Anne Whitaker lives in Glasgow, Scotland. Her background is in adult education, generic and psychiatric social work, and private practice as a counselor, counseling supervisor, and mentor. She has also worked as an astrologer, astrology teacher, and writer since 1983. Anne blogs at www.anne-whitaker.com, where her e-books Wisps from the Dazzling Darkness — an open-minded take on paranormal experience — and Rumbold Raven’s Magic Menagerie can be purchased. An original astrological research study, Jupiter Meets Uranus 1997 and 2010/11 will be available there as an e-book in August 2014. Contact Anne at firstname.lastname@example.org
TreeHouse: Is Writing from the Twelfth House your initial attempt at blogging?
Anne Whitaker: Yes. I began the blog in September 2008 after taking a long career break from 2001-8 to recover from severe burnout triggered by a long family crisis. Although this sounds bad (and some of it surely was!) I had stacks of time to rest, to think, to dream, and to return to my two earliest life passions – reading and writing. I have a long-term interest in the overlaps between mythology, all forms of symbolism, paranormal phenomena, humanistic psychology, religion of all varieties, spirituality of all hues, and scientific exploration of the open-minded, non-dogmatic and non-reductionist variety.
Out of this rich brew, and my first careful steps as I returned to the world of the everyday, came the blog. I also wanted to make myself reasonably cyber-literate as the Internet took off.
TH: On your site you note that you are an astrologer, mentor/counselor, writer, and teacher. How did you initially become interested in astrology? Does any single role take precedence over the others, or do they complement one another?
AW: In my twenties I was a college lecturer, teaching English, History, Drama and General Studies. I also had responsibility as a student counselor in my final college job. At the end of my twenties I returned to my native island to write, following which a career change saw me become a generic and psychiatric social worker – and student supervisor – during most of my thirties. At the end of my twenties, whilst considering myself a Marxist, I met a strange little man in a launderette in Bath, England, who turned out to be an astrologer and read my horoscope with stunning depth and accuracy. He predicted to my shock and horror, that I would become an astrologer “or something very like it!” in my thirties – which I duly did…
In my late thirties I then set up a freelance career weaving all four vocational preoccupations together, including teaching astrology classes to a wide range of the general public from bus drivers to consultant psychiatrists. I have been happily and successfully freelance ever since. So – everything I do weaves together with, and influences, everything else. I’m very happy with this brand of unity in diversity!
TH: What initially drove you to create the Astrology: Questions and Answers site at www.annewhitaker.com?
AW: Answering questions about astrology is something I have done both for my students and for myself for a very long time! Then a couple of years ago, I was invited to run an astrology blog from a popular local site here in Glasgow, Scotland, UK. I thought it would be fun to call it Astrology: Questions and Answers, since by this time my astrological writings on Writing from the Twelfth House were attracting various kinds of correspondence via comments and emails from readers. Inevitably, questions were a big part! The local site proved too limiting, so I set up my own Astrology: Questions and Answers blog.
TH: From where do you derive inspiration for content for your astrology site and blog? Do you feel your blog posts have helped you craft your other writings?
AW: I am permanently curious about how anything and everything fits into the Big Picture, which is where in-depth astrology (not the Sun Sign stuff) is such a gift, since essentially it maps the ebb and flow of the vast shifting energy patterns of our solar system, providing some insights into why we operate the way we do both collectively and individually.
So – current affairs; being plugged into Twitter and Facebook where there are always gems of information and perspective amidst the endless stream of cyber-flow; my own networks at an individual and community level both locally and world-wide; my work, both paid and voluntary, with a great variety of individuals with differing needs and preoccupations; regular daily reading time where I read both fiction and non-fiction alternately; my family life; what goes on in the weird circuits of my own brain: all of these provide ample fodder for all my writing, indeed all the different but complementary occupations I pursue.
TH: How important is it to you to devote the time and energy to keeping Writing from the Twelfth House and Astrology: Questions and Answers going? How much time do you devote to creation and maintenance of the site?
AW: In the six years since I set up Writing from the Twelfth House, the amount of time and energy I have devoted to the whole project has varied considerably. By 2011 I was feeling rather weary; at that point I was posting on my main site, but also on three satellite sites i.e. “Jupiter Meets Uranus” (book promotion and research of the 2010/11 conjunction of those two planets) “Wisps from the Dazzling Darkness” (the serialised version of what has now become the ebook published recently) and “MoreBitsFallOff.com” (designed to inspire the more mature reader to “never give up, never give in!” and liberally laced with ironic humour…). Four blog posts a week, one on each site, became somewhat exhausting although it was a lot of fun too.
So I went off to Edinburgh University in Autumn 2011 for a rest and to be a Visiting Student for a year, studying social science research in relation to counseling. By the spring of 2012 I decided that I had had enough of academe: regular bouts of indulging the education junkie in me had now added up to one university degree, three post-graduate Diplomas (the last one in Psychological Astrology, necessitating three years’ commuting by plane to London, and a fifty thousand word thesis) and some credits towards a Masters Degree which I decided I didn’t want to do, preferring to go back to part-time work.
So 2011-12 saw me scaling down my blogging efforts; I hardly posted anything at all during autumn to spring 2011-12. However, I picked up the threads in the summer of 2012, keeping Writing from the Twelfth House going with just one satellite blog, i.e. Astrology: Questions and Answers. I am now pretty busy with a variety of activities other than blogging, including working with my colleagues at CO-OCCURRENCE, who since December 2013 have re-designed Writing from the Twelfth House and published 2 ebooks, with two more due out by the end of this year. So the amount of time to devote to blogging is more limited than I would like at present. However, I try to put something up on Writing from the Twelfth House each week, and something on both Astrology: Questions and Answers and/or its Facebook Page a couple of times a month.
TH: Who are your readers? Do they comment/interact with you often? What blogs do you follow?
Interestingly, given that I am based in the UK, most of my following seems to come from the USA. But my readers are a diverse tribe, given the wide remit I set from the outset, not casting my net toward any particular grouping. I set up Writing from the Twelfth House… “…for those writers and readers who share my preoccupation with questions of meaning, mystery, pattern and purpose.” In the symbolism of in-depth astrology, the Twelfth House is that mysterious place in space where all our preoccupations, our paths, our belief systems dissolve into the One. Therefore Writing from the Twelfth House attracts many people who, like me, are intensely curious and interested in any and all facets of life – and where it may all fit into the Big Picture…
Over the years, as a glance down the Categories sidebar on Writing from the Twelfth House will show, I’ve accumulated a large archive of articles. Over the two years of the satellite blog Astrology: Questions and Answers ’s lifetime, a wide-ranging archive of topics is also growing. My stats reveal that readers old and new read across a very wide range of all the archive material from month to month. My posts do not ‘die’ as time passes, and quite often I get comments or emails on articles which were published quite some time ago. This really pleases me! I only re-joined Facebook about six months ago, and see that some of my posts from that time on have collected quite a few Facebook Shares.
I really don’t have the time I would like to Follow and comment on all that many blogs – the Like button on WordPress posts is great when you don’t have time to comment but want to give fellow bloggers a heads-up! My favourite blogger is USA based writer Linda Leinen at The Task at Hand. During the day, she varnishes boats for a living. At night, she is one of the finest writers, on a wonderfully diverse range of topics, that I have ever come across. I rarely miss commenting on her posts, and she reciprocates in kind, I’m glad to say. I’m also newly a fan of Ellis Nelson at ellisnelson. ghostbusterbev at ghost talk blog is a deep, reflective, well-informed writer on a range of spiritual, religious and paranormal topics. And I really enjoy the erudition and irreverence of Robert Bruce at 101 Books!
There are a number of other great favourites which space precludes me from mentioning. I prefer to interact with a medium-sized group of like minds, than spend my entire life on the Web in an obsessive drive for big stats! it’s important to have a fair balance between one’s ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ lives as a blogger.
TH: Where do you see your blog headed?
AW: I don’t have much of a clue! I am very happy to be quite the Buddhist these days, living in the present as much as possible and letting life unfold without becoming too hung up on any kind of plan. I know all too well that life – and probably blogging – has an inbuilt resistance to what our Ego thinks it wants. However, I do see myself continuing to blog. it’s something I cannot envisage giving up.
TH: What are the pros and cons of blogging?
AW: Here are a very few of the many pros: It’s one of the great 21st century ways of keeping on being a writer. It’s flexible: you can post a brilliant quote – 250 words max – one week, then a 2000 word essay on an astrological perspective on the Scottish Independence Referendum, the next (coming soon, folks!). It keeps your writing ‘stream’ going, even if you haven’t got any big writing projects in mind at a particular time. It means you can never become bored. And you ALWAYS have a good reason for not doing housework!
Here are the two main cons: One, you can become dangerously obsessed with every aspect of it – I have been there, for about a year during the time I was posting weekly on each of four blogs. The cure? Go cold turkey and disconnect yourself from social media and blogging totally for a whole week. Then do the same thing for two whole days per week, preferably Saturday and Sunday, until you feel relatively normal again.(within YOUR definition of ‘normal’ I hasten to add!).
Two, you usually spend too much of your thinking time in any given week going “OMG! What am I going to post on the blog(s) next?” As long as you can avoid EVER sharing this thought with your nearests and dearests, you should still be able to hang onto partner, family and friends…
TH: In Wisps from the Dazzling Darkness, you discuss your “thirty years’ experiences of atmospheres, dreams, ghosts, mediumship, mystical experience, poltergeist phenomena, prediction, premonitions, reincarnation and telepathy.” Could you tell us a bit about your processes of writing and publishing the book?
AW: During the 2001-8 burnout period I lacked the energy to do almost everything except read, write, and think. I had to have a project to keep me feeling creative; that project became lying on my settee with my laptop and doing something I had wanted to do for decades but been too busy to tackle, i.e. write down an account of those experiences described in the above quote. I had journals, diaries – both my own and my husband’s – to draw on, as well as vivid recollection of memories which refused to go away despite my rationalist side (which is very strong) being offended by their very existence! Having written down everything I could, I then set them in the context of rational analysis, drawing on contemporary writing from open-minded scientists and researchers, of where these experiences might come from, why they existed in the first place – and what their value might be. Then came serialising the book on a blog as already mentioned. And finally, after investigating what publishing on Kindle etc might involve and concluding it wasn’t worth the time, expense and hassle, I used CO-OCCURRENCE, an excellent Glasgow UK based web design company who had already re-designed Writing from the Twelfth House, to publish the book as a downloadable pdf. I have been very happy both with the results and with sales so far. I have no aspirations to sell hundreds of thousands of copies!
TH: You write within quite disparate genres. What prompted you to write Rumbold Raven’s Magic Menagerie, a collection of children’s poems?
AW: I was very bored in a series of lectures on child development I had to attend as part of my post-graduate social work diploma studies a long time ago, wrote the poems to pass the time, and had a friend who is a brilliant artist lavishly illustrate them. The book was loved by the publishers to whom we sent it – but publishing it in pre-Internet days was considered too expensive. So the manuscript lay under the spare bed in our guest room until I became a grandmother and decided our little granddaughter would love the book. CO-OCCURRENCE loved it too, and turned it into a high-quality pdf. Since it was published recently it has sold quite well and collected some lovely reviews.
As you will have gathered from this interview, my sources of inspiration are indeed disparate. I never know what will pop up next, and that’s the way I like it! Thank you so much for your interest in me and my writing. It’s been most enjoyable answering your questions.
What’s your art? To have your creative work featured on TreeHouse, submit it for consideration at artstreehouse@.