Sylvia Linsteadtis creating fiction and poetry
About Sylvia Linsteadt
I am Sylvia Linsteadt, a novelist, poet, scholar of ancient history, myth and ecology, and artist, and I am moving to Crete for the next chapter of my life, to deepen my study of Old European women's ancestral traditions in this raw, momentous time, and to write a new novel.
I spent two weeks this past August and September in Crete, and the experience was truly profound. Intense, illuminating, searing, and beautiful. The stones and caves and mountaintops of Crete still hold the voices of 5000 years ago, of a time before Greece was Hellenized and patriarchy was not considered inevitable or native to the human condition. The stones of Crete still hold an older way; the voices of women and men echo there, dancing the pleasure of life, the worship of the senses, of earth’s justice, of honey, oil, wine and sea, of ancient pine forest and mountain deer, of dove and octopus, of labyrinth and holy bull. Here, the ways of egalitarian, earth-worshipping Old Europe are still alive, not only in the ancient stones but in the mountain villages and sacred springs to this day. The protection and nurturing of life-force—of the carriers of life, the bearers of life, the makers of life, and life itself—still resides at the center of this ancient place.
It became clear to me while visiting that this is where my path next leads, both as a writer and as a woman in this time. And I'd like to bring you with me, into this deepening of story and poem and vision in my life, into the land of Crete and beyond, to wherever my writing path leads next.
If I’ve learned anything over the past six years making my way as a writer nearly full-time, it is that we need each other, and that intense self-sufficiency really only gets you so far, before it begins to break down. I think we are seeing this everywhere. A book, a woman, a country—all are webs of interconnection, interdependence, and vision, and they cannot exist isolated. A community of readers not only helps a writer pay the bills so she can keep writing; what’s just as important is that you also provide that unseen net of interconnection, the net that keeps the writer moving forward, knowing that there are hearts and minds waiting for the next chapter, the next poem, the next tale—that these things matter, that they are alive for others, and therefore alive not only in my imagination, but necessary in the world too.
For those of you who don’t know my work already, I’m the author of The Wild Folk (Usborne June 2018), a middle-grade fantasy novel, the short story collection Our Lady of the Dark Country (January 2018), Tatterdemalion (Unbound, May 2017), a post-apocalyptic folktale cycle featuring paintings by English artist Rima Staines, as well as two works of non-fiction about the history and ecology of the San Francisco Bay Area, where I’m from—Lost Worlds of the San Francisco Bay Area and Wonderments of the East Bay (Heyday, 2017 and 2014, respectively). My short story “The Midwife of Temescal” won the James D. Phelan Literary Award from the San Francisco Foundation in 2014, and Lost Worlds of the San Francisco Bay Area won the Northern California Book Award in nonfiction this summer, 2018.
For three years, from 2013 through 2016, I ran Wild Talewort, a stories-by-mail project in which I sent out rewilded tellings of fairytales set in California to the physical post-boxes of subscribers around the world. I’m also a certified animal tracker and therefore a student of natural history and ecology, everywhere I go, and occasionally a teacher of this beautiful art as well. During spring and summer of 2018, I ran an online & in-person study guild called Witchlines that began an exploration of the indigenous, earth-based traditions of Old Europe, tracing threads from the Mesolithic and the early Neolithic (through the work of Marija Gimbutas) toward the witchcraft practices of the Middle Ages and beyond. It is this work in particular that I will be continuing in Crete, and which will be the foundation for my next book (and possibly a whole series)!
So as I move to a new country, becoming a new woman in a world that feels in more need than ever of new ways of seeing old stories, to work on a big new novel that has been burning in me for nearly two years, I am hoping you will join me in a new way, among the mountaintops and deep caves of this ancient land.
As is the way with creative endeavors, new novels are very tender things, and so I won’t be sharing anything directly from the early pages with you. Such fresh new creations are much like wild animals; stare at them directly, share their secrets too early, and they vanish into the rocky hills, white tails flashing. However, your support through this Patreon page will fuel me to work on poetry and short prose at the same time, connected to the novel’s exploration of the ancestral female traditions of Minoan Crete and Old Europe in general, in continuation of my teaching and study in Witchlines.
Specifically, much of this study and exploration will revolve around excavating the pre-patriarchal roots of Greek myths, both in the written record and in the landscape to this day. In addition to monthly new poems and new short prose stories, I will also be sharing monthly Dispatches from Crete—travelogue-type essays to bring you deeper into my adventures, to ancient sites and modern traditions alike, exploring seasonal changes, ecology, history, daily life, and everything in between, as well as audio-recordings and even, at the highest level, writing tutorials!
I see Patreon as a wonderful place to consolidate many of the different threads of my writing practice and business in one place—monthly stories & poems for "subscribers," blog-essays, and more; a beautiful structure to share together round the fire of old words, in prayer for an ancient, whole future.
I'll leave you with a poem, and deep gratitude to you for reading this, for being here.
Artemis of the marten
Artemis of the young and growing moon
Artemis of the cyclamen
Artemis of the steepest mountain pool
At dusk the bats rise up
out of what has been lost
The last light dusts the east
in afterglow, the first star
pushing out into night’s central fold
that place of all origination
There is a streetlamp on the beach
under the powerlines, plastic bottles
that wash up on shore, lights across
the water from resorts, the orange airport
runway, windmills on the holy ridge
But still she is close, she is just below
the skin of dusk’s crepuscular falling
its moon of horn and cream
When the crickets give their first cry
and the bats unfurl out of earth’s darkness
you can feel her, it doesn’t take much
only a yearning old as childhood—
there, in the inkswift lope of martens
under starlight, tails a wild
undulation, voices harsh and chattering
white crescents of fur at their chests
there, in the morning hawks
after the storm has cleared
wheeling, in love, above the pines
the silver of their wings
a light that cuts the sky
there, in the steep wet places
where clear water gathers
and the cyclamens spring up
vortices of upblown petal and
a mauve ambrosial perfume
there, where the mountain river
runs pale green as young olives
through limestone, slowing in a pool
where the oldest sycamore grows
I have whispered her name
to the moon’s waxing
to the robin in the olive tree at dawn,
to my own feet dashing along
the hem of the stormborn sea,
to the hawks’ silver wheeling
to the grottos folded with cyclamen
to the rising bats at dusk
to the martens who make tracks
across the sand, like runes
clawed by the setting stars
And I tell you her name still
lives here, so close to the surface
so close to the skin, longing
for the love of its speaking,
for its praise, its singing, its hymn,
to be swallowed whole again.
<Here balance the winged words>
In addition to one new poem per month, you will also receive one pdf of a short 500-word prose piece, most often a brief re-envisioning of a Greek myth rooted in the Minoan world.
< Here swells the land's story, in shadow of the earth, in the curve of the moon>
At this level, in addition to the monthly pdf poem and pdf prose piece from the previous two levels, you will also receive access to my monthly Dispatches from Crete—blog-essays that explore daily life, seasonal changes, traditions and history on the island or in my research, complete with a video!
<Come up the mountain with me, along the old stone ways>
* In addition to monthly poetry, prose, and land-essays, you will also receive a downloadable audio-recording of a story, poem or song. These might be my own stories, songs, or poems, or old mythic material read aloud, depending on where the muse wants to sing each month.
<Sing to me, oh earth, of your wine-dark sea>
* All previous levels (monthly poem, prose, essay and audio) are yours, as well as a pdf-version of a brand new edit of one of my Gray Fox Epistles—there are 13 in total. I will share one new story with you each month. These long short stories (8,000 to 10,000 words each) are re-wilded tellings of old myths and folktales from my ancestral heritage, including "The Children of Lir," "Tam Lin," and "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves." They were originally available on a subscription-by-mail basis, but are no longer for sale or in print. I'm excited to share them again, newly edited!