“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”Stephen King
Stephen King was born on September 21st, 1947 in Portland, Maine. His father left the family when he was just two years old, and his mother raised him and his brother alone, sometimes under great financial strain that forced them to depend on relatives. At the age of ten he found his father’s old pulp novels in the attic, and his mother told him his father was a talented story writer. King began to write stories then too. With his brother’s help, he mimeographed and sold his stories among classmates (later having to return profits when found out by teachers), then in 1965 he sold his first story “I Was a Teenage Grave Robber” to Comics Review.
After High School King attended the University of Maine, graduating in 1970 with a BA in English. He met Tabitha Spruce while at college, whom he married in 1971. Their first child, daughter Naomi Rachel was born in 1970.
After graduating King began teaching and selling stories to magazines. His first professional short story, “The Glass Floor” was published in 1967 in Startling Mystery Stories. King also worked onnnovels that were not published at the time.
In 1973 Doubleday accepted his manuscript for Carrie, the fourth novel written by King but the first to be published. He had initially thrown the story away, but it was fished out of the garbage by Tabitha, who encouraged him to keep going with it. He received an advance of $2500. About a month later New American Library bought the paperback rights for $400,000. In 1976 it was made into a very popular film.
His wife Tabitha had stood by his side through the early lean years, when they were living in a trailer with two kids and she worked at Dunkin Donuts to support them. She also stood by his side as he became successful, and sank into a deep alcohol and coke habit. In 1987 she staged an intervention with the kids who were 17, 15 and 10 at the time. It took a few years, but King eventually got sober.
A 2013 New York Times article describes how King had his children record audiobooks for him – reading aloud entire novels, not always entirely age-appropriate ones. Two of his three children became writers, and his wife Tabitha has a number of novels to her name as well.
After Carrie King published Salem’s Lot (1975), The Shining (1977) and The Stand (1978). King has published over 60 novels in multiple genres, including horror, suspense, sci-fi and fantasy. His books have sold over 350 millions copies. (More on collecting Stephen King here if you’re interested)
On June 19, 1999 King was hit by a van while walking down a country road near his house. He sustained serious injuries which led to a very long and painful recovery, during which he finished On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (2000), although at first he wasn’t sure he would be able to write again.
Lesson from King
Looking at King’s career now, it’s easy to see it as a meteoric rise to success. But, it took years of dedication and faith. He overcame great obstacles. And above all else – he wrote.
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