Hello friends and fiends–
We started September off with some good, spooky vibes. Labor Day weekend was spent drinking fall cocktails, making pumpkin cookies, and reading spooky books by the bonfire with Evie. We specifically enjoyed The Skull by Jon Klassen–one that I have a feeling we’ll returning to again and again—and Vlad, the Fabulous Vampire by Flavia Z. Drago.
Then to continue the horror, Gwendolyn Kiste, Sara Tantlinger, Michael Arnzen, and I all went to a Haunted Tavern cocktail event in Pittsburgh where we drank smoking drinks, heard some ghost stories, and laughed a lot. It was such a fun night with a cool almost-burlesque atmosphere and I so enjoyed getting to hang out with some of my crew.
Another fun spooky bucket list item for me was to go to The Living Dead Museum in the Monroeville Mall. Somehow, despite living within 30 minutes of it for the past however many years, I’d never gone, but this month, I finally made it happen–and wow was it cool!
We had a small gathering for Mabon this year with lots of yummy food, drinks, and good friends. I introduced Evie to fingerpainting, so we’ve been making lots of art together, which I’m really enjoying. It’s wild how her style is already changing. She went from poking and dabbing, to a mix of blending and broader strokes. I try to paint with her a few times a week, and it’s been really therapeutic for me, too, so this is something that we’ll both be fostering.
September also brought with it the release of my seventh poetry collection, On the Subject of Blackberries! Releasing this book has been such an incredible experience. It’s been healing, nerve-racking, terrifying, and exciting, and I wouldn’t change any of it.
If I can entice you with another blurb, please check out what Tim McGregor, author of LURE, had to say about On the Subject of Blackberries. He wrote: “It's brutally tender and lush with folk magic vibes. A chance to slip back into the world of Merricat and Constance, but filtered through a deeply personal lens that reveals a feral snarl and a mischievous smile.”
Also, Lee Allen Howard, author of The Covenant Sacrifice, wrote a beautiful review of the collection that you can check out here. Lee was also kind enough to blurb the collection for me, where he said: “Wytovich discloses the festering secrets of her darkest thoughts with the inevitable doom of Emily Dickinson and the dread-infused paranoia of Poe’s ‘Tell-Tale Heart.’Recommended for lovers of the exquisitely macabre.”
Outside of that, I’ve been leaning heavily on my PTO, taking lots of mental health days, and leaning into wellness checks. I made a bunch of appointments and have been having positive conversations about my mind/body health lately, and I’m proud of myself for working to take care of myself a bit more these days. I find that I tend to be more active in the fall (my seasonal depression hits in the summer), so now that it’s cooler, everything seems a bit more manageable and I’m doing everything I can to seize that energy.
Plus, next month is the pumpkin king awakes!
On the writing/teaching front:
This month brought an end to my Witch Lit class via LitReactor. I had such a great time reading everyone’s stories and poems and the discourse we had in regard to gender, class, and politics was really inspiring. While I’m sad to see this section come to an end, I have four undergrad students I’m working with this semester who are taking independent studies with me on this topic. I’ve already read some great Plath/Sexton-inspired poetry, so I’m excited to see what else they work on in the upcoming weeks.
I was so honored to be included in Rue Morgue's FANGirl Book Review section. Thank you, Lindy Ryan, for including my upcoming collection, On the Subject of Blackberries!
Re: Under Her Eye, edited by Lindy Ryan and Lee Murray. I remain so honored to be included in this deeply important project and to have been mentioned in Lee's introduction is just icing on the cake. You can read more about the project here.
In honor of Stephen King’s birthday on September 21st, I wrote an open letter to Carrie White (Carrie). You can check out my LitReactor piece here.
My poem “Dinner Plans with Baba Yaga,” previously published in Into the Forest: Tales of the Baba Yaga was awarded an honorable mention in the short poem category of the Rhyslings vis the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association. I am immensely grateful for this. This magical little poem has brought me so much joy. I hope it keeps reaching readers.
I got an acceptance for a short story that I’m really excited about. I should have more information for you all soon. This one is a based-on-a-true-story piece and not only is it dark, but it’s hungry.
My funeral service students and I got to tour the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science this month. Everyone was so welcoming and informative and we all left inspired.
This month, I read:
We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix
Sylvia Plath: A Biography by Linda Wagner-Martin
Poet, Warrior: A Memoir by Joy Harjo
Rivers in Your Skin, Sirens in Your Hair: Poems by Marisca Pichette
A Guest in the House by Emily Carroll
The Nice House on the Lake, Vol 2 by James Tynion IV
The Neighbors, Issues 1-3 by Jude Ellison S. Doyle
“Student Living” by Ashley Deng via Nightmare Magazine, flash fiction
This was a great lesson in experimental form. I shared this with my MFA students as an example of the many ways you can tell a story.
“Five Things That Go Through Your Mind After the Masked Killer Decapitates You with an Axe and Your Still-Living HeadHas a Few Seconds of Consciousness Left to Gae at your Twitching Body” by Adam-Troy Castro via Nightmare Magazine, flash fiction
This was so fun! If you want a dark comedy, definitely check this one out.
On the media front:
No One Will Save You (2023), The Devil Wears Prada (2006, and yes, I had never seen it before), Moving On (2022).
What We Do in the Shadows (2023): I absolutely loved the final two episodes. So satisfying (and hysterical). And honestly, what great character development for Nandor!
Only Murders in the Building, Season 3 (2023): When Steve Martin killed that patter song in episode 8, I lost it. That was pure, raw talent.
How to Become a Cult Leader (2023): I’m fascinated by cults, and this has been on my to-watch list for a while, although I’ll admit the way it’s formatted really unnerves me. I watched the first episode “Build Your Foundation” on my work break the other day and this mostly focused on Charles Manson, who I’m sure we’re all quite familiar with now. It’s hard to believe that Leslie Van Houten is out there walking amongst us all now…
“Episode 2: Grow Your Flock” was about Jim Jones and I definitely shouldn’t have watched this one before bed. I ended up having a wild, horrifying dream that woke me up in a cold sweat gasping for air. I didn’t realize that there was/is speculation/proof that this wasn’t a mass suicide but rather a mass murder. I hate that I’m so fascinated by this stuff. It truly unnerves me.
“Episode 3: Reform Their Minds” was about Jaime Gomez and Buddhafield. This was all completely new to me. The fact that members of this group were willing to get plastic surgery to achieve “perfection” and/or to help him see what it would look like on him is chilling. I found a few podcast episodes on this that I want to check out.
“Episode 4: Promise Eternity” was all about Heaven’s Gate. This one is always a trigger for me because a few years ago I went to the Death Museum in Los Angeles and saw the bunk beds and sneakers from the group that they were in/wore when they committed suicide. When I saw this, I had a panic attack and had to leave the museum and it’s something I think about frequently. Then, because I’m a masochist, I went to the Graveface Museum when I was in Savannah, Georgia last year, and when I walked into their crime museum (and truly, had no idea of what I was getting into), Marshall Applegate was on a TV talking directly to me…and the panic attack returned. Needless to say, this episode was a hard watch for me.
Junji Ito: Maniac (2023): I had a long chat with one of my advisees the other day about Junji Ito, and we both agreed that we needed to finish watching this series, so I tried to squeeze in a few episodes this month. I watched “The Story of the Mysterious Tunnel” and “Ice Cream Bus.” I wanted to like these both more than I did, honestly; it just felt like something was missing, however, the tunnel one did intrigue me and have some spooky moments. That said, I watched “The Back Alley” and “Headless Statue” and I enjoyed them much more, especially the latter. “Headless Statue” was perfect Ito for me (grotesque, filled with body horror, and bordering the sublime). After that, I checked out “Whispering Woman” and “Soichi’s Beloved Pet.” Now, I hate Soichi (he really, really creeps me out) so his storylines don’t usually work for me, but I liked the vibe of “Whispering Woman,” especially with how Ito had her change appearance throughout. This one felt more heartbreaking than scary, but I’m here for whatever vibe Ito wants to lean into.
Books in the Freezer, “Road Trip Horror with Haley Newlin”
Books in the Freezer, “Cursed Object Horror with Josh Winning”
She Wore Black, “Grady Hendrix on Vintage Gothic Romance”
Last Podcast on the Left, “Lizzie Borden, Part I, 41 Whacks”
Last Podcast on the Left, “Lizzie Borden, Part II…With an Axe!”
Last Podcast on the Left, “The Demon House, Gary Indiana: Portal to Hell”
Last Podcast on the Left, “La Llorona, The Legend of the Weeping Woman”
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