Stephanie M. Wytovich talks about her “Poetic Justice: Vice and Virtue in Horror Poetry” workshop

WORKSHOP INSTRUCTOR INTERVIEW #6: Stephanie M. Wytovich on her “Poetic Justice: Vice and Virtue in Horror Poetry” workshop

swytovichTell us something about your StokerCon workshop that is not in the original description:

In the workshop description, I mention that we’re going to be using case studies of madness, but in addition to that, we’re also going to be using art as another form of psychological autopsy to crack open different emotions and help us get in touch with our memories. A lot of practices that creative non-fiction writers use in relationship to memory are great platforms of analysis for poets, so I plan to lead my workshop heavily with images and stories as a soundboard for that.

What skills or achievements make you ideally suited to lead this workshop?

I’ve published three collections of poetry with Raw Dog Screaming Press (Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, Mourning Jewelry, and An Exorcism of Angels), and my fourth collection, Brothel, is set to debut this May. All three of them have earned nominations for both the Bram Stoker Award and the Elgin Award, and several of my poems have been nominated for the Rhysling Award as well. Last year, my collection Mourning Jewelry placed third in the Elgins.

Why do you feel that your workshop subject is especially important?

I think, as writers, that it’s crucial to our craft that we experiment and become versatile in different formats and styles. I’m hoping that after this workshop, participants will reconsider the definition of what a line is, and that they’ll be able to hear and see words in relationship to one another (both audibly and visually, in regards to space) rather than as two separate entities. 

If you could participate in one other StokerCon workshop, which one would you choose and why?

I would love to participate in workshop #7 with Aaron Sterns: Adapting Fiction to Screenplays and Utilizing Screenwriting Structure in Fiction. Aaron is an immense talent. I really enjoyed Wolf Creek 2 when I watched it, but I really fell in love with his work when I read the prequel, Wolf Creek: Origin. He handles horror in a way that is a split between the psychological and the physical, and Mick is such a horrifically wonderful villain that I think it would be a blast to study with the man who helped create him.

Do you approach the craft of writing horror differently from other genres?

Absolutely. I have to put myself in a certain frame of mind when I’m writing horror and I usually do that with music. I create playlists for the type of mood/energy that I want work with in a particular collection or story, and I also pick specific songs that elicit personal memories and past events in my life as well. For instance, right now I’m working on a collection titled The Widow Effect, and when I sit down to write, I’m listening to artists like PJ Harvey, Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Lou Reed, Leonard Cohen, and Bob Dylan. I like to be connected to my work in a very raw, visceral way, and I think the more that we practice opening up our own pain, the more cathartic and deeply moving our work becomes for both us and our audience. It’s all about finding human connection; we all want to feel something.

Apart from teaching your workshop, what are you most looking forward to at StokerCon?

I’m looking forward to reconnecting with a lot of great friends and colleagues. I’ve also never been to Vegas before, so I’m thrilled I get to have my first experience there with some of my favorite people.

What do you most hope that those attending your workshop will take away from it?

I want the participants in my workshop to leave with a creative spark to try new things in their work. Maybe everyone won’t run out of there wanting to be a poet, but maybe they’ll find that they like elements of poetry and can use them in their fiction such as white space, line breaks, etc. I want the class to be innovative and force participants to think outside of the box while also taking a moment to really look at their own reflection.  I’m looking forward to the experience.

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