Interview with Lucy Knisley

You’re never too old to read comics. Lucy Knisley, an authority on all things food and graphic literature, would be the first to tell you that. From French Milk to Relish to her latest novel Something New, Knisley has made a career out of turning her life of travel, eating, and coming of age stories into art on the page. Recently, Knisley spoke with Oyez Review about her experience as a writer all over the world.

Alicia Drier, Oyez Review (OR): It’s been almost 10 years since your first graphic novel was published. How do you think your concept of art and story-telling have changed in that time?

Lucy Knisley (LK): I certainly have honed my methods and techniques a lot more than they were ten years ago! I think that’s a constant process. But I know that self-doubt was a major motivator when I first started out. I didn’t know if I would ever have the stamina or patience to draw a whole book. With every book I draw and write, I get more confident in my abilities– that I’m able to do more and interesting things with my work– things people haven’t seen before. At first, it was just “can I ever be nearly as good as my heroes?” And now it’s more “What can I make that will inspire people?”

OR: What do you feel the graphic novel genre allows you to do that traditional novel-writing would not?

LK: The interplay between the visuals and the text are really important to how I tell stories– there is so much there that would be missing without one or the other. Humor and pathos and metaphor can be so well conveyed in the graphic narrative, and I love that I’m able to dance the line between the two.

OR: Your work fits beautifully into this nouveau genre of graphic memoir. How does it feel to write so honestly and openly about your life?

LK: I came of age in the time when every teenager had their own blog. The Internet seemed so much cozier, then. Just a bunch of kids on Livejournal, drawing pictures and complaining about school. So it was always pretty automatic, for me to write about my life and share it in this way. I’m very touched and honored when people remember things about me that they’ve read in my work. I have readers tell me “This must be so weird, that I know about your cat!” But all my comics are filtered and edited and shared with purpose– I love that you know about my cat! Let’s talk about my cat!

OR: When was your moment when you felt you had made it as an author?

LK: I think this is an ongoing experience. You can forget, day-to-day, that your work is read and seen by people. It’s easy to become used to the vacuum that’s created when you’re working on your own. Whenever I have a signing or go to a comic show, I’m reminded by the faces and kindness of readers who I meet, that my work is reaching out past my own bubble and touching other people. It’s lovely to get those reminders.

OR: You’ve been honest in your writing about shifting back and forth between New York and Chicago through most of your life. How do these two spaces compare to you?

LK: I’ll always have one foot in New York and one in Chicago, I think. I grew up in Manhattan in the eighties and nineties, and I think that sort of bohemian-art-food-grime-utopia-morphing-into-wealthy-tourist-hub experience of New York has given me some good and terrible views of New York. I love its history and its tradition and arts/culture, but I hate its expense and hype and crowds.

Chicago has a lot going on, but it’s spread out over a lot more space. There’s a tradition of blue-collar hard work here in Chicago, which is different from the feeling of “luck and who you know” success of New York, which makes being an artist here a different story. Here, you can afford to have a house and raise a family as a hard working artist, whereas in New York you have to either come from money or fall into some serious good fortune to afford to live well as an artist.

Sometimes I get sad that I’m so far away from cool stuff happening in New York, but I also looooove that I’m able to have a baby AND go out to dinner from time to time, here in Chicago.

OR: What advice can you give to up and coming writers?

LK: Please take care of yourself. Up and coming anybodies tend to forget that their bodies and minds are their tools, and neglect both. Don’t compare yourself to others too much, or despair over blocks, or get angry that you’re not better/more successful/more adept/etc– it’ll hurt your brain to berate yourself so much. Don’t draw/write until your hands/back are torched– you’ll need them later. Better to slowly build up the strength and stamina you’ll need later on. It can be hard to be patient about these things, but I promise you that the muscle memory– to be kind to yourself, to consistently create work that you’re proud of, to have a steady output– will develop in time.

For more information about Lucy Knisley and her work, check out her website. You can also follow her work on both Twitter and Instagram.

Posted in Oyez News

Handle Workshop Like a Champ

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by: Melanie Jones

Oh yes, workshopping is an activity all writers in a MFA Creating Writing program are subjected to. It can be nerve wracking, upsetting, fulfilling, and satisfying, all within one class. At times a writer may find it difficult not to take feedback personally, and in some cases you, your professor, and your classmates may flat out disagree. What’s important is understanding every workshop (good or bad) is part of the writing journey.

Keep in mind that you are paying tuition to attend a university and receive a master’s degree. Part of receiving this degree is going through the workshopping process proctored by your professor and carried out by your peers. In other words, you’re paying to be told what worked and what didn’t. No writer is perfect, not even best-sellers, and no matter how many times you rewrite something you will receive critiques.

When your piece is being workshopped it is very important not to fall in love with your first draft. Admit to yourself that it is impossible to get it perfect the very first time and your workshop will help you see the holes in your first draft that you cannot see on your own. Not every criticism has to make it into your next draft. Take what you find useful and incorporate it into your rewrite. If multiple people have the same issue with a certain section or choice, even if you disagree with them, take a few days to consider what they’ve said and how you can address the issue while staying true to your vision.

If you’re part of the group workshopping a fellow classmate’s piece it’s important to remain constructive and respectful at all times. Offering feedback like, “I just didn’t like this.” isn’t helpful. If you didn’t like something about the piece think of what tools and devices the writer could use to improve it. Make your criticisms academic. Suggest things like, “If you wrote this part in scene it would help the reader understand your main character’s motives better.” Keep in mind how it feels to have your writing critiqued and operate with the same type of respect you’d like from a fellow classmate.

Workshopping is often when something clicks for you and your writing style, but if you’re not receptive to feedback you will miss it. It’s also during this time when you become closer with your classmates. You learn from each other. While one person may be great with grammar, another is spectacular at character auditing. Regardless of their strengths, there is always (and I mean always) something to learn from every piece you have workshopped as well as every piece you workshop.

Look, criticism is scary, but if you remember the purpose isn’t to be judgmental but to be helpful, you’ll always come out the other side better than you were. At the end of the workshop you’ll usually have a chance to ask questions, and this is your opportunity to clarify any notes or suggested edits you didn’t understand so you can fully appreciate the feedback.

Once it’s all over and you start to incorporate the edits you like, you’ll realize how useful the process is to help flesh out your piece. From there you can enter it into literary magazines, contests, and more. And if you win, don’t forget to thank your classroom of editors.

Posted in Oyez News

Interview with Sandra Newman

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Sandra Newman is the author of seven books, most recently a novel, The Country of Ice Cream Star, which was long-listed for the Folio Prize and the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. Her other novels are The Only Good Thing Anyone Has Ever Done and Cake, and she is also the author of a memoir and three books of non-fiction, including How Not to Write a Novel (co-authored by Howard Mittelmark).

Nergal Malham (Oyez Review): Your post-apocalyptic novel, The Country of Ice Cream Star is written in a slang-style sort of speech. Many a writer has tried and failed to write, even just dialogue alone, in a slang or patois. How did you begin tackling this obstacle?

Sandra Newman: As with most fictional tasks, most of the answer is just in the years and years you spend working on the same problems until you figure them out. The particular language of Ice Cream Star also involved years of studying other languages and understanding something about how languages evolve over time. Not that I intended to write this book all along, just that since I happened to have studied languages before, it was possible to write this book, which otherwise would have been a non-starter.

So that’s a way of saying that, really, once I had the idea for the language, I just sat down and started to write it. All the building blocks were already in my head, and it was a lot of fun to put them together. After a very short period of time, the whole world of the book became very real to me, and the character of Ice Cream was very real to me, so writing the language, from my point of view, was just like trying to hear what was already there. Most of the work was in making sure the language would be comprehensible to other people.

NM: The most memorable part of How To Not Write A Novel for me was the “We’re Going To Need a Bigger Closet” excerpt. In grade school, we read A Separate Piece and all of the kids were absolutely convinced the main character was gay because he was checking out the ass of another boy. Our teacher tried to convince us that he only did that because the boy had an exceptionally flat ass. I still don’t believe him to this day. What part of the book comes back to you the most?

SN: At this point, with How Not to Write a Novel, what I mostly remember are the jokes Howard made me cut with some flimsy excuse, and then replaced with his own far inferior jokes, or the jokes he made which were better than my jokes. Like, I often think about his joke, “This is called deux ex machina, which is French for “Are you fucking kidding me?” That’s a really good joke, and it still upsets me that it was Howard who made it. And what was also great was that a timid editor at HarperCollins made a note on the joke, drawing an arrow to “deus ex machina” and saying “Pretty sure this is Latin.”

NM: A writer I follow on Twitter mentioned one day that their credit card information had been stolen because someone had used their autograph to make fraudulent purchases. It never occurred to me that this could be a problem for anyone with a relatively well-known signature. Has there been anything about the author life that has surprised you?

SN: The main thing that’s surprising about the author life (and almost everyone finds this) is that, when you’re young and looking forward to being an author, you fantasize about being interviewed, and in the fantasies somehow it’s great to have people interview you, and you’re really enjoying explaining your views on everything. In real life, being interviewed is just embarrassing and nerve-wracking, and then afterwards you think about all the stupid things you said and suffer the torments of the damned and wish you had gone to medical school. But then, if no one is interviewing you, you panic about the fate of your book, and worry obsessively about whether anyone will buy it, and suffer the torments of the damned about that. Generally, the author life is mostly about wishing you had gone to medical school.

NM: You mentioned in a previous interview that you turned down a potential large offer because you didn’t want to write The Country of Ice Cream Star in ‘regular’ English. How would you tell other writers to balance preserving their artistic vision and taking and applying the advice of oft-villainized editors?

SN: The truth is that editors are almost always right. But sometimes they’re hazardously wrong, so it’s a little terrifying. The agent who wanted me to change the language of Ice Cream Star was right about the commercial aspect, and I knew that at the time. I just had a vision of the book I was going to write, and it was worth it to me to sacrifice the money, because the book he wanted me to write might have sold more copies, but it wouldn’t have been a particularly good book. I don’t think it’s psychologically possible to deliberately set out to write a mediocre book, when you think you have a great book in your head.

But more generally, ignoring editors can be treacherous because often you just don’t want to hear what an editor is saying because it hurts your feelings, in addition to involving a lot more work. And sometimes you really do have a great idea that needs to be protected but it isn’t coming across. So in both these cases, you have to listen to the editor and figure it out through both your hurt feelings and your natural dread of all the work it will take to fix the problem.

And then occasionally the editor is just wrong on all counts. Even in these cases, you have to listen carefully (the editor is a reader, after all, so everything they tell you is information about a reader’s reaction) but it is a good feeling when you make the decision and go ahead and ignore them.

NM: What was the last thing you read that made you go “Oh, fuck this!”

SN: I had to review a recent much-hyped novel. Its author is genuinely talented, but he was just losing control all over the place, writing insane passages of purple prose, and then forgetting to write purple prose and writing sub-standard pulp fiction. The book contains the word “octoroonish”. Cockroaches are referred to as “six-legged forest creatures”. It’s 1000 pages long, and I think I must have thought “Oh, fuck this,” 1000 times.

NM: Thank you again for your time!

SN: Thank you!

Nergal Malham is a MFA Candidate in Creative Writing at Roosevelt University and serves as a reader/editor for issue 44 of Oyez Review. She earned her BS in Accounting from Northeastern Illinois University in 2014.

Posted in Oyez News

An Interview with Stephanie Feldman

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Stephanie Feldman’s debut novel, The Angel of Losses (Ecco), is a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, winner of the Crawford Fantasy Award, and finalist for the Mythopoeic Award. Stephanie teaches fiction writing in the Arcadia University MFA Program and lives outside Philadelphia with her family.

I had come across The Angel of Losses in a bookstore, entranced by its lovely cover. After a quick read of the cover blurb, I was struck the similarities between my own life and the book and delighted by the fantastical nature of the novel. I was lucky enough to have a chance to speak with Stephanie Feldman about her debut novel. 

Nergal Malham (Oyez Review): The Angel of Losses features a mythological character of Christian origin–the Wandering Jew. In previous interviews, I’ve seen you mentioned that you wanted to turn this interesting character into something a little bit more removed from its anti-Semitic roots. Did you feel like you were successful in this?

Stephanie Feldman: Yes, I think my White Rebbe is very different from the traditional Wandering Jew. He’s an amalgam of Jewish searchers, historical and mythic, and that makes him distinct from his gentile counterpart. More importantly, the themes he embodies are his own. He’s not an undesirable outsider, cast out by the world. Instead, he’s in an exile of his own making, struggling with his relationships with God and family. I think he’s someone we can identify with rather than a simple villain or morality tale.

NM: In the process of getting your debut novel published, what was the most surprising part of the process?

SF: I worked in publishing briefly, so I knew a lot of what to expect, but I wasn’t prepared for how exciting and surreal it is to meet readers. I labored over this story alone for so many years–it almost feels like letting people inside my head. Last year, I met an older reader who remembered hearing stories about the White Rebbe as a boy, and that was a thrill. (There’s very little about that figure in print, at least in English, and I invented most of what’s in the novel.) It made me feel like my book was part of a larger tradition, and so touching to hear how it brought him back to his own childhood.

NM: Are you working on another novel or writing project now?

SF: I’m working on a few novel projects–I’m not sure which one will see the light of day first. They’re all tackling very different subject matter from The Angel of Losses, but I think they straddle genres in a similar way. I like to explore women characters and knotty relationships, and I like to work with magical realism/fantasy as well.

NM: When I first read The Angel of Losses, I was a bit struck by how close to home it was. My own older sister married into a Sephardic Jewish family and converted long before then. I admit to being a little hostile to my brother-in-law before warming up to him. So, I ask this: Are you a seer? How did you know this? Where did this storyline come from?

SF: I’ve heard this reaction before! I’m not writing from my own experience here, and I didn’t realize just how common this family dynamic is until I heard from readers. The storyline began in a very abstract way. I had a vague vision of Marjorie’s adversary, and decided to increase the drama by making him her brother-in-law. I also wanted to explore different ideas about religious identity, and how these lead to tensions within a community, so putting them in the same family made sense. Of course, the more I wrote and revised, the more human everyone became. I began by thinking of Marjorie and Nathan as opposites, but in the end Marjorie learns they have a lot in common.

NM: What book (or TV show or movie) is your guilty pleasure?

SF: This is a tough question–I’m not embarrassed by the things I like, even when maybe I should be. I listen to pop music and watch reality TV and all of that other stuff. Maybe I’m a little ashamed of how much I enjoy my Food and Wine Magazine subscription. I promise I would never actually buy a $250 salad bowl.

NM: Thank you again for your time!

SF: Thank you!  I’m glad the book resonated with you!

Nergal Malham is a MFA Candidate in Creative Writing at Roosevelt University and serves as a reader/editor for issue 44 of Oyez Review. She earned her BS in Accounting from Northeastern Illinois University in 2014.

Posted in Oyez News

You’re a Writer and a Brand

By: Melanie Jones
Oyez Review Editor

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Since graduating I’ve been attuned to the marketing world, which is fast-paced and in some ways unforgiving. Currently I work as an independent marketing contractor and have worked as head of marketing from restaurants to nonprofits. Below I’m offering my best advice to burgeoning writers with best practices to get your material circulated and more importantly, get social media fans. The suggestions below are purely based on my own observations.

As the reach of mixed media grows, so too does your potential for self-promotion. Many literary agencies want more than just a writer that creates interesting work. They want a writer that already has a following. Imagine an agent is looking at two writers with similar styles. One has 10,000 twitter followers, and one has 200. Guess which one they’ll choose to represent.

Even though writing is an art, at the end of the day publishing and selling books is a business. An agency sees a writer with facebook and twitter fans and sees they are ahead of the curve. This writer already has a built-in fan base and makes an agency’s job easier.

So where do you start?

The first piece you need to consider is what kind of writer you are. This isn’t to pigeonhole yourself and represent yourself as only a horror writer, or a romance novelist, or a poet, but more so what you’re interested in writing, and the backstory you want the public to know. Think of how you would pitch yourself to a group of people who have the attention span of a kitten. Know your personal narrative and how that influences your writing.

Once you’ve established a clear understanding of how you’d like to be perceived you can build out from there. If you can’t afford a top-notch website, then don’t do it. Having a business or public figure facebook or twitter page allows you to market yourself with small sums of money. Crazy right? If you don’t want to pester your friends with asking them to like your facebook page or follow you, for a small fee you can extend your normal reach and create an audience through ads. Facebook offers more options where you can promote your page, a website if you have one, or just boost a post.

For those who are not particularly skilled in graphic design, the easiest way to advertise would be boosting a post. You don’t want to boost just any post though. Let’s say you have a blog post you’d like to get out there. It’s your best one. Has a great title. Is timely. Has a great hook. THAT’S something you should boost. It will get people interested and raise interaction which in turn furthers the reach of your boosted post.

Another element is to consider how “shareable” your content is. If you’re a very niche writer the likelihood that someone will share a post about the mating habits of opossums in the winter is small. While you are attempting to build your audience I would suggest posting about topics that many people are already interested in, but that you’ve put your own unique spin on. If you wrote a flash-fiction piece about your first time attending a baseball game, and what it meant to you, then boost it the night before a really big game, that will receive more engagement and chances are people will share it. Once you’re comfortable with the size of your followers then you can begin writing about your particular interests and fans will interact with it because they like you instead of the topic. To piggyback off of this, make sure your twitter page and/or facebook page is either an image of you or a logo you’ve copyrighted and plan to use for a long period of time. This is so important as you’re trying to create yourself as a brand.

I would also suggest having about a month’s worth of content up before you start boosting posts so a potential fan has even more to engage with in case your one boosted post isn’t enough for them. If they are on your page you don’t want to lose them due to lack of content. Here’s the catch, you also need to curate what you’re willing to put out there. You can’t release all your content via a free avenue if you don’t have enough within you to also produce a larger work to sell. Once something is on a blog or out on the web, it can’t appear in a literary journal or be sold as a book because it’s no longer sellable. This is a fine line.

Phew. I’m sure I’ve just offered you a lot to think about when it comes to self-promotion. Many may feel uncomfortable with the idea of it, but remember if you aren’t willing to represent yourself, then why would anyone else?

Posted in Oyez News

Odie Lindsey Reading November 7th – Roosevelt MFA Reading Series

odieThe Roosevelt Fall Reading Series continues on November 7 with visiting author Odie Lindsey. Lindsey will read from his short story collection, We Come to Our Senses, recently published by W.W.Norton.  In this collection of linked stories described as artful by Booklist and sharp by The New York Times Book Review, Lindsey brings voice to returning veterans as they confront the curious realities of Southern contemporary life as seen through a post-combat lens.

Odie Lindsey’s work has appeared in Best American Short Stories Guernica, Iowa Review, Electric Literature, Fourteen Hills, and elsewhere.

Please join us at 5:00 pm on November 7th in Room 700 of the Gage Building, 18 South Michigan Avenue. Light refreshments will be served.

Posted in Oyez News

An Interview with Jack Ketchum

 

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Dallas Mayr, better known to his fans and colleagues within the literary world and horror universe as Jack Ketchum, has been terrifying and captivating readers with his fiction writing for over 35 years, bursting into our world with the powerful and gut-wrenching masterpiece novel Off Season in 1980.

Ketchum has rightfully maintained his notoriety within the horror literary community, having won the much coveted Bram Stoker Award four times, (each for a different category of literature), and has been praised by his contemporaries – including Stephen King.

Several of his stories have been adapted into popular films including Red in 2008, which starred Brian Cox and Tom Sizemore, and the gory, horror adaptation Offspring in 2009, in which Ketchum has a cameo as the coroner. With a new novel, The Secret Life of Souls, out this week (written with familiar collaborator Lucky McKee), I was fortunate enough to ask this brilliant horror maestro some questions regarding his writing process, his previous works, and the times he has dealt with censorship.

Connor Bell (Oyez Review): As a reader of your work, it seems to me that the story is the most important aspect to all of your novels. Do you usually begin with story, or do you find yourself beginning with a character or setting instead? Does it vary?

Jack Ketchum: I begin with theme and character, not story. In fact very often the characters create the exact nature of the story as it goes along, and sometimes they surprise me. That’s part of the fun.

CB: You explored the ideas of backwoods-terror and cannibalism in your debut novel Off Season, which recently celebrated its 35th anniversary with a new special edition release. These ideas were around before: the urban legend of Sawney Bean, films like Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes, as well as the real life case of Albert Fish, yet your story reinvents this horror concept within the idyllic landscapes of Maine. How did you manage to create something that felt so new out of urban legend, and were these stories and legends influential on your writing Off Season?

JK: Off Season had a lot of influences (though it should be said for accuracy that The Hills Have Eyes wasn’t among them – seems Craven and I were working that vein at pretty much the same time). But certainly Night of the Living Dead and Texas Chain Saw were influences. But so were How to Survive in the Wilderness and Vardis Fisher’s novel Mountain Man, made into the movie Jeremiah Johnson. I knew the Maine terrain pretty well, having done two seasons of summer stock in Cape Elizabeth, forest and sea all around and plenty of isolation. So it was natural to set the story in that area.

CB: Prior to its release Off Season dealt with some censorship issues, especially in regards to the novel’s conclusion. Today it is readily available in the version you intended to initially have published. Was this censoring of your work something you saw as inevitable given its graphic content, or were you surprised that the publishers demanded changes?

JK: I wasn’t surprised, because publishers are notoriously conservative, but I was dismayed to say the least. I thought they were missing the point. You can march through Hell and survive, and then sheer bad luck gets you in the end. But it was my first novel and I wanted it out there, so I gave in. As you say, when it got republished I got the ending I wanted. And I never gave in to a publisher’s wishes again. They didn’t want it the way I wanted it, screw ’em. I’ll go elsewhere.

CB: When the publishing company decided to withdraw themselves from promoting Off Season – did this worry you at all, or did you think that the novel’s strong sales spoke for itself?

JK: I was very disappointed at first, to see all the banners and point-of-purchase displays disappear overnight. But then I learned that the book was doing wonderfully by word-of-mouth alone. And that news was delightful.

CB: Did the censorship issues, which Off Season faced, make you worried about graphic or extreme content in your subsequent novels, or was it always your belief that the work would find a home somewhere even with its dark content?

JK: From Off Season on I wrote ’em as I saw ’em. I’ve never had reception of my work in mind during the writing of it. You have to make that leap of faith in yourself, or else you become some publisher’s bitch.

CB: Who or what inspires you to keep writing?

JK: Well, I just yesterday wrote a poem for my cat. But all kinds of things trigger the urge to write. Something that pisses me off. Somebody I love. And the love of writing itself, of the process, of being allowed to live for a time inside your own imagination – and actually get paid for it! That’s pretty amazing.

CB: Stephen King has called you, “the scariest guy in America.” What has his support meant to you personally?

JK: Steve’s a wonderful cheerleader for my work, as was Robert Bloch before him. I owe him a lot and he knows it. Hell, he just wrote Lucky [McKee] and I a terrific blurb for our new novel, The Secret Life of Souls. He’s a big soul himself and deserves every bit of the success he continues to enjoy.

CB: You love horror – that is apparent. Was there ever a moment that you felt pigeonholed in your career? In other words, did being labeled a “horror writer” bother you, or has it always been a badge of honor?

JK: Nah. In fact my readers seem willing to stay with me no matter what I do. Broken on the Wheel of Sex is a bunch of comic men’s mag stories from the ’70s. Notes from the Cat House is a book of poems. What They Wrote is a bunch of essays about … well, what they wrote. And my short stories are all over the place. Even some of the novels can’t really be classified as horror, even though horrific things happen. Red and Cover for instance.

CB: Your new novel: The Secret Life of Souls, is due out in early November. What would you like to tell readers about it?

JK: Rough to pigeonhole this one too. It’s about show business, a highly dysfunctional family, and a little girl and her dog. Not necessarily in that order. Lucky and I had a blast doing it.

CB: What advice do you have for young or aspiring horror writers?

JK: Read everything, not just in genre. If you like a writer’s licks, try making them your own. Start writing short stuff, not novels. Find a reasonable schedule to write in and stick to it. Apply ass to chair. And then, as Robert Bloch once told me, if you don’t have to write, don’t do it.

CB: Thanks again for taking the time to answer these questions!

JK: My pleasure. Thank you.

Connor Bell is a MFA Candidate in Creative Writing at Roosevelt University and serves as a reader/editor for issue 44 of Oyez Review. He earned his BA in Cinema Arts & Sciences from Columbia College Chicago in 2015.

Posted in Oyez News

10 Favorite Horror Stories

For me, I have always enjoyed anything and everything that falls under the category of horror. There is a sense of freedom that an artist, filmmaker, or writer has within this genre. It is a genre that deeply coincides with rebellion, chaos, and a lack of rules (something that most find to be a terror in itself). With it being Halloween weekend, I thought it might be an opportune moment to explore, in no particular order, ten of my all-time favorite horror novels/novellas/stories:

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10. The House on the Borderland (1908) by William Hope Hodgson

This early 20th Century supernatural horror novel paved the way for many notable horror authors – HP Lovecraft in particular – who would utilize the trope of an unaware narrator or character stumbling upon some unspeakable terror. The house in the title refers to an old shell of a home set within the idyllic, but ancient, landscapes of Ireland – just the proper setting for a descent into madness.

 

 

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9. Frankenstein (1818) by Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley’s beautiful language often reminds one of a gorgeous landscape painting, de-saturated of its new color through both wear and age – thus showing its beauty and exquisiteness. Often imitated, never successfully, Frankenstein‘s fingerprints remain all over literature – both inside and outside of the horror genre.

 

 

 

 

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8. Haunted (2005) by Chuck Palahniuk

Palahniuk’s somewhat anthological novel is a mixed presentation. While some stories within remain more effective than others, the pieces that really standout are sure to never leave the reader’s mind. The real triumph of Haunted is its overall exploration of the idea of just how much torture and humiliation one is willing to undertake for the sake of becoming famous.

 

 

 

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7. Off Season (1980) by Jack Ketchum

Ketchum’s debut novel explores the already established fears of backwoods monsters and cannibalism, but presents them in an entirely new light. Set within the lush Appalachian landscapes of Maine – Off Season pits the beautiful against the gut wrenching as effectively as it pits civilized and uncivilized man against one another. Truly a remarkable undertaking, not for the faint of heart.

 

 

 

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6. The 120 Days of Sodom (1785) by the Marquis de Sade

A virtually plot-less descent into sexual deviancy and moral depravity, The 120 Days of Sodom is more of an endurance test than anything else for any reader brave enough to dare pick it up and explore its contents. No matter how far one gets through its pages, the passages read and the horrific stories explored will never be forgotten … no matter how hard one tries to do so.

 

 

 

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5. The Colour Out of Space (1927) by HP Lovecraft

As with The House on the Borderland, The Colour Out of Space explores the concept of an unspeakable – and in this case, indescribable – terror through the eyes of an inquisitive narrator. Lovecraft was an expert at playing off of his readers’ fear of the unknown, and with this story, he is at the zenith of that talent.

 

 

 

 

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4. The Tell-Tale Heart (1843) by Edgar Allan Poe

While Lovecraft was always attempting to show his readers the reason for his characters’ madness, Poe took the heavy handed approach of presenting us with a character completely driven by his own paranoia. While this would prove to be difficult for less experienced writers, Poe handles it expertly, even by the end transposing the narrator’s delusions onto his readers.

 

 

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3. It (1986) by Stephen King

While some have scoffed this gargantuan novel for either its length or arguably unsatisfying conclusion, It has remained one of the most frightening novels ever created for the reason of four words: Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Never again will King – or probably any other writer – be able to create an antagonist that conjures up so much fear within any reader.

 

 

 

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2. The Whisperer in Darkness (1931) by HP Lovecraft

Different from his usual tales describing a character’s descent into madness, The Whisperer in Darkness is Lovecraft’s strongest manifesto to the moral that some things are best left unknown. The dread and helplessness of the story’s narrator are so vividly defined within the pages that it is doubtful that any reader did not have those same feelings after completing this eerie story.

 

 

 

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1. Dracula (1897) by Bram Stoker

Even though vampire stories had been around long before Stoker’s great epistolary novel, Dracula remains such an iconic work of terror largely because of Stoker’s talent for writing descriptive detail. Readers feel as if they are deep within the Carpathian Mountains, entombed in the Count’s abandoned castle, or walking the darkened streets of late 19th Century London. It is a vivid world that easily springs to life within every reader’s imagination, making this classic fantasy story all the more horrifying in its realism.

 

Connor Bell is a MFA Candidate in Creative Writing at Roosevelt University and serves as a reader/editor for issue 44 of Oyez Review. He earned his BA in Cinema Arts & Sciences from Columbia College Chicago in 2015.

 

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Daniel Saldaña París Reading October 13th – Roosevelt MFA Reading Series

2108oThank you to everyone who attended the first of our Reading Series! If you were unable to join us, please come to our next session on Thursday, October 13th, with the Lit & Luz Festival of Language introducing Daniel Saldaña París!

Daniel Saldaña París (born Mexico City, 1984) is an essayist, poet and novelist whose work has been translated into English, French, and Swedish. their “Mid-Year 2016: The Year’s Best  Fiction (So Far)” Vol. 1 Brooklyn says Among Strange Victims (Coffee House) is a novel “that sneaks up on you in the best possible way.This reading is in partnership with MAKE Magazine and will cross-list as a featured event of their Lit & Luz Festival.

Join us on Thursday, October 13th in Room 700 at the Gage Building at 5:00 PM. Light refreshments will be provided.
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The Roosevelt University MFA Fall Reading Series Starts Now!

The Fall 2016 semester is now in full swing, and that means a new season of the Roosevelt MFA reading series. This year the season kicks off with a night of three authors from the University of Iowa’s International Writer’s Program (IWP); Wasi Ahmed of Bangladesh, Zhou Jianing from China, and Vivek Shanbang of India.

Wasi Ahmed has published several collections of stories and four novels, most recently the volume Bok o Banshful and the novel Tolkuthurir Gaan, which won the 2015 Akhtaruzzaman Book of the Year Award. His stories have been anthologized both in original and in English translation. Ahmed translates between English and Bengali, and writes for The Financial Express.

Jianing Zhou has published seven novels and two short story collections, as well as Chinese translations of major English-language writers such as Flannery O’Connor and Joyce Carol Oates. Her most recent novel, In the Woods (title translated) was published in 2014.

Vivek Shanbagh writes fiction and plays, but is an engineer by training. He is the author of two plays, five short-story collections and three novels. His work has appeared in Granta, Seminar, and Indian Literature, and his most recent novel, Ghachar Ghochar, was published in English in 2016. He writes in Kannada, and is the founder of the literary magazine Desha Kaala.

Following readings by each writer, there will be a QA session. Join us Tuesday, September 20th in Room 700 at the Gage building at 5:00pm, light refreshments provided.

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