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Internationally successful horror author Stephen King is used to shocking his readers with books like "The Shining," "Pet Cemetery," "Cujo," and "Carrie." But for a small New Brunswick high school last Friday, the biggest shock was King himself.
For the past year, students and teachers at Sussex Regional High School in Sussex, N.B., have promoted a campaign called "Seeking Stephen King," asking that the world's best-selling contemporary horror writer visit their school of 950 kids. After seeing student-created video parodies, artwork inspired by his books, and about 1,200 letters posted online, King surprised students with an unannounced visit on Friday.
"I came because of all those letters. I was just blissed out to get them all," King said as he began a writing workshop with 18 students. He later spoke with 80 students in the school's auditorium, revealing where he found inspiration for some of his most famous stories, as well as what the scariest moment of his life was -- a traumatic car accident in 1999.
"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," said SRHS teacher Sarah-Jane Smith, leader of the "Seeking Stephen King" campaign. "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."
"It's absolutely ridiculous that he actually came to our school. I'm still a little flabbergasted by it," said student Matt Beyer, who took part in the intimate writing workshop.
The students seemed starstruck by the world-famous author, but King himself also seemed touched by their efforts to persuade him to visit the Canadian Maritime town. At the end of his talk in the auditorium, he told those who had written him letters, "You guys rock!" while pumping his fist in the air.
King has written 50 novels, five nonfiction books, and nearly 200 short stories; and he has sold over 350 million copies of his books worldwide. Most recently, he has published "11/22/63," about the JFK assassination; and coming next year are "Joyland," about mysterious murders in a North Carolina amusement park, and "Doctor Sleep," the sequel to 1977's "The Shining."