Halloween – the perfect time to consider our favorite horror author, Stephen King (and author of one of my favorite writing craft books, On Writing). Today, I’m pleased to bring you a guest post from my friend, Kathy Lanzarotti. We met years ago in Judy Bridges’ Shut Up & Write class. Kathy recently was a first-time attendee to the Wisconsin Writer’s Association conference where she won the coveted Jade Ring award for short fiction. Congrats, Kathy! Enjoy her take on writers and haunted hotels.
Writers and Haunted Hotels
by Kathy Lanzarotti
In 1953 in the Shanghai Room of the Hotel Mead in Wisconsin Rapids, a female bartender was stabbed to death. Supposedly, the odor of blood can be detected in the area of the room. Lights flicker on and off, and doors slam shut by themselves. The basement, and the room itself, now used for storage, is dramatically colder than the rest of the hotel. What better location for the 2012 Wisconsin Writer’s Association Conference?
As a first time attendee, and fiction award nominee, I had no idea what to expect. As a writer, the ghost story was irresistible. I am as skeptical as they come, despite having a sister who, when we were much younger insisted that she saw the spectral image of a young man in a leopard print shirt in the kitchen doorway. Could it be possible, I wondered aloud, that our family home had been built on the ashes of a torched disco? She didn’t have an answer, and gave up on me as a fellow believer after I refused to pitch in a ridiculous amount of money for a cable TV psychic to try to contact our recently deceased mother, but that is a story for another time.
The fact is writers and haunted hotels go together like vampires and coffins, ever since Stephen King checked into the Stanley Hotel with a massive case of writer’s block and checked out with The Shining. I personally did not smell blood, just the boiled cabbage smell of the nearby paper mill when I walked to and from my car. No doors slammed shut, and I wasn’t especially cold. I did however get some much needed tips on how to strengthen the opening chapter (of which I have no fewer than eight versions) of my fledgling novel in the seminar on first chapters. I also got to hear some great openings from the other writers in the room. A seminar entitled “Truth in Non-fiction” was also helpful since I haven’t decided if said novel is to be a true memoir or purely fictional: A James Frey Memoir. The lights flickered on and off quite a bit during this panel discussion. The Humorous Flash Fiction reading was an entertaining and fun way to close out the evening.
The only thing close to a paranormal event came on the last day, when my short story won first place in the Jade Ring fiction contest, and I headed home, with my ring and my winning story. Who needs The Shining?
Kathy Lanzarotti lives in Delafield, WI with her husband and four daughters. She is currently working on her first novel.
Thanks so much, Kathy! Have you had any haunted experiences you’d like to share? Maybe you’d want to create one today for a writing exercise?