Friday night at the Tsongas Arena in Lowell, over 3000 people got to experience something rare-- a public appearance by renowned author Stephen King. He'd been lured from his lair by the wiles of his writer-friend Andre Dubus III, and the welcoming folks of the English department of the University of Massachusetts. They'd somehow convinced him to come talk to people in a public forum.
Making the night even more special was the private VIP reception I got to attend beforehand, courtesy of friends with connections.
King was my writing instructor back at the University of Maine, and I haven't spoken with him since the 80's. Here's an article I wrote about him a long time ago.
So I got to say hello once more, and even got to hand him the book of horror stories I'd written and dedicated to him (Halls of Horror).
Didn't get a picture of us together, though-- because of people pushing their way in rather than wait their turn. And none of the photographers present snapped one at the time, either, dang it.
Did get a mini-interview with John Collins, a reporter from the Lowell Sun, though, who wanted to hear about me signing a book for King, instead of the other way around.
King was gracious and charming, some folks almost swooning in his presence. He passed out kisses and hugs, signed books (and other things), and made people feel special, like they'd touched greatness.
It was a magical night, and even King said he felt like a rock star, as this was his first “arena show.” The fans came from all over the world. I talked to a young lady from Quebec, and on her right were folks from Ireland and Holland, who'd made this stop as part of their holiday here in the States. Other people had driven or flown hundreds of miles- from Chicago, Pennsylvania, and some from the West Coast. Because King's fans are rabid-- and they were not about to pass up this extremely rare chance to hear him.
His talk was the stuff of legend. He was witty, funny, brilliant, inspirational, and deep. He read from a new work (wow- we heard a world debut!), and chatted with Dubus on stage in a laid-back, friendly way, both in comfy chairs that were later auctioned off. His rough-hewn, folksy, unassuming manner is just like Maine, his home.
Best of all, it was for a good cause, a King scholarship fund for the University. He dedicated his speaking fee to the cause, and they raised over $100,000 for the fund that night.
You just won't find other writers who could fill a room that size, entertain the hell out of the audience, and even leave them with a final scare before they left. The man is a writing industry, a giant among writers, a caring and giving man, whose generosity is well-known. His fans are rabid for a reason, because his characters live and breathe, and teach us that we can be better when faced with incredibly tough and scary decisions. We may not have to face a vampire or a demon, but the everyday horrors we encounter take as much courage to fight as any made-up monster.
I spoke with two photographers, and would like to thank them for the photos.
Here's a few links from the media