Funnily enough, Halloween is my busiest time of year. OK, you may think that with a face like this one, I must get plenty of work as a witch but thankfully that’s not why my diary is so full.
As a Creative Writing tutor, I run two weekly groups in Newcastle (Mondays, 7-9pm at Quilliam Brothers Teahouse) and Whitley Bay (Thursdays, 4-6pm at Di Meo’s Delaval Ices) and members of my groups – the so-called Elementary Writers – have been giving performances at different events and venues for a few years now.
In October 2013, we put on ‘Thrills ‘n’ Chills’ at the Avalon in Whitley Bay. Members of the group were tasked with creating original horror stories to perform in front of an audience which included writers Zoe Sharp and Rod Glenn. Well, that evening went so well that Wild Wolf Publishing offered to put together an anthology of the poetry and short stories featured at that event. To launch the book, ‘Thrills ‘n’ Chills’, readers performed their works at the historic Lit and Phil to a packed audience.
Last summer, I was approached by The Cumberland Arms to produce their Halloween show. The brief was simple: create original gothic horror stories and get dressed up. We were asked to write ghost stories as opposed to graphic horror. Candy skulls and gore were out, old fashioned Victorian gothic was in. The set, designed by the incredibly talented Ian J. Young, was beyond what I could have ever imagined and the lighting added to the atmosphere of the evening. I even got to lay flowers on my own grave! The writers who were involved thrived on the challenge and their original stories and poems got the attention of Wild Wolf Publishing once again. ‘Blood from the Quill’ was released in April this year and, finally, Elementary Writers will officially launch the book at October’s Stanza (Thursday, 20th October at Beldon’s at The Exchange in North Shields).
Following our sell-out performance at the Cumberland last year, we were in demand for this Halloween. Our gig at Old Low Light – ‘The Visitation’ (Saturday, 29th October) – was booked in March and we’ve since added ‘After Dark’ at Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade’s atmospheric Watch House to our listings for Saturday, 5th November. Earlier this month, I had someone asking me what we had planned for Halloween 2017!
All of this has made me reflect on why Elementary Writers are so popular at this time of year. Sure, we have other gigs throughout the year as a collective and as individuals, but October always seems particularly busy. Many of the writers who attend my workshops like to write sci-fi, horror and fantasy which seem to inspire strong ghost stories. However, even the writers who often write historical fiction or contemporary tales relished the challenge of producing something original to a specific brief. I’m very lucky that the writers who attend my workshops are open-minded and willing to experiment. And many of them really seemed to enjoy the performance element of picking costumes and being onstage.
So, whether you’d like to hear ‘Blood from the Quill’ works read aloud or if you’d like to experience original Halloween stories for 2016, get yourself along to one of the performances coming in October and November, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!
Blood from the Quill launch at The Stanza: Thursday, 20th October – Beldons at The Exchange, Howard Street, North Shields. NE30 1SE. Doors open 7pm. £3 on the door.
The Visitation at Old Low Light: Saturday, 29th October – Old Low Light, Clifford’s Fort, Fish Quay, North Shields. NE30 1JA. Doors open 7pm. Tickets can be bought through Eventbrite or by emailing email@example.com
After Dark at Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade: Saturday, 5th November – Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade Watch House Museum, Spanish Battery, North Shields. NE30 4DD. Doors open 7pm. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to book tickets.