The Invisible Author That Lives in Your Home

image of a faceless writer

photo by Diana Rajchel (c)2017

(If you listen to Welcome to Nightvale, you’ll get it.)

“Does it bother you?” The TV, on mute, flashed images from SyFy Channel – Beast Master? The low-frills hotel desk was converted into a mini bar to beat the Hilton brand. We sipped our cocktails as I slipped into gossip like awkward lingerie.

He reminded me of an incident with the Pagan Newswire Collective, back when we didn’t know each other at all, that was a major learning experience for him. I’d checked an article, questioned its newsworthiness, was assured by the managing editor that it was indeed news, struck out some hyperbole and handed it back, expecting to think no more of it. Within four days, a scandal had erupted. The scandal was less over the actual article than details in posts that said article linked to, as though one had much to do with the other. Apparently when dealing with the people who raised the loudest protest over the piece,  I’d been intimidating. It had, like many teapot tempests, raised my ire momentarily only to be forgotten in the wake of the next story. That had been my first interaction with this man. Now, years later, I sat in his hotel room, sipping a Moscow mule he’d made me with his DIY wet bar. In the ensuing years we both became published authors, and both of us now went to these conventions as much for community as we did because it was now our business to do so.

He was reflecting on his own successes and struggles, and the absence of my name prominently displayed on the two books I wrote most recently gave him pause. The books in question – the Mabon: Recipes, Rituals and Lore and the Samhain: Recipes, Rituals and Lore were printed bearing the publisher’s name on the cover instead of my own, just as I’d agreed to in the initial contract. He isn’t the first to ask about this absence. One friend took umbrage at my non-recognition. Another just had trouble finding it in Barnes and Noble. It bothers the people that are proud of me, the ones that know exactly how rarified a skill finishing a book is. It doesn’t bother me.

I’m not completely missing from acknowledgment – I’d have to grab a copy to look since I may be listed on the copyright page rather than the title page. I just don’t take top billing.

The short answer is that no, it doesn’t upset me. If you search “Diana Rajchel” on Amazon the Samhain book is about the third one down the list, pushed down a little bit in favor of Llewellyn annuals that have my contributions.

It may have bothered me – or not – when I saw the conditions in the contract that I signed. The books were part of a project the acquisitions editor had pitched herself; it wasn’t my baby, I just really wanted to write about Mabon. My first book, Divorcing a Real Witch, had just been published and I knew I would need a new project for the sake of career and writing-discipline momentum.

While the Sabbats weren’t on my list of passion projects – I tend to observe Dziadys more these days – I love research for research’s sake, and writing a “witchcraft” book is a special challenge that keeps me sharp. Most witchcraft and Wicca related books typically require nonfiction, poetry, how-to and to some degree literary prose. There is no other field of writing that requires all of these written skill sets simultaneously. The books were what publishing calls a “work for hire” – you write it, and the publisher owns it. You get paid a set fee, give up royalties, and the promotion, marketing, and all the other business end of publishing a book is not your problem. There are certain types of books throughout publishing that are “work for hire.” It’s not a new – just not that well-known outside the publishing biz.

You’ve read my work, you just don’t know my name

If you’ve read any of the Llewellyn annuals or bought the calendars or datebooks, you have likely read something written by me. I have a body of published spiritual writing going back 18 years. I’ve maintained a presence, just not a  loud one. I am asked”who are you?” a lot when I wander into certain Pagan fora and flora.  There are a lot of reasons for this: early in my career, I had something of a guilt complex about writing Pagan and occult material, so I often allowed my sidelines to overrun them. I ran a plus size fashion blog that garnered a mention in the New York Times. I started a natural perfumery business. After my divorce, all but the Llewellyn annuals writing fell to the wayside as I struggled to make ends meet while also suddenly experiencing a severe, hard-to-diagnose chronic illness.

Also, most of you have never seen me in person. I have been non-participant in Pagan festival culture. When I was still healthy, I couldn’t afford to attend. Now, complex allergies that antihistamines can’t fix keep me away from the trees and bonfires. This is fine; I camped enough as a child to know I don’t enjoy it. I have gone to conventions, but for many years affordability presented a problem. Now, Pantheacon is local, and Paganicon is visiting my first home. When at these conventions, I teach a class (or two or more if at Paganicon) and then I retire to my hotel room, wherever that may be. It’s taken me years to work through my social anxiety to be social with strangers and even with people I love and adore, introvert strain takes its toll.

In my days of early practice I did attend public rituals as I could, but over time I found I had increasing trouble connecting to them. It wasn’t any fault or failure of the people organizing these events. Wicca in the United States may be arguably a populist religion, but it doesn’t fit all, nor was it meant to. Sometimes, it fits until it doesn’t, which is what happened with me. I followed on to my new, much less clearly paved path, and while I missed that extra bit of community, staying away felt like the more honest thing to do. I simply didn’t want to fall back into my old Christian habits of showing up at services for the sake of community when my soul was already out at the tree line on the edge of the church property. I opted instead for a sort of secular participation in Paganism: I volunteer organized for Pagan Pride,  I worked with news organizations, and I taught magic at cons and to individuals on an ad hoc basis. I am still religious, and while I don’t see myself as a terribly special snowflake, I haven’t quite found my right fit, if it’s even necessary to have one. I do the work – which to me, matters more than the religion since religion means little if you don’t take its principles and live them in the world.

Despite my lack of memberships within Paganism, I have a rich network of friends and spiritual partners that have come to me in myriad ways. I do learn – I study on my own, I try things, I run community groups, and I have mentors, sometimes take classes, and create partnerships with spiritual people of different faiths. I organize. I make things work. I produce things – it’s just perhaps not on the typical Pagan map, whatever typical is.

Also, I write. I write books, based on experiments I’ve tried, experiences I’ve had, and what I perceive as holes in the Pagan body of work. You’ve probably read something I’ve written – you just didn’t know it was me. My name might not have been on it, but that’s OK. From reading my work, you probably have some sense of my voice.

I am the invisible writer that lives in your home. Check where you stash your Llewellyn annuals. There I am, on your shelf, in your purse where you stashed your datebook, on your desk in the spell-a-day calendar from five years ago that you never opened.

 

About the Author

Diana Rajchel lives at the western edge of San Francisco, where sea creatures and hippies meet, breed, and glower at gentrification. From this liminal place she runs the Emperor Norton Pagan Social, writes about magic, herbs, and human quirks, and looks to both sidewalk and sky for wisdom. She is the author of Divorcing a Real Witch, the Mabon and Samhain installments of the Llewellyn Sabbat essentials series, and a title on Urban Magic to be released by Llewellyn in 2018.

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