Students in Sussex, N.B., got a pre-Halloween thrill when horror-master Stephen King paid them a surprise visit on Friday.
The author of more than 50 books and 200 short stories, who lives in Bangor, Maine, decided to visit Sussex Regional High School following a yearlong, multimedia effort by students and staff.
In a campaign to persuade him, they wrote nearly 1,200 letters, created parody music videos that were posted on YouTube, as well as artwork inspired by his body of work.
"I came because of all those letters. I was just blissed out to get them all," King told the students.
"After this year, it's just kind of surreal that he finally just kinda walks in the door without anyone knowing," said student Jed Webster. "It's just beyond me."
'It hasn't completely sunk in that he was here. It's absolutely ridiculous that he actually came to our school. I'm still a little flabbergasted by it.'—Matt Beyer, student
"I think it's safe to say the whole school itself is still in a bit of shock," agreed student Matt Beyer. "It hasn't completely sunk in that he was here.
"It's absolutely ridiculous that he actually came to our school. I'm still a little flabbergasted by it," he said.
King, the renowned author of books such as The Shining, The Dark Tower series, and the recent JFK book 11/22/63: A Novel, offered a writing workshop for Beyer and 17 other students, giving critiques and advice.
He then addressed 80 students in the school's theatre, discussing his writing career and his stint as a high school teacher.
"I can't remember writing books because it's like dreams. That time just passes. I write from eight in the morning until about noon every day and when that time is going by for me, it just, I'm not in the world, I'm inside whatever the story is," said King, who was wearing a grey T-shirt and jeans.
"This is a little bit like being crazy, only they pay you for it, which is really good," he said, generating laughter.
Themes relevant to teens
"It was a wonderful experience," said teacher Sarah-Jane Smith, who helped spearhead the campaign, called Seeking Stephen King.
"He has such a wide range of genres he writes in — from suspense and horror, he has a comic series he does, Green Mile, Shawshank Redemption, Stand by Me, he has that gigantic portfolio of short stories, which are great for reluctant readers, and when you look at Carrie and Christine, he attacks great themes relevant to the high school age, like isolation, looking for belonging, bullying and the perils of revenge," said Smith.
"He was such a humble and gracious man to come here and do that, and to give his time to the students, and to continue to give his time to our students," she said, referring to the fact that King took some of the students' writing home with him.
"He told the students he was honoured they shared their writing with him, and he wanted to know if he could keep it to take home with him, so he could really sit down and review and give suggestions, give feedback."
King also invited students to send him more work in the future, Smith said.
"It definitely did live up to everything I hoped it would be," she said.