Saturday, November 12, 2011

An Evening with Stephen King

Tonight I had the wonderful privilege to attend An Evening with Stephen King—hosted by A Real Bookstore. Many of you may already know that Stephen King is basically my idol. So I'm sure you can imagine just how thrilling this was for me.

But just in case you can't, I thought I'd relive the experience here for you guys. Also, I have pictures to share.

I found out about this event last month—completely by accident. I'm ashamed to say I had no idea the wildly talented Mr. King would be in the area at all. I knew his new book (11/22/63) was coming out soon, but it never occurred to me to check and see what kind of a book tour there would be.

Turns out, it was a really small tour. I got lucky. He came to Dallas—twice. Once at the Majestic Theater, and the second time, the one I went to, at McKinney North High School.

I'm not exactly sure why A Real Bookstore picked the high school as the venue, but I'll tell you this—it was actually a really great place for this. It seated about a thousand. And rest assured, it was a full house. We were allowed in the parking lot at 4 (after school let out). Which, in this case, was great. Because since no one could park before 4, there was absolutely no rush to get there before 4. Otherwise I would have felt the need to camp out by the door as soon as the sun rose. Anyway, I got there a little past four—traffic, of course—but we only had to stand in line outside until 5. Then we were allowed in.

I have to say, it was really awesome to be able to sit and wait instead of stand and wait. Because the actual event didn't begin until 7.

I also have to say, I'm really glad I picked up my ticket the day before because the will-call line didn't move at all until we were practically being let inside.

Seating was first come, first served. Another reason I insisted on being right on time, or as close to it as I could manage. I ended up getting a pretty darn good seat, if I do say so myself. Not quite in the front row, which I would have loved. But still close to the front. And I got a free A Real Bookstore tote bag in my seat. Another plus!
My ticket! And my free bag!
I sat next to a couple of friendly people (who had also come solo), which was awesome—I had brought my iPad along, expecting to be bored out of my mind while waiting, but instead I had some very pleasant conversations and got to talk about favorite King novels, how early I started reading his work (somewhere around 5th grade), and how excited we were to be there.

While we waited, a brass trio played jazz for us. And then the McKinney High Jazz Band played some songs. They were actually really good! And I was super surprised at how fast those two hours went by. A Real Bookstore had also put together a slideshow of Stephen King trivia and fun-facts (most of which the woman next to me knew!). There was even an official Twitter hash tag for the event!
The jazz trio. :)
I was all set with not one but two cameras (and my iPhone), and had triple-checked to make sure the flash wouldn't fire—the only condition of photography; it was allowed as long as we didn't use flash. But then I discovered that the red-eye light was also not okay. I panicked a little bit, thinking I wouldn't be able to figure out how in the world to cover up the thing.

Guys, I even went so far as to put bandaids over it (which actually worked pretty well). But then I decided I'd actually look in my camera settings and...voila! I figured out how to turn it off. On my Canon. My Nikon, I'm sad to say, was not so lucky. So it stayed in my purse the whole time.

And I gotta say, my Canon did a bang-up job. It was an excellent sidekick for the evening. And a trooper. Because, believe it or not, I took a whopping 260 pictures during the event. But I learned a long time ago, take a ton of pictures—if you do, you WILL get some good ones. Better safe than sorry. That's my philosophy.
The King!
The whole thing was a blast. Stephen (yes, we're on first name basis) looked so comfortable up there on stage—he owned it. And guys, he's funny. Seriously funny. It was sort of like seeing a stand-up comedy routine. He cracked jokes, poked fun, and was all around delightful and charming. He told stories about people mistaking him for Spielberg and Coppola, and about his experiences in Dallas while he was researching 11/22/63.

If you want to know what11/22/63 is about, here's a summary.
On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy died, and the world changed. What if you could change it back? Stephen King’s heart-stoppingly dramatic new novel is about a man who travels back in time to prevent the JFK assassination—a thousand page tour de force.*
And hearing him talk about writing was a dream come true for me. As an aspiring author who can't wait to be published, I couldn't ask for advice or wisdom from a better person—especially considering King is a huge influence for me. I mean, I learned to embrace the beauty of a well-placed sentence fragment from this man. The best advice of the night, at least for me personally, was this: And I'm sad I must paraphrase, but still: "If you're someone who wants to write, you needn't worry about the business side of things. Just get your words on paper. Words on paper, words on paper. The rest will follow." Again, that's a paraphrase. But the basic idea is there.

Words on paper. Words on paper. Words on paper.

Yes, this is my new mantra.

He talked for a little while, shared stories, and was met with generous applause and laughter. Then he read a short section of his book, which was highly enjoyable. He's got a good voice to give a reading; not boring or monotone or unengaged? something like that? And the excerpt really got me excited to read the book.
During the reading.
After the reading, he did a Q&A. I wish I'd really sat down and thought of a good question to submit, because after I got in the car to head back I thought of a million I wish I'd asked. But he was such a good sport and he answered all the questions asked of him, and was genuinely appreciative of the response he got from the audience for the evening.

He also talked about some upcoming books—another in the Dark Tower series,

All in all, it lasted a little over an hour. It was the first time I'd ever seen Stephen King in "real life", I suppose you'd say. And it was great. I always worry that people I idolize will be...disappointing in reality. But Stephen is anything but a disappointment.

He is a charismatic, charming man. Brilliant. Overflowing with ideas, creativity, and he is truly passionate about writing. He loves what he does—at one point in the evening, he said doing events like this were always a little uncomfortable for him because he feels he's meant to be in a room by himself writing stories.

I love the way he puts it—he's made to write stories. Not to get published, be famous, make millions. But to write stories.
Listening to a question.
This man is such an incredible inspiration to me, and I am absolutely thrilled to have had the chance to see him in person, and in a fairly intimate setting. One thousand people is a lot, but being as close as I was, it didn't feel like a huge venue.

And I walked away with a whole new appreciation for the man who's practically always been my favorite author.

I'm sad to report that I did not get an autographed copy of the book (250 autographed copies were mixed in with the 1,000 that were handed out to us). But the woman sitting next to me did! (Congratulations!)

But that's okay, because the experience itself was the true treasure for me. And I really enjoyed sharing it with you guys!

*Excerpt from Amazon's book description.


Anonymous said...

Personally I've never gotten into Stephen King's work, I have read a few, but they just aren't my thing.

I'm glad you got to meet your idol though! Good for you!

One of his houses is near where I lived in Bridgton, ME, so I used to see him occasionally in the book store and at the grocer sometimes.

Sarah said...

Thank you! It was probably one of the best days of my life so far. ;)

I am so jealous, I would LOVE to randomly see him at the book store. I suppose I should move to Maine. Ha!

June said...

Hi Sarah! I'm just now reading this...and--wow! I am thrilled for you that you met your inspirtion! How cool is that! I would have enjoyed hearing him as well. So so glad you got the opportunity. Perhaps one will be the one others will rally to see! :)

Kaori said...

You know what, I never knew what Stephen King looked like until I read your post! These are awesome photos, Sarah. And looks like you had a great time, too!