Three Ways I Owe Stephen King My Life—and My Sanity

The King is NOT dead. In fact it is his birthday today (21st September). He’s 69 years old. No joke (crude or otherwise).

king-on-nightstand

The (night)Stand. Dead center, wedged between anger and the unseen (Anne Carson poetry): King’s On Writing, sans dust jacket.

I’m not talking about Elvis, but the master fiction-writer Stephen King. Otherwise known as He of the eternal bestsellers list. Or maybe Scary Writer Guy.

If Mr. King hasn’t been on “The Simpsons” yet, please, somebody call Matt Groening. A scenario involving Itchy and Scratchy interviewing him, and perhaps literally being slaughtered by his words.

As for me . . . If given a few minutes with Mr. King, although there is much I would like to ask (including about language choices!), I should perhaps first offer him my hearty thanks.

In thinking about King the icon on his birthday, I am drawn to how many ways I owe someone I’ve never met, and am never likely to, my gratitude. Here are just a few. A tiny token. A kind of not-yet reliquary object; the moving finger, mid-writ. A curled, disintegrating pink sheet of paper, my treasure.

Three Ways I owe Stephen King . . .

1. It’s not about me. It’s about the bottle (if not the battle). Sometime last year, I read King’s (perhaps, although I hope not) conclusive novel in the saga of Dan(ny) “Doc” Torrance, Doctor Sleep. It makes so much more sense now. I can finally write it, nonfictionally, too: I am the child of an alcoholic. Curiously, it feels good to be truthful.

2. Have you read On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft? Really, there are too many gems in this short, leanly titled book to carry away in armfuls. To write, you have to read. Dogged persistence is key. Hammer at the words until you’ve fashioned something new—accessing a big, green god of ecstasy perhaps. You will survive; he (and his brother) did, after all. (Including the farting babysitter.) This book has saved me missteps I did not even realize were steps.

3. The pink sheet of paper, you ask? Circa, oh, 1989. Rest assured, it’s in storage. Not lost. Never lost. Dragged to a bingo game for the umpteen and first time as a child, I had two choices to make, both appealing: read or write. Thanks to reading King (and not always understanding what was beyond my range to understand), I nevertheless started turning to writing. On pink bingo programs or any scrap I could find. And, lo and behold, I became better at it (at least marginally, no pun intended) the more I did it. It propelled me in ways that being a sort of invisible raggedy-child of a dysfunctional family did not. Death and suicide, I saw through the veil of prose, were a termination. Not a clean and strings-free release. I, too, persisted.

So, world, you have Stephen King to thank (or stone) for my finding my way to the present me.

Unbraiding the strands of self from the writer is difficult to impossible at this point. At least, in that, I am thinking King and I are on common ground.

Long live Stephen King, my writing hero!

 

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Monday Markets: The Spiders Spinning the Moon Edition

Long time, no blog. Well, a couple weeks. An eon in interwebs years perhaps.

the-spiders-and-the-moon

Can you spot the second spider? The first certainly seems bigger than the moon.

Despite the annus miserabilis (yep, I meant that) on many fronts, there are good things about, too. Thank goodness.

I’ll do “markets” a little different this time. Once I get more sophisticated (maybe someday ponying up for the cost of a ‘real’ WordPress or other writing site), perhaps this might grow and improve and transmogrify. First:

Things to Read

Apart from your posts, which I’m still trying to catch up on after the Great Computer-Cord Fry-Up of August 2016, in which the little adapter box thing went bzzt (and my battery had no juice), here’s some notable writing (news and otherwise) you might enjoy or find helpful:

  • Surviving the Death Railway: A POW’s Memoir and Letters from Home, editor Hilary Custance Green’s very personal book about Far East POWs—with an endearing and enduring love story wrapped therein—is out now. Has been out for awhile. Do consider it for your reading list. Even better? It’s in hardback!
  • Another fellow WordPresser, Sarah Potter, just last week released her second book in a year. Wow! This one, Noah Padgett and the Dog-People, while written for the youthful crowd, approximately age 10 (up to and beyond age 100), features a boy with all the resources of Harry Potter, minus the wand. So, by his wits alone, he must survive and navigate a bracing crab of a stepmother and another dimension, called Zyx, ruled by Canis sapiens, or upright-walking, clothes-wearing, English-speaking dog-people. And with all the foibles of humans, spun into a new view, from a (nearly?) megalomaniacal poodle to a fretful golden retriever with a hidden beauty secret. Can Noah save his real dog, Bluebell, from Monsieur Percival Poodle and get out alive? Although I was a beta reader on this, I can confirm it was a quite enjoyable book. As an adult or, I would think, a dog-loving or imaginative child. Here’s where you can get it on the Kindle.
  • Take a look at a post by Diabolical Plots titled “Negotiating Short Story Contracts.” I won’t give away the keys to this kingdom, but when you sell a story, ask for a contract and actually read it. That’s one of the most basic tips for any writer. But get more insights from the diabolical personage himself, David Steffen, here.
  • If you like epic stories and the storytellers who execute them, then you’ll probably enjoy this Powell’s (bookstore) interview with Annie Proulx as much as I did.
  • And, finally, a survey of the psychologically “deep” short stories of British horror writer Robert Aickman.

 

Things to Write: Markets & Submissions

  • National Lampoon is looking for humor writers. This is a well-known, and paying market, but, I’ll presume, pretty competitive. If you submit, you absolutely must bring your funniest stuff. Otherwise, you’re schtick out of luck.
  • If you aim for the top, you’ll find Tin House, among others, sitting astride it. And, by the by, they are accepting submissions the entire month of September 2016, for several issues slated for 2017. One story or essay and up to five poems per submission. So, in September at TH: there’s an open-publication (no theme); there’s a rehab-themed issue; and then there’s a true crime issue. Many submit, but few, alas, are chosen. See more here.
  • Rejectomancer and author Aeryn Rudel has announced he will be a judge in an upcoming flash fiction contest run by Red Sun Magazine. There’s a small entry fee for submitting your fiction under 1K, and the deadline is Sept. 23. Prizing and other salient criteria are at RSM’s site here. And, if you’re a speculative fiction writer, aspiring or otherwise, you owe it to yourself to follow Rudel, whose name rightly appears persistently among the rolls of winning stories.
  • As this is a long post already and it’s almost bus-time, I’ll share one last one. Tacitus Publishing is seeking short fiction, 1500 to 5K, on the theme of shattered space. I’ll let them tell you: “[the story] takes place in space and has a strong horror element.  This can include aliens, ghosts, or disturbing circumstance[s].  The key to success, as with all strong writing, is the human struggle and relatable characters. . . . . ” Your story is due Oct. 31, and, as always, it would behoove you to know your market before submitting.

As ever, let’s go out there and  . . . get rejected! And, a la Samuel Beckett, get rejected better the next time.