Gather ‘Round the Campfire: Authors Read Scary Stories

On a late Monday afternoon, students and faculty alike gathered in the SUNY New Paltz Honors Center to hear a few scary stories. These stories, however, weren’t just folklore used to scare children. They were written and published by local authors. 

The event, “Murder, Mayhem and Mystery,” was sponsored by the creative writing department as one of the many readings that will occur throughout the semester. This reading in particular was originally scheduled for February 2019, but was pushed back due to scheduling issues. 

 “This is long delayed gratification for me, because I couldn’t wait to hear these three wonderful prize-winning writers,” said Professor Jan Zlontik-Schmidt. 

Zlontik-Schmidt facilitated the reading and Q&A session from 5-6:30 p.m. Copies of the authors’ recent titles were also for sale at the door. 

The first author to read was Carol Goodman, who has published over 21 novels. Goodman is an English professor at The New School as well as SUNY New Paltz, and resides in the Hudson Valley with her family. She read from her upcoming book “The Sea of Lost Girls,” which features a family living in Maine that comes across a horrifying secret. Only after reading her excerpt did she reveal to the captivated audience that this particular book would not come out until March 3, 2020. 

Alison Gaylin followed with a chapter of her latest book, “Never Look Back.” The book is told through the eyes of those affected by the Inland Empire Killings, which occurred in Southern California in 1976. Gaylin takes her inspiration from news stories and has written 11 books to date. 

“Whenever I hear a news story, and I think, ‘what if that was me?’ or, ‘what if that was somebody that I know?’ I know its a good idea,” Gaylin said. “That’s how I figure out if I want to spend 300 pages with this person, or this concept.” 

To close out the event, John Langan read a long excerpt from his latest collection, “Sefira,” which features a woman on the run from something, well, unknown. Langan also wrote another book in 2016 titled “The Fisherman,” which won the Bram Stoker and This is Horror awards.

“I like bad ideas. All the formal constraints become this really fascinating kind of challenge to my creativity,” Langan said when asked about his writing process. 

Most in attendance were students and faculty from the creative writing department. The Honors Center also had tea and cookies for those in need of a light refreshment. 

 “The readings were engaging and I wanted to read all the books,” said third-year Bonnie Simmons, who is studying English with a concentration in creative writing. “I thought all of the authors were very personable and gave a lot of helpful insight and advice into the writing world.” 

The creative writing department’s next event, “Students and Faculty Read Together,” hosted by Professor Dennis Doherty, will be on Oct. 3 at 5 p.m. in JFT 1010. For more information on these events, please contact Professor Kris Jansma at 845-257-2738 or jansmak@newpaltz.edu.