Posts By: Cynthia Marts

Please Let Me Help, Out Today!

Last month Jordan took on the giggle-filled task of reading and reviewing our latest hilarious book, available in a bookstore near you this month, Please Let Me Help. This unique book of letters may be too wild to be explained, but Jordan did a pretty good job. 

Book cover showing a leaking pipe fixed with band-aids

Starting my internship here only two weeks ago, I immediately started hearing perplexing comments on our new book Please Let Me Help. One coworker enthusiastically encouraging me to read it, referencing a multitude of tiny, hand-drawn vampires. From another, an elusive comment of, “It’s weird…” And a lot of conversations about who the heck our target market is.

So I committed a couple hours to sitting down and reading through it.

I’m not sure where to start.

But I’m a feelings person, and  Please Let Me Help: “Helpful” Letters to The World’s Most Wonderful Brands. makes me feel snarky, slightly rebellious, and like I’m “in” on inside joke with Zach Sternwalker at the companies’ expense.

Reading Please Let Me Help put me in that beautifully drifting and nonsensical mindset one has when musing on something absolutely ridiculous that also makes an element of sense. Like a modern epistolary Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, where Port-O-Potties all have flowers and Christian Slater stars as Princess Diana. A place where the brief and formal rejections of Zach’s ludicrous suggestions become that which is laughable. Go fuck yourself, Taco Bell legal department. You obviously don’t get humor.

A strange and humorous letter to Michael Jordan

And that is the real value in the book, I think. Perhaps it was because I read it straight-through in one sitting, but Zach Sternwalker sucks you into this realm of nonsense, until you stand there with him looking across at the rest of the world with altered eyes. And we see its prude stuffiness. Please Let Me Help defamiliarizes us from our world’s business and consumer norms, showing its puffed-up silliness in an ironic, counter-silly way.

But the book doesn’t have to be all this. It stands on its own as just a gosh-darned funny read. It has that unadulterated silliness that reminds me of being deliriously tired, laughing over ridiculous ideas with an equally loopy friend. Who cares if none of it is realistic? For a moment, that which is realistic means nothing. And scheming up Dunkin’ Donuts’ marketing plan for toast is the most logical thing one can do. Like a much-needed breath of fresh air.

So I’d recommend Please Let Me Help to anyone who could use a break from the no-nonsense, logical professional environment we’ve become so accustomed to. Because you know what’s more fun than that? A teeny vampire in a pear suit. Or imagining how to pitch a post-workout human refrigerator to General Electric.

 


Thank you to Jordan Ellis, our Fall intern, for writing up this review. Get a copy of the book for yourself at Microcosm.Pub

Let’s Get Sour: 5 Books on How to Ferment Your Foods

We’ve all been there – you left something in the back of the fridge too long and it went sour. Maybe your favorite bottle of wine became vinegar when you weren’t looking, or maybe you left the vegetables in your crisper for too long. Oof.

But fermentation, when done intentionally, is both tasty and a great way to preserve your garden bumper crop. Rather than leaving pounds of zucchini in your neighbor’s mailbox when you have too many, why not leave a jar of zucchini pickles? Why celebrate with overpriced sweet wine when you can make fresh honey wine with only a few items? Or, save money on yogurt by making big batches of your own.

Don’t know how? Here are our recommendations for books to get you started….

 

Basic Fermentation: A Do-it-yourself Guide to Cultural Manipulation

by Sandor Ellix Katz

If you’re a visual learner, Basic Fermentation: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Cultural Manipulation is packed with full-color photos that will walk you step-by-step through the art of fermentation.

 

This book is where Sandor Ellix Katz got his start as a fermentation super-star, so it’s a perfect starting point for you, too. It will help you learn techniques and teach you tasty recipes for all your fermentation needs. Even if you’ve tried your hand at fermentation before, it’s a great addition to your shelf for the recipes. This version is even updated with full step by step photos to get you going.

 

Everyday Fermentation Handbook

by Brandon Byers

When you think of fermentation, chances are your mind goes to staples like sauerkraut, kimchi, and even pickles. But there’s a whole world of fermentation out there beyond vegetables.

Everyday Fermentation Handbook is a primer on fermenting just about everything. Ever wanted to start making your own cheese and sourdough? What about brewing your own kombucha? This book takes you to vegetables and beyond, letting you add fermented foods to every meal. (Fermented waffles are amazing, FYI.)

Even better, this book includes ideas of how to use your tasty treats – taking them from just a side dish to a whole meal.

Fermented Vegetables

by Christopher Shockey and Kirsten K. Shockey

So you’ve got a green thumb for more than just zucchini, which is great. But it also means that you don’t have six million pounds of zucchini to use – you have six million pounds of everything to use.

Fermented Vegetables: Creative Recipes for Fermenting 64 Vegetables & Herbs in Krauts, Kimchis, Brined Pickles, Chutneys, Relishes & Pastes (a mouthful, I know) is a fantastic reference for when you’re drowning in vegetables. This book helps you preserve a lot of different types of vegetables – not just cabbage and pickles – in creative and tasty ways.

Like it spicy? The same authors also wrote Firey Fermentation, which provides a spicy twist on fermentation.

Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World

by Sandor Ellix Katz

No list on fermentation is complete without the Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World. If there was a religion based on fermentation, this would be its bible.

If you’re acquainted with fermenting already and looking for a comprehensive book on the subject, this is the one for you. With over 500 pages, it covers the history and cultural nuances of many different types of fermentation, as well as providing illustrations and recipes. It’s great for the experienced fermenter who wants to know more, or for the newbie who wants to jump right in.

Fermenting is a great way to preserve fresh foods without losing their nutritional power. With just a little bit of effort, you too can be fermenting in no time!

 

Brew It Yourself: Professional Craft Blueprints for Home Brewing

by Erik Spellmeyer

Kombucha and kimchi not what you’re looking to whip up? Brew It Yourself outlines the key methodologies of the two most common home beer-brewing techniques: extract and all-grain brewing. It provides professional advice on how to get started from square one at home, introducing the reader to the industry jargon and terminology, while providing clear instruction on the formalities of home brewing.

Equipped with illustrations, images, glossary, photography, and step-by-step assembly instructions for building your own equipment, Brew It Yourself is your craft brewing bible.

 

 


 

This book list (with the exception of #5) was written by past intern and occasional contributor/editor, Lydia Rogue. Follow them on twitter and patreon.

Do you have a favorite fermentation book we missed? Let us know!

Talking With Faith & How to Be Adultier

This past summer, intern Hanna B. took an interest in Dr. Faith’s books, and asked our favorite foul-mouthed doc a few questions about her work. Then, check out an exclusive excerpt from Dr. Faith’s next book in stores this month: Unfuck Your Adulting.

Everybody struggles at points in their lives. It’s inevitable! Nothing is ever perfect, and there will be times when you will need someone to help you get through the inevitable bumps in the road.
And while often times good friends and a strong optimism can get you through most things, sometimes more professional help is warranted. However, this can be a huge struggle, if not impossible for many, and so we can offer you the next-best-thing: Dr. Faith G. Harper.

Dr. Faith G Harper is a hilarious women with a PhD, who has written multiple zines and books for Microcosm, all about dealing with issues in our own lives, from Unfuck your Brain to her “Five Minute Therapy” zines, she gives you the honest facts on how to deal with whatever you’re dealing with, how it affects your body/brain, and even gives you the tough-love you didn’t know you needed. Her next book, Unfuck Your Adulting, hits stores this month. Filled with humor, science, and damn good advice her writing has the ability to enact positive change within each of us. A woman with a confident smile leans on a brick wall.

I recently had the chance to connect with Dr. Faith and ask her some questions about her books and zines, her practice, and her writing! For those of you who already know Dr. Faith and are dying to hear more or for those who are just interested in this kick-ass women, here are some words of wisdom from the woman herself.

What drove you to initially take your knowledge/practice and develop them into books?
Faith: Frustration! I write the books I want to read. They didn’t exist and I could bitch about it or write them myself! My first book with Microcosm “Unfuck Your Brain” started with the five minutes of brain science psycho-ed that all my clients get at some point that I had entitled “Brains are Assholes.”

What effect do you see from your writing that differs from your in-person practice?
The most obvious answer is that I get to connect with people in a different way…and connect with people I wouldn’t have come in contact with otherwise, just sitting in my office seeing clients who live in Texas. The more interesting answer that is, in terms of the meta-message of my books, there isn’t much difference. My private practice clients who have read my books say they sound EXACTLY like in-session me. I don’t write any differently from how I talk. I’m not trying to sound hip when I write (because trust, I figured out by age 11 that I am deeply uncool and have made my peace with it). If I say “Dude, that’s fucked up” in my writing, those same words in that same order probably came out of mouth at least three times in the past week with clients. No-one needs me to put on my white coat of expert doctorness, they need me to be authentic and present with them in their experience. The expertise may be the backseat navigator, but they aren’t in charge.

Which of your zines/books have you enjoyed writing the most, and why?
I don’t like rehashing topics that have already been covered. In fact, there are plenty of topics that have been suggested in which my response has been “so and so already wrote that book, wrote it better than I ever could, and I have nothing to add.” So any writing (and research process) in which I end up conceptualizing something in a new way ends up being the most enjoyable (even if it’s harder work in the process). For example, in the Coping Skills book I ended up creating a new category system for types of coping skills. It gave me structure for the book, and I think lends a better understanding to how coping skills can be operationalized. I want mental health strategies to just fucking WORK better. So when I think I hit on something that will make that happen I get all the excites.
(FWIW, I am working on something now, where I ended up changing the model of a psychological concept that has never been fucked with in the past. I may end up in academic purgatory, but I was really struggling with making it more accessible, and the only way I could figure out how to make it work was to add to it!)

What do you hope to do in the future with your writing?
World domination!
Or better yet, creating equal access for mental and emotional health for folx. It shouldn’t be the domain of the elite. If we reduce shame and stigma, and make quality tools that support people’s recovery journeys available for the cost of a paper and cardboard zine we’ve done good in the world.

 


 

Want to know more about Dr. Faith?

Check out her books here, and learn a thing or two about being a decent grown-up with this excerpt from Unfuck Your Adulting: Give Yourself Permission, Carry Your Own Baggage, Don’t Be a Dick, Make Decisions, & Other Life Skills:A book cover with a punk cat trimming its nails and adulting

How To Be An Adultier Adult:

#1: DON’T BE A DICK

Growing up, my kids had two household rules: “Don’t be a dick” and “If it’s not yours, don’t touch it.”

(And honestly the second rule is really covered by the first, but a couple people I gave birth to had some struggles with the “stop fucking with other
people’s stuff” portion of the program, so we had Rule Two. But I digress.)

This rule was so well known that everyone who was invested in the welfare of my kids (teachers, counselors, etc.) would invoke it: “Well, are you being a dick right now?”

Thank you, Wil Wheaton, for adding “Don’t be a dick” to our common vernacular. Because, seriously, if you are only going to have one life rule, have it be this one. You don’t need an explanation on this one. You know when you are being a dick. Don’t.

When this now-book was first released as a zine, I wondered if “Don’t be a dick” would resonate and make sense with the people who read it. Or would there be a bunch of “Dude, what the fuck do you mean by that?” going on. Not once has that happened. This is a rule that everyone totally intuits immediately. We know
what dickitude looks like in all its shapes and forms. If we call it out in ourselves and refuse to tolerate it in others, we are already acting way more grown than most motherfuckers out there.

#2: BE A TINY BIT NICER THAN YOU HAVE TO BE

OK, you aren’t being a dick. Badass. Next step? Push yourself to put a little more good into the world than you are required to by the situation present. Say please and thank you. Use markers of respect (ma’am, sir, or whatever is appropriate). Be kind. Tip extra. Hold the door open. Smile sympathetically at the parent with the screaming child. Be engaged, present, and just a little bit more awesome.

Recently, someone kept breaking into our neighborhood mailboxes (because some people haven’t read Rule Number One). This meant the mailman couldn’t leave our mail and it had to be brought back to the post office for pickup. My Boo saw his truck one day and asked him if we could get the mail from him and skip the drive. Mailman said, “I’m totally not supposed to do that, but for you I will. Your wife is always soooo nice to me.”

All I had ever done was to smile and wave when I saw the postman in the neighborhood (you know, like Mr. Rogers taught me to), thank him when he brought me packages, and if I saw him in front of the house, walk out to his truck so he didn’t have to get out. This is small, small stuff. And it’s stuff that most people just
don’t do anymore. We aren’t talking about working in a soup kitchen every Saturday (though that is pretty badass, too). We are just talking about taking the time to recognize and respect other human beings on the planet.

Think about all the times someone being nice to you made your day bearable. Things that were pretty small for them were huge for you in that moment. We can put the same goodwill out into the world. Hell, even if it doesn’t work you totally earn serious karmic power-ups for trying harder than you have to.

 


 

This interview was conducted and written by summer intern Hanna B. and the excerpt taken from chapters one and two of  Unfuck Your Adulting: Give Yourself Permission, Carry Your Own Baggage, Don’t Be a Dick, Make Decisions, & Other Life Skills by Dr. Faith G. Harper

Where Are They Now? Past Inter-Cosmonauts

Every few months we welcome a few new folks into our office to help out and learn about what we do. Most often these are volunteers or interns looking to be a part of what we do and learn, for themselves or for college credit. Any of us who’ve been there can tell you it’s a wild experience that is sometimes radical, sometimes tedious, sometimes bizarre, and at other times empowering AF. But… what happens to those brave young people afterwards?

Over the summer we asked some Micro-intern-alums what they’re up to these days, and there’s a lot going on. Writing projects, book recommendations, zines being made, and more…

 

(more…)

A Chat with Julia Alekseyeva

We reached out to Soviet Daughter creator Julia Alekseyeva to chat about the amazing graphic novel’s reception, praise, creation, and purpose.
Check it out below, grab a copy of the book, or follow Julia online to learn more about her work.

 

 


**Congrats on winning the 2017 Virginia Library Association’s Diversity in Graphic Novels award! Were you surprised by the announcement?**
I was very surprised, and even more pleased! It has been a bit difficult getting standard comic committees and authorities interested in the book and story. Readers have responded very positively, but independently published books seem to have a severe handicap in the comics world. So I was pretty shocked, to say the least! I’m especially thrilled that the award came from the Virginia Library Association, and that it highlights diversity. I’m an educator myself and created the book for the purpose of education on a rarely-understood topic: daily life and politics in the USSR. I also wanted to highlight the experiences of a figure that was a minority in her own community, even if she probably wouldn’t be considered one now in the US.

**We’ve heard a few reviews of Soviet Daughter where they raved about how badass a woman Lola was, and it was inspiring to hear. How do you feel about the praise the books been getting? Purely based on my curiosity, have you heard any particularly great comments or feedback that really sticks in your mind? **
I’m thrilled about the praise the book is getting! I’m so glad it’s connecting with readers– both those who came from former Soviet states, and other people in the US and abroad. I received some great feedback from readers in Ukraine, actually, and really hope that the book ends up getting published there one day. I think many people assume that citizens of former Soviet states may not like the book because it showcases a history that comes with extremely heavy baggage and trauma. However, I have not actually had this criticism happen (which is fantastic)– former Soviets seem to connect with how ambiguously the book treats the Soviet government. It’s definitely a gray area, and in my experience, readers from places like Ukraine, Bulgaria, or Kazakhstan read the book as a testament to the complexity of Soviet nostalgia. It isn’t necessarily a nostalgia that wants to restore the past (Svetlana Boym called this ‘Restorative Nostalgia’) but one that, hopefully, reflects on the past without wanting to abandon it wholesale (‘Reflective Nostalgia’). I love getting feedback that the book ‘gets history right,’ or at least the feeling of living in a very particular moment, in a very particular place. And that’s high praise to me.back cover of Soviet Daughter: A Graphic Revolution

**What kind of people do you think seem to be gravitating towards Soviet Daughter? What do you think it is about your book, and Lola’s story, that has resonated so much with readers?**
I definitely feel like two types of generations gravitate towards the book: Millennials/’Digital Natives’ (those under 38) and an older generation who may be grandparents themselves (‘Silent Generation’ and older). Unsurprisingly I think the book is more appealing for people interested in learning more about leftism throughout history. It makes sense that the reader demographic lines up pretty well with the demographics of the Democratic Socialists of America! (i.e. younger generations and much older generations, with not a lot in between). I think this has less to do with the content of the book and more to do with the types of books 38-58 year olds are likely to consume. This may have to do with experiences of the Cold War and an immediate gut reaction against anything with ‘Soviet’ in the title. In my experience, Millennials and older folks take a lot less convincing than the demographic in the middle! I think the story resonates with readers because it really is a personal account, rather than any objective idea of history. I didn’t fact check any of the statements Lola made because they are her story and her truth. She was writing this memoir in secret and had no reason to lie since she knew she’d be long gone by the time we read it. It is a subjective history and a visceral experience of daily life.

**Creating a hand-painted graphic novel is a big, daunting project! How did you stay motivated in the long process?**
Oh, boy! Honestly, I have no idea. I’ve made quite a few shorter pieces since the book was published, but haven’t had the urge to do something quite like this again. I’m not sure how I was able to be so motivated! I was very organized and set all of these nearly impossible-to-meet deadlines, and actually made all of them, with significant difficulty. I think I was able to stay disciplined and motivated because I knew I would not be able to support myself financially for very long (I lived on savings for one year). More importantly, I just wanted the story out there. I thought there was something in the air that made the word ‘socialism’ appealing, for the first time in my life in the US. This was 4 years before Bernie Sanders became a household name and the most popular politician in the US! I thought if there ever was a time for the story to reach an audience, it was now (or rather, 2013-2017), and I think I was right! I also had this deep, psychological urge to pay homage to my great-grandmother. Drawing/writing is somewhat therapeutic, as it was a particularly intense way of expressing love, devotion, and respect.

**Now that you’re looking back on it from some distance, What’s your favorite part of the book? Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?**
Hmm! I’m not sure I would’ve done anything differently in terms of the final product. There was quite a bit of trial and error as I went about my drawing and editing process, and while it would have saved me a LOT of time and art supplies to have already known my strategy on Day 1, it was also a great learning experience. So, all those accidentally spilled containers of India Ink and stained wooden floors and broken nibs and coffee-spilled laptops are probably an important part of the process, and I wouldn’t have given up that craziness for anything. I do think the book would be a tad better if the format were larger; maybe, just maybe, there can be a larger reprint of the book that keeps the same dimensions? In terms of my favorite part of the book: it’s hard to say, but probably my favorite parts are the more positive scenes from the early 1930s. Lola’s life pre-WWII is so fascinating and fun. It reminds me so much of my own scene in Brooklyn, weirdly enough. I know the comparison is a rather crazy one, but there’s actually quite a lot in common in terms of the combination of radical politics/socialist organization and fun hang-outs or party scenes. Lola was interested in politics, art, film, theater, dance, music. I like to think that if she were a Millennial now, she’d live in my neighborhood and dance up a storm in Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy!

 

(Above) The original Kickstarter video for Soviet Daughter.

A Day in the Life, last day edition

This piece was written by our wonderful intern Kedi on her last day at Microcosm. We asked what she’d enjoyed about her time at Microcosm, as well as what she didn’t. Her response is quite charming and passionate, like her. Find Kedi and follow her work on twitter.


Hanging out at PRIDE

My internship with Microcosm Publishing began on June 4th earlier this summer, and my final day, August 10th, has officially caught up with me. That’s 10 weeks for those of you who weren’t counting, or, in internship measurements, 249.07 hours. And yes, I am the type of person to measure hours in hundredths of a decimal.

There are a lot of things I’d say I’ve learned over the course of my internship, though I’m not sure I could exactly say what those things are. I think this might be the easiest to express: there is a difference between liking something and thinking it’s a fit. There are certainly lovely and well-written zines and books out there in the world waiting to be published that will never fit with Microcosm. There is a humor and an energy in Microcosm that is missing in a lot of things. I’ve also learned that there are times where someone can be slow and take their time to make sure a project is finished with the utmost care, but also times where smaller details must be let go in the wake of an oncoming due date.

I’ve learned that the people working at Microcosm enjoy working here, and that they each have a level of dedication that keeps them all pushing forward on their projects, whether they come to the office or not. Most days, of the fourteen people who work here, I’ve seen four or five. Sometimes there were as little as two people in the office, besides the interns. Following that, I’m certain I’ve learned almost nothing of any of them. I’m positive there’s at least three people who work here that I’ve never actually met. But even of the ones I have met, the only last names I know are Joe’s and Elly’s. That being said, I’ve learned that the people working at Microcosm are kind and patient and fun. No one has gotten frustrated with me for asking too many questions (or at least no one who showed it), no one has acted as though I am “just” an intern, and not only do they ask for my ideas and my opinions, they listen. They follow through and dig deeper to see what could work. They also work to keep me included. What I have learned of the people who worked here, I learned from the times they invited me to have lunch with them, or the from game night the company hosted. I think my favorite memory of Microcosm will be when my manager Sidnee and I left the office in the middle of the day to meet Cyn, the publicity director, at a snow cone truck on the next block.

And though that will be my favorite memory, it will not be my proudest. I am proud and honored by the trust placed in me by the team of Microcosm during my internship. That same urging which made me mark the last .07 of my hours here at Microcosm helped me make a name for myself within the office. In my midterm meeting, my manager likened me to a duck. On the surface I am often quite passive and serene, but under the water I work quite diligently, with great care for where I’m heading. She meant that I’m a bit of a slow worker, but I pore over each word, each mark of punctuation, each spacing and pattern in writing until every mark of ink on the page is exactly as it should be.

I have edited three books in these past 249.07 hours, and each opportunity was more difficult and more demanding than the last. The first, a book in Dr. Faith’s This Is Your Brain series, was a simple (simple for people like me who read about comma rules for fun—have I ever told you about the Oxford Comma?) typo search. The second was a read through of Joe Biel’s (the owner and founder of Microcosm) own book on publishing. It was my responsibility to make sure all titles, subtitles, headers and subheaders were appropriately capitalized, as well as looking for typos. The amount of time I spent researching capitalization rules to complete this task would make a math major cry, but it paid off. This research helped me to impress Joe and Elly, so that they trusted me with editing on the master document directly. I shared this with my mom (so she would be proud of me too, of course) and she was proud enough to share it with my grandmothers. The last project will stick with me even through the ending of my internship—literally, because I’m still working on it! For my last project they have trusted me with a developmental edit, and the work I have put in for the past three weeks has been frustrating, agonizingly slow, often bewildering, and completely satisfying. I enjoy the slogging through of information. I feel almost like an archeologist making a discovery with the ways I’m helping to pull a book out of the mess of ideas. (Is that too silly a comparison? Don’t tell anyone I said that.)

Kedi and the spring/summer ’18 intern crew.

 

There are things about this internship I won’t miss. I won’t miss the hour drive between the office and my home. I won’t miss the publicity projects I am absolutely terrible at (Sorry, Cyn). I won’t miss that the very nice woman working in the NICU still hasn’t called me back so we can finally give them their free books—and after we talked three times, no less!

But I will miss eating lunch out on the patio of the office. I will miss the friendly atmosphere. I will miss texting Sidnee to let me in, only for Ben to open the door. I will miss gif conversations with my manager, and I will miss the other interns, and the frustrating, bewildering, satisfying work I have done here. I think I’ll even miss the mailing.

Regards,

Kedi

 


Are you interested in volunteering or interning for credit at Microcosm? Let us know with this form and be a part of the punk rock publishing revolution!

A woman browses full bookshelves

Witchcraft 101

Reading Recs :: 5 Books to Introduce You to Witchcraft

There are so many titles on witchcraft out there – it can be hard to know where to get started. When you walk in and are faced with what seems like an entire bookstore of potential titles, where does one even begin – especially when you don’t know a Wiccan from a Druid, and you’re not sure what a Tarot deck is other than you probably shouldn’t play poker with one.

Instead of staring blankly at the shelf, try these books on for size…

 

Dark purple and black book cover "A Little Bit of Wicca"

A Little Bit of Wicca: An Introduction to Witchcraft

By  Cassandra Eason

The “A Little Bit” series has quite a few titles in it, each tackling a different topic. A Little Bit of Wicca: An Introduction to Witchcraft is a prime example of this.

The slim hardback is the perfect size to take with you on the go – and its bite-sized nature means it’s not a huge time commitment for curiosity seekers. It’s a great title to get started with because it’s so basic.

 

 

 

Book cover with pagan and occult symbolsThe Wicca Bible: The Definitive Guide to Magic and the Craft 

by Ann-Marie Gallagher

While there isn’t a Bible for Wicca and paganism the way there is for Christianity, the book The Wicca Bible: The Definitive Guide to Magic and the Craft provides an overview of Wicca – detailing the history of the craft and modern practices, giving newcomers information on how to start their own worship.

This book is great if you know you want to delve a little deeper from the start – with 400 pages, it covers plenty of ground, while still maintaining a compact size for easy transport.

 

Hardcover book with intricate designs

The Modern Witchcraft Guide to the Wheel of the Year

by Judy Ann Nock

Christmas isn’t just a repackaged Yule, no matter how much we like to joke about it, and Samhain isn’t just another word for Halloween. Once you start delving into the craft, it’s easy to find references to the wheel of the year and the holidays, but many books only provide a basic overview of them.

For a new practitioner, it can be confusing when there’s not more information on what the holidays mean and only a basic look at how to celebrate them. The Modern Witchcraft Guide to the Wheel of the Year: From Samhain to Yule, Your Guide to the Wiccan Holidays is great for new practitioners who want to learn more about the core holidays.

The book also includes easy to follow rituals and a bit about the history of each. Anyone interested in the craft can pick it up and have their holiday plans prepped and ready to go.

 

White cover with pagan designs and a pentagramThe Little Book of Witchcraft

by Andrew McMeel Publishing

When you think of paganism, most often you think of Wicca. It’s one of the fastest-growing religions in the US and is probably the largest single pagan religion. However, that’s not all there is to witchcraft.

The Little Book of Witchcraft is a compact, non-denominational guide to the basics of witchcraft. This book is a fantastic choice for new practitioners who don’t want to be tied down to a specific pagan group or for curiosity seekers who want to learn a little more about what falls into the big category of “witchcraft”.

 

Wiccapedia: A Modern-Day White Witch’s Guide

Black hardcover book with green occult designs and symbols

by Leanna Greenaway and Shawn Robbins

Bad puns aside, Wikipedia has become a backbone of encyclopedic knowledge, providing an overview of a variety of subjects in an easy to access format.

Wiccapedia: A Modern-Day White Witch’s Guide does the exact same thing for Wicca. Good for beginners and experienced practitioners alike, this little guide provides a surprisingly comprehensive overview of Wiccan practices and spirituality – with some how-to advice for people just getting started.

Whether you’re interested in practicing, or if you’re just trying to broaden your horizons, these books are a great choice for anyone interested in learning more about witchcraft and the spirituality surrounding magic.

 

 

 

 

What do you think? Are you ready to get mystical? Have a better suggestion? Share your favorite wicca/witchy/occult titles with us on twitter or instagram.

 

This post was written by past intern and contributor, Lydia Rogue. Follow Lydia and all their awesome work on Twitter and Patreon.

Guest Post : The Case for Calling In

Past intern and 2x guest editor Lydia Rogue is a freelance writer and editor who made quite a few improvements around here in our office and editorial standards. In their last post as a volunteer with us, Lydia explored why inclusive language is so important in open calls for submissions, for a better, more diverse publishing world.

 

If you take a look at Microcosm’s submission guidelines, there’s a sentence inviting people who aren’t well represented in the publishing world to send in their manuscript.

People of color and transgender or gender nonconforming people are particularly encouraged to submit, as is anyone whose experiences are not well represented in the publishing world.

In the same vein, when I put out a call for submissions for True Trans Bike Rebel, and now that I’m looking for pieces for The Great Trans-Universal Bike Ride, I’ve made it clear I’m looking exclusively for submissions from trans and nonbinary people.

Just a few days ago I was digging through submission guidelines for a variety of lit magazines, as well as trawling job boards for listings. Both in my job hunt and in the perusal of submission guidelines, I was surprised to find more and more magazines have been saying that they’re especially interested in submissions from women, people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, disabled people and other minority voices.

Not just “Equal Opportunity Employer” statements, as required by law, but actually stating that they’re looking for minorities.

Let me point out that this has not always been the case, and I am glad to see it.

Admittedly, it’s hard not to be wary of these calls, especially when it comes to jobs. It often feels like they’re trying to get diversity points without actually following through. This thought is fueled by the countless stories I’ve heard of hiring managers tossing applications (regardless of legality) because someone listed their pronouns as anything other than he or she, or because their name doesn’t match their gender marker. And often I do wonder, when I send an email with “Lydia Rogue they/them” to hiring managers or editors, if that isn’t part of the reason I never heard back. It’s nerve-wracking.

So why do we do it at all, then?

Why not just let the implication of inclusivity stand?

Why call people in?

It’s easy to pretend that the default of equality is enough, especially if you’re coming from a place of privilege. If the laws dictate you can’t discriminate, and people are wary when you explicitly state you’re inclusive, why do it at all?

The answer is that regardless of what the laws say, the reality is we often aren’t welcome in these spaces.

The default attitude is not welcoming – the default is we’re shut out of many industries. We’re told no one wants to read our stories. Sometimes it’s just implied, other times we’re outright told no one wants to hear them. If we’re welcomed at all, we’re shuffled off into a corner, pigeonholed into a genre that defines us by our minority (or the minority of our characters).

But we’re more than that.

Microcosm Publishing has always focused on relating the experiences of what it’s like to be a marginalized person, and has worked to make the publishing world more representative of how diverse the real world is. We are constantly asking the question “How can we remove barriers to success for marginalized people in our industry?” and open calls for submission are a big part of that.

When putting out a call for submissions like this you’re opening the door to others. Regardless of whether someone explicitly states “I am that minority” when sending a manuscript or a story or a job application, you may find yourself with more minorities sending in applications regardless, because while we may be wary of making our minority explicit, it’s still nice to be invited in.

When all the submissions for True Trans Bike Rebel came in, Elly and I were amazed at what we saw. By telling people “You have a story and we want to hear it,” they submitted stories that represented the diverse range of experiences trans and nonbinary people experience.

By calling people in, we made them feel at home, like they had a place here.

We didn’t have to list every possible combination of minorities and story types, people drew conclusions and submitted their stories to us.  It doesn’t take much to enact change, you just have to be willing to do it.

By holding the door open and saying ‘You’re welcome here’ we saw positive change in the types of stories submitted to us.

Try it out sometime and see the changes you too can enact in your community.

 

Pre-order True Trans Bike Rebels at Microcosm.pub and check out Lydia & Elly’s next team-up, Bikes Not Rockets, on kickstarter now. Follow Lydia Rogue and all their awesome work on Twitter and their Patreon.

Five Vegan Cookbooks You Need to Own

Here’s a little secret no one wants to admit: Vegan cooking is hard.

It’s difficult to create miraculously delicious meals day after day when you’ve lost two major food groups. Plus, it’s made worse when everyone assumes that since you’re vegan you’re some sort of holier-than-thou guru, eating like three cashew nuts a day.

But fuck that.

Making fulfilling, sustainable vegan meals is actually pretty easy. And it doesn’t require shaved fennel seeds, goji berries, or other ridiculous ingredients.

Here are five books for some good, down to earth vegan food. Because good cooking doesn’t have to be complicated. And neither should vegan cooking.

Eat well my friends….

 

1. Comfort Eating With Nick Cave: Vegan Recipes To Get Deep Inside of You
By Joshua Ploeg and Automne Zingg

“We all suffer.” A statement that, I’m sure, Nick Cave would agree with.

While we usually associate guilty pleasures with the type of food kept under the dayglo display at McDonalds, there are plenty of better options out there. In Comfort Eating with Nick Cave, the emotionally somber musician inspires some amazing vegan comfort recipes. Try the surprisingly simple Cinnamon rolls for instance, using coconut oil and almond milk.

With these new recipes under your belt, you’re one step closer to embracing your inner Nick Cave: Listening to Tender Play by yourself in the dark as you eat your new delicious treats.

 

2. Hot Damn & Hell Yeah: Recipes for Hungry Banditos, 10th Anniversary Edition
By Ryan Splint

So you wanna kick it up a notch.

Maybe you’re a fan of Emeril’s catchphrase, or you just really like Westworld. Either way, you can’t go wrong with Tex-Mex/ Southern cooking. Travel down to south of the border with Ryan Splint’s cookbook, which covers everything from Vegan Chili, Drop Biscuits, and Vegetable Pot Pie. Included are some wonderfully drawn macabre illustrations, and other original takes on good ole’ southern food.

Go find some tequila and start cookin’: You’re a bandito now.

 

3. Mama Tried: Traditional Italian Cooking for the Screwed, Crude, Vegan, and Tattooed
By Cecilia Granata

Let’s be honest. Your grandma probably wasn’t vegan. But let’s say she was. And wrote a cookbook. And was also Italian. You’d end up with Cecilia Granata’s Mama Tried, a wonderful cookbook filled with old world recipes made with vegan ingredients.
Just because you’re vegan doesn’t mean you can’t make Tiramisu, Flan Al Cioccolato, Panna Cotta.
With most recipes only a handful of ingredients, and simple instructions, there’s little prep and cook time. Sounds too good to be true? It probably is.

Go get a copy before we sell out.

 

4. Chocolatology: Chocolate’s Fantastical Lore, Bittersweet History, & Delicious (Vegan) Recipes
By Cat Callaway, Greg Clarke, Darin Wick and Angel York

As many people will tell you, the hardest part about going vegan is the sweets. But you know what is vegan? Chocolate. No, not that crap they put in Nutella, but real unadulterated chocolate.
You’re not the first person to fall in love with chocolate, and Chocolatology covers the history and lore behind the notorious sweet. On your history lesson journey you’ll also learn about its health benefits, sourcing sustainable cacao, and some (vegan) recipes to boot.

Sounds like the perfect after-school special to me.

 

 

5. Fire & Ice: Warm, Cool & Spicy Vegan Recipes from Hot & Soul
By Joshua Ploeg.

Who knew someone could be so talented? Joshua Ploeg, an accomplished punk musician in his own right (Behead The Prophet, No Lord Shall Live) also happens to moonlight as a gourmet vegan cook in his free time. Ice and Fire is a wonderful pocket-sized assortment of fusion and eclectic recipes made with easy-to-find ingredients.
Covering everything from garlic linguine and pineapple gazpacho, to Peanut-Bread Tempeh, you certainly won’t find yourself bored with dinner options. (Did we mention there’s plenty of boozy cocktail recipes in here as well!?)

This is for the friend who tells you vegan cooking “can’t be interesting.”

Go prove him wrong.

 

 

 

 

This post was written by summer intern Drew Matlovsky. Thanks Drew!

This Is… Alexander Barrett

Colorful little book on a shelf. "This is Portland"We’ve loved working with traveler/writer Alexander Barrett since the beginning. From our beloved Portland to Shanghai and soon San Francisco, Alex’s eye for the unique little details in the cities he features continues to be spot on and enjoyable. Years ago, 2015 to be exact, we interviewed Alex for the release of This is Shanghaiand this week we decided to catch up with him and revisit those questions for a update.

 

 1. Where are you *right now* and what is the most important thing to know about what’s going on around you there?

Right now, I’m in my apartment in San Francisco, looking out over the city. I’ve lived here just long enough to think that the new Salesforce tower is ruining the skyline. Oof that thing. Today was “Sunday Streets” on Valencia in the Mission. They close the street to traffic and line it with musicians, dancers, and tables dedicated to local non-profits. I just watched a bunch of hippies play Jefferson Airplane covers to a small group of dancing children. “When the truth is found to be lies and all the joy within you dies…” It was the first time I really listened to those lyrics. The kids really responded to them.

2. I know it’s crass to ask, but when you aren’t making charming illustrated books about places you’re getting to know, what exactly do you do for a living?

I have a job. I’ve had the job for three years. I still don’t know exactly what it is. But I go there and I do stuff. When it started, I was a copywriter working on branding for YouTube. Then I convinced some higher ups to let me buy a Risograph Printer. Now I mostly print fun stuff and show other people how to print fun stuff.

3. What’s your favorite book that you’ve read this year?

I read Tamara Shopsin’s Arbitrary and Stupid Goal a few months ago. I really like the format of her books. It’s not unlike the way I’ve structured mine. Very staccato. But her chapters bounce all over the place through time, topic, and location. Such a wonderful experience.

4. What’s next for you? And finally, the question on everyone’s mind: Where will you live next?

I’ve lived in San Francisco for three years, which is the longest I’ve lived anywhere in a long time. I think I’ll stick around for a while. I won’t be in this city forever, but they have nice baked goods here. For the time being, I’m going to be in this apartment and explore the way I make things.

Looking back, the process of making these three books feels so similar. But looking at the final products, I think I’ve gotten better at it. I think This is San Francisco is the best and most complete project I’ve ever made. That feels good.

 

Learn more about Alexander and follow his work at www.alexanderbarrett.com and check out all three of his city books.
If you’re in Portland this month, snag a free copy of the 1st edition This is Portlands at “little free libraries” all over town! More on the blog.