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


The emerge 15 Fundraiser: Sunday, Sept. 27th

FINAL emerge Poster


This event is to raise funds for the annual Writer’s Studio student anthology, emerge, and boy, do we have a fantastic Sunday planned for you—the kind that makes you happy to be alive and not in the midst of a zombie apocalypse.

There will be music, literary readings, a silent auction, a plethora of awesome secondhand books for sale, and good people like yourselves to connect with.

Our featured reader is poet Raoul Fernandes, a graduate of The Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University in 2009. He was a finalist for the 2010 Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers, and winner of the 2010 Sakura Award at the Vancouver International Cherry Blossom, runner up in subTerrain’s Lush Triumphant Awards in 2013. He has been published in numerous literary journals and is an editor for the online poetry magazine The Maynard. His first collection of poems, “Transmitter and Receiver” came out this Spring from Nightwood Editions.


September 27th from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.


Because you love the arts and writing. Because we love your company. And because we have to raise funds to put out our publication.

I’m totally in! Where do I buy a ticket?

If you’re interested, email us at twsemerge15@gmail.com and we’ll take care of you. Tickets are $15 each and include a beverage.


The Fairview Pub
898 West Broadway (at Laurel St.)

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/907458095987345/

The emerge 2015 anthology is coming your way on October 15th, 2015

On October 15th, 2015, you will be able to read an anthology of 36 new writers in emerge 15

For the last eight months The Writer’s Studio at SFU has been nurturing nine non-fiction writers, nine fiction writers, nine speculative fiction writers, and nine poets to share their unique stories with the world.

This year’s student production team has been hard at work, putting together the publication under the direction of:

Why should you care?

You are the most important person to us. You are our reader. We write for you. You are someone who roots for the underdog, someone who sometimes searches for meaning in the pages of a book. There is a magic and a shared space between us. Every word we have crafted is for you, and we hope you will take them in and we will come to a shared understanding.

Who are we?

We are the writers of The Writer’s Studio at SFU—a unique part-time creative writing program where emerging writers hone their skills while actively learning how to sustain their writing within the realities of daily life. We work in offices, hospitals, retail stores, coffee shops, and restaurants. You may not know our names yet, but one day you might. For now, you sit across from us on transit and you walk past us on the street.

Let’s face it, it’s 2015. The publishing industry has gone through the wringer. It’s a challenging time to be a writer, but it’s our passion. We write because we feel we have something to say. We write because we love words, or love to tell a story. We are people who are taking a chance on our passion. If you’ve ever had a dream, or you’ve ever wanted to be heard, then you’re not much different from us.

The emerge 15 writers hope to delight you with this blog, our fundraiser, and our publication.

We hope you’ll follow us along on our journey.

Emerge 2013 Launch Gala event

This calls for a celebration


The emerge 2013 Launch gala event in which we celebrate the 36 distinct voices in emerge 2013 – us!


Thursday, October 17th. 6 PM – 9 PM.


The Harbour Centre, 555 West Hastings St.


Because we’re proud of our student produced anthology! From personal narratives to prose poems to experimental writing, this year’s anthology features nine more writers than in previous years with the addition of the program’s Genre and Young Adult Mentor Group to create one of the most diverse anthologies yet.

Come out to say a well deserved thank you to the team of mentors, show your support for your peers and show off your own work. If our fundraiser at Calabash is any indicator of how awesome the launch is going to be, you don’t want to miss it. Looking forward to seeing you and your fanbase there!

Cary O’Malley

Cary O'Malley (1)

What genre are you in?


What inspired the piece you submitted to emerge?

I submitted 5 poems. I tried to make the selection as varied as possible.

Where can we read more of your stuff?

Come over to my house and I’ll make you tea and give you crumpets and shower you with my poems.

How has your writing process changed since starting TWS?

My writing has changed as I’ve tackled new subjects. I would never have expected that I’d write a 4 page poem about the death of a werewolf. I’ve also changed my writing by experimenting with different styles. I especially like the prose poem format and have used it a lot lately. I like putting more humour into my pieces. I also think I’m getting a better grasp on the format for my memoir, but the proof of that is still in the pudding.

9 Days till the emerge Fundraiser at Calabash Bistro!

Get ready for an inspiring evening

Why come?

There will be readings by Betsy Warland, Wayde Compton, Jen Currin and a special reading by the emerge publisher, Andrew Chesham, with musical guests Leanne Dunic and Ryan Ogg of Luck Commander. A night of incredible talent all in support of this year’s emerge anthology. This year, we are fundraising to help with costs related to the book creation and the launch party.

Entrance by donation (suggested $15) so arrive early to ensure entry. Capacity is max 75 people.

To RSVP, check out our Facebook event here.

Danielle DeMi

What genre are you in?


What was your inspiration for the piece you submitted to emerge?

My inspiration for the emerge piece was love. I know, I know, how broad can you get? More specifically, I mean re-visiting love you’ve lost. We all do it: visit, or re-live those can’t-breathe-can’t-sleep moments and wonder what went wrong. I’m not sure if we do it to torture ourselves or to become closer again to the person we lost- either way I was doing that a lot.

The strange thing was the memory I was most fond of re-living (my very first camping trip) was, in retrospect, extremely terrifying and disappointing in a lot of ways, yet I saw it as a triumph- a conquering: we could get through anything. I started re-visiting the work I had produced during that time, and my dream journal and found some disturbing foreboding, as well as exceptionally brazen (for myself) declarations of love, repeatedly throughout. The discovery of this bizarre paradigm was my inspiration for “I Knew.”

Where can we read more?

TWS has shattered my writing walls, and, therefore, really expanded my writing pallet. I have yet to launch any of my newest explorations into the public, but (hopefully) I will work up the courage and do so soon.

How has your writing process changed since starting TWS?

Writing had always been very secondary to me, as a Dancer and Choreographer I tend to explore my thoughts and emotions through movement. However, I had trouble articulating, or even discovering, what I wanted to say without words – words are my butter, and as Julia Child said “there’s nothing better than butter!”

TWS has brought writing to the forefront of all my artistic endeavours, and given me the tools to decipher my own work with much faster turn-over and the confidence to do so. It has also given me an exceptional writing network (I’m afraid I’m rather dependant actually) that I hope will be long term confidantes.

The importance of community for a writer was never prevalent to me before. Now I don’t just see the necessity but require it. My peers are like an extension of myself, their feedback is invaluable and I can’t imagine producing anything efficiently without them.