The ‘King’ of Tsongas Arena

A Conversation with Stephen King

By Timothy P. Flynn

On Friday, Dec. 7th, the streets of Lowell were packed with traffic all heading to a very special event at Tsongas Arena: A Conversation with Stephen King. The event was to mark the first for the Chancellor’s Speaker Series for the English Department at UMass Lowell. One of the esteemed faculty members, Andre Dubas III, acted as host/interviewer for the talk.

“It’s scary as shit in here!” was King’s first words to the audience resulting in an uproar of laughter. This was King’s first ever arena event, he stated, and the feel for the evening was established:  this was going to be a night to remember.  Dubas gave a rather lengthy introduction to the merits of King’s work and movie adaptations to which King cut him off saying, “You make it sound like I died!” When Dubas gave King the compliment of having doubled Charles Dickens in book sales, again King states, “They didn’t have e-books back then.”

The topics talked about included story ideas, aspects of the writing craft, and King’s rise to success. If you read any of the many King biographies out there, some of the more famous stories and anecdotes were brought up such as the origins of Cujo and how King states he never needed a psychiatrist because with all the crazy shit he makes up, people pay him. The funniest story was when King finally had a dinner with Bruce Springsteen at a restaurant in Pennslyvania, and a beautiful 16-year-old girl floated over to the table for an autograph with such excitement. “She didn’t even fucking look at Springsteen!”

Dubas read an extract from On Writing which was very moving having to do with the writing process and the will to continue writing. After Dubas’ reading, King read a brand new story, Afterlife, which was a story of a man who died from colon cancer and the events thereafter. The essence of the story was man’s fear of death, and if given a choice to start over again exactly the same versus blow out like a candle in the wind; most make the wrong choice.

The end of the night consisted of a Q and A session with about 10-15 questions asked. King added his usual wit and humor to his answers along with advice everyone in the room was listening to. A woman in the crowd brought a poster board picture of King at Fenway reading a book and her question was if King knew what book it was. Well, this slick creative woman got her poster board brought up to the stage for King to look at only to find a large sign in the back of it stating, “Sign Me!”- With roars from the crowd, King signed it.

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A group of Stephen King fans.

After the event was over, a bunch of us NEHW members met up at front to recall the night. We all went down the street to Lowell Beer Works for awhile to end the night. You can use your imagination on how the conversation went and topics discussed.

The event was a surreal, fantastic memory that I will forever cherish. I read King’s books, I created a challenge to myself via his On Writing memoir, I proposed to Barbara in front of his house in Bangor, Maine and now I was able to hear his talk and joke in the same room( very far away though). I am getting closer, maybe one day I can get that signature and that picture.

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