If you hear shrieks and moans coming from your library’s stacks or see sinister apparitions floating through the children’s section, blame the Horror Writers Association (HWA).
The nonprofit organization of horror writers and writing professionals, which currently touts more than 1,200 members worldwide, has been a leading advocate for literacy and horror/dark fantasy writing for more than 28 years. Its mentorship, networking, and educational programs have been vital to introducing new blood to the genre. Increasing its visibility in libraries is one of HWA's latest drives.
“Horror writers have always been interested in literacy,” says author J. G. Faherty, who serves as the association’s library liaison and founder of its YA Literacy and Library programs. “It was a natural step to put together an outreach program for libraries to promote reading to adults and teens.”
Faherty created a multitiered campaign to promote horror to library patrons. Introducing the library world to HWA, its services, and the world of horror writing include conducting talks at library branches and at library conferences. The first endeavor, at the 2013 ALA Midwinter Meeting and Exhibition in Seattle, involved sponsoring horror writing programs at the PopTop Stage. Topics included the advantages of small press horror publishers and the rise of horror graphic novels. Faherty and other HWA officers and board of trustee members, including award-winning horror writers Lisa Morton and Ellen Datlow, were on hand to answer questions, as well.
Promoting horror to young readers is important to HWA.
“Libraries can’t carry enough horror for kids to read these days,” says Faherty. To help librarians steer young readers to both new and significant works of horror literature, HWA developed a young adult readership program. It provides a recommended reading list of new horror published during the year that HWA members feel is worthy of the Bram Stoker Award, the organization’s annual award for "superior achievement" in dark fantasy and horror writing; a database of horror writers' contact information for libraries interested in arranging author visits; and a newsletter for librarians on horror topics. A standardized curriculum to help librarians and educators teach horror to kids is in development.
HWA hopes the advantages of promoting horror literacy to youth will reverberate back to libraries and the publishing industry. “By getting kids to read more, they buy more books and go to the library,” says Flaherty. “It’s a nice circle.”