Witch’s Luck

May 4, 2020   /  

Student: Claire Montgomery
Major: English
Advisors: Kate Beutner, Claire Eager

Witch’s Luck is a young adult fantasy novella that explores intersectionality in feminist movements. Maude is a fifteen-year-old witch who makes her way from the witch community where she grew up to the city of Dalness to satisfy her curiosity about the outside world. In Dalness, however, it is illegal and dangerous to practice magic as a woman. This is a world in which wizards are revered, but witches are feared, so Maude must navigate her surroundings while hiding her identity as a witch. While in Dalness, Maude learns that women are not allowed to serve on Oblik’s governing body, so she joins an organized movement that is challenging such laws. However, Maude must wrestle with the conflicting ideals of wanting women to be in government, a notion that she is in favor of, while witches are still being ostracized and discriminated against even within the movement in favor of allowing women in politics.

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Claire will be online to field comments on May 8:
Noon-2pm EDT (PST 9am-11am, Africa/Europe: early evening)

85 thoughts on “Witch’s Luck”

  1. First off, I’m really proud of all your hard work!
    Second, I’m so happy I could take a good look at this chapter. You make Maud’s alarm at discovery very real—it’s intense but also grounded. And you handle the exchange between her and Korius with urgency and delicacy. I feel like the themes of the novella are very much present here, and certainly manifest during the opening scene. But it isn’t heavy-handed at all, and we get to experience it alongside Maud, and feel what she is feeling.
    Third, I have a question. I saw the phrase “witch’s luck” pop up and it made me wonder why you decided on that phrase for your title and whether there was significance behind it.
    Again, you did an amazing job. This was so fun to read and I’m super excited to see you go far with your skill and creativity.
    Congratulations, Claire!

    1. Thank you, Cara! “Witch’s luck” is a phrase that I invented that Maude’s mother in particular repeats. From my second chapter– “Witch’s luck, Laurel called it, when good fortune struck at the right moment. ” When I was trying to decide on a title, I decided it would be a good fit, because I think often good fortune can be of our own making, and Maude is doing a lot of the heavy lifting in the entire novella in making her own fortune. Thank you for reading and for your kind comments, Cara!

  2. Claire! What a fun project!
    Which “Witch” writers have influenced your work?
    In what ways is this novella a coming of age work?
    Witches often have sexual connotations – either literally with physical actions or through the display of female power. Are all the witches in your novella female? Why? How is their power revered/ feared? What does fear of a witch mean in your novella?

    1. Thank you, Audrey! I had a lot of fun working on it.

      I was heavily influenced by Terry Pratchett’s humorous portrayal of witches. I loved his humor and wit, as well as his social commentary. While I was aware and did a bit of reading at the beginning of the I.S. process on the sexual connotation of witches, I was more intrigued by the current-day use of “witch” as a label for female politicians that men do not agree with. Because the word has such a negative connotation, what would happen in a society where real, magic-wielding witches also had a negative connotation.

      I decided that there would be witches, wizards, human men, and human women (and other magical creatures). In this world, wizards are on the top of the societal hierarchy, but witches are the lowest of the low. However, presenting magic and witchcraft in such a light can be problematic at times. For instance, having a magical binary presumes a gender binary, which isn’t realistic, and the dependence on a binary is something I need to resolve in the future.

      In Oblik, if you are discovered as a witch, you will be imprisoned and your toes may get cut off. It isn’t very logical, but often times fear isn’t logical. Witchcraft is automatically associated with “villain” or “evil” and witches aren’t allowed to defend themselves. In contrast, wizards hold positions in government and higher education though their magic is equal to that of witches. Therefore, the stark contrast also presents itself as a way for wizards and men to maintain societal and governmental power.

      Thanks for your comments and questions!

  3. Congratulations Claire! Your introductory presentation explaining how you were introducing contemporary issues into fantasy and unlike other texts that used a battle to come to resolution were focused on gradual change is a logical and lovely. Felt more like a Wiccan approach with nature and natural evolution. Having “sipped” Chapter 3, I want to read more. Is there knitting anywhere in the story? Could be an interesting way to weave in one of your passions and tie into the creation/control themes. Just a wonder.

    Best wishes and I will miss seeing you at the front desk!

    1. Hi Irene, I will miss being at the front desk and seeing you every week. And there is indeed knitting in the novella! In the second chapter, Maude’s mother Laurel is knitting a pair of socks using magic, but it doesn’t result in a successful pair of socks–quite the opposite. She probably should have used her hands instead of magic! Moreover, I did look at some Wiccan practices when trying to create a culture for witches. Thanks for watching and reading!

  4. Great job Claire! I know how hard and devoted you are to this novella. Do you plan on continuing Maud’s story? I would love to read it!

    1. Thanks, Emily! I’m planning on expanding the novella to become a novel! I’m not done with Maude yet.

  5. Very interesting, Claire. My daughter and I would love to read your novella. She’s a young adult and a huge fan of wizard stories. Congratulations!

  6. You’re such a good writer Claire! I like your centaurs, and I love your decision to not end the novella in a violent uprising like other fantasy novels. If you had one full year to work on nothing but this project, what would do? Would you make changes, or expand upon anything?

    1. Thank you, Waverly! You’re so sweet. If I had a year of time and nothing to do but write, I would definitely expand the novella to novel length. That’s already my goal–but it may take me a bit longer than a year. There are definitely things that I want to edit, but right now I’m more focused on finishing and I will go back and edit once I’ve figured out the rest of the plot.

  7. Claire, (once again), I was honored to be able to read your IS and have a further conversation about it. I’ve now finished Wyrd Sisters and I very much enjoyed it–thank you! As I was reading, I was reminded of something I’ve admired in Terry Pratchett’s writing yet also been unsure about: he is so clever and inventive and meta and thus enjoyable, and yet I as a reader find that this tends to distract me from the story world, to throw me out of the dream. Following on from our prior discussion about craft, are these clever meta moments (say, the Shakespeare pastiche), or other typically TP prose techniques, something you were interested in emulating, or avoiding? I don’t remember being distracted at all while reading Witch’s Luck; I couldn’t put it down! Thanks again for such a wonderful project and a lovely presentation!

    1. Thanks, Professor Eager! I agree that Terry Pratchett can be distracting, but in my opinion his humor and plot lines outweigh the negative. I would love to be able to include as much wit and social commentary in my work, but I’ve also discovered that such a practice comes more from revision than it does from the first draft. That being said, I tried to put in several hidden “name drops” from some of my favorite authors that would be hidden to most unless I told them. Thanks for being an awesome professor and second reader!

  8. Hi Claire – Sorry to lose you from Political Science, but great to see your educational path lead you to such an interesting and rewarding outcome! And as someone who teaches Peace Studies, really appreciate the path you took for the conclusion – and reflecting upon the idea of how real world social movements around the issue would evolve instead.

    Nice presentation , but I was hoping for a drum solo at the end for a big finish 🙂

    1. Thanks, Professor Kille. I suppose I should have expected that comment if I were to film a video with my dad’s drums behind me 🙂 .
      I didn’t really notice that I was avoiding a violent path until a friend of mine pointed it out, and then I decided to dig into that concept, and it became a really rewarding point of exploration.

      1. And I love the Terry Pratchett references across the posts, one of my favorite authors of all time!

  9. Very important and URGENT question: What happens next!!?? We want the rest of the story!!

    Which says it all… it was fun to read and I’m wildly proud of you. Crazy proud. I can’t wait for more of Maude.

    Now, about the magic toes… 🎓🧙🏻‍♀️

      1. How cool is it that the president of the college got involved with this project at the end? Very cool Sarah. There’s a reason you are so popular that school!!!

  10. Awesome book Claire. It’s been so much fun watching you go through the process. I can’t want to read the rest!

    1. Thank you, Maya! I’ll get writing haha. It’s been a lot of fun working on our projects together and drinking your lovely hot chocolate.

  11. Congratulations Claire! I really enjoyed the snippet that we got of your novella, and as a fellow Terry Pratchett fan I can definitely see some of those influences in your work! Do you think you will try to publish, or extend this work into a full novel?

    Great job! We will miss you in Access Services!

    1. Thank you, Alena! I love encountering fellow Terry Pratchett fans! My goal is to extend my work so it becomes a novel, and then maybe try to get in published.

      I’m going to miss Access Services, and of course, you and Michael.

  12. Claire,
    Great presentation!
    I look forward to seeing more from you in upcoming years.
    Please keep writing and enjoying the process.
    I want to read more!

  13. Hi, Claire. Great presentation–you summed it up nicely and enticed me to continue reading. I’ve just started reading and I’m already pulled right in to Maude’s life and the world you’ve created. You have always had a great imagination, and it’s fun to see how you are able to share it with us through your writing. Now…back to reading!

  14. This is amazing Claire! Cannot wait to read more, good luck turning this into a novel!

  15. Claire – I want to read more! It was great to hear a bit about your creative process. Best of luck to you!

  16. Fantastic work Claire 🙂 (see what I did there?!). Great to see you growing as a writer, artist, and thinker. It is cool to hear firsthand all the thought that you put into the direction of the storyline and the themes that you are processing through these characters. As you mentioned, it seems like a lot of the popular fantasy folklore focuses around a war or some sort of violent climatic moment. This could perhaps reflect the patriarchal structures that have existed historically and continue to shape our realities. I have two questions. The first: do you think there is an absence of, and therefore a huge space for, fantasy novels that diverge from the trope of war and violence as a means of conflict resolution? It seems that this is your purpose for Witch’s Luck and it seems like you could influence a lot of writers to follow your lead! My second question: As an expert in the fantasy genre, what were some of your biggest influences while writing Witch’s Luck? Are there any authors or stories in particular that influenced you to embrace feminism and the fight against patriarchal systems as themes in this particular novella? Thanks so much Claire! You worked hard and deserve all the honors and awards.

    1. Thank you so much Nathan! I’m really appreciative of you.

      1. So, to be completely honest, I didn’t realize I was creating a landscape that wasn’t going to use a violent movement as a way to create change until a friend pointed it out to me. It makes sense, though, because my initial goal was to look at social change. But when I started thinking about it, I saw very few fantasy novels that didn’t use violence as the basis of the plot. Some examples off the top of my head–“Bitterblue” by Kristin Cashore and “The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making” by Catherynne M. Valente. Though it is interesting to note that “Bitterblue” is Kashore’s third novel in the same world, and her previous two novels involved violence or war to create change. This leads me into your second question.

      2. There are a number of authors that I love and who have thought about feminist themes in their works. I already mentioned Kristin Cashore, but also Tamora Pierce, Diana Wynne Jones, Ursula Le Guin, Ellen Kushner to name a few. Each of them does very different things, but they are all people I look up to immensely.

      You’re the best Nathan!

      1. How about Robin McKinley? I include her in my feminist YAF pantheon (way up at the top with DWJ), but I’ve had a huge argument with one of my best friends who (some years ago) was trying to convince me that [popular vampire series I have not read] was more feminist than Chalice . . .

  17. Claire – I really enjoyed the video presentation and reading what I have of your novella – I’m still early in the book. I can really see/hear your voice coming through in the writing and am am enjoying the character development.

    I’m wondering about the place names and even some of the character names — are these taken from other books you’ve read and enjoyed? Or are these adaptations of other names?

    I’m also wondering about influences from other authors and books? When you started writing this, were you thinking about or trying to emulate other authors’ styles?

    1. Thank you, Uncle Matthew! As for place and character names, some, but not all, are references to favorite authors or other influences. For instance, Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” takes place in Inverness, so I looked at Inverness on a map, and a nearby town was called Dalness. Thus, the capitol city of Oblik became Dalness. Moreover, Kristin Cashore’s “Fire” takes place in a land called the Dells, and the word “Delian” is used explain the types of people that are from there, etc. I decided to make it the Dellian Council, etc, for Dalness.

      I was heavily influenced by Terry Pratchett. He was my biggest influence for the project. However, a number of other authors and books were also of influence, like Tamora Pierce, Kristin Cashore, Diana Wynne Jones, Catherynne M. Valente, Ellen Kushner, and more. I was trying to imitate Pratchett’s style of writing, but that also is a hard task and ultimately I had to follow my own Claire style of writing.

      Thanks for commenting!

  18. Hi Claire! I can’t wait to read the rest of this- I know you’ve poured your heart and soul into it. I’m curious as to why you chose to make Maude 15 years old rather than a younger child or a young adult. My guess is that it has something to do with the whole novella being a coming-of-age story, but I’m wondering how you see her age playing into the plot and her perspective on the world.

    1. Hi Katherine! I thought about Maude’s age a lot. At first she was older, but a creative writing professor pointed out to me that her dialogue and thought processes make her sound younger. I wanted her to be old enough, though, to be semi independent but also young enough so that her opinions and points of view weren’t set in stone–she’s still learning. While I agree that the story is in some way a coming of age story, it’s not something I was trying to do and it ended up happening. So I can’t really comment on that aspect of my work. Thanks for commenting!

  19. Hi Claire,

    You have a knack of making your Grandfather very proud. Congratulations.

  20. Nice work! I remember when you were creating the story and it sounded really fascinating. Congratulations! As a History nerd, I’m curious as to what were you considering when creating the past history of the various cities and lands that Maude travels through?

    1. Thank you, Izzy! I haven’t really thought about the histories of the places Maude hasn’t been to yet. I made some rough sketches of different maps of the world, but I haven’t completely filled it in yet. I was creating locations as I made them up when writing. The problem with creating a history is that it would be hundreds of years that I’m not sure about, and also history often means different things for different people. But it’s definitely something to think about, especially when trying to create a world that already seems old. Thanks for commenting!

  21. Claire, I’m so proud of you! I think you’re exploring so many complex ideas and themes in your work, but in a way that is accessible and fun, and which kind of sneak up on you while you’re enjoying the story. I could see this book being discussed over the family dinner table with teens and adults using the story as a springboard to discuss a lot about what’s going on in our world today. It wrestles with some of those Big Questions that humans have been struggling with throughout history. Maybe Maude, Korius and Morgan will come up with some new insights and creative ways to take their society three steps forward with one step back. 😊❤️

    Can’t wait to read the rest!

    ps. Do Centaurs wear trousers?

    1. Thank you, Mom. Love you. I spent so much time thinking about centaur clothing. Way too much time.

  22. Claire, congratulations! I still can’t believe it’s your senior spring already, let alone that you will soon be a published author. I agree with a Certain Previous Commentator that it feels URGENT to know what happens next — which is the perfect reaction to have.

    Meanwhile, I’m reflecting on a student who decides to use magic to systematically coax people to think very deeply about changing self and society — who just happens to have a parent who, well, uses magic to systematically coax people to think deeply about changing self and society. It doesn’t take a psychologist, does it, to wonder if that’s *entirely* coincidence?

    Best of everything, Claire!

    1. Thanks, Ari! It’s been wonderful getting to know you over the past four years.

      As for the coincidental/not-so-coincidental magic stuff, well… Let’s just say that there were some scenes where a certain family member was not so happy with my portrayal of sleight of hand. I may have been called a turkey. Can’t confirm though… However, I did love being able to use magic as a way to respond to societal and social problems.

  23. Hi Claire,
    It was so great to hear your overview video and dive into the book in chapter 3. I confess I have not read the whole thing yet but I have a much better idea of what you have been working on now and it is very impressive. I cannot in a million years imagine writing fiction so it is very interesting to me to hear you talk about what you were trying to do in terms of weaving in all these social themes.

    The centaur is an interesting character. It seems in this chapter that he is even less welcome than Maude–an interesting social commentary on hierarchy and broader pecking orders. At the same time, he has power that Maude did not know about–a realization that she is stereotyping or at least making assumptions about centaurs.

    I am curious to read the whole book now and am wondering about sexual violence and abuse in addition to discrimination against women in bars and in government or other places of power. It seems like when women transgress by simply assuming they have a voice, the authorities in real life often come down pretty hard. If they have sexuality, they become the temptresses who deserve whatever men give dole out. You have me thinking now.

    I also want to commend your attempt to make a good fantasy story that does not end in violence. Someone earlier mentioned that working through that could be an important voice and something you could build on as you work to expand this. How can we model, illustrate, pursue change without war?

    I am so happy I was able to see this and participate remotely in this. I wish I could see you in person to give you a hearty congratulations!

    1. Thanks, Aunt Beth. I agree about the social status of centaurs. It’s an interesting situation because Maude is welcomed as people do not know she is a witch but Korius as a centaur cannot hide what he is so he gets overtly negative comments. Should Maude be revealed, though, she would be immediately put in jail and have other negative comments/actions against her, while Korius is still allowed to exist–though it is a marginalized existence. I wanted to have a centaur as a character because it allowed me to explore the intersectionality, and lack of, in social movements. Moreover, it demonstrates the lack of black and white morality. There will always be complications.

      I did think about the aspect of sexual violence being perpetrated against women, and I decided against overtly including it in my work because it is intended for a younger audience. Also, I would need more time to think about how to portray it with nuance and sensitivity, and I was thinking about so many things that I didn’t want to include it just for inclusion’s sake but have it be done poorly.

      As for your question about illustrating change without war, I think making social movements and organizations the center of works of art is a good way to start that. It demonstrates that there are other paths to creating lasting and systemic change.

      Thanks for commenting!

  24. Thanks, Ari! It’s been wonderful getting to know you over the past four years.

    As for the coincidental/not-so-coincidental magic stuff, well… Let’s just say that there were some scenes where a certain family member was not so happy with my portrayal of sleight of hand. I may have been called a turkey. Can’t confirm though… However, I did love being able to use magic as a way to respond to societal and social problems.

  25. Congratulations Claire! I really loved your video explaining the process behind writing this book and the sample chapter you gave us to read. I really like Young Adult fiction as well and I would love to see this as a book one day. I’ll miss you in KAFAS next year! Good luck with your future plans!

    1. Thank you so much, Anna! I’m going to miss you next year. Good luck with I.S. and have fun knitting!

  26. I have always loved how YA fantasy can look into deep questions while being entertaining and not preachy. I am glad you have taken up that mantel and hope to read more of your work.

    1. Thank you so much for listening to my presentation! I agree with you about the power of YA–I think the genre has a further reach than some people realize.

  27. Claire – you have such a knack for writing dialogue and using dialogue to advance the plot in a very natural way. Some chapters — such as the “scene” at the Unarmed Inn in chapter six — just popped out as screenplay or script ready. (I would like to play the role of Tiffany when you make a movie, okay?) How did you learn to write such fluid dialogue? How would you compare writing dialogue to narration?

    Congratulations on this great achievement. I’m so proud of you!

    1. Thank you so much, Aunt Laura. I think you should definitely play the role of Tiffany. 🙂 As for dialogue, I found that to be one of the hardest parts to write. I found it much easier to do the descriptive passages where nobody was talking. I also found it hard to write crowd scenes. Those scenes and dialogue became the bits where I had to learn to trust myself, but they also depended on a lot of revision.

      1. All of your hard work and revising paid off — you really nailed it! I’ll start memorizing my lines now…

  28. Your video provides valuable insight into your novella. Thank you for sharing your inspiration and your vision with us. It has been delightful to follow your creative process this year, and I can’t wait to read the completed novel!

    1. Thank you so much, Lynette! It was awesome being able to work with you over the year–you were such a big help.

  29. Dear Claire,

    Congratulations! It is terrific to be able to hear your talk about how you decided on the subjects and themes of your book, and then to be able to see how you made those ideas come to life through Maude’s experiences and her viewpoint. Creating a world with magic in it provides so many ways of getting a new viewpoint on societal issues, and you did a fantastic job! I’m glad to hear that you may write more stories with this character and setting. Have you done a lot of creative writing before, and writing of fantasy? You are very good at it and bring such a thoughtful approach…. one that would help young adult readers consider their world in new ways, I imagine.

    All my best,
    Sarah Bolton

    1. Thank you! I have always been interested in fantasy and in writing, so this felt like the perfect thing to do for I.S. I’ve mostly written short stories before, as well as blog posts, so this was the longest piece of writing I’ve ever attempted. I loved using the genre for social commentary. I’m so happy you enjoyed my presentation and thank you for commenting.

  30. Hi Claire! I’m so unbelievably proud of the work you’ve done here! I think you tackled something that was very difficult and complicated and pulled it off masterfully, I couldn’t be more impressed. This book is such an amazing feat, and I just wanted to say congratulations!

  31. [asked this above in response to the question + answer about feminist themes and I think it got buried–I’d love to hear your thoughts!]

    How about Robin McKinley? I include her in my feminist YAF pantheon (way up at the top with DWJ), but I’ve had a huge argument with one of my best friends who (some years ago) was trying to convince me that [popular vampire series I have not read] was more feminist than Chalice . . .

    1. While I really enjoy Robin McKinley, I am not hugely familiar with her works. I’ve read “Sunshine,” “Spindle’s End,” and “Beauty.” “Deerskin” is on my to-read shelf. Because it’s been a while, I can’t really comment with confidence on her feminist themes–I’d need a reread–but I can say that I really enjoyed the books I have read. Something I do remember though is really being annoyed with her endings–I felt that they were a let down, especially in “Spindle’s End.”

  32. Claire, great job on this video! It was such a pleasure to work with you this year. Love reading all these great comments, as well–especially interesting to reflect on what you brought from Poli Sci into your writing about social movements (re: Prof Kille’s comment). Congrats again!

    1. Thanks for being such a great advisor and help this year, Professor Beutner. It was awesome being able to work with you.

  33. Claire, you’re so cool. For reals.

    I think it’s so cool how much you have thought about the fantasy genre and how to use it to convey things you care about. I’ve really enjoyed our conversations about the fantasy world, and I hope to read the next installation of Maude and co.!

  34. Claire, your presentation was wonderful. You provided a good overview of your novella and your intent in writing it. You seem to have successfully balanced fantasy and realism in forming your tale. I read your Chapter 3. It was insightful and compelled me to want to read more. I wrote a novel (and am working now to get it published), so I understand all that goes into writing such a lengthy work of fiction.

    I will miss you at the Libraries and I wish you all the best as you go on the your next chapter. What is that next chapter?

    1. Thanks so much Dottie, and good luck with getting your novel published! It was great to work with you this past year in the library.

  35. Hi Claire,
    It’s great to see the results of your work here — congratulations on a job well done! And thank you for contributing your work in the Symposium here. I hope to be able to read the entire work sometime!
    🙂

  36. Wow, you never cease to amaze me. Wonderful work. Thank you for sharing the backstory. You keep asking those questions and questioning those answers. You are going to change the world Claire. So proud of you!!

  37. Claire, such an amazing job! I can’t wait to read the full novel when you publish!

  38. Soooooo fun to read! I loved the first chapter and was blown away as I got to read better and better drafts in our Novel class.

  39. Excellent job, Claire! I really enjoyed the small piece of the novella you’ve given us. It’s admirable that you decided to tackle such a large, systemic, and complex idea in this novella, and I think you’ve done a great job handling and discussing it. The inherent conflict in the idea of a women’s rights movement that doesn’t support magical creatures’ rights is such an important analogy to dig into, and I believe accessible fiction for youth is one of the best ways to address it. Congratulations, and I can’t wait to read your published works.

  40. Thanks for sharing this beautifully-written and meaningful project, Claire. I hope you will publish it one day so I can buy copies for my twins!

  41. Let’s talk about RMcK more offline! (Er, online?) I definitely recognize the reactions you describe, and I’d love to hear more.

  42. Amazing job, Claire! I am so happy you were able to work on a project you enjoyed. I am so glad to have been able to know you for four years at Wooster! You are such an amazing person and I cannot wait to see what your future has in store!

  43. Dear Claire,

    Congratulations on a beautiful novella!

    Although I majored in the Social Sciences, I always loved loitering into Kauke to attend an English Symposium. I loved your short video on how you thought through each and every theme in this fantasy novella to accurately dream of a better Political System. The plot seems similar to the Hero’s Journey where finally in the end a Thesis and Antithesis cause a Synthesis. But using the concept of one step forward and two steps back was a very forward thinking way of conceptualizing social change.

    I hope you are able to publish it someday.

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