Monday, August 17, 2009

The Last Wild Witch

Starhawk has a new book coming out, and, as a devoted Nonna, I'm delighted that it's a book for children. As Starhawk explains in her also-fairly-new blog, Dirt Worship:

I wrote the story many years ago. I was on a trip somewhere—I think it was Canada—staying in someone’s spare room that was ordinarily their chid’s bedroom, and I read myself to sleep with some of their picture books. One of them was about a Witch, the typical, negative stereotypes, and it made me mad. The next day I was on a beach—somewhere. Too many places—they all blur in my mind but I know it was a beach and I believe it was at Hollyhock on Cortes Island, and I just sat down and wrote the story. It came out all at once, as if someone were chanting it—about the perfect town in the perfect world that fears and learns to embrace the wildness of the last wild Witch from the magic forest. I thought there should be one picture book for toddlers with a positive view of Witches.

And there it sat, in my notebook, for years and years. I tried to get my publishers to publish it—but even in the heydey of Goddess popularity among publishers (a short-lived period in the late eighties, before Harper Collins was bought by Rupert Murdoch) none of them could get their childrens’ divisions interested. Not even Bantam, which published Circle Round, the book I wrote with Diane Baker and Anne Hill on raising children in Goddess tradition.

A couple of years ago, Tina and Barb from Mother Tongue took our Earth Activist Training in Portland Oregon. We were talking about their interest in experimenting with publishing something beyond
the calendar, and I mentioned The Last Wild Witch. They jumped on it—and even though Tina has since left Mother Tongue, Musawa who is the founder and who is an old, old friend, carried on. And now, here it is! The perfect book to read to your Pagan kids, give to your nieces, nephews, and children of friends, to keep by your bedside and read yourself to sleep with when you need a soothing, hopeful fable.

Mother Tongue doesn’t have the resources to send me on a book tour or buy a lot of advertising. They’re a small company and this is a big leap of faith for them. If it does well, they might be encouraged to publish more.

It’s harder and harder to get major publishers to publish Pagan books. They simply aren’t set up to reach niches—although our niche is a growing one. The future for our books—if there is one in this age of the internet—lies in smaller companies stepping up that know how to reach the specific people who might have an interest in the subject.

Here's a description of the book from Starhawk's homepage: The perfect town in the perfect world, introduced in the first pages of Starhawk's The Last Wild Witch, could be Any Town, USA: rows of cookie-cutter houses, everyone governed by absolute rules—and kids who can sense that there's something more out there than just being perfect.

The tale, written in simple language with a rhythm that steadily grows as the story progresses, deals with many issues and questions of deep concern to both children and adults. It touches on the creation of rules, the necessity of some and the arbitrary nature of others, and the eternal difference in worldviews and perceptions between innocence (kids) and experience (adults). It shows how this affects the ways we choose to live: conformity vs. individualism, engineered town vs. the wilds of nature. How do we let the wildness in—into our lives, to our vision of what community means? How do we recover our sense of being part of the natural world? Can we let nature's own patterns inform the way we meet our human needs, so that we can heal and regenerate the world around us?

Somehow, the discussion of the book reminds me of the Hopkins poem:

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wilderness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

There's a well-written teaching guide to use with the book. You can order the book from Amazon, but better to go to 100 Fires.

Picture found here.

1 comment:

Starhawk said...

Thanks so much--and I'm delighted to discover your blog! I'm just starting to explore the blogosphere, and it's great to have such wonderful Pagan and Goddess resources abounding. I remember the days when if you wanted to learn anything about Witches, you had to just pray that someday you'd encounter one! It's a whole new world, now! Starhawk