Today we honor and remember the woman who gave us “The Lottery” (1949) as well as The Haunting of Hill House (1959), her most famous novel. Jackson’s brilliance is in the way horror is in the everyday, and more importantly, in each of us.
But what I find most fascinating is her understanding of her personal life as a writer. She wrote every day. She was also a homemaker and a mother. When asked to share her biography, she gave the bare minimum: her place of birth and her birthday, the names of her children, and overall details which, as she said, “can only give a bare chronological outline [to her life] which contains, naturally, no pertinent facts.”
Especially as a woman writing darkness I admire her decision to keep her personal life outside of her professional writing life. This is especially pertinent, as critics sought to pin her home life neatly over her writing and imagine inner demons which gave birth to the horror and gothic nature of her stories. A homemaker, would obviously not be able to write such work without something deeply troubling her.
It is our job to dismantle these stereotypes. Women of any profession and of all mental states can write whatever genre they choose. In honor of Shirley Jackson, write a ghost story, a horror story, a gothic tale. Write what you love and write every day.
Happy Birthday, Shirley Jackson.