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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

31 Days of Horror: Day 22-- Horror and Libraries Go Hand in Hand

Today's guest post is by friend of the blog, horror author, and huge library champion, JG Faherty.  

Pay attention, he wrote this one just for us...

Horror and Libraries Go Hand in Hand
By JG Faherty, Author & Library Committee Chairman for the Horror Writers Association

You may have read the title to this guest blog and thought to yourself, "Huh?" That's okay; you're probably not alone. Sure, during the Halloween season libraries decorate the walls with bats and pumpkins, host themed parties for the young 'uns, and probably see a spike in horror-related book and movie borrowing.

But I'm here to tell you that horror isn't just for Halloween, and, when marketed correctly, it can not only get more people into the your library, but also promote literacy among children and young adults. Consider these facts:

**Horror/Dark Fiction is the fastest growing, and most popular, genre of books among pre-teen and teen readers. It encompasses paranormal romance, dystopian adventures, apocalyptic fiction, urban fantasy, and so many other of the sub-genres our young adults are enamored with, in both books and movies.

**While pretty much all surveys show that people are reading the same or fewer books than 10 years ago, readership is actually up in the tween/teen age groups – primarily in the romance and horror areas.

**YA librarians who've been in contact with the HWA are constantly telling us that kids today aren't just reading novels, they're reading graphic novels and short story collections as well.

As the Chairman of the HWA's Library Committee, I've had discussions with many librarians over the past two years, not only via email but in person at libraries and at industry events, such as horror conferences and the ALA Winter Meeting. One thing I constantly hear is that the libraries can't keep up with the YA readers – they need more books, but they're not aware of any beyond what the big publishing houses recommend each year. 

That's why one of my first goals as Chairman was to create a set of resources for librarians. The HWA now has a special page (www.horror.org/librarians.htm) on our website where librarians can find recommended reading lists for each year, plus lists of award-nominated and award-winning novels, short stories, anthologies, graphic novels, and poetry. There are also links to our Young Adult Horror page (www.horror.org/yahorror/), which provides additional recommendations specifically for the under-20 crowd.

So why is this important to libraries, you ask? Well, the obvious answer would be libraries that offer more books for their readers will get more people coming in. But the benefits go beyond that. By getting kids to read more, and getting more kids to read, libraries are also grooming the adult readers of the future. A National Library of Congress survey last year showed that most high school graduates don't read for pleasure after graduating. The percentage of non-readers actually gets higher among those who've graduated college. So building strong reading habits in teens can only help increase those numbers. 

Where does horror come in? you might ask. It goes back to popularity. Kids love horror. The more horror there is on the shelves, the more they're going to read. The more they read now, the more likely they'll read later. It's a simple matter of giving the public what they want, instead of driving them away because of a lack of variety. 

But helping libraries fill their shelves isn't the only benefit the HWA offers. We also have databases of libraries and authors, so that librarians can contact us to find out what writers in their region are open to coming in and putting on readings or presentations. Writers can likewise find lists of libraries to contact for the same reasons. This is especially popular around the Halloween season, but most HWA members not only write in other genres, but are open to doing appearances any time of the year.

As someone who's done many a reading or Halloween appearance, I can attest to the fact that kids love to meet writers – possibly more so than adults. And they come armed with questions. Teens in particular love to talk about the latest zombie trends or hear about the ins and outs of writing. Some of them might be taking Creative Writing or Advanced English in school and can benefit from pointers. Others just think books and graphic novels are cool – and when kids think something's cool, they'll talk about it for hours. It's possible that at home, or in school, the adults they interact with aren't into horror, and might even by trying to suppress a child's interest in it. "Oh, it's all blood and guts! I don't want you reading that!"

Except horror is so much more than that. There is classic literary horror: Frankenstein, Dracula, Dr. Jekyll & Mister Hyde. Modern literary horror: the works of Stephen King, Peter Straub, David Morrell, Thomas Monteleone. And all the writers in between: Poe, Lovecraft, Bierce, Jackson, Lieber, Wagner, Saberhagen, Bloch.

"Hey, some of those aren't horror writers!" I hear you shouting. You're wrong. Many writers in the science fiction, fantasy, and adventure genres cross over into horror. Horror knows no boundaries; if there are elements of the dark, the fantastical, the creepy, it's horror. 

Kids are drawn to the things they like. And if they like horror, and your library stocks it, they'll come. In droves. And they'll be back, again and again.

Another perk the HWA is working on is introducing libraries to writers who aren't in their geographic area. Through Skype and other remote communication software, libraries can now arrange presentations with best-selling writers who are thousands of miles away.

And the benefits don't stop there. The HWA is working on ebooks that will be available to libraries. Each ebook will cover a different topic, and contain 10-20 articles culled from our official newsletter and Halloween Haunts blog. The first one in the series, due out this fall, will be, naturally, about Halloween. The content will range from informational to anecdotal, so librarians will be able to use the booklets for educational and entertainment purposes.

The HWA also has local chapters in many states, and each chapter has members who are not only ready and willing to put on presentations, but who are often subject matter experts in a variety of areas that would be of interest to libraries – Halloween, local legends, zombies, mythology, steampunk, science, you name it! And it goes without saying that writers usually make great story tellers.

One of the HWA's other programs involves getting popular culture figures to promote literacy to young adults and adults. Famed cartoonist Ray Billingsley created a poster for the HWA last year. This year we've got actress and author Amber Benson working with us on some literacy projects. In the future, we hope to have other actors and musicians involved. 

The Horror Writers Association is a global organization with more than 1000 members who write, edit and publish professionally in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, games, films, comics, and other media. We have partnered with the ALA and VOYA on projects, and will be doing more partnerships in the future.

The question isn't how can the HWA help libraries.

The question is, how could it possibly not help?

For more information, please contact JG Faherty at libraries@horror.org


JG Faherty is the author of THE BURNING TIME, CEMETERY CLUB, CARNIVAL OF FEAR, THE COLD SPOT, HE WAITS, and the Bram Stoker Award®-nominated GHOSTS OF CORONADO BAY, along with more than 50 short stories. His next novel, HELLRIDER, comes out in 2014, as do several new novellas and short stories. He writes adult and YA horror, science fiction, and urban fantasy. As a child, his favorite playground was a 17th-century cemetery, which many people feel explains a lot. A member of the Horror Writers Association for more than 10 years, he is the Chairman of the HWA Library Committee and oversees the Literacy Program. You can follow him at www.twitter.com/jgfaherty, www.facebook.com/jgfaherty, and www.jgfaherty.com.

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