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!
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.
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.