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Emrys says listen, learn, write
Ashley Leever
Antelope Staff
Photo by Ashley Leever
UNK professor takes a bite out of the literary world. Dr. Barbara Emrys uses her literary works to expand her students' experience.

Vampires have taken over the world, and UNK English professor Dr. Barbara Emrys has added her own recipe to the mix.

Although, Emrys has published over 30 traditional fiction and nonfiction pieces, it was her class on the Literature of Horror that led her to write about one of the biggest literary phenomena’s of this century— vampires.

 As a part of the English department since 1992, Emrys has become a familiar face at UNK with unique classes such as the Literature of Horror. However, it is her literary works that have earned her recognition nationwide. “I write both creative and scholarly work, which I teach about. I have even taught my own scholarly work and other people have taught my creative work. I work in very different areas and not every writer does that,” Emrys said.

Emrys first published work in the early 1970s and since has published in a wide range. “As a creative writer, I have been very pleased to have my work in a number of anthologies. One of my pieces appeared in a creative nonfiction piece, “How We Live Our Yoga.” It got a very big distribution, and that’s why I like anthologies. They are better distributed than small literary magazines. It’s fun to walk in a bookstore in another state and go up to the bookstore owner and say ‘Oh, you have me in your store,’” Emrys said.

 “When I came to UNK, I found that students here were big horror fans and had read a lot of it on their own. I thought that I have a very deep scholarly background in 19th century British fiction. I thought I could have fun with that, so I started teaching the class on Literature of Horror about 10 years ago. It actually made me more of a horror fan. As a writer I begin to look at what I teach from the writer’s side and see what it is like to write this. For fun I decided to write a vampire story.” Emrys said The story about a woman who performs as a mime and meets a vampire was published in “The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance Stories.” The story is being reprinted in a collection of vampire stories set in Louisiana, and Emrys has expanded it into a novel.

While expanding in popular fiction, Emrys has also stayed close to her roots in the genre of mystery. “I have spent the last several years bringing back to print the work of a 20th century novelist and screenwriter who was very famous in her own lifetime but is now not known at all. Her name was Vera Caspary. She wrote many scripts for movies that won awards and wrote best-selling novels. Now no one knows who she is,” Emrys said.

Emrys published an article in “Clues: A Journal of Detection” about Caspary’s breakthrough novel “Laura.” Emrys wrote the afterword when The Feminist Press decided to reprint two of Caspary’s novels, including “Laura,” last year.

Emrys has helped compile a book of Caspary’s short mystery stories originally printed in magazines from the 1940s and 1950s. “I brought back some of her work that had been out of print for almost 50 years,” Emrys said.

With two national writing awards under her belt, Emrys has tied her writing experience into her teaching. As she says herself, “I definitely practice what I teach.”

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