Tag Archives: druid author

Becoming a Druid author

Anyone who has passable literacy skills, can write. These days, blogging and self publishing mean that anyone can put ideas into the public domain and offer themselves as a writer in their chosen field. The more ambitious can chase magazines, and publishing houses. Not all will succeed with this. Not everyone will find a large readership. However, having a big fan base is not the only reason to write, and getting ideas to the people who needed them is, for some of us, a lot more important. So, becoming a Druid author is easy. Success is a matter of how you measure it.

The notion of the wealthy, glamorous, fame filled, adoration laden life of the author really only exists inside the heads of people who have never tried to be authors. The few, most visible authors at the very top of their profession, get this kind of life. The passably successful author will get odd days when they get to feel loved, valued and important. For most authors, most of the time, the reality is lots of work for little reward or encouragement. If dreams of fame and riches motivate you, there are many more reliable ways than this one.

So, why write? Why set out to right if there’s no money in it, and no groupies?

Because you have found something that you think is important and useful, and want to share it.

To inspire others and broaden what they might be able to do.

To change the world.

My writing so far has come from places where I’ve struggled and wanted guidance and been unable to find what I‘ve needed. I’ve learned the slow, hard way things that would have been a good deal easier if I’d had a few pointers to begin with. I come back and offer those, and perhaps someone else is spared from re-inventing the wheel. I write to push for political, cultural and social changes. Increasingly, I write because it is a silly thing to do from an economic perspective, because it will probably never pay me fairly by the hour, and because I am increasingly a living act of protest against our collective insistence that everything should have a price-tag, and that everything should be devalued when that happens.

In a world where (I gather from Ursula Le Guinn) marketing departments at big publishing houses set the agenda for content, I’m proud to be part of a publishing house that has room for something as overtly un-commercial as a beautiful collection of Pagan Poetry, and that creates anthologies allowing less established authors a voice, an opportunity and an audience. I’ve loved being part of the Contemplative Druidry book too – many voices there, and another not so commercial venture. I am gladdened by the distribution of authoring authority in the Pagan community. Our non-paying magazines at least give voice to many people’s opinions and ideas. Our blogs are many and varied. I think there’s much to be proud of in the Pagan writing community, and plenty of reason to get involved.

A slowness of books

I rather thought I’d have my third Druid title handed into the publisher before midwinter, last year. It didn’t happen, not least because I was very ill. My first 2 titles (Druidry and Meditation, Druidry and the Ancestors) both came out in 2012 and I was aiming to keep up a good pace there. It’s not quite gone to plan, I’ve had issues of block, weariness and too much everything else… Then Trevor over at Moon Books suggested I write a smaller book for the Pagan Portals line. I jumped at the chance, and the result – Spirituality without structure will be out in the not too dim and distant future. It was an interesting book to write, allowing me to use much of the wider research from the current Druid title, and it helped me focus my thoughts.
Spirituality without structure is an exploration of how to construct your own path, without being confined by conventional religious structures and systems. More of that nearer the time!

The first draft of the next title exists in hand written form. I’m a bit ‘old school’ in that I’m happier creating books on paper. I think better. Electricity has been in short supply, and gazing into the middle distance looking for just the right turn of phrase is a lot harder when the clock is ticking and the juice will run out. I also like having a tangible hard copy that will not melt away in the event of technical malfunction. Getting the next book from paper into the computer has been a bit of a fight. I think it’s more to do with energy levels than enthusiasm, the subject fascinates and inspires me, and also scares and confuses me, making it ideal in many ways. I feel a bit like I’m waiting for life to deliver some sort of punch-line, but it hasn’t shown up yet.

There’s a number of other projects in the pipeline that I’m not in a position to talk about in public yet – fiction stuff. So I’ll just tease you with that, but there is a thing on the way for next year that I am seriously excited about. We’re also talking to Archaia about book 3 of Hopeless and the timing for that, with book 2 due out around Halloween – you can already pre-order it on Amazon! Of course none of this has helped me get the Druid book written, there only being so any hours in a day.
The other big distraction, has been setting up to do a teaching course through the Patheos Pagan blog. I’ve been a columnist there for a while, and when they talked about developing a teaching space, I opted in. So, quite a lot of time went on planning and writing the content for that. You’ll be hearing more about that too, in the next month or so.

There is an argument for saying, do one thing at a time. I gather from the Zen folk that this is considered necessary for mindfulness. The trouble is, I just don’t have that kind of mind. Mine is a grasshopper brain and it jumps about between things. Trying to focus all of my energy into one project tends to make me more vulnerable to block and getting bored. However, the fingers in many pies approach makes me less than brilliant at always turning everything in on time. I’ve become adept at not getting deadlines in the first place. On which subject, I have been sounding out a publisher about a book on dreams, as well, which might happen next year.

I have promised myself that I will get the next Druid title written and handed in before I start on the dream book, or on the novel brewing in my head. That’s about as close as I ever get to discipline. I’m also planning to rerelease by self-publishing, some of my older novels so I need to take some time and polish those up, and we may be going to put out some Hopeless related material that way too. Oh, and audio meditations. Would you like some of those? I might be able to add that to the mix in a month or so. I’m signed up to do an alternative wheel of the year monthly column (links soon) and I’m writing more for The Druid Network too.

I have a feeling that the next twelve months or so are going to be a tad crazy, as in the midst of the above I’m determined to get out to more events as well. With Auroch Grove getting started and OBOD mentoring in the mix, as well as distinct opportunities for a more interesting cultural/social life, I’m starting to wonder quite when I’m going to do any sleeping. I’m just going to assume that it can all be made to fit together, and, with a rare nod to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, seize the carp.

Voicing the Druidry

The voice any of us write with can seem like a very personal, natural thing, but to some degree it’s a construct. I did a degree in English lit a long time ago, and one of the ongoing effects is that I am very conscious of voices in writing, both my own, and other people’s. I write erotic under another name, and I have a whole other voice for that; arsey, darkly playful, much more evil than my regular self. That voice exists to do a job, and I created it in a very deliberate way.

One of my first Druid teachers was in the habit of saying ‘in Druidry we…’ which drove me nuts. Normally ‘we’ ought to be an inclusive word, but when you hear a lot of ’in druidry we do something entirely different from this thing you want to do’ it can become remarkably exclusive. Even so, I probably default to the language of ‘we’ more than anything else. We can do this. We can try that. I use ‘I’ to talk about things that seem passably unique to me. Okay, this is all a bit navel gazey and meta bloggy, but I think it’s worth a thought.

Language, in its subtle nuances conveys all kinds of information. Who has the power and authority here? Am I telling you what to do, telling you what I do, talking about what I do, suggesting what we could do… it all creates different vibes and will impact on how you, dear reader, experience my words. Now, if there was just one of you and I knew who you were, I could tailor it, but I’m also very conscious that there are quite a few people reading this, scattered about the world, coming in from different language backgrounds, with various levels of experience and different needs and expectations. You, dear reader, are a creature of many faces, voices and identities, and to treat you as one person may be convenient from a writing perspective, but ultimately feels a bit weird and probably doesn’t work.

That whole ‘dear reader’ thing is one of those charming Victorian conventions that modern authors aren’t supposed to dabble in. Ah well.

Some authors use the third person, and that voice is laden with authority. Here we can see that the author is a person of great insight who is handing out the facts in a calm and objective way. Only, all authors are people, and that objective third person voice readily disguises opinion and assumption as unassailable truth. Do not be seduced by the authority of the third person voice! (There, I said that in an authoritative, third persony sort of way, is that irony?)

This is not just an author issue. We voice our Druidry in ritual, and at other public gatherings. How much ‘I’ and how much ‘we’ needs to be in that mix? Well, that depends a bit on what you’re doing. If you are calling to Spirits of Place on behalf of a whole circle, you have to be offering your voice on behalf of everyone. It would be weird to say ‘spirits of place, I honour you’ at that point, it would leave everyone else out! I’ve also heard people in ritual call to Gods or Goddesses on behalf of everyone and felt uneasy because they hadn’t been asked to do so, and these were not my deities.

How we use language can have massive impact. I’m conscious that fellow blogger Cat over at http://www.druidcat.wordpress.com frequently talks about what she is doing, and rounds up by asking, what are you doing? A most direct challenge thrown out to the reader, a separation of ‘I’ and ‘you’ that always has a discernible impact on ‘me’. Am I really doing enough?
No matter where you are working, you are speaking and writing and interacting as a Druid. Your ‘natural’ voice is full of your beliefs and assumptions, and it is worth sitting down and poking it. (There, I went all I-you, conveying my authority and your need to do something different… fascinating, isn’t it?)

The devil is in the detail. I’m quite convinced the Druidry is in there too, more often than not. It’s amazing how much space you can get inside a detail… is it time to go all Doctor Who now?

Druid Community

When we’re all Being Druids, it’s very easy to identify us as a Druid community. In rituals and at camps, armed with books on Druidry, bardic poetry, songs about the land and the Gods, we are clearly ‘Druid’. Many of us then go home, to day jobs that are not purely Druidic. In my case… I don’t just write about Druidry, I’m a fiction author, editor, reviewer, and I’ve done all sorts of other things along the way, too – tutoring, gigging, and the more mundane. We take off the Druid hat and step into physical neighbourhoods where we aren’t surrounded by other Druids, and most of us have family that is outside the Druid tribe too.

In this, we are a long way from our Celtic ancestors. Until Christianity came along, if you were a Celt you were going to be in the same world, the same spirituality as the other Celts around you. Community was not defined purely by spirituality, but by history, artisan skills, laws, families, shared relationship to the land. Everything, in fact, would have interconnected.

Our modern Druid community is spread out. In the UK, we’re like a big village that has been sprinkled liberally across the entire country. We depend a lot on the internet as a consequence.

One of the ways we might move towards being more like a real community and less like a bunch of people connected by some shared ideas, is to share more than just the Druidry. If you only see people eight times a year for rituals, are they really your tribe? If we only pay attention to each other’s work when that work comes in a package with ‘Druidic’ stamped on it, how much are we missing? If we’re real in our Druidry, then it permeates all aspects of what we do, and any sharing of anything is relevant.

What brought this to mind, was the novel Stealing into Winter, by Graeme K Talboys. I read it this week, and if I hadn’t known Graeme first as an author of Druid books, I wouldn’t have guessed. This is a fantasy novel. It’s beautifully written, and utterly gripping. I am now as much a fan of his fiction, as I am of his Druid books. I want to review it for The Druid Network, because I think books by Druids ought to be of just as much interest to Druids, as books about Druids. But there is a leap to make there. It’s a shift from a tendency to define our Druidness through overt manifestations of Druidry, towards going, ‘we are Druids and here is some stuff we have been doing’. Can a person be a Druid author and not write a Druidic book, even if there’s no surface resemblance? What does it mean, really, to be a Druid? Is it what we do, or is it who we are?

The more we connect with each other when we’re not Being Druids, the more like a real community we become. There is more to life than ritual and serious books on serious topics. To make spirituality intrinsic to life, it is necessary to also make life intrinsic to spirituality. All of it.

Money for old Druids, rope, books…

What, exactly, are we willing to pay for? Money is the primary energy used to move things round in our culture, but the ways in which we deploy it are… curious. We’ll pay more for a cup of coffee than we feel comfortable about handing over for ebooks, for example. We’ll pay well over the odds for food at railway stations, then quibble over a milk price that has farmers working at a loss. I think there’s also an interesting question around what we’re willing to charge for.

It would, for example, be totally self defeating to charge for this blog. Authors are two a penny. We’re like a rampant disease spread over the whole internet, and we all want your cash in exchange for our scribbles. I was, quite literally, falling over authors last weekend. It felt like every third person who came by the table was an author, or wanted to be an author. I understand this urge, but it’s also a bit frustrating. I’d like to be an author too. Some 250,000 books now get published a year. It used to be more like 40,000. The number of books sold hasn’t changed. You do the maths. I’m in favour of more democratic and accessible systems, but I also have aspirations about being able to pay the bills. Me, and everyone else.

I have no doubt that Druidry will go the same way. Right now, Druid celebrants are not numerous, and people will pay for handfastings and whatnot. The more Druids there are, the more people will be looking to live by their Druidry and the harder this will consequently become. The more popular a thing gets, the less we are willing to pay for it. Take a look at book prices in the supermarket next time you go by. This isn’t going anywhere dramatic, I don’t have a grand plan on this issue, I just find it interesting.

My bloke is an artist. We were not falling over artists at the weekend, although there were plenty of folk who confessed to dabbling, but were quick to acknowledge they aren’t in his league. It’s easier to tell at a quick glance how good an artist is. We sold a lot of art. There are days when I wish I did anything other than write. There are so many other creative fields that are not being choked to death by the sheer number of people wanting to have a go. Part of the trouble with writing is that we all learn to write at school, and there is a widely held myth that anyone can do it. This is, in fact, bullshit. Good writing is as difficult as any other art form. We don’t all imagine we have an opera in us, or a sculpture. I’m all in favour of people having a go, exploring their creativity, I just wish it was a bit better distributed.

It also bugs the hell out of me that it tends to be hype, and not quality, that sells books. When an author is great, then seeing them top the best seller lists is a happy thing. But when we’re talking Twilight, Dan Brown, Fifty Shades and other such work that becomes famous for being famous it’s not good. I also get very grumpy about people who get famous for being famous, all the two dimensional celebrities. There are a lot of deserving, talented, innovative people out there who don’t media whore and who merit the attention. I’d rather hear about sports heroes than yet another drunken idiot in designer clothing.

But we pay, and every time we pay, we choose what kind of market we have, who will thrive, who will fall. And if we choose to spend a lot of money on mass produced plastic and nothing on originality, we will end up without originality. If we won’t pay for Druids, ultimately we won’t have any professional Druids. Some may argue this is a good thing. There’s an interesting discussion to have there. We also charge, and in choosing what we charge for, and what we do not, we also shape our material world. We pay others to clean our homes, but we do not value it when it’s done for free by an unpaid wife.  Child care the same. I don’t charge to blog. We can end up devaluing what we don’t pay for. I’m doing this for free because I hope to interest you in my writing, so that you buy my books, book me for events, come to my table, etc.  Funny sort of business, this.

Cat Treadwell interview

I first met Cat Treadwell through The Druid Network, when she stepped up to run the reviews section. Being one of the people she sends review books to, I’ve had a fair amount of contact with her over quite a few years now. In that time, I’ve watched Cat journey from being someone who just wanted to help out, to being the most actively involved of Druids, her work taking her in all kinds of exciting directions. She’s fast becoming one of the leading lights in UK druidry, and is undoubtedly one to watch!

Nimue: What first brought you to druidry?

Cat: As with most modern pagans, I think there’s always been something inside, whether it be an affinity for the wild lands, the seasons or just the magic in/of story. I’ve always been a voracious reader, and can remember making up my own characters and adventures from a very young age. I’d also be the strange little girl playing in the hedgerows during breaktime at school, getting to know the trees and birds! So I think it’s always been there in that regard.

Official ‘Druidry’ came about when I discovered ‘Spirits of the Sacred Grove’ while working through the huge amount of pagan books out there. Bobcat’s words struck a chord with me (as they have with many others), I sought out the BDO Yahoo group, found out that the webmaster was planning a local Grove… and here I am!

Nimue: What prompted you to take a more active role in the druid community? Was that a gradual thing, or did you make a conscious decision?

Cat: I was prompted in large part by a good friend asking me and my partner to officiate at his handfasting ceremony. I’d never overseen public ritual before, let alone an event of such importance. I still cringe when I remember the rehearsal beforehand in my back garden – it was truly awful, and I learned quickly how NOT to approach such things! But a wise man on The Druid Network forum advised me to be brave and find my ‘druid bollocks’ – and so I did! Strength in laughter, after all… *grin*

Since then, it feels that as I’ve grown, so have the challenges I’m faced with. From my first funeral rite, to a Beltane handfasting at Stonehenge, to my forthcoming book, and the latest request: to travel overseas for workshops and talks. Not to mention essentially working as a ‘professional Druid’ in order to pay the bills (due to redundancy last year). Life is busy!

Nimue: What do you do when you need inspiration

Cat: As I came to the end of my ‘training’ on Anglesey, I was going to make my promises and state my intention to the wider Universe as to what I would be doing with this. That really was a life-changing (and affirming) step, in many ways. Why had I undertaken it all? What for? How could it be best used?

Looking back, everything seemed to evolve in stages. I spent time as a beginner for a good few years, solitary and studying whatever came along and appealed to me. Eventually I joined a Grove (as part of the British Druid Order, now The Druid Network) and opened up to more ‘formal’ teaching/learning. Now came the time to step up – it wasn’t just about expanding my own knowledge, it was putting it to good use.

Nimue: How easy did you find the writing process when you stepped up to creating your first book?

Cat: My favourite image of ‘inspiration’ is one I saw years ago on a documentary. The wonderful Terry Jones sits at his desk, preparing to write. He chews his pen. He stares out the window. He fiddles with his tea mug. THAT is what searching for inspiration is like, quite often!

I tend to be mostly inspired when outside, whether walking the dog or just wandering (or even staring out of the window!). The simplest of natural events can be a reminder of something important, reconnecting you to that crucial spark that allows the creativity to flow. Ultimately, it can’t be forced… but it can be encouraged. Often by just putting yourself in the right frame of mind, with the right tools, and getting on with it!

Nimue: So, go on then, tell us about the book!

Cat: I actually felt as if I was cheating for a good while, because a lot of it had been done already on my blog! But then I realized the difference between writing ‘casually’ for an internet audience, and writing ‘professionally’ for a readership, who are physically expending energy (money) and effort to read my words. More responsibility, but determination to really speak my truth and be aware of what I was sending out into the world between those covers!

One thing that did help was that if I could ever honestly express my ‘life’s ambition’, it was (and still is) to be a writer. I still can’t believe it’s really happening, but I’ve always written, usually fiction. But I love the process, the joy of inspiration (when it flows!), ideas coming together… and then the utterly wonderful feeling of others talking to me about something that I have written. To know that somebody appreciated my work is the greatest gift, and I will always be thankful for it. So while yes, I do write on what interests me, what keeps me going is that others enjoy it as well. And hopefully find it inspiring in turn.

Nimue: What’s the book called, and how/when can people get their hands on it?

Cat: Well, as most folk know now, a few years ago I was yanked into giving a public talk at a Pagan Federation Conference with five minutes’ notice, and a deep-seated fear of speaking in public… but I did it. And was asked back!

So I figured that it might be a good idea to structure the next talk *grin* and started a blog, to ask the wider Web what exactly they wanted me to talk about.

The book came out of that, when last year, Moon Books were looking for new Pagan authors. As far as I know, while there are many ‘published blogs’ on the shelves (?) of Amazon, there hasn’t been one from a Pagan author yet. So I’ve taken time to turn it into a book, add a fair bit… and here it is!

While there’s more ‘Paganism 101’ books out there than I can count, one thing I found seriously lacking when I started out was EXPERIENTIAL stories. How other Pagans live, of whatever path. This has now started to change, thankfully, but that really is my goal with this book. To show how Druidry (and wider Paganism, usually) is lived for me, but also to make the reader question themselves and their own quests. What are you doing? What are you looking for? How far are you prepared for your life to change as your practice actively grows?

I don’t have a problem with those who are ‘trying out’ a path by reading all the books, trying the rituals, but not challenging themselves very much. I believe that this knowledge actually DOES tacitly move them forward, as they discover what they do (and don’t) want to be/do/live. I’m just being more up-front about it!

I love Druidry for being so honest, so challenging, such a daily adventure. Good and bad, dark and light – it’s part of our lives and the wider world. I hope this deep passion comes across in my words and my actions… but as I say in the book, feel free to question me if you don’t agree!

The book is ‘A Druid’s Tale’, and is currently available for pre-order on my website: http://druidcat.wordpress.com/a-druids-tale/

It’s due to be released on 29th June, and I’m told an Amazon page is being organised, with Kindle version available on there.

Cat is also out and about doing talks, workshops, interviews and all manner of other exciting things, so there’s all sorts of scope to encounter her both online and in person, if you haven’t