It’s almost Halloween, so what better time to sit down for a chat with Witch Craft Magazine editors Elle Nash and Catch Business? Witch Craft is a newly-founded, Denver-based print magazine that seeks to publish stories, poems, essays, and visual art with a dark twist. The magazine’s inaugural issue has just been released, and it’s a beauty, featuring work by Emily O’Neill, Zooey Ghostly, Mariana Hagler, Anna Lea Jancewicz, and many more. You can grab your copy of Issue One through the Witchcraft store, along with a host of other spooky goodies.
Kia Groom: What was the impetus for starting Witch Craft? How long have you been working up to the launch of Issue 1?
Catch Business: Witch Craft was something we felt we needed in our personal lives but also wanted to provide for others. Everyone needs a source of magic and if we could be that for anyone, we felt like we were going in the right direction. Issue 1 took us a few months to put together, but we wouldn’t recommend that timeframe. It took a lot of motivation to create the mag that quickly because neither of us knew exactly what we were doing. Luckily, we work really well as a team and were able to get everything done in time, maybe with the help of a little extra magic too.
Elle Nash: We sort of rushed it to get it done in time for the Fall Equinox and for the Denver Small Press Fest. I have design experience, but it had been a while since I’ve done page layout or anything. That process always takes longer than I realize.
KG: Was there a reason you chose to go with print distribution rather than publishing solely online?
EN: I think a lot of people will agree that there’s something about holding a real book in your hands over reading it online. You remember it better, there’s an entire sensory experience that goes along with reading something in print, right down to how the pages smell or sound when you turn them. We wanted to provide that sensory experience around the pieces we publish.
CB: Holding a book is like holding a crystal. Reading a book is like looking into the folds of a person. With our print magazine, we hope to create a looking glass into the lives of modern witches and writers in order to soak in the essence of their stories. And because so many of us spend so much time looking at a screen, print issues seemed to be the best way to pull our readers away from the day-to-day and into the ether with us.
KG: I couldn’t agree more! Issue 1 is really fantastic, with work that incorporates what one might expect from a magazine titled “Witch Craft” (I’m thinking of Sonya Vatomsky and Zachary Cosby’s poems, as well as work like “Rosemary & Ghostmilk” by Anna Lea Jancewicz), but also work that is anchored much more firmly in a very contemporary, hyper-realistic world–work that verges on the New Sincere, like Alexandra Naughton’s “Hi My Name is Alexandra.” How would you describe your aesthetic? What’s the blending point here, between Alt Lit and Witch Lit?
CB: Thank you so much! We are eternally grateful to our contributors and those who submit.
Witch Craft is a space wide enough for all styles of writing. What we look for in our work is an effect, an impact, an essence we can bottle then share with those who need it. The variety of voice in our first issue is not necessarily something we planned but something that needed to happen. These pieces seemed to grab onto our wrists the moment we opened the submission doc and wouldn’t let go until we’d scrolled our way through the scenery or the spell. Our aesthetic lays in that in-between, in the unknown. It’s the writing that scares us. It’s the art that stabs at our chests.
KG: Although you have a fair few male (or male-named!) contributors in this issue, there’s definitely a very definite vibe of the divine or mystic feminine. I dig that! I know you’re committed to publishing a diverse range of voices; would you call Witch Craft a feminist publication/press?
EN: Yes! I would definitely say that we are feminist, and I think our desire to publish and promote literature initially came from wanting to create a space for those voices.
KG: In your submission guidelines, you highlight your editorial commitment to making sure Witch Craft is a diverse publication that showcases marginalized voices. What role do you think ‘gatekeepers’ like editors and publishers play in keeping literature diverse and representative (and more importantly, safe)?
EN: As editors, we want to do a good job. But also stepping into an editor role has been conflicting: I often ask myself, who am I, as this person, to co-edit and run a literary magazine? I self-doubt a lot. I don’t want to fuck up.
The answer is: we’re not anybody, we’re just people. We are two people that wanted to create a cool magazine to publish the kind of work we love, which in part is work that exposes emotions and complexity rather than exploits the expositions of a woman’s life to share or tell a story. Being an editor isn’t a special thing or a prized role, or at least it shouldn’t be. Being a good editor, though, means taking on the responsibility to create the safe space that we set out to create, to empower the pieces we publish and to serve the writers and authors that we publish to the best of our ability.
It’s important to keep an open mind about that, to practice humility around the issue of representation. I hope that we can continue to fulfill that responsibility. We’ve seen so many great literary magazines and micro presses (Alien Mouth, Lumen Magazine, Motherblazing to name a few) crop up from people who are doing just the same: creating safe spaces for themselves and those around them, and we really want to support and get the word about those spaces and community centers, too.
KG: Issue 1 contains an interview with the author of all our teenage dreams and spells, Francesca Lia Block–how did you swing that one?
EN: Francesca Lia Block is really nice! She has been super accessible to her fans on social media, which is one of the cool benefits about living in a world where it’s ubiquitous– your writing heroes become more human, a little less mysterious. When we sent her an email asking if she’d be willing to contribute a poem or an interview, I never thought we’d actually hear back, but we did! I was pretty starstruck. She is working on so many great indie projects lately, too, and as busy as she is, she still tries to make time to connect with her audience. I feel really grateful that she just took the time out to interview and even send a poem to us.
KG: Can you tell us a little about your chapbook press, Sad Spell Press? You have three awesome titles forthcoming, right?
CB: Yes! We’re so excited about the Spellbook Series. At the end of November, we’ll be releasing our first three Spellbooks – The Filaments of Heather by Heather Goodrich, Phases by Danielle Perry, and Shadow Songs by Christopher Morgan. Each of these will be handmade with magic and limited edition.
We also have a few more projects in the works and tons of ideas. Overall, we can’t wait to see what comes of Sad Spell Press!
KG: Finally, Witch Aesthetic seems to have been on the rise in recent years, with an upswing in people (particularly young women) dressing in American Horror Story S3 style garb, donning occult jewelry and clothing printed with arcane symbols, and taking an interest in Pagan religions and spirituality. Why do you think that is, and would you describe your own aesthetics that way?
EN: I’ve never seen that season! Honestly, and I’ve said this before; a lot of the power and interest behind witchcraft is about self-empowerment and taking power back from the places where it’s accumulated most. People in the past (or today) fear witches because somebody somewhere told them that power, and especially divine power, can only be accessed from one high ranking person or place. When you deny that hierarchy and access it for yourself, it upsets the power balance.
I suppose our aesthetics could be described that way. We are drawn to the occult, to hidden things, things that revive the magic and ritual of everyday life.
KG: I’ve also come across rumblings on certain parts of the internet that consider ‘witchiness’ to be somehow racist (or even, as one Tumblr explained to me, antisemitic). Have you come across this line of thinking before, and what do you make of it? I have to confess, I don’t quite follow the logic myself!
EN: That’s interesting. We’ve never seen anything that says embracing witchiness is racist or antisemitic… though there could be cases where certain cultural forms of magic (Santeria, etc) could be appropriated incorrectly? It’s important to respect traditions and understand where they come from, definitely.
CB: Certain types of magick are associated with different cultures. I think instances like you mentioned arise when new witches don’t delve into their research of the history of magick, and claim some kind of ownership over something that has centuries of meaning behind it already. As a new witch, I personally think it’s best to slowly work with your internal magic while learning about communities, past and present, to help develop ways of strengthening that power and knowledge of magic.
Elle Nash is a writer. She is the fiction and essay editor for Witch Craft Magazine, and also reads tarot. Her hobbies include eating steak and potatoes, nighttime yoga, and making people sad. She writes narrative nonfiction, fiction, and sometimes even poetry, though she doesn’t have the mouth for it anymore. She believes that art is never a solitary act. Her most recent work appears in The LA Review of Books offshoot magazine The Offing, Hobart Pulp, and Nailed Magazine. You can follow her on Tumblr and Twitter.
Catch Business is the author of GHOSTS GFS (Electric Cereal, 2015) and Able To / Always Will (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2016) as well as the chapbook Bye, Product (Be About It, 2015). Her interests, other than casting spells, include binge-watching sci-fi television, laughing at dogs, and endlessly kissing. You can follow her on Tumblr, Twitter or Facebook.