The “Monsters and Ghostlands” workshop, a two-part session starting Oct. 16, is meant not only to help writers hone their craft but challenge them with a deeper look into horror storytelling and the role it plays in culture.
A deep dive into horror isn’t only for those who have a taste for the ghoulish and the macabre, says Kati Lewis, associate director of the writing center and SLCC assistant professor of English.
Horror stories, she explains, play a deeper part in our history than we care to admit. With each iteration of a creature, there is an underlying fear seldom addressed outside of critical forums like these writing circles.
“Horror and Monster, a horror subgenre, represent in any capacity the fears and the desires and the anxieties of the culture that the writer is imbedded in,” Lewis says. “Even if the writer isn’t intending for it to be representative of the fears and anxieties, horror is.”
The benefits of a deeper insight into the content allows writers to see how society is reflected within the plotlines and stories.
Creatures, Lewis says, also often have cultural fears associated with them, such as the origins of the zombie from Haitian Voodoo and the fear that, even after death, you would still be a slave.
“Horror can reflect those fears, anxieties and cultural issues … that maybe people don’t want to confront upfront,” she suggests.
“So, therefore, the monster, or the horror – the thing we fear – and the suspense becomes a way for us to assign and ascribe that fear and anxiety to the story. Then it can provide an opening to discuss social and political issues that matter.”
The ghostly workshop theme is just one of many explored by the writing center, however. The Diverse City Writing Series, called Sine Cera, brings writers who have passions for different genres together throughout the year and produces an annual anthology.
“The Salt Lake valley is a really dynamic arts-oriented community,” says Dr. Melissa Helquist, director of the Writing Center and associate professor of English.
“There’s a lot of demand, [and] we only do a tiny piece of what’s out there. I think we are a part of a bigger conversation and engagement with writing. It’s good to be in a community with a lot of things happening.”
The center is holding two other horror-themed workshops this month, though both differ greatly in topic.
“Queer Identities and Re-imagining Monsters” is aimed toward reclaiming queer-coded characters, themes and stories in traditional horror. The “Salt Lake Teens Write Horror” workshop focuses on teenaged writers and works with KCPW to read those stories on the air.
Workshops are free and open to the public, but registration is required. Visit slcc.edu/cwc for more information.