30 Oct 2018

A Night at the Villa Diodati and the Birth of Frankenstein

By |2018-09-24T16:09:16-04:00October 30, 2018|Tags: , , , |

A double bill of horror, enchantment, music and poetry

During a ‘wet, ungenial summer’ of 1816 on Lake Geneva in 1816, Percy and Mary Shelley found themselves confined for days in Villa Diodati with Lord Byron, John Polidori and Claire Clairmont. Sitting by the fireplace, the group would amuse themselves with a book of German ‘ghost stories’ translated into French and entitled Fantasmagoriana. Byron then challenged the group to write their own stories. Although Mary Shelley initially struggled for inspiration her story would become the literary masterpiece Frankenstein, published 200 years ago this year.

A double bill event begins with an exploration of Fantasmagoriana and powerful influence it held over those readers. The second half is devoted to a performed reading of the long poem Villa Diodati by leading British poet Andrew Mitchell, to live music accompaniment and illustrations.

26 Oct 2018

Haunted Humanities: Frankenstein and the Diodati Weekend

By |2018-09-18T12:05:39-04:00October 26, 2018|Tags: |

Haunted Humanities

The Diodati Weekend is famous in literary history as the seminal moment in the creation of some of the greatest horror fiction to be written in the western world. The year 1816 was known as “the year without a summer” as it was one of the stormiest ever on record. It rained incessantly due to a recent volcanic eruption in Indonesia, spreading thunderstorms and windy, dark conditions across Europe. A small group of tourists had gathered in Byron’s residence, the  Villa Diodati on Lake Geneva – (incorrectly) reported to have been where the great writer, John Milton, had stayed. The tourists would themselves become famous – they included Mary Godwin (not yet married to Percy Shelley), Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, John Polidori (Byron’s personal physician and possibly his lover), and Claire Clairmont (half-sister to Mary and the lover of Byron). Together they would spend the sodden and gloomy summer, waiting for the clouds to dissipate. In the meantime, they decided to while away an evening by having a ghost story contest. Each member of the group wrote a short ghost tale and the resulting texts saw the conception of Frankenstein as well as Byron’s fragment “The Vampyre” soon to be pirated by Polidori and published anonymously. This work would eventually introduce and popularize the modern species of vampire that we now recognize in figures like Dracula.




The Bucknell event, Haunted Humanities, would take this weekend as its inspiration and set the stage for our own Diodati gathering. Students would be asked in advance to write (or retell) a ghost story of approximately 7-10 pages and submit it to me by October 15th. A small panel of Creative Writing faculty would read and judge the submissions. The best story would be read by the writer that evening and awarded a prize. Second and Third prizes would receive a copy of Bucknell Press’s new collection of Frankenstein Essays. (The winner would also receive one.)


Schedule of events, Friday October 26th.

6pm gathering in Great Room of Humanities Center

6:30 dinner buffet served. Brief discussion and background about Frankenstein by McDayter (English) ,and  Benowitz-Fredericks (Biology)

8:00 gather by the fireplace for dramatic reading of Frankenstein creation scene by candlelight.

8:30  Student reading of the winning ghost story. ( winning writer will be given a prize.)

10-12:00 break out into small groups and allow students tell their own ghost stories. Snacks and mingle.

Midnight – Blow out the candles to a reading of the climax to Coleridge’s Christabel



20 Oct 2018

Frankenstein Meets Little Women: A Monster Mash

By |2018-10-09T09:42:08-04:00October 20, 2018|Tags: , , |

Eight artists celebrate the anniversaries of two literary classics! Valerie E. Weich has conceived and curated an art exhibit to celebrate not only the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein, but also the 150th anniversary of Little Women. Artists will pay tribute with original, one-of-a-kind artwork created especially for this anniversary monster mash and paying homage to two very famous female authors. Artists include: Patience Anders (IL); Mike Bell (NJ); Joan Charles (CA); Steven Corvelo (CA); Tony Gleeson (CA); Douglas W. Kirk (CA); Tim Kirk (CA); and Tanya Maiboroda (CA). The event will be held at the South Pasadena Public Library–located at 1100 Oxley Street, South Pasadena, CA–and will open on October 20, 2018. Additional programming to be announced, including a film screening, artist talks, a Frankenstein lecture + Halloween reading.

20 Oct 2018

“The Haunted Summer of 1816: An Afternoon with Mary Shelley and Claire Clairmont” [A Presentation on the Creation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and How It Inspired my New Novel, Claire’s Last Secret]

By |2018-09-23T13:02:09-04:00October 20, 2018|Tags: , , , |

Mary Shelley’s Journal of the “Haunted Summer” of 1816.

Summary of Presentation:

On April 5, 1815, Mount Tambora exploded; it shook the island of Sumbawa, sending a plume of ash eighteen miles into the sky.  Ash from the eruption spread across the Northern Hemisphere the next year, causing cooler than average temperatures, higher rainfall, and gloomy skies, which resulted in the failure of crops, disease and famine.  The stage was set for the events of 1816, when four British ex-patriots (Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley, and Claire Clairmont) gathered in Geneva, Switzerland, and lived through a summer of massive thunderstorms, emotional tensions, and literary creations:  the “Haunted Summer” which resulted in the creation of Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein.

In the first part of the presentation, I will address the following questions:  How did these four literary figures come together?  What caused the “waking dream” that inspired Mary Shelley’s novel?  What was Mary’s sister, Claire’s, role in this quartet?  How was the literary world changed forever by this summer?

In the second half, I will cover how the 200th anniversary of the “Haunted Summer” in 1816 influenced my own work, resulting in the creation of my historical fiction novel, Claire’s Last Summer, published by Severn House on September 1, 2018.  It was an amazing personal journey into the interconnectedness of nature, people and generations in that time period.

The presentation will also include readings from both Frankenstein and Claire’s Last Secret, and a booksigning will follow.

Come and join us:  it promises to be a “haunted” afternoon at Sandman Books!



25 Nov 2017

Shelley Frankenstein Festival – Shelley’s Heart

By |2017-09-27T18:58:47-04:00November 25, 2017|Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Shelley’s Heart

Celebrate the 200’s Anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at the theatre.  Inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Shelley’s Heart is an interactive play by five time Emmy nominated writer Bradford Gyori. Using smart phones and good ol’ fashioned paper-notes, you control which characters narrate and send messages from beyond the grave. The story centres on Mary, a modern Goth girl, who insists the ghost of Percy Shelley has fathered her unborn child. When the baby stops moving, Mary asks her friends, John and Byron, to help save it. The three try to track down her phantom lover in St. Peter’s churchyard but are soon confronted by immortal figments of Mary Shelley’s fevered imagination.

For more information and to book your tickets -.https://shelleyfrankfest.org/2017/03/23/2017-theatre-shelleys-heart/