For most of us try to avoid fear. And nightmares are bad dreams that ruin our sleep. But for James Frederick and Janice Leach, fear is delicious and and nightmares are fascinating. They write about their own fears and dreams, but they also edit the Quick Shivers anthologies of short, scary stories. And, if you'd like to rid yourself of your worst nightmare, they’ll be happy to post it on their Daily Nightmare website.
“Are we scary people? Maybe creepy,” says Jim Leach. “We certainly have a macabre sense of humor. We are interested in the darker, ‘ookier’ things.”
The Leaches, who are natives of Dearborn, have edited and published four Quick Shivers anthologies. They collect nightmares written into prose poems of exactly 100 words. And they've co-authored a poetry collection, ‘Til Death: Marriage Poems (Raw Dog Screaming Press, 2017). Jim Leach asks other people about their nightmares to break the ice at parties.
“I’d ask people, had any good nightmares recently? Frankly, I have nightmares a couple times a week, and I was really fascinated with the responses I got.”
While some claim to never have any (Leach doesn’t buy that), others relate nightmares that have haunted them since they were kids. Jim Leach says a lot of fear these days is manufactured, as if there's a cultural push to respond to life out of fear rather than hope.
“So I thought, maybe if we can be a little more comfortable being afraid, we might be less easy to be manipulated,” he says. And Janice Leach adds that they, "Remind us to be more analytical about our fears and to face them. Fear is really common. Fear is a universal experience."
Besides facing their fears, the Leaches want readers to face them slowly. The anthologies all feature a wide range of elaborate fonts that are decorative to look at but hard to read. That forces readers to slow down and become immersed in the experience. The Leaches say that quickens the senses with a rush of adrenalin as they read about nightmares.
“It’s a pleasant sensation, because at any time you can wake up and know it can’t touch you,” Jim Leach says.
He also writes darkly speculative poetry, fiction, and drama. His poetry has been nominated for the Elgin award, and his play about John the Baptist won the CITA national playwriting award. Janice Leach, a graduate of the University of Michigan, won the Hopwood Award for her poetry. Her worst nightmare is being separated from the ones she loves. Jim's recurring nightmare is shape shifting into other creatures.
“Actually,” he says, “I love that nightmare.”
Listen to WMUK's Between the Lines every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., 11:55 a.m., and 4:20 p.m.