How a ‘cold call’ helped a CSU undergrad become a horror writer

Grace Detwiler’s professors have called her a bright and gregarious student, and she has used her keen sense of initiative to open the ominously creaking door to writing opportunities in the realm of the macabre.

The Colorado State University English and Criminology junior (BA-21) excels in the academics of Renaissance literature and her pre-law coursework as she prepares for the LSAT. But a lifelong love and familial experience with horror have led her to an extracurricular writing stint with ‘the world’s leading horror in culture and entertainment brand.’

Making the call

Grace Detwiler
Grace Detwiler in the courtyard outside Willard O. Eddy Hall, Colorado State University

Detwiler forged her own path to an internship at Rue Morgue by emailing the magazine’s executive editor Andrea Subissati after listening to her and fellow horror writer Alexandra West in the pair’s horror analysis podcast The Faculty of Horror. Detwiler has since written many reviews and announcements for Rue Morgue’s blog, including reviews on A Nightmare Wakes, The Haunting of Bly Manor, and The Barge People among others. After six months as an intern for Rue Morgue, Detwiler is now serving as their Online Assistant Editor and has been published in their print magazine as well.

“I had been listening to the head editor in the podcast.  I emailed her, and she said yes,” Detwiler said.

The Chapel Hill, North Carolina native added that her cold-call strategy was one she picked up from a high school class project.

“Our global health teacher had us tweet to professionals to seek video calls,” she said. “We had to interview a certain number of experts in their fields.”

The tactic, she said, has worked on several occasions since.

“I think a lot of people these days are somewhat averse to reaching out to strangers,” Detwiler said. “Technology like instant messaging has made it easier to keep even people you know at arm’s length. But reaching out works if you can move past the awkwardness of the unknown.”

A blog of her own

Detwiler also runs her own horror blog called Final Girl Grace, to which she’s posted more than 20 articles delving into the nuances of the genre. Select entries include Amy Elliott Dunne: The Greatest Female Villain of All Time, Jordan Peele’s Us, The Twilight Zone, and the Doppelganger; and Midsommar: The Horror of Relationships among others.

Detwiler credits her father with her attraction to the supernatural.

“My dad is a horror buff who’s been showing me movies my whole life,” she said. “I think once he learned I could handle the horror, the floodgates opened.”

After graduation, Detwiler said, “I’m strongly considering law school. Of course, my other professional interest after school is film criticism.”

In English, she is a student of literature who will be studying the works of William Shakespeare in print, on stage, and on film at Oxford University this summer, through a joint English Department/Honors Program study abroad.

A supportive community

Detwiler has continued writing and networking within the English department, and she credits her involvement in on-campus activities in part to meeting University Writing Center Director and Associate Professor Lisa Langstraat. It was in Langstraat’s literary criticism class that Detwiler was encouraged to apply for a position with the Writing Center, where she now works 8 hours a week.

She says building the nerve to talk to other people can be an underestimated skillset that carries the potential to open many doors.

“You can definitely get people to talk to you if you ask,” Detwiler said.

She also said a unique culture of community within English and the College of Liberal Arts has helped to expand her academic experience.

“I think it’s a really tight-knit sort of community,” she said. “You get to interact with a lot of the same people, and that’s something I’ve really enjoyed here. My friends up here are mostly English majors and arts majors, and my core group is really liberal arts-focused. I mostly met these people through my classes.”