Post-It Note Poetry 2018

Post-It Note Poetry apparently began as a dare back in 2103 that saw Jodi Cleghorn and Adam Byatt write brief poems for the entire month of February. I don’t know the full details but Sean Wright also appears heavily involved in this poetic movement and it is through his Twitter updates that I became aware of #pinp last year and invested in it this year.

Writing each day for a month was a challenge. Most of the poetry I write tells a story and does so over several lines, sometimes over the page. As such, forcing myself to be brief impacted on my ability to come up with new ideas. At various times, I swore my creative well was dry.

Nevertheless, I pushed through and managed to produce something each day. The quality varies but I’m happy with what I managed to achieve. Below is all of my #pinp18 work collated into the one place.

1/2

Under the weight

of other people’s opinions,

my back is bent

but it is not broken.

I will learn to stand again.

 

2/2

So often

am I cast as the villain,

now I can’t even

save myself.

 

3/2

When death comes,

I will board the mourning train

and ride the rails

to the other side.

 

4/2

If you looked

from the inside

OUT,

all of the muggles

would appear magical.

 

5/2

Although it long ago

lost its shine,

I still don my armour

for you.

 

6/2

What if all

is not as it seems

and I’m not the man

you see in your dreams?

 

7/2

She kept her heart

in a jar beside the bed

with a note that read,

“nothing good can come of this.”

 

8/2

I am the moon

and all its cycles –

sometimes seen in full,

other times barely

a slither of myself.

 

9/2

The radio plays

their favourite song

but his dance partner’s

long gone.

 

10/2

She made his life sweeter

but, in return,

he devoured her.

 

11/2

On some days it seems

I could be replaced with a

recorded message.

 

12/2

The gossip queen

lights rumours

that spread like wildfire

where only the innocent

get burned.

 

13/2

And so we rebuild this bridge

from the rubble of the last one,

the scorch marks still visible

from when I burned it down.

 

14/2

Days break like hearts,

silent and alone

but visible to many.

 

15/2

thoughts upon thoughts

revisions of decisions

we live our lives

inside our own heads

and there we drown

in uncertainty

and insecurity

 

16/2

Hard earned

liquid love

refreshes the soul.

 

At this point here I joined Instagram. Most of my poems before this were written on Post-It notes and shared via Facebook and Twitter. From the seventeenth onwards; however, my poems took on a more ‘fancy’ aesthetic.

 

17/2

Dear younger me,

They are not mistakes

but opportunities,

not roadblocks

but detours.

Stay true to yourself

and the world will open

its arms to you.

 

18/2

Winter rain

and summer storms

bring forth

water from the sky

but they are

no more alike

than you and I.

 

19/2

I scratch ink

into my skin

so there’s a part of me

I can love.

 

20/2

I make believe that poems are a conversation

between you and me

but ultimately

that cannot be the case.

There is no back and forth.

There is only me

then

there is only you.

 

On the 21st I wrote two poems. This is because I was a little concerned that the intentions behind my first poem might be misinterpreted or that I might inadvertently offend someone with it. What I was trying to do was use a pop-up book as a symbol of innocence to comment on sexual violence and the impact men have, sometimes without an awareness of having done anything wrong. I shared the poem privately with a couple of people but haven’t shared it publically until now. I’ve decided to share it as part of this blog because the forum allows me to explain myself somewhat and other content published here reinforces my respect for women.

 

pinp 18 1

 

21/2* (replacement poem, published instead of the one above)

I believed that I

had stepped softly

but I have found

others following

in my footprints.

 

22/2

The reach of my heart

is infinite

as those I inspire

go on to

influence others.

 

23/2

when it’s the fifth time that night

when it’s the sixth night that week

when it’s the third week that month

the baby

is not the only one who cries.

 

24/2

Did he,

tortured and troubled,

cut off his own ear

or

did his friend,

accosted and angered,

sever it from his face?

 

25/2

In that darkened space behind the curtain,

away from prying eyes,

I looked into your face for the final time.

I cried for what I had lost,

not in your physical presence

but in the relationship we never had

nor would get the chance to build.

 

26/2

We danced by the fire

unaware of how close we were

to getting burned

until someone pulled us back from the embers.

 

27/2

There is one more child

in my classroom

– a baby snake has slithered in.

In their fascinated excitement

the students endanger themselves

and the dugite;

I become the

most feared creature in the room.

 

The following poem is one I’ve just scribbled down. I’ll publish it on Instagram and on my other social media tomorrow. Consider this a sneak peak.

 

28/2

All things,

whether bad or good,

must come to an end

but it is up to us

how we remember them.

 

Thank you to those who have liked, loved, retweeted, shared or just read my verse along this journey. Much love to you all.

pinp18 2

 

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Flash Fiction: Fridge Folly

Somehow, I’ve locked myself in the fridge. Again. I don’t know how or why this keeps happening to me. I know, it sounds stupid, but it’s not quite what you’re thinking. I’m not talking about a normal fridge. I’m not stuck in between the butter and a cucumber with milk dripping down my legs. It’s not that sort of fridge. Well, it was, but my dad retrofitted it. You see, he saw this documentary on The History Channel once and it said that you could survive a bomb blast inside an ordinary household refrigerator. So, the first thing the next day, my dad went down to the second-hand store and came back with three fridges on the back of his ute – one for him, one for mum and one for me.

He worked on them for weeks. He reckons there’s no point being uncomfortable while we’re waiting for the after effects of the bomb to dissipate so he started trying to make the insides more homely. The first thing he did was attach cushions to the inside walls. Then he put a tube in the side filled with snack foods and protein drinks. What stumped him was how to provide adequate facilities for us to go to the toilet. He didn’t want to drill a drainage hole through the wall because he thought it might weaken its defences, so he put some sort of container in the fruit and veg drawer at the bottom and rigged it up to a funnel that was at waist height. It’s kind of gross.

Anyway, today he wants to install an oxygen tank inside each one. I don’t know how long he expects us to stay in these fridges, but I do know it’s pointless to try to argue with him. Once his mind is set on something it’s not changing.

So, there we were in the basement. I’d climbed into my fridge so dad could measure where the tank would sit and work out what length of tube would be needed to get the oxygen down to my mouth. It turns out he didn’t have the right materials, or something like that, so he went to the hardware store. The problem is, he didn’t check to see if I was still inside the fridge when he shut and locked the door. I told him the locks were a stupid idea the first time he locked me in here but he wouldn’t listen; he just kept nattering on about protecting his ideas. I think he’s hoping to go on Shark Tank or something like that. Not that it helps me. Things aren’t going to be great for him soon either, though. If he’s not home in the next five minutes or so, these toilets might get their first test run.

Writing With Joanne Fedler

Recently I stumbled across a 7-day writing course run by Joanne. I’m on school holidays, it was free; it was meant to be.

The 7 days were titled:

1. Dream writing

2. Keep random lists

3. Change places

4. The fire of feeling

5. The power of AND

6. Reflection, connecting the dots, finding my voice

7. Everyone is a winner

Each day, Joanne would post a video introducing the concept and then there would be a downloadable prompt designed to get the creative machine in gear. Once completed, many people would share their pieces in a private Facebook group.

But people shared more than their scribblings. They shared their stories – stories of time spent ignoring their memories and feelings, stories of accomplishment and achievement, stories of struggles and of great joy.

For me, I started on Day 1 writing a nightmare scenario that was clearly influenced by the book I’d most recently read (The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor). Day 2, I wrote this:

On the third day I wrote a letter to my mouth and wrote a reply from its perspective.

On Day 4 I wrote about the guilt that I felt when I accidentally hurt my son – we were in a car park and a car was coming, I yanked him in to my arms and the buttons on my shirt scratched his face. It was an accident but I was angry and I cannot shake the shame. On Day 5 I wrote about how I read and respond to other people’s emotions better than I do my own. These two days then influenced Day 6 when I wrote this:

Day 7 is interesting because, depending on how you look at it, it either has the least amount of work to do or the most. Technically there is no prompt specific to this day so there is absolutely no required writing BUT the completion of a form provides a link to an extensive bank of prompts which will keep any writer going for a long time. Here’s one of them:

Anyway, in the Facebook group many people are writing their praise for Joanne, her support crew and the other writers who have engaged in the process. Me, I’m writing this. It’s a review of sorts or simply an explanation of what I’ve been doing this past week.

Jo actually messaged me during the course. She’d seen one of my posts included above and a little cyber stalking revealed that I’m an established poet. She asked, as is natural, what interest I had in her course which is geared more at people closer to the start of their creative journey. I replied that I’m interested in branching into other forms of writing but also that I’m just happy to be engaged in something that has me writing every day (I think what I really need is a personal trainer of sorts, one that is focussed on keeping my pen moving). Beyond that, I really like the two poems that I wrote and have included here. I honestly believe that I would never have written them if I hadn’t taken part in this writing challenge.

If you’re a writer, beginning or otherwise, I’d definitely encourage finding Jo on Facebook and keeping an eye out for when she runs something like this again.

Toxic Masculinity in Poetry

Working in education, you only have to open your eyes in order to see the gender imbalance that exists in this industry. As part of the superstructure it is also assumed that the same distribution of power exists in other industries, a fact that is mirrored in the pay gap that still exists in a number of vocations.

In schools, the teaching staff is dominated by women while men seem to seek and succeed in earning positions as heads of department, deputies and principals. This creates a “boy’s club” mentality at top level. Interestingly, something I read last year said that a woman trying to integrate herself into this environment will often adopt a persona that is hyper-sexual.

But, I digress.

It is the boy’s club mentality and the notion that men can get away with disgusting behaviour because it’s accepted that “boys will be boys” that I find myself coming back to repeatedly. Maybe it’s because I’m a father to a young boy I don’t want perpetuating those behaviours (and to a young girl I don’t want to be the victim of that mentality). Maybe it’s because, as a teacher, I’m in a nurturing role looking after hundreds of today’s youth. Maybe it’s because I used to be a dick and I’m trying to make up for the crap I got up to when I was younger.

Anyway, it is this theme of toxic masculinity that drew me in to Shane Cartledge’s chapbook/zine, The Man Place. As a disclaimer, Shane and I are part of a poetry group on Facebook and he put a call out asking if anyone would be happy to read his zine and write a few comments. As far as I know, Shane and I have never met so expect what I write below to be unbiased.

Firstly, I didn’t like every poem. But, are you meant to? I can’t think of a single collection of verse where I’ve enjoyed absolutely every poem.

What I did like is the variety. The zine opens and closes with a haiku, there’s a poem that looks like it’s a villanelle (and I’m too lazy to look up the form to confirm), and there’s a variety of free verse structures – including this one which is my personal favourite:

While this is my favourite full poem, the lines I keep coming back to are from another. “The Girl With the Ice Cream Eyes” has a neat little twist in the ‘zero fucks given’ ethos. It first appears as…

and comes back later as…

It reappears in that poem too but I don’t want to spoil it here. It’s a poem that gets pretty dark too. It’s unsettling, but that’s the whole point. The zine is described by its author as an unpacking of “the shortcomings and problems with masculinity” that includes “themes of sexual assault and sexual violence”.

That said, it’s not going to be your lighthearted holiday read that you digest while sipping cocktails by the pool. This is dark, bedroom poetry that you hide from under your doona, that you use like a razor blade to slice through your centuries old misconceptions.

It won’t be out until next month (I’ll post details in the comments when I get them) but, if you see this zine around, do yourself a favour and pick it up.

Oops, I did ink again

I solemnly swear that I thought I was done. In previous “Think Behind the Ink” posts I said as much but, as some people have pointed out, there’s something addictive about getting tattoos.

As is my wont, these new pieces have a particular meaning attached. They have a certain significance that may or may not be obvious when first viewed.

I’ll start with my ribs.

Very few people will see this piece because of its location (only those connected to reading/writing are visible in my work clothes). Some might assume that these birds represent freedom or achievement as is often the case with these animals as metaphors. It’s not the case with mine. These birds are an attempted murder and they represent the three Adelaide Crows premierships; the men’s team in 1997-1998 and the women’s in 2017.

I wanted something that wasn’t overt as I find some sporting tattoos to be quite naff. I also wanted something that could be added to over time. I’ll probably add colour at some point. I’d flirted with the idea of two shades of blue and a splodge of pink as a water colour background but I could also just incorporate the club’s colours. I figured that could be a decision for Later Ron. When the Crows win another grand final (or five 🤞) I can add more birds to the flock and think about colour then.

Now to the forearm.

I’d deliberated over the location of this one/these three and their potential impact on my employability. I decided that any school that doesn’t want their English teacher to have visible tattoos that stem from books is probably not a school I want to work at. On a simplistic level, the symbols come from authors I love – J.K. Rowling, Stephen King and Terry Pratchett – but each holds a significance beyond an appreciation of their origins.

Most people will recognise the Deathly Hallows (closest to the wrist) from the Harry Potter series. The symbol represents the invisibility cloak, the resurrection stone and the elder wand through the triangle, circle and vertical line respectively. The combination of these three objects makes one the master of death. Unfortunately, death and dying are frequent topics of conversation. A great number of people I care about appear to be attending funerals regularly, have lost their own lives or are battling age and ill-health. To have some control over life and death, then, is a fantasy I almost wish I could make reality.

The middle symbol is from Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. It is ka, roughly synonymous with destiny or fate. Beyond that, ka “signifies life-force, consciousness, duty and destiny.” Now, I don’t necessarily believe in predestination but my personal philosophies align well with the notion that good and bad will happen to us at various points in our lives and that we will have little to no control over these events. However, we can control our reactions. Che sarà, sarà BUT it is up to us to determine if we will let those events define or control us.

The final symbol is the Summoning Dark from Terry Pratchett’s Thud. The Summoning Dark is a spirit of vengeance from dwarf mythology with a sign described as like “a floating eyeball with a curly tail”. For want of a better term, it ‘infects’ one of the characters and he realises that the more he relies on the Dark the more vulnerable he becomes to succumbing to his own ‘dark side’. For me, the tattoo is about internal struggles and self-reliance.

Maybe part of the appeal of tattoos is linked to insecurities and body image. Our bodies are a thing of great conjecture but, beyond that, they are ever changing. Perhaps tattoos are enticing because they give you an element of control, something you can be happy with despite whatever flaws you think you have.

Kickstarting my creativity: an update

This is a short post, nothing special.

In November I ran a Kickstarter campaign for their “Commissions” project. It was my first ever experience on the provider side of crowdsourcing.

I’d like to say a massive thanks to my friends for making the project a success, especially those who paid more than what their ‘reward tier’ required.

For those who didn’t see the original post, my Kickstarter campaign was poetry based. Basically, I’d write whatever people wanted me to write – they picked the topic, form and length.

It was cool to try something new and I loved hearing back from people about what they did with the poem and how they reacted to what I wrote.

Some of the feedback included:

“You bloody bugger you made me cry!!!!!!!

Thank you sooooo much”

“Oh my god it’s so good! I love the second stanza. It actually made me tear up a bit”

“I love it! Perfect 👌”

“It’s beautiful and I love it. 😊 AND I can’t believe how great the structure is! Sonnets are so strict 😂 I also love the last line”

“Can’t see it well in the photo but this is what I did with your poems you wrote for my sister. She really loves them Ron. She reads them over and over and admires how you put together my feeling about her into such beautiful words. Thanks again for doing the poems x”

And here’s what people did with their poems that were gifts for other people:

image

Again, I want to thank everyone that got involved for their support, encouragement and feedback. Much love 💙

Leaving a Legacy

“If life’s a bitch then death’s a slut. Cos death comes for everyone, and when it’s you turn you’re fucked.” – Hilltop Hoods

I struggle with death. I’ve always struggled with death.

As a teenager, I failed to see my self-worth. I felt I offered more problems than solutions, and I thought people’s lives would be simpler if I wasn’t around. I’d set up nooses, press knives against my skin, and live a life of reckless endangerment.

Then, people died. My aunty and uncle committed suicide a year apart, a family friend died with a needle in his arm. My reactions to these events were selfish, sometimes tinged with jealousy. My mum, however, was distraught.

The suicidal thoughts tapered off after this but they never fully left. Even in my 30s I have often looked at trees and poles and the like while I’ve been driving and thought, ‘how easy it would be to turn the wheel slightly and put an end to it all?’ I obviously haven’t done it yet and I don’t ever plan to but the thoughts linger.

This year I lost two people I wish I had more opportunities to bond with. One was a young girl, the other a man slightly older than me. I wrote about it at the time and that certainly helped me through the immediate grief but I still have moments when it hits me, hard. One of these was on my footy club’s end of season trip in November. You see, the young girl is the daughter of one my teammates and the slightly older man was also on the team. The man’s nickname was written on the bus wheel and, at one pit stop on the way to our destination, I sat next to the type for a moment of peace, reflection and remorse. When we reached our accommodation, I hugged the father and told him I missed his daughter. We all then headed to the local tavern and, once we got there, I snuck away to the car park. I rang my wife in tears.

It didn’t help that both of these two fantastic people died within close proximity to the 10 year anniversary of my dad’s death. Ours was a relationship of regret and lost opportunities and it’s complicated nature has impacted on my ability to find peace in his passing.

Other deaths and near-deaths rocked my footy club and workplace throughout the year. It seemed as though I couldn’t escape deaths shadow and, as such, I couldn’t escape my grief.

A fortunate side effect of thinking about death is that I’ve imagined what my funeral will look like and what people will say. I say fortunate because it has helped me gain perspective. It has helped me decide how I want to live and what legacy I leave behind.

I want to be known as a decent human being. I want to be remembered as someone with a big heart, someone who helped people.

You see, I’m not seeking death; I’m chasing immortality.

I want to inspire people. I want to be a role model. I want my humour, humility and humanity to serve as traits other people want to see in themselves.

If this happens and they inspire others in turn, then my influence will outlive my body.

Kickstarting my Creativity

Throughout November, Kickstarter is encouraging people to start projects that require input from others in order to be completed. When I saw their video I knew I had to take part.

I’ve often spoken about the need for community spirit in creative endeavours. Being part of sporting clubs now and in the past, I’ve often been in awe of the support offered on and off the field. It seems everyone attaches to a club wants the other members to be better. It makes sense because it’s a team environment but creative pursuits are often individual. This means that artists are often removed from situations where they can be provided with feedback and direction.

This Kickstarter initiative plays in the same space.

As it’s my first attempt at running a crowdsourcing project, I’m very nervous. It’s only three days in and I’m already freaking out. There are so many doubts.

Have I set my target too high?

Are my reward prices too high?

Does the project page read well?

Does my title stand out enough?

Should I have made the project duration longer?

Fortunately, Kickstarter put me on to a Facebook group where I’ve already received some feedback. I’ve put some of this in place but other things can’t be changed once the project is launched.

Even if it doesn’t get off the ground, participating in this event has proven beneficial. When setting up the page I listed my creative achievements and it’s the first time I’ve collated this into a list. So now, as much as I’m nervous about the project, I’m quietly confident in my own abilities as an artist because I’ve realised that my creative cv is something I should be proud of.

It’s technically not even up to date too. The following image is from Realistic Poetry International’s “Poets are Heroes” magazine and I’ve received an email stating four poems of mine are going to appear in a new anthology – both bits of news coming after I set up my project page.

So, what is my Kickstarter idea? I’m writing poems for people. Basically, people pick the size poem they want and, if the project reaches its goal, I’ll ask them for information that will inform the writing of the poem. If you want to find out more, here’s the link – http://kck.st/2hzSYl1

I Could Quit Teaching

The school system sucks. We all accept this. There are regular changes to curriculum and the way in which material is delivered but, for the most part, we trundle out the same old crap.

Walk through almost any school today and you’ll still see four walls, rows of desks, uniformly in dress and a teacher up the front doing “chalk and talk”. You’ll find variations on this theme too. It might be three walls and a concertina or sliding door. You might see a U shape, groups of desks or a long conference-style table. The teacher might even use technology to get their point across. Regardless, schools are still factories trying to churn out round pegs for all those round holes in society even if those pegs are square when they walk in the door.

It’s a multi-faceted problem. Its individual schools that do things by the book. It’s the education departments who dictate curriculum. It’s the government criticises teachers for dropping standards and combats that by increasing the workload. It’s the teachers who lack empathy, flexibility and tact. It’s the parents who are absent or ambivalent when it comes to the learning needs of their children. It’s the society who has abandoned the notion that it takes a village to raise a child and instead shirks responsibility wherever possible. It’s the kids who deliberately try to make life hard for people. It’s everything and everyone.

Schools don’t care about the mental health or the social skills of their students. They might claim to. It might be on their business plan. But! Therein lies the problem. Business plan. Schools are a business whose stock is measured by a system of numbers. What numbers? Standardised test scores: NAPLAN bands, OLNA and ATAR results. These are the details released to the public, these are the numbers that dictate funding and influence enrolments. When push comes to shove, these are the numbers schools use to determine their success. It is not about the students, it is about their results.

The union, which fights for the benefits of teachers, is equally uncaring when it comes to students. What does the union want us to do? Clock in when school starts, clock out when it finishes, work to rule.

I got in to teaching to help kids, to guide them through their tumultuous teenage years. But nothing attached to the school system seems to line up with that ideology. What’s important? Numbers, numbers, numbers, staff.

A robot could do my job better than me. An algorithm could measure student achievement, determine weaknesses and identify resources designed to foster improvement all in the time it would take me to call out the roll.

I could quit teaching. It would be easy. There are countless numbers of jaded staff working in schools across the world. I could join their ranks and either leave the profession completely or do a half-assed job of it.

I could quit teaching. But I won’t. When the system is broken and the whole world seems to be against them, who else will advocate for my students?

Honestly, and I could get in trouble for this, I don’t care about education department policy. I don’t care about government mandated standardised tests. I don’t care about towing the company line.

What do I care about? The kids!

I will do whatever I can within the four walls of my classroom to make sure my students feel respected, accepted and wanted. I will do what I can to brighten their day for the hour I have them. I will build them up, test their boundaries and push them to succeed NOT because it looks good on paper but because it is their future on the line. I will check in on them when they’re hurting. I will help them when they need it, often at my own inconvenience. I will treat them like the human beings they are regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, religion or class. I will make mistakes because I’m human too but I will learn from them the way I expect my students to learn from theirs.

Why? Because I care and because I can. I got into teaching to help kids. If I wanted to work with numbers I would’ve been an accountant.

I can’t change the system but I can work within it to achieve my goal. I can’t change the wind but I can move my sails (or something like that).

Rant done.

Ron out.

Mic drop.

Peace!

Recommended Reading: Stephen King

Killer clowns, vicious vampires, deranged dogs, murderous monsters and psychotic stalkers. These are the characters we associate with Stephen King. And, fair enough. He is, after all, the King of horror.
To paint all of his work with this blood-covered brush is something only the uninitiated do. In doing so you miss coming-of-age stories, the underdogs-seeking-redemption tales, the hard-boiled-detective books, and the historical-fiction-cum-time-travel novel.
The recent release of IT means that King is in our collective thoughts again. If I’m being honest about the film, I thought it was underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the casting – each actor/character felt like they truly belonged in that world – and the
cinematography was excellent; I just wasn’t scared.
Fortunately, IT was never one of my favourite King tales so it didn’t ruin anything for me. Likewise, I’ve grown accustomed to the fact that he doesn’t often translate well to the big screen anyway. Note that I said ‘often’ – there are some major exceptions.
Anyway, for anyone who has a new-found interest in reading King’s books (whether that interest stems from watching IT or 2016’s 11.22.63 Hulu series, or from somewhere else) it can be quite daunting choosing where to start. A prolific writer, Stephen King has written 56 novels, 5 non-fiction books and nearly 200 short stories collected in 10 anthologies. And it’s all connected…
IMG_2443
I’m a huge fan of his work and his books dominate my bookshelf but I’m not going to pretend I’ve read all that King has produced. If that information taints this recommendation then so be it, but here’s my 13 favourite Stephen King books (not in order because that proved too difficult).
The Green Mile
I can actually remember when this came out. It was the year I turned 16 and the novel was released in six parts; one small book a month for six months. The Green Mile was also turned into a successful film and is one of those tales people can’t believe was written by Stephen King. It’s most memorable character is a giant black man on death row who shows incredible empathy and the ability to inexplicably heal people (and a mouse).
‘Salem’s Lot
A vampire older than Christ relocates to a rural American town and begins turning everyone into bloodsucking monsters. Stephen King has said in a couple of interviews that this is his favourite book. At one point he was planning a full-blown sequel but that never eventuated. Instead, he simply returned to that setting in two of the short stories collected in Night Shift.
The Shining
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Redrum. Redrum.
The story of an alcoholic writer who ‘house sits’ a haunted hotel with his wife and telepathic son. This is the first book that actually gave me the heebie-jeebies. The woman in room 237 was particularly freaky.
King actually wrote a sequel called Doctor Sleep which didn’t hit the same heights but was still very entertaining.
The Stand
This! 823 pages of good vs evil. Apparently the original manuscript was so big that the printing presses of the time literally couldn’t handle it so King had to cull it. He later released an ‘uncut’ version that came in at 1152 pages. It is an epic in every sense of the word.
Different Seasons
If you don’t like horror, this is the King book for you. Well, half of it is. This isn’t a novel but 4 novellas. Two of these have been converted into films regularly listed among people’s favourites – The Shawshank Redemption and Stand By Me. One of the remaining two is Apt Pupil which is a disturbingly realistic story of a teenage boy who finds a Nazi war criminal in his neighbourhood. The final story is bat-shit crazy and features a pregnant woman who is involved in a car crash while in labour.
Needful Things
If you ask me what my favourite Stephen King book is, this is your answer. Then I think about it and change my mind about a half a dozen times. More often than not, I still come back to Needful Things. The premise is quite simple; an elderly shop owner sells goods for misdeeds… and their souls. It’s the last novel set in Castle Rock.
The Dark Half
I don’t like birds and “the sparrows are flying again”. This novel features an author who is haunted by the pen-name he tried to kill off (but it doesn’t want to stay dead). I was freaked out by this book when I first read it. It probably didn’t help that I used to live in a house surrounded by a national forest and often found myself to be the only one at home – it’s actually really surprising that horror is a genre I love, I was constantly creeping myself out while growing up.
On Writing
Part autobiography, part how-to book. I love this candid look at King’s life and craft.
Misery
Yet another Stephen King novel where the protagonist is an author. It often feels like King puts himself into his books and this makes it seem like the nightmares are all his. Here an obsessive fan helps her favourite author recover after a car crash until her obsession takes a dark turn. Kathy Bates won an Oscar for her portrayal of the psychotic nurse.
The Talisman
This is one of many collaborations Stephen King has worked on, this one with Peter Straub. Set in America and an alternate dimension, this is the story of a young boy who wants to cure his mum’s cancer.
Everything’s Eventual
I struggled to pick a short story collection to fit in this list and Everything’s Eventual narrowly beat out the other anthologies. These are probably a great place to start as they allow a glimpse into King’s work in accessible bite-sized chunks. The titular story is excellent, so is “The Road Virus Heads North”. “1408” was turned into a decent film and “The Man in the Black Suit” was also a riveting tale (about a boy who meets the Devil).
Danse Macabre
This is the first non-fiction book of King’s that I ever read. It’s a history of horror, an appreciation of the genre, and a blend of academic insight and personal reflection. It’s a fantastic read.
Cycle of the Werewolf
This illustrated short novel tells of werewolf attacks in a small town. It is told in 12 chapters that are set in each month of a calendar year. Aside from the unique structure, I also enjoyed the fact that the protagonist is a wheelchair-bound adolescent.
king face book
Hmmm, all of this reminiscing has made me keen to read some King again. Fortunately, he’s just released one book (Sleeping Beauties, co-written by his son Owen King) and is releasing another before Christmas (Gwendy’s Button Box, co-written by Richard Chizmar).