It makes sense that the etymology of the word “haunt”—that which sticks to, as well as with us— comes from the Middle English, “place frequently visited,” and is also related to the French hanter, “distantly related to home.” The haunted house story, after all, has long endured as a container for characters’ fears—and, by extension, our own. By virtue of its own etymology, then, a haunting might be understood as entwined with the home.
Over the course of this generative weekend-long workshop, we will approach our understanding of this relationship a bit more broadly, and consider a variety of spaces (the house, the body, the past, etc.) as loci for what haunts us and the situations and characters we write about. What makes a story “haunted,” and why/how does this thing or situation scare us? Together, we will examine a variety of haunting examples—including excerpts by Victor LaValle, Carmen Maria Machado, Shirley Jackson, Joyce Carol Oates, Samanta Schweblin, and Sarah Shun Lien Bynum.
In addition to the writing they do throughout this workshop, participants will leave with techniques and exercises for writing their own haunted work beyond it. While the examples we look at and the exercises provided will be mainly geared toward fiction writers, writers who work in any genre or at any stage are welcome.
Theodora Ziolkowski is the author of On the Rocks, winner of a 2018 Next Generation Indie Book Award, and Mother Tongues. Her work has appeared in Glimmer Train, The Writer’s Chronicle, Short Fiction (England), Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of the Inprint Marion Barthelme Prize in Creative Writing. Recently, she served as Poetry Editor for Gulf Coast and Fiction Editor for Big Fiction. She is pursuing her PhD in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Houston.