representation and diversity in literature. I want to work towards that!
VAGABOND CITY: How do you deal with the fuckery that is all too common in the lit world?
CATCH: Take time away from the internet, meditate, cleanse my personal space. If I think about it too much, I break down. I’ve found the most solace in just communicating with my friends about issues I see. Like I don’t think making public announcements does much for me, even the idea of opening up a serious discussion online scares me – instead, interpreting events with Elle, other editors and writers, asking each other for opinions and advice, seems to create a stronger for the community making it easier to approach the whole, even when things are pretty bad.
VAGABOND CITY: How did you know it was time to create Witch Craft?
CATCH: I needed Witch Craft to remind me that I wasn’t helpless and that I still had the power to help others.
VAGABOND CITY: How do we level out power in literary spaces?
CATCH: I believe in the power of interpersonal discussion, learning from each other on more levels than reading poems and stories. I think we’re often afraid to do this though, because so many of our opinions can conflict with each other – cause tension or create pain – but moving through this discomfort seems necessary in making a collective change.
VAGABOND CITY: What role does collaboration play in the life of Witch Craft?
CATCH: We rely on each other a lot, I do one side of things (more hands-on) and Elle does the other (more visual/online). Constantly bouncing off each other’s ideas, our efforts result in something cohesive – I think that may have less to do with our organization skills and more that Witch Craft seems to have taken on a life of it’s own. And of course with our team of editors, it’s like we’re creating a coven – we’re all here to help each other – and we want you to join.
VAGABOND CITY: How does a feminist lens inform your review process?
ELLE: It’s hard to say precisely how a feminist lens informs my work because it’s so inherent in how I see the world. If I get work that, for example, uses a woman character as an object just as a mere plot device for a male character in the story without thoughtfully exploring it, I find myself rolling my eyes and uninterested in anything the story has to say. I’m just not interested in or piqued by work that isn’t challenging or work that is blatantly and obviously sexist. I also try my best to be aware of the ways in which women and women-identifying folk are represented in work that is submitted to us, and I love work that explores the struggle of dismantling of structures, whether that is through identity, political, religious or familial or what have you. The work that speaks to me most is when it challenges the status quo.
VAGABOND CITY: Our reviewers have been 100 types of in love with the books out of Sad Spell Press. Our Slack is filled with gratitude. What is your hope for Sad Spell Press?
ELLE: Thank you so much!!! I’m so glad to hear it and we are so grateful and humbled by that. Right now, we see Sad Spell as a micropress (and a platform) that gets work we love into the hands of others. Our capacity in this limited due to our micro nature just based on the fact that we are volunteer run, and in part due to the fact that all of our chaps are (of course) hand-made. It would be really great to continue rotating our chapbook series each year (spellbooks, then grimoires) and also slowly expand our full-length catalogue in the future. I would love for Sad Spell to eventually be able to distribute its catalogue to more and more bookstores and for us to increase the audience for each of our authors, as well. That is something that will be a learning process for us as we move into 2017. Additionally, I love that many of our authors are previously unpublished. I hope that we can continue to expand our mission of publishing the work of emerging and diverse poets and writers.
VAGABOND CITY: What are your thoughts on the rise of small presses? Why are they thriving? Are they thriving at all?
CATCH: Small presses seem to be thriving despite the harsh environment the publishing world creates for them. Witch Craft Magazine & Sad Spell Press wanted to take back some of the power from the big publishing names, to show ourselves more than anyone else that we’re capable as creators.
The problem with this environment in my opinion is that small presses and ‘unknown’ writers seem to be the main source of support for each other (mostly relying on likes & shares, since we’re all so broke sigh!). When there’s such a microfocus, it’s hard to move outside of the reality we’ve created for the community. I think a saving grace for small presses is when they’re inspired and managed by determined and open-minded individuals. Editors who work to do more than what’s expected are driving the entire community forward.
VAGABOND CITY: What, if anything, are your thoughts on the newfound “trendiness” of witchiness? Do you think it’s a trend at all, or more of an acceptance, or something else entirely?
ELLE: The trendiness of witchiness is fascinating to me, but it’s not surprising. We are living in an era of capitalism that is so inherently focused on material gain and so vapid that the desire to access divine power is more important than ever. Millennials are POOR. We are struggling. Many of our generation are oppressed by statist and racist structures. In some ways, mainstream resurgence of witchcraft is a sign of a much larger symptom, but the practice of witchcraft has always been around. Witchcraft is and always has been folk magic— accessible to all people, not meant to be purchased and accessorized. It is a focus on the things in life that are deeper than the material realm. You can do magic anywhere with any number of items simply through the act of ritual, and there’s no need to have access to money to practice witchcraft.
ELLE: That being said, of course companies like Urban Outfitters and Forever 21 want to capitalize on this growing desire for young people to access divine power— their primary concern is how to exploit the insecurities of young people in order to get them to purchase more things. This is what the structure of capitalism has always done. Corporations see something brewing, their marketing teams note it as “cool” and then they commodify and market the fuck out of it– to get a piece of the action. If any one young person walks into a mall, finds something witchy, and decides they do want to explore magick more then more power to them. I hope they do discover a little divine spark in themselves that makes them want to explore the ways that witchcraft can be a part of their life.
My one worry is that when companies like UO or whatever commodify folkish elements of witchcraft or culture that isn’t represented in the proper context, then you run the risk of cultural appropriation. So much cultural religious and spiritual practice is removed from its proper context, exploited and commodified for white consumption and I would hope that anyone who is interested in witchcraft definitely research and read lots to learn about cultural religious practices and make sure that what they are seeking isn’t to exploit someone else’s culture or religious practice for their own personal gain.
VAGABOND CITY: How do you balance managing Witch Craft + Sad Spell Press with your own writing lives?
ELLE: Very carefully, lol. I think because we work in “seasons” it’s kind of become a balancing act where, for several months in the fall and winter, we switch our focus to reading submissions and putting together the issues, and then when we’re done there’s like a sigh of relief where we switch back to focusing on our own work. It’s kind of nice to switch between the two like that, but it’s always a constant learning process to balance the stress of doing work we love and the stress of daily life!
VAGABOND CITY: What does empowering writers look like?
CATCH: To me it looks like unconditional love. More than publishing each other’s work, I truly believe in simply sharing work with each other – through facebook, email, texts, whatever. Writers have it hard, and they often live a lonely life I think?
Recently my friend texted me this excerpt from The Diary of Anais Nin: “I try to explain to her that the writer is the duelist who never fights at the stated hour, who gathers up an insult, like another curious object, a collector’s item, spreads it out on his desk later, and then engages in a duel with it verbally. Some people call it weakness. I call it postponement. What is a weakness in the man becomes a quality in the writer. For he preserves, collects what will explode later in his work. That is why the writer is the loneliest man in the world; because he lives, fights, dies, is reborn always alone; all his roles are played behind a curtain. In life he is an incongruous figure.”
I think at this point in publishing we’re able to accept each other’s incongruities and when we do so we assure each other in the moment so that those spent later writing are filled with hope and not despair.
VAGABOND CITY: Anything else you’d like to talk about or like us to know?
ELLE: Issue 3 of Witch Craft will be released September 22 on the Fall Equinox, and our full lengths will be released shortly thereafter during the winter. Also, support small presses and small press culture!
ABOUT WITCH CRAFT
Witches don’t abide by the rules. They make their own with recipes to reinforce them. Art and writing allows us to do the same, provides us with a space to breathe deeper, exist exponentially. Effective art casts you in a new direction. It fucks up your language, makes you feel in a whole new way, forces you to see what isn’t always apparent. We publish writing like this. Writing that creates a change, fills our hearts with heaviness then wrings them out. Writing that casts a spell.
All photos via ctchbsnss.