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A Neighborhood Studios Program at the Mark Twain House

Archive for the tag “Stephen King”

The Grating American Novel

By Grant Henry

Writing Apprentice

Twain Studios

For a nation so proud of its literary canon, the most popular books in America tend to be nothing to write home about.

William Faulkner and Mark Twain are among the many skilled authors that have defined the standards for the novels and nonfiction writing of the nation. But when checking The New York Times bestseller list, you will never find books of the caliber of American Classics listed.

The erotic novel 50 Shades of Grey succeeded in selling a million physical copies in only 11 weeks, and that is not considering the millions of sales on digital e-readers like the Kindle. Meanwhile, there likely are hundreds of potential instant classics that get ignored every year.

Back in the 1990s, according to the Lakeland Ledger newspaper, the Delray Beach Public Library in Florida had little space in the library and used the frequency a book was loaned out to decide which stayed on shelves and which were archived in a back room.

To the discomfort of many, the number of times novels by Tom Clancy or Stephen King got checked out was high enough for those books to stay openly available while works by Hemingway and other classic authors had to be stored away, only obtainable by asking a librarian for access.

Stories like these are not rare. The reading habits of the average American seems to contradict what they learn in their high school English courses. Those who are angry about this are incredibly vocal about their thoughts on the matter.

What audacity writer James Patterson must have, to write cheap thrillers meant to mildly entertain people on airports! He should put his talent – and team of ghost writers – on the task of creating something meaningful that will last against the changing tides of cultural fads! It is the saddest thing to learn that those books get read more than critical darlings and classics, many fans of literature and struggling novelists might say.

Folks on the side of high-brow literature fight a mean fight when given the chance. They cannot fathom the stark contrast between the opinions of critics and the reading habits of consumers.

What needs to be considered when addressing the topic of high and low art is the criteria and amount of time required for something to be regarded as “important,” and how public perception and awareness of a work of art can change drastically over extended periods of time.

Let’s look at Mark Twain’s novel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Though it paved the way for the modernist movement, the novel’s controversy existed right from publication.

The language, for example, was criticized. In Huck Finn, Twain portrayed the common language of Missouri rather than the idealized Oxford way of speaking commonly seen in literature. Today, English majors and writers alike see this as a milestone in literature, but at the time of release, people saw the phonetically spelled words an inconvenience that got in the way of telling the story.

Critics hated the handling of race as well. To some, the runaway slave Jim comes off as a caricature and the heavy use of the word “nigger” is still a tough issue today.

Stephen King, Patti P

Stephen King at The Mark Twain House in July 2013

But over time and many readings, the consensus grew to see the novel as incredibly anti-racist, vilifying the communities that owned slaves and raised children to morally accept it.

The world could easily have shrugged Huck Finn aside after its publication, and the book wouldn’t be seen as the achievement it is today. But the test of time proved it a classic and a high contender for the Great American Novel. It’s unfair to compare classics like Huck Finn to most modern novels because contemporary fiction doesn’t have the volumes of in-depth analysis Huck has.

It took decades for The Great Gatsby to gain the legendary status it has today, and A Confederacy of Dunces was published posthumously long after John Kennedy Toole’s suicide. We will not know what novels will define our generation, just as people didn’t know how Huck Finn would be remembered a century ago.

But even so, is it worth throwing a fit over people reading paperback romance novels rather than complex contemporary fiction? Should we care when Twilight sells more than a Murakami novel?

Many people believe that people shouldn’t sweat over books that don’t strive for greatness. The popular novelist Stephen King calls himself “the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and fries.”

During a recent appearance at Hartford’s Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, King explained that he dislikes people who willingly avoid the kind of pop-literature that often includes his own work. He compared those people with children who try to keep different types of food on their plate from touching.

Sculptor Joe Keo brought insight, pointing out that art is a business just like anything else. An artist, Keo said, is more than a pretentious person wearing a beret.

An artist is anyone, and the few artists that become household names are incredibly uncommon.

An actor isn’t only those seen on the Hollywood screen or Broadway stage, either. There are thousands of actors trying to make a living doing what they love.

To bash books that become financial successes despite sub-par quality is to put up an imaginary distinction that does not exist.

Joe Bun Keo

Joe Bun Keo

One of Mark Twain’s primary focuses when writing was to make money.

In an 1887 letter to William Dean Howells, Twain wrote, “High and fine literature is wine, and mine is only water; but everybody likes water.”

Had it been impossible to make money from book sales, we wouldn’t have James Patterson OR Mark Twain.

Time sorts out the imbalances we observe in present-day art. You likely don’t know the name of the novel that will be known as this generation’s greatest literary achievement. That book will be analyzed and read extensively in literary journals and English classes everywhere.

50 Shades broke sales records, but that won’t go on forever. As long as you wait it out, you will find the early 21st century’s Great American Novel, but for now, don’t sweat about it.

Meet The Jakes of Twain Studios

Jakes on the Clemens porch

The Jakes, on the porch of The Mark Twain House, July 2013. From left: Indira Senderovic, Ashaya Nelson, June Tran, Nick Sherman, Meaghan Szilagyi, Molly Miller, Alan Burkholder, Cecilia Gigliotti, Rae Martin, Lina Allam, Ambriel Johnson, Grant Henry, Jahyra White

Editors’ note: The work published in August 2013 in a printed anthology that was not previously published on this blog follows in this and subsequent entries on the Twain Studios blog.

By Molly Miller and the Jakes

Writing Apprentices

Twain Studios

Five and a half weeks ago, we were just a bunch of crazy teens staring at blank Microsoft Word pages, unsure of what to say to each other, let alone to the world. But through our shared love of the written word, we quickly became best friends, dubbing ourselves the “Jakes” (short for J.K.s, which is short for Journalism Kids.)

The Jakes went on all kinds of wonderful adventures together, through haunted houses, the Connecticut Public Broadcasting recording studios, and the basement of the Immanuel Congregational Church. All of these places inspired our writing.

We honed our interrogation skills by hammering the governor of Bermuda, the world’s strongest librarian, and a photojournalist from Uganda with all the tough questions. We learned to avoid passive tense like the plague by listening to and meeting Stephen King. Journalists from The Hartford Courant and CT News Junkie told us what it was like to work professionally as writers, and taught us tips for acing interviews. We received expert advice on the art of writing resumes and managing money.

In no time, our blank Microsoft Word pages became saturated with our thoughts and research on everything from the mysterious allure of bad boys to Victorian fashion, from One Direction to Harriet Beecher Stowe, and we shared our work with the world through our blog, TwainStudios.com.

We now present an anthology of our finest works in this literary journal. We’d like to thank our teacher Jackie Majerus, who worked hard to put this booklet together, and everyone at The Mark Twain House who taught us about Mark Twain and let us use their space. We’d also like to thank the Greater Hartford Arts Council, and all of the sponsors who made this program possible. We hope you enjoy reading our work!

Apprentices Get Behind the Mic

Ashaya at WNPR

Ashaya Nelson

Writing Apprentice

Twain Studios

Sit down at the table, adjust the microphone, breathe in and out, and read your script.

The first time we went to WNPR we just were on the set of a radio show. Seeing the last-minute preparations was interesting. Everyone came into the studio about three minutes before the show went on the air.

The host, Colin McEnroe, and three others had fun while working. They spoke about binge watching that has become popular.

But on our second visit to the station, we were able to see what it’s like to be behind the microphone. The other apprentices and I each recorded a piece of our own work inside a studio.

Opening the heavy, soundproof door, I was anxious and a little nervous when it was my turn to record my work about the strong librarian, Josh Hanagarne.

It’s not as easy as it may look. We helped to encourage each other.

Hearing my voice was weird. A lot of us didn’t like hearing our voices.

It took me multiple times to get it right. I had to make sure I wasn’t talking fast, that my voice was projected and I was speaking with expression.

After Senior Producer Catie Talarski edited our recording, we helped each other choose what music would sound good with it. We selected from a variety of music on the studio computer.

I decided that I wanted a song that was a little upbeat.

Recording was one of my favorite things we did this summer. It was a new and good experience going to WNPR.

Rae at WNPR2.

Rae Martin

Lina at WNPR

Lina Allam

Molly at WNPR

Molly Miller

Meaghan at WNPR

Meaghan Szilagyi

Ambriel at WNPR

Ambriel Johnson

June at WNPR

June Tran

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.

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.

Stephen King is the Real Deal

By Alan Burkholder

Writing Apprentice

Twain Studios

When most people go to see celebrities in person, they feel like they are meeting people of very high attitude and self-image. They’re afraid to ask questions, they’re afraid to look at them and they’re afraid to even approach them. Such fears are often irrational, and on most occasions it turns out to be completely untrue.

When I went to see an interview with author Stephen King at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, I expected a lot of what he would refer to as “bullshit.” I expected a grumpy, uptight old man who was full of himself. What I got was a guy who seemed fun to be around.

Stephen King, Patti PYou would think that a man who has trouble remembering his childhood, who has written some of the darkest works in modern American literature, and who also got hit by a van in the winter of 1999 would be a little bit sour at this point, but the first thing that struck me about the interview was the fact that while the questioner, Colin McEnroe, walked on stage in dress pants and a smoking jacket, while Stephen himself walked on stage wearing a polo shirt and a pair of blue jeans. No uptight celebrity that I know of wears jeans for an interview.

Incredibly calm and casual throughout the interview, Stephen never bothered censoring his language, as anyone in the audience could tell you. He seemed like he was just having an ordinary conversation, and made the whole ordeal seem more like a stand-up comedy than a proper interview.

Stephen talked a lot about his works, his music – I was surprised that he was a guitarist – and also a couple of the films based on his work. He noted that some of his favorite adaptations were Stand By MeThe Shawshank Redemption, and The Green Mile, which are all really good movies with wonderful actors.

At this point, I realized that Stephen was just a regular guy. Sure, he is famous and successful, but in all honesty, I don’t think that mattered to him.

I haven’t read a lot of Stephen’s work, but based on what he said and how he acted, I’d like to check out a couple of his stories sometime. After all, if he understands how people work, and how to keep a reader engaged and interested, he must have some idea of how to write a good story.

I think I’ll start with something less horror-oriented, though, because I don’t want Stephen’s work to be the source of my nightmares for a week and a half.

You may have noticed I keep referring to King by his first name, Stephen. The reason for this is because I think King is an extremely royal name for a man who makes a living writing about killer clowns and children who, for some reason, all have ESP.

You could argue that Stephen is a king: the king of modern horror. To that, however, I’d just half-close my eyes and applaud slowly for your half-baked joke. Stephen may or may not be a king, but if he is, he’s the humblest king in history.

Stephen King, Rock Star Writer

Stephen King, handshake, Rae, Patti P

Writing Apprentice Rae Martin shakes hands with author Stephen King at the Mark Twain House & Museum while Apprentices Molly Miller and June Tran look on.

By Rae Martin

Writing Apprentice

Twain Studios

The thoroughly publicized Stephen King – Colin McEnroe interview at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts on Thursday succeeded in packing the house and raising lots of money for the Mark Twain House & Museum.

Everyone shuffled to their seats; some dressed to the nines, others, not quite.

The place itself was well designed, as many old buildings tend to be. Priceless architecture, beautiful ceilings, 1930s styled seating, and an atmosphere completed by a prestigious place across the plaza from the state Capitol.

McEnroe finally came on stage after Gregory Boyko, chairman of the Twain House board of trustees, ended his placid prologue full of classic Twain quotes such as, “My works are like water. The works of the great masters are like wine. But everyone drinks water.”

Following McEnroe came the big man himself, Stephen King. They both sat and began to talk. And talk. And talk. His personality, a bit like that of a rock star, and the mythos of King and his works kept the crowd enthralled.

The most intriguing thing wasn’t so much what King said – though he was often funny – was just how fretfully normal he seemed. Put his fame aside and you get a roughly average Joe.

Unfortunately, this seems to be the reality of most “celebrities,” and discovering this hard truth nearly detracted from the experience. Nearly, but not quite, as a story still came from the evening and from a later, personal encounter with him.

“Personal encounter” is actually a major over-exageration. As King exited his Friday morning tour of the Twain House, my workshop group and I stood in his way, fawning over his performance from the night. If we hadn’t, he would have been able to circumvent us entirely.

Truth be told, I was a bit anxious about pestering the man for an autograph – keep in mind that was my main goal – but he seemed to find the group’s attention cute enough to come over, shake our hands, say hi and take a few pictures. He must be very used to these things by now, but he was very courteous about all of it.

I’d just opened my mouth to ask for a signature when King said, “I gotta jet.”

It was a simple sentence to represent the underwhelming nature of it all. Of course the kids were thrilled, more for his celebrity than anything else in that exchange.

As much as I would hope to be successful in my craft, the type of instant recognition King gets is detrimental to the nature of most writers. We are to act as observers and highlighters of the world around us. In any case, I wish King the best of luck in the future. He’s reached a cultural level I probably never will.

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