Crafting a life is messy and magical…

A life is made from small things: seashells gathered at the beach, the color of your grandma’s eyes, the soft-inner lining of the pocket of your favorite coat. And it’s also made from big things: the place you call home, the way your best friend laughs, an unexpected illness, a sudden presence… or absence.

From all these bits and pieces, we weave a life. It is, I think, our greatest creation. Our true purpose, this crafting. If, in our weaving, we are willing to layer in myth and story and metaphor, to bind up our lives to the cycle of the seasons and the circling of the moon, we end up doing something magical: we thread ourselves into a larger tapestry and find new paths to wholeness and resilience.

My own weaving blends the ancient and elemental with modern comfort (blame it on my Taurus moon!). I love both plant medicine and my MacAir, stargazing and a Sputnik chandelier. I rarely follow a recipe, do a ritual, or say a prayer that someone else wrote. I think science and magic are two sides of a coin I love to flip back and forth over my fingers: science, magic, science, magic.

Unkempt is where I offer prompts to help you find your own form of magic (look in the Seasonally Unkempt tab), as well as keep you updated on my book projects. Occasionally I’ll write an article or a story tidbit.

Unkempt is also a kitchen table where I chat with my readers. (This is my favorite hangout on the interwebs! It’s lovely to sink deep and have a discussion about the things that really matter to our hearts.)

Sometimes I have a cup of tea with other wordsmiths and about how we’re making meaning for ourselves. These get recorded as Unkempt Conversations.

And perhaps most important, Unkempt is a place where I can invite you to explore with me, to craft your own life as I craft mine, so we can lean in and learn from each other as we go.

Maia is both teacher and student, and through her we learn that a magical life isn't about the destination. It's about the journey.

- Sarah Addison Allen, New York Times bestselling author of Other Birds

Hi, I’m Maia Toll, author of six award-winning books including The Illustrated Herbiary, The Night School, and Letting Magic In. Each book is doorway into a room I’ve explored and lived in for a while. They are spaces that have fed my soul and sustained my spirit.

Unkempt is meant to be the same: a doorway into thoughts and spaces that are nourishing, a place to reconnect with the timeless aspects of the human spirit in a way that’s useful and meaningful in our modern lives.

Welcome to the journey. Welcome to Unkempt.

When I first wandered onto the Substack site and considered creating in this space, I made some promises to myself:

  • I promised myself that, amidst book deadlines and speaking engagements (where I have to be in a certain place at a particular time wearing the right shade of lipstick— currently MAC’s Verve), Unkempt would be less structured. That said, I’ve added in regular seasonal prompt because, it turns out, creativity craves constraint.

  • I promised myself to put my perfectionism aside and allow this space to be a tad messy, a bit wabi-wabi, and a lot magical (thus the name).

  • I promised myself to respond to my heart, not an algorithm or trend (unless what’s trending sparks joy!).

Unkempt is meant to be messy and magical and real… for all of us.

Free Subscribers

  • Book news and updates, articles and stray bits of writing.

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  • One free post a month to help you sink into the alchemy of the current season.

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  • Support the creation + maintenance of Unkempt.

  • Join the Unkempt Community + conversation!

  • A second post per month rich with seasonal inspiration, journal prompts, and small teachings.

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About Me

I’m an award winning + best selling mind, body, spirit author. My first memoir was published in June ‘23 and will be followed by a book for middle-grade readers in ‘24. Making a living through writing is glorious and grueling and nothing like what I imagined when, at the age of twelve, I first dreamed of becoming an author.

When not crafting sentences, I’m working my way through a huge TBR pile, hanging with my dogs, or huffing and puffing up and down the mountainous trails near my home.

Find my books, links to podcasts and other speaking gigs, and info for media on my website! Need a question answered or have a thought you want to share? Email


Please note: NO AI TRAINING. Without in any way limiting the author’s [and publisher’s] exclusive rights under copyright, any use of this publication to “train” generative artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to generate text is expressly prohibited. The author reserves all rights to license uses of this work for generative AI training and development of machine learning language models.

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A newsletter + community for wild wisdom seekers, night dreamers, and those looking to let magic in with best selling author Maia Toll.


Maia Toll 

Author of Letting Magic In, The Night School, and the Wild Wisdom series (including The Illustrated Herbiary) drinking too much tea while initiating conversations about discovering the extraordinary around us & within ourselves.