Updated: Apr 30, 2019
A first-hand telling of the 2016 writers retreat!
The Stanley Hotel Writers Retreat took place last month and I had the honor of spending four days with some of today’s greatest horror writers. The event was organized and hosted by R.J. Cavender, Managing Editor of Horror at Dark Regions Press. The combination of the perfectly creepy venue, the amazing guests and participants, and the non-stop events made the retreat an invaluable experience for horror writers.
The Stanley itself is recognized as the most haunted hotel in the world. Just two years after completion, an explosion in the Presidential Suite – Room 217 (more on that later) – destroyed a large section of the hotel, badly burning one of the chambermaids, Elizabeth Wilson. She recovered and worked at the Stanley until her death in the 1950s. Her ghost is said to remain in Room 217.
Room 217, as most horror fans know, is the room where Stephen King stayed and got the inspiration to write The Shining. As part of the retreat, I had the opportunity to write in Room 217 for a four-hour block. While no ghostly chambermaid visited me, I can say the atmosphere was definitely inspiring and I pounded out about fifteen pages of a short story.
Some of today’s greatest talents in the horror genre were in attendance to offer advice, discuss the craft, perform readings and answer questions. Jack Ketchum was one of the guests of honor who left a lasting impression on me. His down-to-earth demeanor and openness to discuss the art of writing with the guests was refreshing. He is an amazing talent – if you haven’t read his work, climb out from under the rock and start reading!
Jack Ketchum reading at the death tunnel story hour
Josh Malerman, author of The Bird Box, was another guest of honor and active participant in most of the events. His reading in the death tunnel (with the help of his fiancee) was beautiful and terrifying. He, like Jack Ketchum, spent a lot of time just “hanging out” with the guests, offering tips and talking about all things horror.
Trent Zelazny (author of Voiceless), Daniel Knauf (Carnivale, Blacklist), Rob Cohen (Scream Queens, Beauty and the Geek) and Mike McCarty (The Walking Dead) were also in attendance and very engaging.
R.J. Cavender was a tireless host and kept the four day event moving at a fast pace. Opening Scaremonies on Thursday featured talks from Ketchum, Malerman, Trent Zelazny and Chris Morey, owner of Dark Regions Press. The talks were all informative and interactive, a perfect start to the event.
I won’t go into the full agenda, but the events were pretty much non-stop. In addition to the retreat-based events, the weekend featured the hotel’s Murder Mystery Dinner on Friday, and The Shining Ball on Saturday. Sunday night was capped with an overnight paranormal investigation. Professional ghost hunters were brought in (with all their cool gear) to try to contact spirits in the most haunted parts of the hotel (the Music Room, the tunnels and the Concert Hall). Sadly, nothing of any significance occurred, but the atmosphere at 2:00AM is creepy enough even without a ghost showing up.
I can’t say enough about the value of this event to me as a writer and the amazing people I met who I would like to call my friends. The kindness, cooperation and willingness to help each other in the writing life was truly inspirational and humbling. I’ve already booked my trip for next year.
A spin-off event of sorts from the Stanley is Rob Cohen’s Frankenstein Experiment. The concept is a collection of short stories inspired by the writers’ stay at The Stanley. I’m submitting the story I wrote during my stay.