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Shop talk (anything and everything on writing)

Scary stuff

scary homer simpson

My creative writing classes have started up again, and last week I asked my students to think of a scary experience that they could share. I emphasised that they weren’t to feel they had to unburden their innermost feelings, as this was creative writing, not therapy, but that it would be nice if they could find something to scare the bejesus out of the rest of us.

I ought to say now that these classes are held right at the top of an old Victorian building, in what was probably once a servant’s bedroom, and the window is barred to stop any student who is particularly depressed about their marks from throwing themselves into the library car park three floors below.

So Thursday evening came round, and they all arrived, and I thought it would be quite fun to switch the lights out, while we shared our scary stuff, in a sort of scouts-round-the-bonfire moment, leaving the curtains open so we could see the rain sliding down the windows against the grey, sodium-lit, sky. (Gothic enough for you, ed?)

And so we began. First up was a student who had recently been to the Grand Canyon. ‘We went into this viewing gallery, right on the edge of the canyon,’ he said. ‘And it began to rain. And then the windows began to go completely black.’

‘A thundercloud,’ I said, all teachery and knowledgeable.

‘No,’ he said. ‘It was a great load of enormous spiders trying to shelter from the downpour. They were all climbing up the window, until they covered it, and then they started coming in the door…’

Oh. My. God.

And then as we went round the class, it just got worse, or better, depending on whether you like the icy fingers of doom lacing round your throat. There was the student who keeps sheep, and who had to go out every night in winter to her barn to check on her lambing ewes. And, every night, she had the distinct feeling she was being watched (with the added mystery of the tractor radio always being on, even though her husband had always switched it off). She solved that mystery, although I’m not going to tell you how, (because I’m mean that way) and I’m only just going to mention the student who told of having, as a child, an imaginary fire-starting friend. All extremely creepy stories, and all brilliant as source material for their writing.

scary homer2

It wasn’t until I switched the lights back on and we all sat blinking in the unaccustomed brightness that I remembered my scariest ever experience. Years ago, my husband and I had driven all the way from the south of France and, instead of resting when we got back to England, decided to press on for home. At 3 am we got on a dual carriageway and seconds later realised that we were driving the wrong way up the fast lane of a (mostly) deserted road. I still feel breathless, and cold all over when I remember seeing the lights of another car coming straight towards us, and the high quaver in my voice as I said my husband’s name – just at the point at which he threw the wheel of the LandRover and did the fastest ever U turn, and came to a shuddering halt on the hard shoulder, the pair of us quaking uncontrollably and vowing never to be so stupid again.

I had asked for scary stuff. I didn’t expect to be scared. And, as I write this, I keep checking the windows for dark, twitching shadows. But its ok, because next week, we’ll be studying Shakespeare – and how scary is that?

About elainecanham

I started blogging because I'm a writer, and I thought I ought to. Now I realise that I blog because I lwant to; even when I can't think of much to say. I do a lot of work for local businesses - get in touch if you like my style.


23 thoughts on “Scary stuff

  1. Nothing is more scary than living in a state (Texas, USA) knowing that the controlling political Party (Republican) advocated eliminating critical thinking in public schools as part of their Party platform in 2012

    Posted by lbwoodgate | February 4, 2014, 10:05 am
    • I’ve just read the link. My mouth is opening and closing and nothing much is coming out. Isn’t the Declaration of Independence a critical evaluation of how Americans saw themselves?

      Posted by elainecanham | February 4, 2014, 10:26 am
    • “Isn’t the Declaration of Independence a critical evaluation of how Americans saw themselves?”

      Like the bible is with some. Narrowly interpreted and cherry-picked to give it a meaning that only a select few (white males) can accept. I’m afraid the DofC and the Constitution have been hijacked by our right wing extremists, the Tea Party, which has been funded by wealthy people, to be read only as something that defends the status quo for conservative, white male millionaires and billionaires. I partly address this in my post, “The Filthy Rich Strike Back”

      Posted by lbwoodgate | February 4, 2014, 2:41 pm
    • Just read it. I found it really absorbing. What’s DofC?

      Posted by elainecanham | February 4, 2014, 3:56 pm
    • Sorry, that was was supposed to be DoI for the Declaration of Independence

      Posted by lbwoodgate | February 4, 2014, 7:06 pm
  2. I too would love to be in your class!

    Posted by Priceless Joy | February 2, 2014, 10:12 pm
  3. Enjoyable! Thank you for following my blog, thefinalcurtain1.wordpress.com – My very best wishes.

    Posted by billyraychitwood1 | February 2, 2014, 7:11 pm
  4. Blog post twist, your “humour” tag on the main page after reading the whole post…

    Echoing others unoriginally, I’d like to sit in your class too. Wonderful aliveness catalyzed in that dark room, to think of making it through the sweeping fingers of the reaping angel to write again.

    In my second to last blog post I made some short clips of a snowstorm building, giving the cliffs, mesa, mountains at the border of the plains a more ominous quality. The weather seemed to whisper, “Do you really want to be here on the cliffs?”

    “Aye!” was my fool mental utterance. Click. ‘Goofy’ tag.

    Posted by MikeW | January 28, 2014, 8:51 pm
    • I like your descriptions, sweeping fingers of the reaping angel? Nice. You’d have to leave any cliffs far behind to come to my class. The English Midlands are not known for their snowy mesas. Unfortunately.

      Posted by elainecanham | January 30, 2014, 1:38 pm
    • English midlands would be new to me, but most welcome. A trip is overdue!

      Posted by MikeW | January 30, 2014, 3:25 pm
  5. What a fun class, I bet you’re a great teacher. You got me thinking about a time I was really scared. I’d tell you, but I think I’ll post about since it’s too long for a comment. Thanks for the inspiration. also, Love the pic of Homer.

    Posted by librarylady | January 24, 2014, 9:52 pm
  6. I agree your class sounds good fun…OK, yes, I like scary stories. Thin line between enjoyment and suffering in these kind of subjects…Look forward to more stories about your creative writing class.

    Posted by olganm | January 20, 2014, 9:05 pm
  7. I think I would like to be in your class. Sounds interesting, fun and challenging!

    Posted by Bruce Goodman | January 19, 2014, 8:41 pm
  8. From now on my lights stay ON !

    Posted by davidprosser | January 19, 2014, 7:28 pm
    • Oh David. Switch your lights off and feel the thread like antennae of some spectral insect brush the back of your neck….wohaaaarrrrrraaaaaa

      Posted by elainecanham | January 19, 2014, 10:16 pm
  9. Am still shivering over the spiders, and intrigued by the tractor radio. Not so much that it switched on, but the tractors have them. Do they listen to the Archers as they plough the fields and scatter? What a lovely idea.

    Posted by Anna | January 19, 2014, 4:50 pm

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