Write to the Point!

A Neighborhood Studios Program at the Mark Twain House

Archive for the month “July, 2013”

How to Make a Good Resume and Not Fail a Job Interview

By Alan Burkholder

Writing Apprentice

Twain Studios

Facts are facts. And the fact of the matter is, finding a good job is hard to do these days. However, simply finding the job is still less hard than getting it.

Almost everyone has to go through the usual song and dance of “find the job, contact the employer, arrange an interview, get the job, celebrate and profit.” But not many people know how to do the dance. As a result, not a lot of people actually get to the last step.

In order to help future generations of kids not end up stranded on the side of the road and living in a one-floor cardboard apartment, the state Department of Labor presented a two-point-five-hour lecture on landing a job, with the help of career development specialist Gordon Gross.

With the help of a manual that he admitted was a little out of date – no manual nowadays makes use of the word “typewriter” – Gross gave the basics of what makes a good resume to young Neighborhood Studios apprentices.

According to Gross, a good resume should have your contact information, a list of job experiences and skills, at least three good references (meaning, not your family and friends), your education-based qualifications, and what exactly you plan to do at your potential new company.

Whatever you put on a resume, you must make sure that it’s unique, relevant, easy to read, eye-grabbing and free of mistakes. The top two causes of death among resumes are from complications due to typos and grammar errors.

In addition, the apprentices got some advice about what to do in an interview, or rather what not to do. It’s always easier to restrict something than to mandate it, after all.

Number one: Don’t show up under-dressed or naked. This will cause the interviewer to not take you seriously, or possibly call security.

Number two: Turn off your phone. If it accidentally goes off during the interview, apologize and take a moment to turn it off. If it vibrates instead of ringing, don’t let the interviewer know. Just excuse yourself so you can take care of the twitch in your leg.

Number three: Don’t doze off or nap while the interviewer is talking. This means that your pillow, blanket and teddy bear must stay at home.

Number four: Get to the point. The interviewer wants to get through this just as quickly as you do, so don’t bore them to death with that story about your dog. It wasn’t funny the first time you told it, so why would it be funny the next time?

Number five: Don’t get nervous. No matter what happens, try to stay calm and relaxed, because no one likes sweat. It looks gross and it stinks up the entire room when you do it. And then you have go shower and wash your suit.

Number six: Make sure that you thank the interviewer for his time. If you don’t show that you appreciate his time, he’s going to think you’re a jerk. So be nice.

Number seven: always have a copy or five of your resume on hand. You never know if it might get stolen, damaged or worse: edited with a pen.

Follow these rules of the ramble and the resume and you’ll be on your way to having that job you always wanted, that job you kind of thought about wanting once, or the job you don’t really want but you’re going to take anyway because the pay is good. Whatever the case, you’re going to need to know what not to do.

Sarcasm aside, the talk was very helpful. Kids do need to know how to conduct themselves, both in and out of the workplace. After all, the first step to getting a job that you’re happy with is making your employer happy first.

Apprentices Get Tips on Writing a Resume, Searching for Work

DOL Gordon Gross

Gordon Gross of the state Department of Labor addresses Neighborhood Studio apprentices about resume writing and searching for a job.

By June Tran

Writing apprentice

Mark Twain Studios

Cramped into a small classroom in the back of the Hartford Public Library children’s section, about two dozen teenagers got a lesson on landing a job.

In Neighborhood Studios, Mondays are set aside for career skills. In front of the youth stood Gordon Gross, a career development specialist with the state Department of Labor, coming to lecture them on the mechanics of resume writing.

Gross began by emphasizing the importance of a resume in the process of getting a job. A job, however, was not the primary purpose of a resume, he told them.

As Gross explained, a resume’s main purpose is to illicit a job interview.

After passing out a 10-year-old guidebook, Gross listed some tips for writing a good and effective resume:

1.      Always include details listed in the job ad on the resume.

2.   Make use of verb tenses to indicate the status of each job.

3.      Looks matter: make your resume easy to read and attractive.

4.      Write in fragments, not in complete sentences.

5.      Have at least three professional references.

According to Gross, it’s paramount for each student to write a resume that can endure a quick and competitive selection course.

Essentially, a resume can only confer numbers and a vague picture of the candidate.  And Gross said some employers might even use machines to comb through the applications.

In a nation that is recovering from an economic recession, getting a job is still hard for those with little work experience or education.

This is a blow for teenagers who are applying for a job, especially if it’s their first one.

To improve their chances and help make up for lack of experience, Gross recommended that youth get involved in volunteer work or join an association.

Being in an association is a great way to practice networking, he said.

Networking, Gross said, is fundamental to pursuing a specific field or career in the future. One way to do this is to “schmooze,” Gross said.

Schmoozing is not ass kissing, he said, but to building a relationship with someone within an organization or company where you might want to work.

Because most jobs are not posted, but listed internally, networking would be a great way to get information about careers without facing the huge competition of the job market.

Although these career tips are short and to the point, Gross encouraged the students to visit the State Department of Labor at 3580 Main St., Hartford if future concerns arise.

One Direction’s ‘Best Song Ever’ Lives Up to All the Hype

By Cecilia Gigliotti

Writing Apprentice

Twain Studios

Prepare yourselves for the “Best Song Ever.”

It’s here! Yesterday, dubbed “1D Monday,” was the day 18,911,507 Facebook fans and countless offline Directioners had long awaited.

Six teaser trailers, many image excerpts, and probably 50 anticipation-filled Facebook posts later, One Direction’s new single, “Best Song Ever,” premiered, complete with an “oh oh oh, yeah yeah yeah” chorus and a hilarious, high-energy music video.

The hysteria-inducing British-Irish quintet and their headquarters (1DHQ) have, in my opinion, milked the whole release for more than it’s worth. For example, they reposted the video today at 12:18 p.m., provided viewing and downloading links, and teased their American fans, “USA! 45 mins to go until we hit 24 hours on the ‘Best Song Ever’ video premiere.”

Forty-five minutes until the video has been around for one day. Really?

But all the hype works. Crushing waves of “Directioners” flock to their concerts, their every Facebook post gets tens of thousands of likes in mere minutes, and they’ve wormed their way into teenage small talk and casual conversation.

We apprentices at Twain Studio have found ourselves comparing the 1D boys and discussing the quality of their music over lunch. And although I would not call myself a die-hard Directioner, I find their songs catchy and sing-along-able and I think they’ve got some great ideas, many of which are exemplified in the “Best Song Ever” video.

First off, I love the concept of the opening two-minute skit: two fast-paced Hollywood producers, supported by a wacky production team, bent on making money and winning lots of awards with a movie starring our favorite guys. This satire is helped along by the members of 1D playing all the roles: Louis and Niall as the producers; Zayn as “The Sexy Secretary” in wig, skirt, and heels; Harry as “Marcel,” the nerdy marketing manager; and Liam as “Leroy,” the peppy and flamboyant choreographer.

It’s hilarious, and it shows that they can poke fun at their own industry, that they’re aware of the ridiculousness surrounding them as pop stars, that they know their own minds. The whole scene is a wonderful hook. And it made me like the song more.

Then they all shed their disguises and rock out – although the alter-egos do make funny reappearances throughout.  And Harry gets rather, erm, close to the “secretary” at times. The rest of the video, once the song actually starts, consists of footage of the boys hanging, running, jumping, and dancing around in their trademark fashion.

It might be rather less compelling, but the energy of the opening scene and the song carried me through and kept me singing along.

All this is merely a glimpse of what’s coming in the band’s first big movie, One Direction: This is Us, set to come out later this year. I do believe this is one I – and all you readers – will have to see.

Bringing Art Full Circle

Neighborhood Studios spiral photo

The Greater Hartford Arts Council’s Neighborhood Studios program is a wonderful blend of people learning together and creating art. The amazing writing apprentices at Twain Studios are one of five studios. On the first day of the program this summer, a talented photographer made this picture of all the people who are part of it. Thanks to the Arts Council for letting us share it!

Love and Family Sustains World’s Strongest Librarian

By Cecilia Gigliotti

Writing Apprentice

Twain Studios

Josh Hanagarne, standing six-feet-seven and usually weighing between 260 and 270 pounds, is the world’s strongest librarian. Seriously.

He says he can tear a full deck of cards into pieces and lift 500 pounds on one finger.

He could easily hoist any of us apprentices over his head – although, upon walking in, he put the idea out of our minds “for liability reasons.” He’s smart, too.

He is also one of the most extraordinary human beings I’ve ever met.

“We’re all the product of … some really deep training,” he said. And he’s been trained deeper than anyone I know. At 35, he is the product of Navajo ancestry – he has relatives living on reservations – a Mormon upbringing, a crisis of faith, and a constant battle with Tourette Syndrome.

Hanagarne recalled a time when his bibliophile fifth-grade self picked up the largest book he could find, a thick volume by Stephen King called The Tommyknockers, and got hooked.

When his mom caught him reading Misery, she banned King’s books from the house. This only excited him to smuggling.

The day he visited us, Hanagarne that while he is “not a real star-struck person,” he was looking forward to lunch with King, an experience he thought “could be really cool.”

And tonight he’ll be working security at the Bushnell for King’s conversation with Colin McEnroe – so we’d all better keep in line.

Raised Mormon, a religion in which all 19-year-old males go on a two-year mission, Hanagarne was sent to Washington, D.C., where attempted to convert people.

His true challenge, however, was only beginning.

Hanagarne’s first memory of Tourette’s is from a Thanksgiving school play. At age six, playing a tree on stage, he began to blink, rapidly and involuntarily. No one thought much of it, at the time or for several years thereafter – until seventh grade, when the tics started becoming vocal and gave rise to bullying.

Things worsened steadily through ninth grade, when he joined the basketball team and discovered an athletic talent. At a game against their biggest rival, the win came down to Hanagarne’s free throw.

Fans in the stands from the opposing side had lost all sense of sportsmanship and respect and were shouting, “Twitch! Twitch!”

His tear-stained face contorted in concentration, Hanagarne made the basket, won the game for his team, and promptly flipped off the crowd, causing quite an uproar. That was the night he realized he had to find out what was wrong with him.

On the Mormon mission in Washington, Hanagarne could name and explain his condition, but that didn’t soften its toll.

During his mission, his worst tic to date flared up: he would hit himself sharply in the face. His outbursts of screaming became as frequent as every two or three seconds. By the end of one day, he returned to his hotel with three self-inflicted gashes down his face.

My blood was running cold as Josh described this. He left D.C. a year early, he said, because the tics interfered with his life and mission. He could not go out in public and his convulsions were so intense they gave him hernias.

To curb his screaming tic, doctors gave him Botox injections in his vocal cords, which stopped his voice entirely. He did not speak again for two years.

The sensation of a Tourette’s tic, he said, is “like the worst you’ve ever had to sneeze.” It obviously doesn’t feel good, even if you can suppress the urge, and it’s how he felt all the time.

He experienced a crisis of faith. What was his purpose in life? How could he come to terms with the fact that he no longer believed what he had been raised to believe? His break with the Mormon faith was becoming scarily real.

The problem, he said, was that according to what his family believed, “I would be in a different part of Heaven than they would be.”

His mother’s favorite thing was gathering the family together and having a good laugh. If he broke from the faith, the rest of the family would be in heaven – gathered and having a laugh – and Josh would be separated from them.

It broke his mother’s heart, he said, but she determined “not to let the small picture destroy the big picture.”

He knows that his family’s love and support is unconditional.

Today, Hanagarne is physically worse than ever, and it doesn’t necessarily involve hitting himself in the face. It must be terrifying to never know how one’s body is going to act from one minute to the next, but this is his life.

His tics are relatively under control, thanks to Adam T. Glass, a specially gifted friend.

Glass, an Air Force officer who suffered a brain crushing injury, has an extrasensory understanding of people’s movements, Hanagarne said, and can take one look at someone and instantly identify their physical ailments and the motions that can fix them.

He went along with it.

“Pain makes you stupid,” admitted Hanagarne. “You will try anything.”

But Glass’s exercises really do seem to have magical healing powers. And maybe that is one reason Hanagarne is mentally better than ever.

He is probably the only person I’ve met to truly live in the moment, “from tic to tic.” He chose to be a librarian because a library forces him to ask questions of himself, just as “a library should force everyone who walks in to ask questions.”

He was confronted with himself, with the sources behind his tics.

He loves his job dearly – hardly a surprise, given his appetite for books. “I don’t sleep much,” he said, and he wasn’t kidding: three hours a night.

“I read a book every day,” he said.

His favorite book is John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces, which he reads annually. “It becomes a new book every year.”

Eventually he was inspired to write his own story. At a friend’s suggestion, Josh began a blog called “The World’s Strongest Librarian.” One morning, a couple months and many online conversations into the blog, he woke up to an offer from a literary agent.

Before he knew it, he had a book, The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family.

“You learn a lot about yourself,” he said, when writing a memoir. In writing about himself, he said, he found flaws in his reasoning.

He said he felt “so horribly exposed, so fast.”

But it’s helped improve him day by day.

“It’s hard not to feel confident if you’re always getting better at something, and if you can prove it.”

He believes success is measurable, and better is something he is relentlessly striving for.

And there is plenty in his life to help him along the way. He laughed as he told us the self-proclaimed “lame” story of how he met his wife, Janette: “My mom came home from church and said, ‘I found the perfect girl for you!’ And she was right.”

They met during one of his most difficult periods, the two silent years. He said she didn’t hear his full speaking voice until eight months into their marriage; until then, he could do no more than whisper.

He tried to talk her out of the wedding just two weeks before they married.

“You haven’t seen how bad it is,” he insisted. She turned to him and said, “Not being with you is so much harder than being with you when it’s bad.”

If that is not the truest love on earth, I don’t know what is.

That true love, along with the love of his family, sustains him.

The couple have a five-year-old son named Max. While she is still Mormon, he’s an agnostic. They’ve deliberated how to raise Max from different religious viewpoints.

He’s not concerned as long as he gives his son the foundation to decide his beliefs for himself.

“I am confident that I taught Max how to think,” he told us.

With a dad as incredible as Josh Hanagarne, and a mother who must be just as outstanding, Max has a dazzlingly bright future ahead.

As someone who has fought and overcome, but still has to live with, a disability, I was deeply moved by Hanagarne’s story.

The homepage of the National Tourette Syndrome Association website says, “I have Tourette’s, but Tourette’s doesn’t have me.”

It is possible not to let an illness define you. Kudos to him.

I wish him, and everyone else on this planet struggling against an adversary bigger than themselves, all the blessings they deserve.

Leaving His Faith Behind, He Kept His Family in Mind

By Ambriel Johnson

Writing Apprentice

Twain Studios

Josh Hanagarne, a Salt Lake City librarian, keeps a delicate balance between his former Mormon religion and his family, who remain devoted to the faith.

Hanagarne said he first started to question his religion when he had to stop attending church due to his Tourette Syndrome.

As a young man, he was unable to be out in public for about two years because the Tourette’s caused him to have loud vocal tics. Hanagarne said it was the first time he was away from the church and its influence on his life.

Until that moment, he said, he wasn’t really thinking for himself.

“I was taught to believe as much as I was taught how to think,” Hanagarne said. “We are all the products of how we are raised.”

He met his wife Jeanette during the difficult time when he couldn’t speak over a whisper. His mother, who met her through the church, set them up.

Hanagarne said he tried to talk his wife out of going through with the marriage. He told her she didn’t know how bad it would get. Still, she wouldn’t listen.

She told him that not being with him would be harder than being with him, even when the Tourette’s was at its worst, he said.

The two now live together with their 5-year-old son, Max, a boy who is learning to think for himself.

Despite the huge role that religion played in his family, Hanagarne chose to leave it.  It’s a decision that wasn’t easy for his relatives to take in.

“My family are my best friends,” he said. “Me leaving the faith was heartbreaking for them.”

Standing 6-feet, 7 inches tall, and weighing around 260 pounds, Hanagarne uses bodybuilding to deal with his Tourette’s. He recently published his memoir, The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength and the Power of Family.

During a visit to The Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford last week, the ‘strongman’ was reminded of his love for reading, something that blossomed when he was just a small boy.

One of Hanagarne’s favorite authors, Stephen King, wrote more than 50 books. He was excited to be part of the security detail at King’s fundraising appearance for the Twain House that night.

“I read my first Stephen King book when I was in fifth grade – way too early,” Hanagarne said. “I was looking around the bookmobile and I found this big book, Misery…”

He said he’s always had the philosophy that the bigger the book, the better.

But Hanagarne’s Mormon mother banned King’s gut-wrenching stories.

“I started having tics when I was six,” Hanagarne said. “Tourette’s feels like you have to sneeze and you can’t let it out. You don’t know what it’s gonna look or sound like.”

It was not until he was a freshman in high school that his parents acknowledged his life-changing syndrome and took him to see a specialist.

“It took them about three minutes to diagnose me with Tourette’s,” he said.

Hanagarne enjoys working in libraries because they help him to control his body, and keep his syndrome under control, something he wouldn’t be able to do otherwise.

He also likes them, he said, because they allow him to think.

Librarian With The Strength to Cope with Tourette Syndrome

By Ashaya Nelson

Writing Apprentice

Twain Studios

“Twitch! Twitch! Twitch!” the crowd screamed when high school freshman Josh Hanagarne stood at the free throw line.

The game depended on him making the shot.

Hanagarne, who had physical and vocal tics that would later be identified as Tourette Syndrome, stood in front of the basket with tears running down his face.

The ball made it into the basket and his team went home with a win. But he didn’t leave without flipping off the crowd.

Hanagarne shares his story with people all around the world.

He visited the Mark Twain House & Museum Thursday to talk about his book, The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family.

Hanagarne, a bodybuilder, said he learned a lot about himself by writing a memoir.

“Wasn’t trying to be a writer, this never was supposed to happen,” said Hanagarne.

Now a librarian in Salt Lake City, Hanagarne always was engrossed in books, and as a kid, tried to find the largest book to read.

He read his first Stephen King book in fifth grade and though his mother banned King’s book from their home, he continued to sneak them in.

Now, Hanagarne said, he barely sleeps, reading a book each day.

The night of that basketball game, Hanagarne asked his parents what was wrong with him, and he got the diagnosis of Tourette’s.

During his childhood, it wasn’t a big deal, he said. In eighth grade it became vocal, and he began to get bullied. As he got older, his condition worsened, and even became violent.

Trying to hold in his Tourette’s, he said, “feels like that most intense sneeze.”

A mysterious man had an impact on his life. Adam T. Glass, a U.S. Air Force veteran who suffered a brain crushing injury, helped him learn to move his body in ways that brought relief.

Hanagarne explained that Glass could somehow see where the pain came from in someone’s body, and how to fix it. Glass helped Hanagarne by having him use a five-pound dumbbell, and by moving his wrist.

Today, Hanagarne is a happy family man. He said his mother came home from church one day and told him she’d found the perfect wife for him. When he met his wife, he could barely speak.

She did not hear his true voice until eight months after their wedding.

After trying for years to have a child, they had Max, a son who is now five years old.

Bodybuilding Librarian With a Soft Spot for His Wife and Son

By Indira Senderovic

Writing Apprentice

Twain Studios

The world’s strongest librarian, Josh Hanagarne, hails from Salt Lake City, Utah.

Raised as a Mormon, he later changed his faith when his curiosity about the church caused him to question it.

Hanagarne said he can rip a deck of cards in eight pieces, break a horseshoe with his hands and pick up 500 pounds with his finger.

He was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome in his freshman year in high school, but symptoms came earlier. It was hard for him in middle school because the Tourette’s started progressing and he developed vocal tics.

Hanagarne said he met Adam T. Glass, a survivor of a massive brain injury, who helped him with his Tourette’s. Glass has a gift, Hanagarne said, that enables him to help direct body movements toward healing.

He sleeps about three hours a night, Hanagarne said, and stays up most of the time reading.

When he was younger, his mother tried to ban books from the house but he snuck them in whenever he could. He read his first Stephen King book in fifth grade and last week was excited to serve as part of the security when King appeared at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts.

Hanagarne choked up when he talked about his family. He said marrying his wife was the smartest thing he ever did. Because of his troubles with Tourette’s, he said, he wasn’t sure she should marry him.

But before their wedding, she told him she was happier with him than without him. Today, they have a five-year-old son Max, a boy he said is a miracle baby because they weren’t expected to be able to conceive.

Strongman Librarian Crushes Stereotypes

By Molly Miller

Writing Apprentice

Twain Studios

If you’ve been to a gym, you’ve probably seen men staring at a mirror, grunting and lifting weights for hours on end. If you’re like me, maybe you’ve made the unfair assumption that these people are meatheads.

If you’re like me, maybe you never considered that one of these men might be lifting weights for the same reason as Josh Hanagarne, a Salt Lake City librarian and an “old-time strongman.” Although he had small tics from the time he was six years old, he wasn’t diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome until his freshman year of high school.

Hanagarne grew up in a Mormon household in Elko, Nevada. As a kid, he never questioned his religion. He loved sneaking Steven King books into his house against his mother’s orders, and read them with the faithful obedience he observed in the Mormon religion.

Hanagarne’s tics became vocal in middle school, but they were never a huge distraction.

“For people who liked me, Tourette’s was kind of an endearing thing,” explained Hanagarne. “I felt safe enough that it wasn’t on my mind.”

The worst incidence of taunting occurred during a high school basketball match, as Hanagarne, a freshman, was shooting a game-deciding free throw.

The opposing crowd yelled, “Twitch! Twitch!” After Hanagarne made the basket, he gave the crowd both of his middle fingers. Later that night, for the first time, Hanagarne asked his parents what was wrong with him.

He said the doctor took three minutes to diagnose him with Tourette Syndrome.

At 19, he travelled as a missionary to Washington, D.C., and had terrible symptoms. “Suddenly, one day I started hitting myself in the face as hard as I could,” said Hanagarne. By the time Hanagarne returned to his hotel, he had three deep furrows in his head.

Hanagarne’s mission ended a year early. He returned to his home in Nevada, and was unable to go in public areas for years.

“I had a very predictable crisis of faith,” said Hanagarne. He couldn’t attend church. He said it wasn’t until that constant reinforcement stopped that he was capable of questioning his Mormon faith.

When he was 29, Hanagarne started going to the gym. Although he called most of his strongman tricks “a lot of dumb and dangerous stuff,” the exercises have helped him rebuild his confidence. The training, he said, gives him measurable progress he didn’t have before.

“It’s hard for a person not to feel more confident,” he said, if he is getting measurably better at something.

One of the most important parts of Hanagarne’s routine was tracking his improvements, but he struggled to keep all of his stats in order, so he created a blog, “The World’s Strongest Librarian.”

After two months of blogging, author Seth Godin came across the blog. Godin hooked Hanagarne up with a literary agent, and after about four years, Hanagarne published his memoir, The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family.

“This book is weird and uncomfortable,” said Hanagarne. Originally, the story ended with Hanagarne being cured of Tourette’s.

Hanagarne had been working with Adam T. Glass, a man who suffered a severe brain injury in the U.S. Air Force. Glass lost the ability to emote, and suffered enormous head pains. But he also gained the ability to assess other people’s injuries, and to prescribe a course that could heal them.

Hanagarne worked with Glass to control his tics, and had been tic-free for about a year. But just as Hanagarne finished writing his memoir, his Tourette’s came back.

“I had to change some themes,” said Hanagarne. He made the book more introspective. He asked, “Who am I?” and “What makes me tick?”

Hanagarne continues to struggle with controlling his tics. He said that the feeling is similar to holding in the most intense sneeze, but in every part of his body, all the time. “I am trapped moment to moment, tic to tic,” he said. “It’s this panicky desperation of, ‘What do I do next?’”

He is also struggling to figure out, along with his wife, Janette, how to raise his five-year-old son, Max. Hanagarne is no longer a Mormon, although he said he is “not ‘anti-’ in any way.” His wife is a Mormon, and she and Hanagarne are raising Max in the Mormon faith.

“It’s tough trying to figure out what to teach a child,” said Hanagarne.

But he said what’s most important is that he’s taught his child how to think.

“We have to try to figure it out as we go,” he said.

Giddy Fangirl Soaks Up Wit and Wisdom of Stephen King

By Cecilia Gigliotti

Writing Apprentice

Twain Studios

The first words out of Stephen King’s mouth when he took the stage at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts Thursday were, “I’m a Belieber.”

It might have been a joking reply to Colin McEnroe’s comment about the full house simply failing to get into the Justin Bieber concert a few blocks away, but it seems typical of King’s attitude toward life.

His sense of humor is incredible, given the dark matter his work explores. It’s hard to believe so much scary stuff sprang from the mind of this adorable guy in a black turtleneck, jeans, and large glasses, boyishly shying away from the tumultuous standing ovation he received upon walking onstage at the Bushnell’s Mortensen Hall.

His memoir On Writing gives gallons of invaluable advice to readers, including “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs.”

That one was hard for me, given my affinity for adverbs at the time. I undoubtedly adored them, spilling them haphazardly over my pages, trying relentlessly to make my writing sound effortlessly interesting – oh, crap, there I go again. Sorry.

Among the writers King mentioned in admiring tones throughout his conversation with WNPR’s Colin McEnroe were Margaret Atwood, Charles Dickens (for his presentation of “honest emotions,”) William Golding (for Lord of the Flies – one of my favorite books, too!) and Dr. Seuss.

You can’t get much better than a tip of the writer’s hat from Stephen King. So, if we call ourselves King fans, let’s all pick up a copy of Great Expectations, and oh, the places we’ll go!

In On Writing, King details his employment of the “Hemingway Defense” at the height of his alcoholism. As a writer, King said, “I am a very sensitive fellow, but I am also a man, and real men don’t give in to their sensitivities. Only sissy-men do that. Therefore I drink.”

While I in no way endorse this approach, my Hemingway-fan-sense starts tingling whenever I read this passage. King knows what good writing is. That’s why he’s such a great writer.

In his Bushnell appearance, King touched on the 1999 accident that nearly killed him, his (mis)adventures playing guitar with the Rock-Bottom Remainders, the person whose body he would choose to inhabit for 24 hours (he chose a person with a life vastly different from his own), Stanley Kubrick’s mutilation of The Shining, why he likes to say “Excedrin” instead of “painkillers,” the indistinguishable difference between popular fiction and literature, his upcoming novel Doctor Sleep (a sequel to The Shining), and a little boy playing with a stick in the mud – an image which inspired It.

Along the way, he got a lot of laughs, hollers, and applause. There is no denying his charisma, and he deserves all the accolades. But his small-town-ness is just as real – the simple Mainer whose most cherished pastime is sitting down and letting the words flow.

Here are just a few more ideas the King threw out last night, not necessarily about writing, and my reactions:

1.  “The Great American Novel is the quest novel.” Okay. Good to know. Note to self: start thinking up some interesting quests.

2.  “I still can’t get through Moby-Dick.” Wait, isn’t that a quest novel? (Not to mention widely considered the Great American Novel?)

3.  “I choose to believe in God – it’s a conscious decision…because what’s the downside? I mean, if you die and there’s nothing, you’re not gonna … know!” Perhaps. You can believe what you believe, Mr. King (or, if you prefer, beliebe what you beliebe). But hey, Stephen King and I both believe in God! Pretty cool, no?

4. “If you didn’t laugh at life, you would cry.” A rather pessimistic notion for my taste, but King is pushing 67, and, as Mark Twain said, “There is no sadder thing than a young pessimist, except an old optimist.”

5.  “[When the interviewer asks about your childhood,] what they really want to know is, ‘What fucked you up so bad?’” We all have our demons, Mr. King. Your triumph over alcoholism and drug addiction is a real testament to us budding book-writers that a belief in the craft can conquer anything. Thank you for being that beacon to us. And with that, my philosophical quota for this post is filled.

6.  “For one golden moment, books trumped rock.” First, how many people can say they had dinner with Bruce Springsteen? And second, how many people can say a fan approached their table and requested the autograph OF THE PERSON WHO WASN’T BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN?

7.   “My idea of a really good meal when you’re hungry is Waffle House.” Allow me one sentence of fangirlish folly: STEPHEN KING EATS BREAKFAST FOR DINNER! JUST LIKE ME! EEEEEEP! (By the way, in case you’re interested – which I know you are – he has a waffle, two eggs over easy, bacon, and sausage.)

8.   “I write books that are over a thousand pages long. I don’t do lightning rounds.” Do you do lightning bug rounds? (*ba-dum-tish* Twain reference!)

9.   “I like Hartford … I don’t like coming in on I-84.” You and the entire house, buddy.

Thanks for sharing your nuggets of wisdom with us, Mr. King. You’re truly a wonder, for people who like the horror genre and for people who just like to write. So keep sending this reporter those checkered tablecloths and blue eights, because I’ll keep taking them. And I’d bet any money that everyone in the house enjoyed themselves at least as much as, if not more than, the Beliebers.

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