Devil’s Manifesto started with a thorn, literally. Without getting too personal, back in April I went through something that really hit me in the face. I bought flowers before it happened and as I was putting them in a vase I realized they had many thorns. I was actually hurting myself putting them in the vase. I had never bought flowers like this before and I hadn’t understood then but this would be very symbolic later of the situation that unfolded. An aside: Ironically I had cut my hair back then too, in April, before I went through anything. I had never cut my hair like this before, and I felt something inside of me change. I felt without knowing that I was ready to embrace a new part of myself that was slowly emerging. It was supposed to be a new beginnings hair cut, but little did I know the new beginning wasn’t a new beginning at all, it was actually the end. The real new beginning would come later.
My own emotions are an actual ocean inside of me, and when I feel them I feel them very deeply and it takes a while to get back to my natural optimistic state of being. I mull and think and reflect and wish and regret and cry. I did that with what happened to in April. Then I didn’t. I started to develop a routine of going to the library with my computer and work on ideas I had been holding onto for quite some time. The more I sat there, the more the creativity flowed. My first idea had to do with cleaning up my old website, EVA. If you’re unfamiliar, I started it in 2017 and it largely focuses on my own experience with emotional abuse and other branches of domestic violence. It served its purpose when I wrote for it, but I felt it wasn’t aligning with who I was anymore. I had grown immensely and I wanted the blog and brand to reflect that so I thought of adjusting it to who I was now. One night I had this deep knowing of what the new name would be, and I began building that out on paper. I even had a vision for a photo shoot to redo all the photography and reframe what it represented to me and my girlfriend and I went and did a whole beautiful shoot for it. It was also the first time we worked together which was amazing, the first of many creative collaborations. Back then I thought I was about to release/implement all of it but I actually held back a lot. My confidence started getting in the way so I just sat on everything.
Next came my idea to redo my personal website and blog, Haute Harlot. Since I was an adolescent I adopted the pen name Jennifer Schecter. I vowed to use it in all creative endeavors, and I did, only I had never made my work public enough to use the name. Now I wanted to use it for real and showcase my work (my writing specifically) in a real way, I kept thinking. I wanted to own it. So I bought the domain which by some miracle was still available. Perhaps it had been waiting for me all along. Then I began working on the website, with the intention of getting rid of hauteharlot.com and replacing it with jenniferschecter.com. I started migrating everything over. Then my girlfriend and I did another photo shoot to go with jenniferschecter.com. So now I had two projects I was sitting on with the most amazing pictures to match but I still wasn’t implementing anything. Then I had a thought to do a third shoot half dressed. I wanted it to be lusty and soft, but dark at the same time somehow. One evening my girlfriend and I set it up and we were on fire. She took the most unbelievable pics of me I had ever seen. I was over the moon and excited. It’s also when I claimed the title of “model.” Since I was young I wanted to model, and I did a lot to try and make that happen, but it never worked out. I realized that night after the shoot that I was already a model, and had been since I was 17 -- because I said I was. I didn’t need a contract. I didn’t need someone to tell me I was. This concept of not needing people to tell you who you are but rather claiming it yourself, OWNING IT, would play into the basis of my future zine, Devil’s Manifesto.
DARK LORD, SHOW ME THE WAY
The first few weeks of all this went by so quickly as I continued to bring to life all my visions and creative wants and needs. Other realities started to set in though, and I began panicking. That part of me that was so carefree at first actually died down a ton. I sat on all my ideas as I said, releasing/implementing nothing. I even stopped working on all of it at one point because I was trying to figure out what was going on with me. While shopping one day I found a notebook with goats all over it. Since I am a fanatic for baphomet and all things devil-related and felt like I needed to find myself again because fear was truly consuming me, I wrote “dark lord, show me the way” on it. I needed guidance from my darkest self, the part of me that had stayed up all night writing or redesigning my blogs when I was in college, the part of me that worshipped all things goth and had a real knack for fashion, the part of me that knew what my true passions were. This was a cry for help to her. I also loved that the goats were green, in this small way I was using color magic to manifest abundance without even realizing. The writing on the notebook became the title for my Substack newsletter as well, if you haven’t checked it out, you can find more of my writing there too.
In June I stumbled upon Clementine Morrigan's webinar about self-publishing. I was drawn in because I was interested in finding out how this worked. Something she said during struck the shit out of me, and that was that “writers do not write, writers are not good at writing; a writer is someone who feels compelled to write; not everybody feels that way so if you feel that then you are a writer.” I had never in my life heard someone articulate what I had felt my whole life about writing. And she was fucking right. An aside: I have always wanted to sell my own stuff. I knew I’d possibly have a witchy fashion line one day, but my writing? I never knew how I could sell it besides via writing a book and I wasn’t writing a book anytime soon. I stayed up til about 3am listening to that 2 hour webinar, taking notes in my goat notebook, searching for answers within myself. I was simultaneously getting really excited about the prospect of something that could take me out of my rut and help me own being a writer. Also in June I had another emotional upheaval that took place. This pushed me deeper into myself and my path. Hecate, the Dark Mother, had also visited me at this time. You can see in the pic below when I got to the hotel (I could not sleep at home that night), the room they gave me not only on the 3rd floor but when the doors opened the first thing I saw was room 333. Hecate’s numbers are any variation of three. Beyond this experience I knew it was time, time to write full-time, time to sell my writing, time to make myself known as a writer, time to own that I WAS a writer. Time to also write about my pain, and exorcise demons through the process. Ones that I’d held onto since I was a little kid hanging out on livejournal.com writing for other sadboiz and girlz. The side effect of beginning would be that other people would now be affected by my writing, for better or for worse. The way in which I would begin was also significant since I always thought back when I was younger that you needed a book deal or publisher to pick you up in order to get your stuff out there. Even simply poetry I was like I have to get published otherwise it won’t work. I used to send my work to thousands of publications, and no one wanted it. One guy called it filth (my poetry at the time was dark, ugly and raw and I loved it) but I was being me and even then I knew that wasn’t wrong. But I was upset that I had held myself back for this long and I started to realize “you can let go of that now, too.” Again, the concept of thinking you need others to put yourself out there would become a central theme in Devil’s Manifesto.
Unbeknown to me at the time, butterflies were suddenly popping up everywhere, on post cards, at a fair I went to, when I was at my favorite coffee shop sitting outside, on objects on street corners as I drove. They were made of all kinds of things as well, they would start showing up in all forms. One was made from crystals, extra large at a spiritual shop I went to. Another was drawn with graffiti. Another was art work, a print you could buy. Another was on a t-shirt. Several were loose pieces of decorative material which you hang on a wall (those I saw when I was taken into a room at university radiology for an echo exam). One was golden, as if it had been spray painted gold. Another was black outside of my house, there when I left an errand, and still there fluttering about in the same place when I came back from running that errand. They were everywhere, they were repeating over and over, and they were signs. Not only am I very spiritual, but I believe heavily in signs from my guides and the universe. This was it. I was transforming, like a butterfly. My soul was calling out and to be honest despite everything I wasn’t really listening. I was too lost in my own shit to pay attention as closely as I should have been at the time to my inner voice and again, all the signs.
I decided to start doing abundance magic since I was living in so much lack. I really needed this. By August I began seriously thinking about creating a zine and went to a witch market like I always do and signs were there also. I had a reading and the man told me things that I knew I couldn’t embrace but was trying so hard to. I also bought something there and the woman slipped something else into my bag as an extra. When I got back home I took it out and the extra was incense labeled “success blast.” This was also very symbolic. I bought moldavite in August too, which is a very special crystal that is supposed to move things around for you so that significant change can occur. The first few days I wore my moldavite my ideas began to flow for the zine. It is funny because these ideas actually did not pertain to the physical zine but to the trailers and I genuinely never planned or even thought of filming for any part of this project. But suddenly when things started flowing I felt pulled to work on some trailers before I worked on the zine itself. I had 4 ideas for 4 trailers, but only 2 actually worked out.
For the first trailer my original idea was to be behind a door with a glass window, you know the small ones such as on a freezer door. That never panned out as I searched and searched but something else ended up working - an abandoned building in which a hole was punched out of the wall. My girlfriend recorded me several times, screaming, in that abandoned building. We went at night when it was pitch black and there were many insects. My plan was to use blue light as the background, but on the multi-colored light I bought, blue was the only color not working. It was faint in color. The others were bright (green, pink, etc). Red looked really good, so I used that instead. This was before I even thought about the cohesiveness of the red light and the zine’s name/premise of the whole zine.
I blackened some of my tattoos for that night as if to scribble them out and I made my face look very dirty and fucked up. I wore underwear instead of a thong. This was all for the purpose of getting into character for the first trailer. I wanted to feel trapped and betrayed, as if I could no longer be me. I mean, I did already feel this way. My history with writing was very secretive and concealed. Shy and scared. I wanted to connect to that part of me that wrote “filth.” She knew she was worthy she knew people had their own fucked up problems and that is why she always felt held back. The criticism, the putting down, all the rejections. Ironically that is also a part of what was coming up during this time so it would all be reflected in the trailer and zine. The music for the first trailer I had remembered from 2009. I loved Flyleaf and Memento Mori was a favorite album. I knew the Melting Interlude would be perfect.
The second trailer’s script just came to me. One day I envisioned myself sitting on the floor with children, talking to them about Lucifer. It was nuts. Suddenly I’m imagining myself in an old 1970s film, with the soft precise voice that the ladies had back then had and a really specific filter over the lens of the camera filming. So I wanted to capture what was in my mind’s eye by filming in an old house and after looking for one I realized my grandma had an old house. Everything inside was vintage. I thought that was really cool. I would use my dead grandfather’s bedroom since my grandma had left it exactly the way it was when he died. I honestly wanted him to be there while I did this too. I knew he would give me the confidence I needed. My inspiration for the character was the mom in Carrie. At the very end of the movie, I loved her look right before Carrie threw the knives at her: she wore an ivory 70s nightgown with her hair naturally out, a pink lip, and very light makeup otherwise.
I found a victorian looking nightgown in an antique shop, and parted my hair down the middle to hide my bangs. I did my makeup so completely different and tried to ensure I didn’t look like me of course. I watched a few old films to get the voice right, and I loved how it came out. The music used I heard once while watching something and I knew it would fit in well. Right before the second trailer’s debut I realized parts of me had died/were dying and this idea aligned well with the character and scene in the second trailer (you will known what I mean if you read the zine). Because of this the caption I wanted to use on Instagram changed last minute to “The ghost of Caroline tells her story to three children.”
THE ZINE ITSELF
In between working on the trailers and editing them I did all my research on zines, decided on a size, and put it together (the name of it came to me one day, I just instantly knew what it would be). The third shoot my girlfriend and I did that I discussed above (lusty and soft, yet dark) would end up being the main photography and I would also incorporate past pictures of myself for the purpose of the copy within it. I love doodling and decided I had to include some in the zine as well. The picture on p. 5 is actually a pic that for some reason came out with the film messed up, but if you can’t tell it is a pic of three of me, two more people are sort of coming out of me. That was purposeful as well (everything about it was done with intention). The mini ads were a true last minute thing but I absolutely loved how they came out. Lastly, most of what I wrote in the copy is creative nonfiction, so a true account of things that happened to me and a true account of what certain people said to me at different times. Below is a sneak peek of the final copy. I won’t give away too much as you can buy it and see for yourself here. With each purchase you receive a free tarot reading. Tarot is a big part of my life so I loved being able to incorporate it into this launch.
Devil’s Manifesto ended up being a rebellion. A real fight of me v. me. How I have let myself down. How I have loved myself in ways I couldn’t ever imagine. It is angry and it is dark and I am really proud of myself for bringing it forth now that it is all said and done. A few days before I released it I changed my Instagram name to own my pen name and I am so happy I did. Makes me feel like I keep taking steps further into her (Jennifer Schecter) as a writer and owning that part of myself, finally. Also - I was really excited to release this on the day of the Autumn Equinox or Mabon, one of eight of the universe’s sacred holidays. I wanted to honor the universe as it has honored me, I wanted to give back as it has given so much to me as I’ve been a practicing witch since 2018. I owe my practice to the universe as well and having learned and grown in ways I never thought possible due to my faith and due to the help of them. They’re always pushing me closer to my truest self because it is where I belong.
The last thing I will touch on is, after a happiest Mabon, after releasing the zine and getting home after dark, I walked up to my door and sitting on the Ring was a white (white represents the upper world) butterfly - literally in the dark. I see it fluttering and I say holy fuck is that another butterfly? I died. I just died. I opened my screen door and it flew right in to perch on the inside door. That beautiful creature wanted to be let into the house so it could greet me, tell me I was brave and deserving, and then maybe sit down and share a cup of coffee. I talked to it for a while out there, as I had to all the others that I saw that were living that I had encountered throughout this time. I was stunned and enchanted that night, and the turmoil I went through since April to get here to this very moment I knew at the end of that day had been completely worth it.
I have lots of plans to release more work going forward. It is like they say, when you release one thing you give yourself the confidence to continue. So I am slowly building my writing legacy and developing a readership (which I am more excited about) and I couldn’t be happier. Devil’s Manifesto is the first of several zines I will end up putting out. I intend to continue creating them and selling them in my Big Cartel shop. Jenniferschecter.com will debut before the end of the year. I am currently working on two books with poetry that I released last year, Rural Horror, and the year before, Folk Horror, and after I put them up in the shop I will have more time to finish the new Jennifer Schecter website. Also I am planning to debut Darkness Thriving in late December. As always you can follow all of this stuff and my progress on Instagram.