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Nouvelles Pod #1 - Chris Woodyard

Nouvelles Nouvelles Podcast #1 - Chris Woodyard

Chris Woodyard is an Ohio writer and historian. She received her BA degree with Honors in Medieval and Renaissance Studies from The Ohio State University, where her emphasis was on art history. She is the author of nine books on Ohio ghost-lore, the Haunted Ohio series, as well as three volumes on historical ghost stories, and The Victorian Book of the Dead, a book on the popular and material culture of Victorian mourning and death. She has given presentations at the Costume Society of America on "The Woman in Black: Victorian Mourning as Criminal Disguise" and "Making Shrouds: Mode, Memory, and Memento Mori." Her chapter on Irish fairylore in the United States entitled “Changelings and Banshees: Irish America” was included in the 2018 book, Magical Folk: British & Irish Fairies 500 AD to the Present, edited by Simon Young and Ceri Houlbrook, (London: Gibson Square), a collection of essays on the regional fairy-lore of Britain and Ireland, with a look at how these beliefs translated to the United States. She is a member of the Costume Society of America, The Fairy Investigation Society, and the Research Society for Victorian Periodicals.

She spoke with us before her keynote lecture at Popular Culture and the Deep Past: Fairies and the Fantastic.


Interview Transcript:

SB: Hello, this is Steve Barker with the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. I'm talking today with author Chris Woodyard, who's written the Haunted Ohio books. And she is also our keynote speaker for [our annual] Popular Culture in the Deep Past: Fairies and the Fantastic [conference]. Her title is “The Many Roads to Fairyland.” And today we're going to be talking about ghosts and hauntings of various sorts, her career as a writer, maybe some of her, the ghosts of Ohio state, perhaps some of her memories from here, and maybe a little bit about the so-called Alt-ac, but we'll see how it goes. That's alternate academic, becoming a writer outside of the academy—it's a fancy term for those sorts of things. So, welcome. And it's a pleasure to talk to you today.

CW: Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here in my old haunts.

SB: Yes. So when did you first become interested in ghosts?

CW: First Grade I think, or maybe I was even afraid of them before then, but I wrote my first book in first grade, and it was about a witch. So supernatural goes back a very long way. But it seems to, it's a family sort of a trait to see and sense these sorts of things. My grandfather and his father and my daughter for example, all have this ability and it's kind of unsettling because growing up it was the 50s and everything was very scientific and none of this existed, you know, I was told, “Oh, you have a really vivid imagination.” So, eventually my grandfather said something about his dead brother walking into the room and I'm like, “You see them too!” which was quite the revelation and went from there. But yeah, I've been interested in the, in the supernatural for a very long time.

SB: So what did they actually look like? I'm curious about that because I have no, I don't have it obviously.

CW: They look solid. They look like real people, unless they do something odd, like walk through a wall or just disappear or no one else in the room can see them. It's quite interesting because sometimes I'll go into a place that I've never been before and I don't know anything about it because I make a rule that nobody's supposed to tell me anything about the site, and I don't do any research before I go in. I was up at Mansfield for example, at a theater and there was a ghost in the recording booth or you know, the projection booth and he's like, “Hi, my name's Pete.” And he's just real friendly: cheery, cheery. And so I'm telling the people who had brought me there, and they were very disappointed because they didn't know any Pete, and they were looking for a murdered guy in the basement who was also there. But I was interested in this other one because he was so much really there. So somebody said, well, maybe you ought to talk to the historian in town here who's really, he's an expert on the theaters. And so I called him up and I said, “You know, I was up at the theater there and was looking in the projection booth. And I wondered,” you know, “was that the original equipment?” Because the ghost had said he'd brought it with him. He says, “No, that was brought from some other theater.” And I said, “Oh really? And who was the projectionist there?” And he says, “Oh his name was Pete. He's, he's dead now.” And I didn't tell him why I was asking these questions because he would have thought I was crazy or something, which is not an unreasonable idea.

SB: So how, how do they look exactly? [CW: How do you tell?] How do you get through life?

CW: Well, they're not everywhere. They're not everywhere. It's not like you're just walking down the street and you're like, “Oh, there's a ghost.” No, it's more I have to be looking. I have to actually say, “Oh, I'm feeling something weird in this historic site. Or sometimes it just surprises you.

I was staying at—in Virginia in Williamsburg—a place called the Fort Magruder Inn; it was a site of a civil war battle. About 7,000 people died there, and I woke up—and you get, you know, how you feel somebody is watching you. And there was a soldier standing there, very, very young, and he was wearing like a butternut, confederate uniform, and half of his face had been shot away. And he was sort of—as they used to do, they would tie the arms and the legs together to keep the limbs straight for burial. And that's how he was, just standing there tied. And it was really a very frightening experience. But I certainly wasn't expecting it. I didn't know anything about this place, you know, I was just staying there for a hotel, but that's the sort of thing.

SB: Did you say you'd just woken up?

CW: Yeah, I was just woken up, and he came back three nights and I kept saying, “Please go away. You're scaring me, please.”

SB: So it's sort of when you're in more receptive?

CW: No, because it happens in broad daylight. Otherwise you could say, “Yeah, hypnopompic vision.” You try to look for the reasonable explanation because when you look at the literature of ghosts, and you look at what people are writing about their personal experiences online, a lot of it is, “I just woke up, but I'm certain I was awake.” And it's like, well, no, it's possible it was a waking dream, and certainly it was possible that what I was doing was a waking dream because I was certain I was awake, but you never know. I try to look for some reasonable explanation. I'm not out there with spirit boxes or electric equipment. I take notes, I walk through a place, I take notes and then compare with what the people have seen the place. And sometimes it's just really unsettling, and sometimes I don't write about those things because there's still family in the area and perhaps there's a suicide in a house, and I've run across him and he's very unhappy. So that's a difficult situation. I, and in other cases I tell my husband that perhaps 95% of the cases are not really ghosts. It's more somebody has a problem that they can't deal with, and so somehow it's easier to deal with the idea that we have a ghost than it is to deal with my personal, terrible, terrible problems.

SB: So yeah, that makes me think. What are your research…what do you…it sounded almost like you're out on call with some of these.

CW: I was. I'm no longer making house calls, which is, it's just too draining. It's too exhausting. But as I said, occasionally I'll run across something at a historic site, but I'm not just walking down the street or at the grocery store. Thank goodness. That would make life difficult.

SB: There must be some difference between when you set out to write a book versus—I imagine you're always collecting—there's material you’re collecting for a book versus, “Ah, this just popped up and now I have to deal with it.”

CW: Yes, that's right. When I was writing the books, I did get calls and I would go out to people's houses, or in some cases people would just write me and say, “This stopped” or “we moved, but here's what happened.” And so there's no way to really go back and research that. Other times, for the bicentennial of Ohio, I did Haunted Ohio V and did more historic type sites. And in some cases people would tell me stories about their buildings that were not true, but that was the local folklore. And you know, you'd go back and you'd look in the newspapers and you couldn't find any trace of that terrible train wreck where they laid the corpses out in the basement. And today there's a number of—what are they called?—they're called paranormal attractions as opposed to a haunted house attraction where you've got actors and things. A paranormal attraction is where you bring people in and they do an investigation, and they pay to stay the night and to check the place out. And an awful lot of those have fake backstories. It just absolutely drives me insane when, “Oh yes, there was a guy that murdered 30 children.” And like, no, that person never existed. This didn't happen. But it makes a good backstory and it's unfortunate because it's bad history.

SB: This paranormal thing, it's sort of like what you were talking about at [the CMRS grad student] lunch, at the Mansfield [Reformatory], which is real obviously, but where people would request to be locked in overnight.

CW: Right. They used to do that. I don't know that they do that anymore. But you can still take night tours of the Ohio State Reformatory. Beautiful building, Romanesque architecture. It looks like a castle, very ennobling. But yeah, they had a solitary confinement cell, and it's a really fascinating place. I wouldn't want to be wandering around in the dark though.

SB: No. So tell me, I was looking on your website and I ran across the name Charles Fort. You said you are a Fortean.

CW: If I label myself anything, I guess that's what I would label myself. Charles Fort was a collector of anomalies. He looked into, he went to the British library and other libraries and looked at scientific journals and newspapers, and he collected odd occurrences like fish falls or one of my favorites is the faces in the window. It's faces that somehow appear on a sheet of glass and they're said to be, they called them lightning daguerreotypes because the legend would be that somebody was sitting at the window and got hit by lightning and their face was—. So there's a very famous one down in Pickens, Georgia, the courthouse, Pickens County Courthouse, where a supposedly a slave was hiding in the attic, and a lightning bolt hit in his face was forever etched in the window glass. Very dramatic. But there are tons and tons of stories like that. There was a whole flap of them in some around the Sandusky area in the 1870s. Now is this just some sort of thing that went viral in the 19th century sense, or were these things really happening? Were people misinterpreting? They just started looking at their windows and started seeing faces. I don't know.

SB: Are they still around? Can these be seen?

CW: No, because uh, in a lot of cases people painted over them, or they broke the windows or—you know, it would be interesting if you could find a house where you had the address in the actual newspaper that you could go look at. But I would think that much of this glass would have been replaced by then. But anyway, Fort collected those kinds of stories and he kept an open mind. He didn't really care whether they were true or not, but he tried to get reputable sources. As I said, scientific journals were a lot of what he collected. And his idea was, “Just look at the patterns.” You don't need to make a judgment about it, but when you see a pattern developing, it's interesting whether you can prove anything by it or whether there's any significance to it. Who knows? But I'm always looking for patterns. I mean it's, somebody could say, well, it's like looking for faces and clouds and possibly they’re right, but it is interesting to see some of the patterns.

I don't think I mentioned in my talk, the women in black, they're kind of a native homegrown banshee. And you see these patterns of these appearances in particularly the coal mining country. It's a woman dressed as a widow with a veil over their face and they're running around in the dark, scaring people. You can't ever catch them, and suddenly they disappear. Very, very creepy. Now some of them you, you can see maybe this was somebody like a guy in disguise because they're very tall sometimes. Or maybe it was just somebody mistaken for—and they just got lost in the dark. You mistook. But I like looking for groups of stories, and try to figure out, you know, was there any truth to this? Was this just a community hysteria, that sort of thing.

SB: With these in particular, are the women ever accused of doing anything sort of devious or are they just spotted and…?

CW: Sometimes they are. They leap at people. Sometimes people get slapped. A lot of it, I kind of wonder—I've done a talk at the Costume Society of America on the women in black, “Mourning Disguise for Criminals,” because it was an extremely effective way of hiding your identity because you had a veil, and no one would dare touch you. No one would dare try to find out who you were under that veil. And a lot of criminals use that. So were some of these women in black criminals? Possibly. But it's just a pattern that I observed, and it hasn't been written about very much.

SB: So that sounds like it's from your latest work on the Victorian period?

CW: Well, there might be a couple in that book. Most of the stories about the women in black are in a book called “The Ghost Wore Black,” which has a whole chapter on them, and also in “The Face in the Window,” which is an Ohio collection of historic ghost stories.

SB: So do you find most ghost stories do come from the Victorian period, or I know before we were talking here, you mentioned medieval ghosts, but are there also contemporary ghosts in contemporary garb, or do they tend to be…? I mean, I guess they would have had to have died more recently, but….

CW: Yeah, that's true. And that's one the Victorians had a real bugaboo about: trying to figure out, “Why do ghosts wear clothes?” Because if it's the spirit of the dead person, why would it have clothing on, and why would it have this particular outfit on? And there's a lot of reports of ghosts in the Victorian era and before, Elizabethan and Jacobean ghosts, dressed in shrouds or dressed in burial clothing. And you still find reports of that today. People will say, “I saw my great aunt who I couldn't go to the funeral, and she was wearing such and such,” and then somebody else chimes in, “Oh, that's what we buried her in.” So goodness, what does that mean? I have no idea. But yeah, there's plenty of modern ghost stories. There's lots and lots of sites out there where people put down their experiences and some of them you can tell they're making it up, or it sounds very literary, or people have experiences over and over and over, and it's almost like they're copying something they saw on TV. But in any case, there's a very active amount of paranormal folklore going on today. It would be very difficult to collect unless you went into a very tiny corner of the world because there just is so much of it. And you've got all the reality TV shows, which are bogus. But that's another story.

SB: They like their drama.

CW: They do like their drama. And their black tee shirts.

SB: So this is a micro place, I suppose, Ohio State University. Are there some famous ghost stories from here?

CW: Well, the odd thing is I was here for three years, and I never heard a single ghost story. Wow. And that is very, very unusual, especially for a campus this size, because every college has at least one ghost story about a student died or a student committed suicide, and they closed up the dorm room, or the dorm room is always haunted. I never heard anything, anything at all. And I was really kind of surprised. Now after I left, I moved into my vintage clothing store on Chittenden and High, across from the law school. And that was haunted. But that was the only ghost story from this area that I actually knew, except for there was a legend about Walhalla Drive. And there still is, but it's one of those very vague legends. And it seems to have grown with the years.

Initially it was just, “Oh, it's a haunted road.” Fine. What's it haunted by? “Oh, I don't know. I just know it's haunted.” And it’s just kind of spooky looking, you know, the ravine and everything, but now I think it's gone into a story of a family murder and that, you know, there may have been, I haven't looked into it recently. I also heard that it was possibly an ostension of, I think it was the girl on the Volkswagen floor. It was a local, very sensational murder. And I don't know whether that's just gone into local legend in association with that particular road because it's supposed to be a haunted road.

SB: Where is that?

CW: It's called Walhalla Drive, and it's in Clintonville, just north of campus in that ravine area where they've got tunnels. It’s spooky looking, I have to say, but I never knew any stories that were very specific about it. That happened when when we first moved to Ohio. I live in Greene County, and when I was first doing my ghost stories, you know, “Okay. What's haunted around here? Oh, Carpenter Road? Fine. What is it? Oh, I don't know. It's just a haunted road.” And there were about a dozen different stories explaining what haunted it. And one of them was the usual madwoman in the attic. “Oh, yes, there was an old woman that lived in this house at the turn of the road and you could see her after death sitting up in the window where she used to sit.” Well, somebody told me that story and then he says, “Yeah, we actually put a dummy up there, so we perpetrated the legend.

SB: I did hear, no, I read, that Hayes Hall…?

CW: Yes. There’s supposed to be a legend about…

SB: President Hayes.

CW: Yes. Yes. He supposedly let some after-hours students in, and they didn't recognize him until they saw his portrait. But again, that was something I hadn't heard when I was a student. Whatever the house was where the presidents used to live, I did a presentation there, and there was a ghost of a young woman up in one of the upper floors sobbing her eyes out. I don't know what that was about. It was kind of a spooky house.

SB: Just thinking about Hayes, so there doesn't seem to be any psychic distress there. I don't have a lot of experience, but it seems like the ghosts are usually upset about something. They want justice for something, versus Hayes just sort of letting . . . the sort of kindly old ghost. Is that unusual?

CW: You find both. You find ghosts that are upset about something and want something righted. “Oh, I left the will in my secret drawer, let's go find it so my widow doesn't get evicted,” or, you know, the wronged woman who wants justice because she was murdered by her lover. But, no, there's plenty of friendly ghosts. I always say, if you were a good person, you'll be a good ghost. You know, death does not improve you, so if you were nasty, you're probably not going to be a great ghost. But yeah, they're pretty much as they were in life.

So there's plenty of people who stick around for some reason. They just liked their house or they feel they have to watch over the remaining spouse or children. There's lots and lots of stories, particularly in the Irish tradition. And I'll be getting into that tonight about mothers returning to nurse their children because they died in childbirth. And they’re very, very sad stories and very common because it was a common cause of death.

SB: Switching gears a little bit, I have a five year old daughter, and I'd say she's probably more attuned to things than I am, although she hasn't . . . well, she might see some things.

CW: Does she have an imaginary friend?

SB: She does not. I actually just asked her that a couple of months . . . well, maybe she does now, but she said, “No.” I let her watch too much TV. It may drive such things away. But no, she does have a very . . . she likes to watch scary things, but then she likes to watch scary things, but then she'll have nightmare sometimes. She gets in over her head easily because she's very brave, but then she'll sometimes have night terrors. So if there's a question there, I don't know—how should I expose her to things?

CW: I wouldn't too early, but they find their way I guess. I can remember watching very scary horror science fiction movies and it's like, “Oh, can't look away,” but I'm terrified afterwards. And there's is some benefit to being exposed to scary situations in sort of controlled environments because then, you know, “Okay, I was scared but I got through it. Nothing got me. The monster didn't come out from under the bed. I'm fine.” And it's a cliché term, but resiliency: I think it does help a little bit with that. I mean, obviously if a child is having night terrors, there may be some other issue, but night terrors can also be just a developmental phase. They could be a vitamin deficiency. It's hard to tell. But if there's nothing else wrong, why not? You know, I tried not to expose my daughter to anything bloody or violent. That was just really gruesome because I think that's unfortunate, that that's where horror has gone. It's not The Haunting of Hill House, the original one was with Julie Harris where it's all suggested. It's an absolutely terrifying movie as opposed to a slasher movie. Right. Where everything's predictable and, and very gross. Yeah.

SB: Yes. You might like talking, if she's here tonight, to Sarah Johnston, who's in the Classics department. She teaches a magic and witchcraft class, but she actually mentioned Haunting of Hill House, recommending to the students how much better the original one was for that very reason.

CW: I didn't see the remake of it. I mean, it was getting good reviews, but they changed the story completely. It's like, “No, don't do that.”

SB: Well let's switch gears again: I am curious about the early days of CMRS.

CW: I wasn't there at the creation.

SB: Well yes, but I think—oh, I don't think I mentioned, you are one of the earlier graduates of the CMRS program.

CW: Really?

SB: I think it was formed, Nick [Spitulski] tells me, I think in 1965, and you graduated in the 70s?

CW: Yeah.

SB: So anyway, I don't know if there's any special recollections, or—what were things like in medieval studies back then?

CW: Well, I was so pleased to be here. I'd started out at Bowling Green in library science and took a multidisciplinary course on Medieval Studies up there and just got absolutely hooked. And then I realized they had a program here—how could you go wrong?—and came down here and it was just delightful. I just was in my element. I spent so much time in the library, so much time, you know, rabbit holing. My emphasis was on art history. Franklin Ludden was the chair of the Art Department at that point. And both Dr. Morgansterns were, and Morganstern was my thesis advisor and just had a wonderful experience learning how to do research. Yeah. That to me was the key being here. I also very fondly remember Dr. Alan K. Brown, who is known for reciting all of Beowulf by heart.

SB: Oh, wow. All of Beowulf!

CW: He wanted to prove it could be done. And he did. And I was like, “Oh my,” and he had built or purchased a medieval stringed instrument. I think it was a crwth. And he would accompany himself as if he was the bard, reciting the entire six hours of Beowulf.

SB: Wow.

CW: Now he didn't do it all, often, at once. He would do shorter presentations, but it was just really striking to, to hear it and to know that yes, this was an oral form of art.

SB: Yes, there's a fellow who does it now, Benjamin Bagby, who came to campus a couple of years ago.

CW: Well, Dr. Brown unfortunately passed away a while back, so he's passed the mantle on to someone else.

SB: Yes, Yes. Do you have any advice for budding writers, being a successful writer yourself?

CW: My advice for young writers is always read, read, read, read, read. Read everything, read the cereal box. But try to read something before there were—out in the public domain. Don't just read contemporary work because you end up sounding like the latest. For a while there people were going to MFA programs, and everybody came out sounding like Raymond Carver.

SB: It's true.

CW: It was so depressing. So find your own voice. I’m not crazy about the word voice, but there it is. Be unique. Don't copy. I mean, sometimes you do start out copying somebody, but you've got to find your own way. And unfortunately, publishing is today is about self-promotion. It's not whether you're the best writer, it's whether you're promotable. I look at the list of the people who are the authors of the things up for awards. They're all young. They're all attractive. They all have interesting hobbies. I saw a promotional sheet for some author a long, long time ago, and it's like, he plays the guitar, and he's done this recording, and he's done this, this, and this, and he's movie-idol handsome. It's all about the image, and it's all about whether you can be promoted because it's not just about the book anymore, it's about social media, and it's about connecting with your readers.

But for young writers, it's just read everything you can get your hands on and read a lot of different things so you can know what you like and what you think works. And write. Just write everything. And if you're a writer you have to write, you know, you don't need to be urged. I used to, you know, when I was a kid I had a little garden shed, and I'd set it up as an office and sat there and write on my little typewriter.

SB: Nice, I think John Gardner calls that a woodshedding. So you were garden-shedding.

CW: Yes, yes, exactly.

SB: But so you have avoided some of the perils of publishing, right? Because you run your own….

CW: I'm a completely self published, so it's…. I always say I work for myself, and I really enjoy it cause I'm such a good boss. But, yeah, I was doing such niche work. My very first book was actually a guidebook to the Dayton area, and I thought, “Nobody in New York is going to want this, so let's just put it out.” So I did, and it sold out in a year, and next the librarian said, “What are you going to do next?” And they'd been very helpful helping me research the first book. I said, “What do you need?” “We need a book of Ohio ghost stories.” It was the first thing out of their mouths. And so I said, “Sure, I can do that. I've got family stories, I've got personal stories, I've got friends who know about ghosts. I used to live in a haunted vintage clothing store.” Piece of cake. Sounds perfect. So I thought, “Well, there's 88 counties, I can do this. There'll be one book.” No, no. Couldn't find—it took me till Haunted Ohio V, about 10 years, to get stories from every county. There were just some counties that were really, really difficult. So at any rate, that's where I went with that.

And, I was just talking to a friend of mine who has published conventionally, and he was being curious about costs and how do you do it? And he's like, “Well, can I ask what your profit margin is?” And I’m giving him some figures, and he's just gobsmacked. He says, “We need to sit down and talk about this.” Because the royalties you get as a regular published author are really pitiful compared to what you can do if you find the right printer.

SB: They’re what now, three to five percent?

CW: It depends on, you know, how many you sell. It used to be that if you were a beginning author, you would get an advance. And even now they hardly give advances. So what are you supposed to live on when you're writing the book? And then I remember reading something like only 10 percent of books earned back their advances. You know, they just don't sell enough. So it's a very sexy profession. People think, “Oh, it's glamorous being a writer.” Well, yes, but you have to sell books. It's not just writing them, it's the marketing of them.

And I used to teach self-publishing, and there would always be very creative people there, and maybe they were really good writers, but they did not want to do the marketing.  They wanted to hand it over to somebody else and make them do the work. Well, even now, though, conventional publishers, they ask you for a mailing list. They want you to do social media. They want you to do a lot of the publicity that their publicity department would have done perhaps two decades ago. So the market has really, really changed, and I'm not sure whether I could have made a go starting out now because book sales are down for everyone. There's just fewer sales, even with ebooks, and I know ebook sales are declining as well. I have all my books in the Kindle format just because I figured, “It doesn't cost much, just get it out there.” But I don't—most of the people who read my things want a physical book, and I prefer a physical book. I don't have an electronic book reader.

SB: No, I've tried to—I have books on my phone, but I rarely. I’m trying to stay off the phone.

CW: Yeah, it's a different experience. And it's that kinetic movement that somehow helps you understand and retain what you're reading.

SB: Yeah. Like, “Where on that page was it?” “Oh, no, it's just one long continuous scroll.” It goes away.

CW: Right. Yeah. It's really disconcerting. So I think we're seeing a return to the physical book, which I'm pleased about.

SB: That is good.

CW: Yeah, but getting back to the actual—you know, I've had to do everything. I write the books, I edit the books. Although I have some people who helped me with the editing. I certainly have input into the covers. I've had artists that do the actual covers. And then I had to find distributors, which is even more difficult today. The distributors are very, very tight. They want Simon and Schuster, or they want some big name rather than a small regional press. And a lot of the distributors who used to handle the independent publishers have gone out of business. And we will not name the entities who might have put them out of business. In any case, when you are a self-published writer, you will do everything. You're wearing all the hats because you can't afford to outsource all of it.

Now I did have a wonderful typesetter. Unfortunately she passed away, so I'm looking for another one. That's something I could learn to do, but it's not my strength, and I really would prefer to just focus on the writing. But for a long time, maybe a decade and a half, I was out on the road every October, and sometimes—looking back, I'm not sure how I did it because, you know, I'd wake up, and I'd do a couple of drive-by interviews for radio, and then go to some event or maybe do a school, and they would want me to do multiple talks to multiple classes, and then a library in the evening and then a TV show. So it was just a lot of out there flogging and flogging, you know, really having to push. And that's something that many writers don't realize is part of the job. And a lot of writers are introverts. I'm an introvert. It's very tiring to get out there and do the talks and do the presentations. So I'm retired mostly, although I'm happy to be out of retirement.

SB: Yeah. We're happy to have you.

CW: Thank you.

SB: Do you find—so you do a lot of blog work now?

CW: I do.

SB: Which is easier, maybe, than flogging the book for hours in public?

CW: It seems to help. I do that. I do Twitter, and I run four different Facebook pages.

SB: Goodness!

CW: Because I'm helping a friend with the fairy investigation society page. But yeah, it's almost a full time job just being a social media manager. So it's more work than just sitting down and being inspired or sitting down and putting in your 2000 words a day, that sort of thing.

That's one more thing I would tell students. You know, they, “Oh, I've got a book, but I just don't know where to start.” I'm like, “You don't have to start at the beginning.” That's really important. Not to have to start at the beginning I had a very dear friend who was an expert on a certain subject and he wanted to write a book and I'm like, “Great, you've got all these notes. Write the book.” “Well, I just don't know what the perfect opening chapters should be.” “Like, “Stop, do not do that. Start with the second chapter. Start with whatever chapter makes you most comfortable, and then go back.” And that's how I always do it. I mean, I don't start with the beginning. It's wherever I jump in and whatever I feel like working on that day. It doesn't have to go in sequential order, and a lot of people get sort of hung up on that, that you have to have the perfect opening sentence. Like, “Oh, there's only so many ‘Call me Ishmaels.’”

SB: Well, I haven't let you talk about your talk this evening, and that's mostly by design. I don't know if you do want to chat about it.

CW: Not too much because I'm kind of—let's not spoil it. Spoiler alert.

SB: Well, I think maybe we'll wrap up here. Chris Woodyard, it's been a delight to have you.

CW: Well, thank you so much. It's been a pleasure.

SB: Thank you.