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Matriarch of the glen: walking the Highlands’ hidden pilgrim trail

In Scottish folklore, the Cailleach isn’t someone you’d want to mess with. She’s a fearsome character with white hair, a dark blue face, rust-coloured teeth and a single eye in the middle of her forehead; she whips up great storms and ice forms in her wake. But here, in her green, fertile and tranquil glen, I discovered only her gentle side. 

Foxfire, Wolfskin author Sharon Blackie in the Guardian, on her walk to a pre-Christian shrine in the Scottish Highlands.

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Myth and folklore can inspire women to fight for ecological change

The good news is that, here in Ireland, we have many powerful female role models in our native traditions. Irish mythology is highly female-centred. Just as in other Celtic-speaking nations, the pre-Christian Irish divine female in her various incarnations was deeply grounded and rooted in place, indivisible from her distinctive, haunting landscapes. 

An inspiring piece by Foxfire, Wolfskin and Other Stories of Shapeshifting Women author Sharon Blackie in the Irish Times.

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Foxfire, Wolfskin: The blog tour

For the past two weeks, over on Twitter, there has been a wonderful blog tour of reviews for Sharon Blackie’s Foxfire, Wolfskin and Other Stories of Shapeshifting Women. We’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response. Here are just some of our highlights:

‘This is a remarkable collection of short stories from a writer of immense talent. Magical, powerful and it is literature at its most affecting. I want the world to read it.’ @walescrazy

‘These stories are so beautifully written that there were sections which gave me actual goosebumps ’ @rowsonemma1

‘In this extraordinary collection we allow our imagination full reign in stories which set fire the soul, which are in turn both mournful and uplifting, hauntingly beautiful and inherently dangerous. Beautifully written and highly original in their delivery, the author’s natural story-telling ability shines through with every well written word, capturing the very essence of our long forgotten myths and folklore.’ @jaffareadstoo

‘Here is magic, heartbreak, love, fear and power. It is beautifully written and really touches a nerve at times and will make you laugh and cry.’ @lelbudge

‘I’m just going to come out and say it. This is the best short story collection I have EVER read.’ @paperbackpiano

‘Witchy, wild and wonderful’ @RACHELb75

‘Sometimes I come across a book where the language is so beautiful and clever that I am in literary ecstasy; this is one of those books.’ @corkyorky

Other blog posts were by:  @books_b_t_story, @ramblingmads, @bookkaz, @yesmoreblogs, @Dramahuman31, @RosieCawkwell, @TheLiteraryShed,  @NorthernReader, @apaulmurphy, @Shalini_G26, @Sweeet83, @imyril. Thank you everyone for your thoughtful and generous reviews. We are so thrilled Foxfire, Wolfskin meant so much to so many of you.

Thank you also for your praise of Leo Nickolls’ cover art and Helen Nicholson’s illustrations.

And not forgetting Anne Cater and the Random Things Tours – thank you so much for organising the tour.

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March events

It has been a busy March for author events.

Sharon Blackie gave a workshop on The Enchanted Life at Alternatives in London.

And both Christopher Nicholson (Among the Summer Snows) and Conor Woodman (The Scam Hunter) appeared at Words by the Water, the Lake District’s literary festival in Keswick.

Christopher Nicholson at Words by the Water.

You can catch Sharon at again at TEDxStormontSalon on 7 April. And do check our Events page for more events as they are announced.

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The Enchanted Life on publication day

‘Engaging and inspiring, Sharon Blackie’s beautiful book will empower people to find wonder in everyday life’ – Chloe Stroud, author of The Wild Other

Congratulations to Sharon Blackie on the publication of The Enchanted Life: Unlocking the Magic of the Everyday!

To celebrate, you’ll find postcards in selected bookshops featuring Sharon’s beautifully formed words with artwork from cover designer Leo Nickolls. There are eight to collect!

Reviews are already appearing from bloggers. Including this from Christine Cleere’s Dancing in the Mist.

‘As someone who believes that myth and stories, the land and all of nature has so much to teach us; and as someone who believes that small steps and small changes can (and must) bring about changes to how we live and how society operates, this is a wonderful and important book . . . this is thought provoking, beautifully written, and well researched book (I love the fact there are references throughout the whole book – so many authors don’t bother or can’t back up hoer work in this way) and one I would highly recommend.’

And Monique Mulligan says on her blog:

‘It’s inspiring, yes, but so much more than that – it’s empowering. Readers are encouraged to take action to live a life that is enchanted – filled with creativity and play and meaning and belonging. For me, it’s exactly the kind of book that my soul is searching for – one that digs deep, prods and turns over the self-limiting beliefs that hold me back. Complex, intelligent and thought-provoking, this is for seekers of authenticity and purpose.’

Sharon is holding a full day Enchanted Life workshop in London on 10 March. This is an exciting opportunity to work with Sharon outside of Ireland and is highly recommended.

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Re-enchanting ourselves – an extract from The Enchanted Life

With just one week until The Enchanted Life: Unlocking the Magic of the Everyday by Sharon Blackie is published, here is an early extract from the book:

Re-enchanting ourselves

Once, we had contracts with the plants and animals who share this world with us. We would treat them with respect; like them, we would take only what we needed from this earth and no more, and they would share their wisdom and medicine with us. They’d be companions on our journey through a life that can sometimes be hard, but whose loads are always lightened by communion.

We’ve come so far from that old wisdom. We want to know the stars, to solve all the great mysteries of the universe – but we don’t even know ourselves, or how to be in relationship with the land, animals and plants around us. Now, we occupy a world in which there are no longer penalties for cutting down a sacred tree; instead, the greatest of rewards can be found in extinguishing entire forests. We have created a world for ourselves in which the president of one of its largest countries can gleefully sign a law which facilitates the shooting of hibernating bears and wolf cubs, and large sections of its population actually applaud. This is not a sane world. And as a consequence of our multiple insanities, this world we grew up in, which we have taken for granted, is not only changing – much of it is dying.

To alter that state of affairs, we need not only to act differently, but to be different. It’s not enough to march against this and that, or to sit at our desks signing online petitions protesting against the destruction of more green places to indulge our avarice, or more heartless culls of wild animals to avoid inconvenience. All of these are good and important things to do, but to create real, permanent change we’ll need to fundamentally shift the way we see the world and our place in it. If we can re-enchant ourselves – fall in love with this complex and mysterious, animate world all over again – then we might stand a chance.

Begin, if you will, with a tree. Congratulate a young, fragile willow on its summer growth. Watch the first turn of the leaves of an old ash, all scars and stories, as she begins to grow autumn sleepy, just as you are. Feel the dreadful heave at the roots of the tall birch after the winter storm, and wonder what sense it is that tells you how the deep roots had nearly lost their hold, down there past the iron lick of the lower soil and onto the fractured rock. Do you hear the bruising of the deep roots, find yourself wanting to reach out and touch the bark of the tree that withstood the wind – knowing that you too have withstood a storm or two in your time? The graceful birch, that lady of the woods whose silver-white bark is like no other’s, and you.

The Enchanted Life by Sharon Blackie is published on 27 February 2018.