A recent post at Cemetery Dance by writer, blogger and social media guru Jason Sechrest on his first interaction with Stephen King, recalled to mind my own.
Yes, we live in the same great State of Maine -- whose "lakes, streams and rock bound coast will ever fill our hearts with thrills" [Roger Vinton Snow, adopted as the state song of Maine on March 30, 1937] (Who knew his words would prove so true?) -- but it's a BIG state, for New England. And Mr. King and I chose different paths and moved in different literary circles -- that, but once, intersected. So, here's my (condensed) Stephen King and I tale:
I met Stephen King at a Bookland signing in South Portland. The Maine book chain had promoted him when he was a younger writer and, when the store was struggling to survive, Stephen volunteered to do a signing to help (sadly in vain since Bookland ultimately closed). I brought his collection Nightmares and Dreamscapes for him to autograph because he'd dedicated the book to Thomas Williams, who had recently passed away.
Professor Williams [author of the 1975 Horn book award-winning The Hair of Harold Roux - a great book; recommended] had taught and encouraged Stephen as a young writer, and he was the only one of my college professors to also encourage my writing "that weird stuff that will amount to nothing" that my classmates derided. After one fairly vicious critique session by my peers, Professor Williams shared a self-deprecating story of his meeting with an unknown author whose first novel, he felt, "showed promise" but would have "limited appeal."
The novel was Carrie.
The line at Bookland wrapped around the store, and so the store staff hustled us along. But Mr. King hesitated when he saw the page I wished him to sign in Nightmares and Dreamscapes. It was the Dedication to Professor Thomas Williams. He asked why, and the line stopped. We chatted for a couple minutes, until the annoyance of the store staff and those waiting behind me required us to return to our respective roles of famous author and grateful fan. But it was good to share that moment together recalling Tom, and to see Mr. King's quirky smile as he passed me the signed book.