“Dr. Cleto,” or a post about big life things

This past year has been like running a marathon at sprint speed. So here are some of the big things that have happened:

~ A little over a month ago, I successfully defended my dissertation “Bodies of Stories: Disability and Folklore in Nineteenth-Century Literature,” which means that I have spent the last several weeks making my family call me “Dr. Cleto.” They have borne this graciously, and I will probably stop soon. My dissertation spanned the long nineteenth century, with chapters on William Wordsworth’s balladic poems, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, George MacDonald’s fairy tale “The History of Photogen and Nycteris: A Day and Night Märchen,” and Arthur Machen’s novella The Great God Pan. Bizarrely, I’m especially proud of my Wuthering Heights chapter, which is deeply ironic, considering that I kind of hate Wuthering Heights, but I also find the story really fascinating. In any case, it was the perfect text for thinking through chronic illness, hauntings, and legends, and I’m really excited to turn it into an article and send it out into the world. I’m incredibly grateful to my generous, brilliant committee for guiding me through the process and to my writing group for helping me survive the process. In a wonderful twist of fate, my colleague, business partner, and academic twin, Brittany Warman, defended the same day, which resulted in this picture (and in us literally running in circles around the OSU English building and screaming, but it’s best not to dwell on that part.)

Dr. Brittany Warman and Dr. Sara Cleto at the height of dignity.

~ Last April, I got married! I imagine this is news to no one, but it is a good excuse to post wedding pictures again, so here we are. It was a wonderful day, I got to spend it with all my favorite people while wearing the biggest, most ethereal and ridiculous dress, and by the end of it I was married to the kindest, funniest person in the universe, so all in all I’d call it a success.

Did I mention that our photographer was a wizard?

~ Last May, my husband and I went on an incredible honeymoon to Japan. This was literally our dream trip, and now our dream trip is to go back! Highlights included:

  • midnight karaoke in Tokyo
  • a pilgrimage to the location of the final scene in Your Name: the iconic red-railed stairs! It’s right next to the Suga Shrine, and both my inner folklorist and geek were utterly delighted to see that other fans had left ema (small wooden plaques) with drawings and text from the film
A collage of images including us on the red-railed stairs, ema with illustrations from the film, and a still from the film.
  • visits to ryokan, or traditional Japanese inns with incredible food and hot springs
  • All. The. Food.

~ I have moved to the DC area for the year! I lived here from 2010-12 while I was getting my Master’s degree in folklore from George Mason University, and I’m looking forward to haunting the museums, theaters, and vegetarian restaurants again.

Here’s to more adventures, and to blogging more regularly!

Posted in Academia, Travel | 90 Comments

Poetry Award: The Rhyslings

I am completely thrilled to announce that my poem “How To Grieve: A Primer for Witches” has won second place in the 2018 Rhysling Awards’ best short form category!

This piece was originally published in the April-June 2017 issue of Mythic Delirium. Thank you again to Mike Allen and Anita Allen for giving it a home in their gorgeous magazine.

I wrote this poem three days before my beloved grandmother, Faye Beth Baer O’Byrne, lost her battle with cancer. She was a fierce, intelligent woman who loved books, knew the importance of kindling friendships, and thought that animals were often much better souls than people. If she knew that this poem had won a major award, she would have, in this order: 1) Started screaming so loud that all her dogs would have come running from other rooms to bark and howl wildly with her, 2) opened a bottle of Chardonnay and plied everyone in the room with a glass, even if they didn’t like Chardonnay, and 3) made a reservation for fancy dinner, where she would know literally everyone in the restaurant and proceed to tell them all about her granddaughter who studies fairies and how proud she is of her. She was the best.

This poem was one of five that I published last year that was nominated for the Rhysling Awards. Two of them, “The Lovers and the Labyrinth” (Faerie Magazine) and “How to Grieve,” were solo authored by me. And I was completely delighted that three collaborative pieces were also nominated: “An Announcement” (Uncanny Magazine) and “Waking” (Liminality), which I wrote with Brittany Warman, and “Starskin, Sealskin” (Uncanny Magazine), which I wrote with Shveta Thakrar.


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Poetry Sale to Faerie Magazine!

I’m thrilled to say that my poem “The Lovers and the Labyrinth” will be in Issue #41, Winter 2017 of Faerie Magazinethe beautiful lifestyle magazine that the New York Times lovingly described by musing “[i]t’s as though Martha Stewart Living and Edmund Spenser’s ‘The Faerie Queene’ had a magazine baby.”

My article “Tale as Old as Time” on the history and legacy of Beauty and the Beast tales (ATU 425) appeared in Issue #34, Spring 2016, and my short story “Cordelia, or the Price of Salt,” a hybrid retelling of King Lear and Cinderella B stories (ATU 510B) appeared in Issue #35, Summer 2016, but this is the first time that I’ve published poetry with Faerie.

This poem, which I wrote for my partner, was inspired by the Priestess and Magician cards in Stephanie Pui-Mun Law’s beautiful Shadowscapes Tarot deck. Aren’t they lovely?

The High Priestess by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law
The Magician by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

If you’ve never heard of Faerie but are intrigued, you can pick up a copy at Barnes and Noble or visit their website and pick up a back-issue or subscribe!



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Registration is Open for the Carterhaugh Long Course on Legends

This summer, Brittany and I will be teaching a new online Carterhaugh course on the folk narrative genre of the legend, and registration opened today! As always, the course is open to anyone, from those activity involved with academics to those who have been out of school for decades, from life-long enthusiasts to those completely new to the subject. You can find out more and register here.

Tentative Schedule:

July 1st – Introduction to Legends

Supernatural Legends Unit
July 8th – Fairy Legends
July 15th – Vampire Legends
July 22nd – Cryptozoology Legends
July 29th – Sea Legends

Urban Legends Unit
August 5th – Ghost Legends
August 12th – House Legends
August 19th – Internet Legends

Historical Legends Unit
August 26th – British Legends
September 2nd – American Legends & Wrap Up

We had so much fun in our last course on fairy tales, and we’re delighted that so many former students will be returning to join us for this one! Here’s to another amazing course!

Posted in Carterhaugh, Teaching and Pedagogy | Leave a comment

Links from Terri Windling + A New Review on Through the Twisted Woods

The ever-magical Terri Windling recently updated her website, and her revamping includes a new section on “Mythic Resources.” Guess what she linked to?

A Screenshot of the “Mythic Resources” section of Terri Windling’s website

CARTERHAUGH! The Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic is listed as a resource for classes on folklore on her webiste!


She also links to Through the Twisted Woods!

Speaking of which, I have a new review of Makoto Shinkai’s film Your Name up on TTW. This is my favorite film I’ve seen in ages, and in this review I think about some of its connections to folklore. I can’t recommend the movie highly enough- it’s visually gorgeous, has a fantastic soundtrack, and basically is everything I love about anime.

Image from funimationfilms.com
Posted in Carterhaugh, Digital Humanities, Through The Twisted Woods | 1 Comment

Back From Hiatus!

Back in 2014, I finally caved and, with Brittany‘s help, I set up this website to establish my own academic and creative corner of the internet. To my surprise, I actually really enjoyed posting here, and I maintained the site through 2014 and 2015, until my family went through a very difficult patch, and I let the site go inactive.

I’ve been meaning to revive the site for almost a year now, particularly as my interest in the digital humanities has grown and the work I do online has expanded immensely. So here I am! Instead of trying to recreate all the posts that I lost when the site went down, I’m just going to pick up from here. I’m still rebuilding the site, adding links and pages, and it will be a work-in-progress for a while, but the bones of it are in place. I’ll be posting about fairy tales, pedagogy, folklore, narrative, travel, disability, 19th-century literature, speculative fiction, and more, but for now, here are some updates:

~ Perhaps the biggest piece of news is that Brittany and I founded The Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic, an online center for classes on folk narrative and fantastic literature, in 2016. For the last several years, friends and friends of friends have said that they wish they’d had access to courses on folklore when they were in college and that they would love to take our classes, and, eventually, we decided to see what would happen if we tried to make that possible…and Carterhaugh was born. So far, we have taught a short course on folklore loosely associated with Halloween and a long course on the fairy tale. It has been such a fun experience, and I’ve learned so much, both from doing something on this scale from scratch and from our amazing students. We’re looking forward to teaching a long course on the legend and a short course on witches in folklore and literature later this year. We cannot wait to see where this takes us…

~ Derek Newman-Stille, Brittany, and I co-founded Through the Twisted Woods, an online hub dedicated to the discussion of marginalized voices in folk narrative. Our welcome page reads:

“Through The Twisted Woods is a place where people can share ideas, perspectives, and new imaginings of folk narratives. This is a site for representing, but also disrupting, fairy tales, folklore, myths, legends, and fables. We hope to unite scholarship and art, because art is a form of critical thinking and scholarship is a creative project. We hope Through The Twisted Woods can become a hub for Folk Narrative.

We hope to push the boundaries of Folk and Fairy Tale narratives to include those tales that live on the fringes of the enchanted woods, the tales that are underrepresented and that push beyond the traditional. We hope to challenge, interrogate, question, and imagine new possibilities within Folk Narrative.

We hope to examine the power of disabling, queering, gender-swapping, ageing, and disrupting hegemonic whiteness and anglocentrism in Folk Narratives. Through scholarship, poetry, prose, and pedagogy, we will attend to the ways in which these stories shape our perceptions of our cultures and ourselves while also allowing us to imagine otherwise, inventing new ways of examining our world.”

~ I’ve published nearly a dozen poems and short stories since the last time I posted, including “Cordelia, or the Price of Salt” in Faerie Magazine, “Waking” (co-authored with Brittany) in Liminality, and three new stories in Rhonda Parrish’s Alphabet Anthologies.

~ I’ve taught some wonderful classes at OSU, including “Intro to Folklore” and “Folklore and the Fantastic.”

~ I’m well into my dissertation writing, which explores the connections between disability and folk narrative in 19th-century British literature, and I’m aiming to defend and get that PhD by summer 2018. Wish me luck!

Soon, I’ll post more about recent conferences and new publications, but it’s good to be back!

Posted in Academia, Creative Writing | 16 Comments