Sunday, December 9, 2012

What He Said: Stephen King on Spiders, Snakes, and Mother-In-Laws

By Michala T.

            Stephen King is popular. There is no greater truth than this fact. Well, maybe that one about death and taxes but I digress. I am personally a fan of some of his works. Notice I said ‘some’. Not all. Not many. Not most. Some. I did not like his book about the Dome and I hate to admit but there are plenty of his books I have yet to read. Will I ever get around to reading them? I doubt it. His books are just so slow in character development. I’m not saying that is a bad thing.
            The University of Massachusetts Lowell invited King to give a lecture and the news spread like butter on a flapjack. If King spoke at my school I know I’d be frickin’ psyched! I’d be even more anxious if I were Andre Dubus III since King shared the conversation with him. (I’m sorry…let me take a minute to look this best-selling author up.) Wait, I have heard of The House of Sand and Fog. That book was on Oprah! Not quite as ‘best-selling’ as King, but he’s got some pretty big names supporting him so I’m sure he is worth reading. Perhaps I’ll add him to my list. (Yes, I think I will-I’ll be right back.) (Reference 1)
The schedule as of the 5th included King’s speaking to the schools creative writing majors and a raffle to raise student scholarship money. Having read his book On Writing I must admit I was drooling at the thought of being in that classroom on that day at that momentous occasion.  

            When the day came King spoke before a crowd of 125 students. Of course people always want to know what the king of scare is scared of and this occasion was no different. “Spiders, snakes…my mother-in-law,” he replied. He stated his goal is to write stories that sizzle with emotion. (Reference 2)
‘‘I'm a confrontational writer. I want to be in your face. I want to get into your space. I want to get within kissing distance, hugging distance, choking distance, punching distance. Call it whatever you want. But I want your attention.’’ (2)
He dressed in jeans and a black T-shirt, which is what I would expect of him, and spoke to the crowd with his typical “I’m just like you” banter (sprinkled with profanity). I was interested in learning that when he was there as a student, he got to listen to Joseph Heller, author of Catch-22. That’s just neat.
He did tell the crowd he had never experienced childhood trauma so his horror stories had to come from somewhere else. Where? He only knows half the time.  Does that mean he goes against age old advice "write what you know"?
He did say 2 new books were coming out in 2013. (I’m hoping they are more like The Gunslinger Series or The Shining or…well, anything but the Dome.) “Joyland” will be out in July and “Doctor Sleep” in September (which is a sequel to The Shining!) Major Squeeel moment for me! The book is about the little boy, all grown up. Wow!!!
“Because Torrance can read minds, King said he was intrigued by the idea of having the character work in a hospice as someone who helps people cross over from life to death.” (2)
Another tidbit I picked up was King’s tip that writers should be people-watchers. I have actually been planning for quite a while a trip into the world of strangers. I see lots of strangers in my job but unfortunately these encounters last only seconds, maybe a minute long. So I am going to start blogging about my experience. In fact, the weekly blog post will be called “Out of the Rain” based on The Doors song “People are Strange”. I look forward to this and I am more confident knowing King encourages this. When my husband asks me where I’m going and why, I’ll just tell him I’m doing what Stephen King told me to do.
King also suggested that writers not carry notebooks around. “The stuff that’s worth writing stays in your head.” That makes sense to me, but I don’t know…I can’t even carry a little one to jot notes? Hmm…I’ll have to consider that advice a little more. 
‘‘My method for starting anything is I tell myself the story when I'm laying in bed at night, waiting to go to sleep,’’ King said. Now, I can attest to this myself. I do the same thing. My problem is I forget about it by the time I wake up. I suppose that it wasn’t worth writing since it didn’t stick.
He told the students they should decide what books are important to them. I wonder if he means every book but those written by Stephanie Meyer. (Teasing, King, just teasing!)
King and Dubus later spoke in front of 3,000. His parting words were, “I’ve always wondered who I am when I write because once I’m doing it, I’m not in the room with myself.” I wouldn’t go so far as to say I am not with myself when I write but I do get caught up in the voices, the characters, and I feel as though I am beside myself…writing and learning and living through the experience. This makes me feel as though I’m doing something right with my writing.

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