March 25, 2012

What It’s Like to Meet a Master: by Leah Rhyne

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 1:40 pm

Leah Rhyne is an emerging writer, former student, and friend of mine. She also happened to have an experience that made me as green with envy as one of the bodily emissions Stephen King might write about. Whichever author may have shaped the inner contents of your writer’s soul, you can probably imagine getting to meet that person. Leah did–and I hung on every word of her description. Please read on, and leave a comment about the writer you’d get shaky in the knees at meeting!

Leah Rhyne

I grew up reading the Stephen King classics.  IT. THE SHINING. CARRIE. They were my early favorites, and I read them all before the age of fifteen.  He terrified me, inspired me, challenged me.

(He also gave me an unhealthy fear of balloons and storm drains.)

When I learned he would give the closing address at the Savannah Book Festival, my husband and I bought tickets as soon as the box office opened.

On the Big Day, we waited hours to be among the 400 fans to get books signed by Mr. King. Once our signing cards were in-hand, we entered the auditorium and squeezed our way into fourth row seats, with more time to kill and Miles Davis on the sound system.

Finally, the lights dimmed and the music silenced and Mr. King took the stage, wearing jeans, a t-shirt and loafers.  He was taller than I imagined, and skinnier, but there he was, less than a hundred feet from where I sat with a silly, sheepish grin on my face.

An hour later, I jumped to my feet for a standing ovation, amazed at how time had flown.  While he held the audience captive, Mr. King regaled us with:

  • His very own Made-It Moment, on a door-less public toilet when he was about 26. An ancient, bald bathroom attendant requested his autograph while Mr. King tried to attend the call of a very angry nature.
  • His love of books, including LORD OF THE FLIES, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and George R.R. Martin’s series, A SONG OF FIRE AND ICE.  All of these are books I, too, love.
  • Some tidbits about his writing style.  He writes “by the seat of his pants” (a comment made funnier by his earlier mention of pulling up his pants because he has no butt), letting his characters do as they please, often surprised at where they wind up. Sometimes he’ll let a character rest for a while, and when the character reappears in his head, he’s astonished at the interesting thing it’s done.
  • A reading from his upcoming novel, DR. SLEEP, which is the sequel to THE SHINING, and the audience drooled with excitement.

And then, it was time for the book signing.

Mr. King apologized in advance for the assembly-line signing. There’d be no time to chat or for pictures.  There were 400 of us waiting to get our books signed, a Herculean task on his part.

But still, as I lined up, I was anxious. I wanted to say something, to tell him that I was a writer, just starting out, that I loved his books and wanted to be his new best friend. I had five seconds to make an impression.

Me With Stephen King
Suddenly, there I was, handing over my book. I’d chosen ON WRITING, and wondered if he’d comment.  He didn’t.  Without thinking, I blurted out, “Thank you,” and smiled, a goofy, manic smile.  He looked up, expectant, and I realized I’d trailed off in a way that indicated I would say more.

I took a deep breath, and continued. “For years of inspiration and terror, Sir.”

He smiled, looked down at my book, then back up at me, still smiling.  “Well, I guess that’s a good combination,” he said.

And that was it.  This is no fantasy. I didn’t become his new best friend. He didn’t invite me to dinner so we could chat about our craft.  He’s not going to read my book.

But in that instant, I spoke to a living legend, and I made him smile.

I’d call that a good day.

Leah Rhyne is a Jersey girl, but she’s lived in the South long enough to call people “sir” and “ma’am” now, without much of a trace of irony.

In her day job, she is a Senior Quality Assurance Analyst at a multi-national computer software company. At night and on weekends, she’s a full-time wife and mother. Her daughter is growing up nerdy and she likes it that way.

Leah had been writing essays, blog-posts and other miscellaneous items for years when a friend challenged her to participate in NaNoWriMo in 2010. It wasn’t until three days in, when her husband jokingly told her to write about “zombie cows” that her first novel began to take shape. The ideas kept coming, and still won’t stop.

In Leah’s “spare” time, she loves running and yoga and playing fetch with her  hound dog.


  1. Leah,
    I love your Stephen King story. I hope some day aspiring writers feel that way about you. Good luck with your writing career.

    Comment by Marilyn Levinson — March 25, 2012 @ 1:51 pm

  2. Haha. At least you didn’t make a total idiot out of yourself as I tend to do in those situation. I never say anything intelligent. Um, in those situations that is.

    Comment by Stella Deleuze — March 25, 2012 @ 1:57 pm

  3. I’d call that a damned good day. Congratulations to Leah – it sounds like she handled the situation better than I would have…

    Comment by Allan Leverone — March 25, 2012 @ 2:04 pm

  4. Love your story, Leah! Thanks Jenny.


    Comment by Pamela DuMond — March 25, 2012 @ 2:37 pm

  5. Hilarious!! And what a cool–and terribly modest–moment! I’ll never forget when I met my favorite poet by asking what his name was (I didn’t know what he looked like!) and I flushed when he answered with the very name of the man I’d come miles to see. Omg.

    Poor Mister King…I too am a buttless wonder.

    Comment by SavvyBlue — March 25, 2012 @ 2:44 pm

  6. Great story, Leah. King is one of my favorites too – I doubt I would have been able to say as much as you did!!

    Comment by mountainmama — March 25, 2012 @ 3:27 pm

  7. Hi everyone! Thanks for the nice comments – I probably did look like a total geek, but that’s ok. It was a crazy-cool moment in life. :)

    Comment by Leah Rhyne — March 25, 2012 @ 3:59 pm

  8. So pleased for you, Leah, that you met your favorite author, the one who set you on your feet. I have a yen to meet CJ Lyons, the woman who is/was an emergency room specialist and who writes gritty books. More to the point, her marketing is supreme and she’s willing to help beginners.

    Comment by Vonnie Hughes — March 25, 2012 @ 4:14 pm

  9. Great story, Leah! Thanks for sharing.
    What kind of “hound dog”? I have two basset hounds and a longhaired dachshund.

    Comment by P.L. Blair — March 25, 2012 @ 4:36 pm

  10. Someone who’s willing to help beginners? Sounds like Jenny! :)

    And I have a Heinz 57 mutt, but at least part *something* hound-ish – he’s sweet and epileptic, and I love him.

    Comment by Leah — March 25, 2012 @ 5:11 pm

  11. Jenny, I was also a particularly vivid shade of green when I found out Leah was getting to meet Stephen King. He’s at the top of my author idols list along with Dean Koontz and Christopher Pike.

    Great story, Leah! Making Mr. King smile is truly an amazing day.

    Comment by Jocelyn Rish — March 25, 2012 @ 5:22 pm

  12. Jocelyn! Hi! Excellent to see you here!! :)

    Comment by Leah — March 25, 2012 @ 5:35 pm

  13. A very GOOD DAY! He is not only my favorite author but also one of the people I would love to have a conversation with. Don’t know what I would say. Glad you had the chance to make him smile.

    Comment by Christine Borkowski — March 25, 2012 @ 7:13 pm

  14. Leah,

    Great King story! I am jealous you met him. My girlfriend and I in high school always wanted to go to thurs house for Halloween!
    I would love to meet him.

    Comment by Kellie — March 25, 2012 @ 9:25 pm

  15. Awesome post! And what a great dialogue between you and King.

    Comment by Donna Galanti — March 26, 2012 @ 6:03 pm

  16. Thanks again, everyone! These comments were all amazing!!

    Comment by Leah Rhyne — April 2, 2012 @ 7:49 am

  17. [...] the way, a while ago Leah did a guest post about meeting Stephen King. I mean, can you say writing on the [...]

    Pingback by Suspense Your Disbelief » Made It Moment: Leah Rhyne — December 2, 2012 @ 11:33 pm

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