A Ghost Story Writing Weekend

On the August long weekend, seven Writer’s Studio writers got together to create horror, mayhem, and fear.

This August, in the interim between classes, the first annual Ghost Story Writing Weekend took place. Writers from across the TWS 2015 program came together for an informal weekend of ghost story writing. Out in Maple Ridge, with the mysterious brush of Golden Ears Park nearby and the rush of the Alouette River in our ears, we huddled around a campfire to collaborate and confer on what makes ghostly stories great.

Brittany Bjorndal, Emily E.A. Stringer, Wanda Mae Anderson and Valerie Chalker Whitfield have a group writing session.
Brittany Bjorndal, Emily E.A. Stringer, Wanda-Mae Anderson and Valerie Chalker Whitfield have a group writing session.

For some of us, the ghostly theme was a break from our comfort zone. In preparing for the weekend, Valerie Chalker Whitfield (TWS non-fiction group) faced a bit of trepidation: “Even though I am in the non-fiction cohort, I wanted to attend, but what to write? I know nothing about writing in the genre of ghost stories or speculative fiction … While driving one day, I heard on the radio the story of Double Alex, the ghost of the lighthouse of Sambro Island, off the coast of Nova Scotia. I did a bit of research … and then [over the weekend] finished [the story] by giving it a modern twist relevant to the state of the country’s lighthouses today.”

Valerie Chalker Whitfield puts her research to use.
Valerie Chalker Whitfield puts her research to use.

The intent of the weekend was to write a ghost or ghostly story and share it in a supportive environment. The informal structure allowed for experimentation in form and subject matter—and plenty of lounging by the pool!

Emily E.A. Stringer making use of pool time.
Emily making use of pool time.

Here are excerpts from three ghost stories that were given life over the campfire:

“Gracie’s Hardy Rose,” a post-apocalyptic ghost story

In the distance she heard howling. It was nearing dusk and one of the packs would soon scent the body, and that would take care of that.

She had until the next day to decide how to deal with Reilly.

KT (Katherine) Wagner, TWS speculative fiction group

“Hollow,” an un-encountered, or as-yet-undiscovered “monster” in the deep

It shifts occasionally, thick skin shivering for warmth under the crushing blanket of black water. Where it shivers, its skin glows bright, breaks in places to spill warm red over the patch of chilled skin. Cones gush bubbles and heat, a constant warm breath, sighing into the salt.

—Emily E.A. Stringer, TWS speculative fiction group

“Salsa in the Morgue,” a lusty ghost story set on a cattle ranch in Argentina

Pedro and Consuela didn’t know they were dead yet… Trying to rise from their lovemaking, they found themselves lying in a very cold steel-grey morgue. Quite a contrast to the hot green grove where, discovered by their master, they were both shot execution-style in a jealous rage. It was her red knees he recognized, bent up on Pedro’s hips.

—Wanda-Mae Anderson, TWS poetry group

Our ghostly inspiration for the weekend.
Our ghostly inspiration for the weekend.

The informal event was inspired by the Ghost Story Weekend, an Oregon workshop that challenges writers to complete short ghost stories over the course of the weekend. Katherine Wagner, our gracious host, had always wanted to attend, but it occurred to her that now in the midst of the TWS program, with access to eager writers, a campfire in her own backyard, and a long weekend—why not plan it herself?

And she doesn’t intend to stop here. Katherine Wagner and I are currently planning a more structured and facilitated Ghost Story Writing Weekend to take place at Loon Lake in 2016. Contact Katherine for more details.

Written by Emily E.A. Stringer

All photos courtesy of Katherine Wagner

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