by Christina Morgan Cree
When you’re first introduced to a successful person’s work, it’s hard to imagine them as anything but a success; confident in their gifts and unquestioning in their abilities. What I have found, though, is that it is not an immediate recognition of their obvious talent that brought them success, but it is their perseverance and almost blind determination to push past rejection and failure. To keep on going even after years of negative feedback and discouragement-fueled by a passion for what they do. Instead of taking rejection as a “no”, they show us how to embrace it, learn from it, and keep moving forward. Stephen King is one of those people.
Stephen King was born on Sept 21, 1947 in Portland, Oregon to Ruth and Donald King. His parents had adopted his older brother David two years before. One evening his father stepped out “to buy a pack of cigarettes”. . .and was never heard from again.
His mother was left with a two and four year old and very little money. They traveled, living in several different states and dependent on the help of relatives, until they finally settled in her native state of Maine in 1958.
King was an avid reader of horror and began writing stories for his brother’s journal, Dave’s Rag, when he was 12. They made 5 cents per issue. In High School, he and a friend collaborated on and published a collection of 18 short stories. A year later he self-published a two-part book The Star Invaders.
King began submitting his work for publication at an early age. In his book, On Writing, he says, “By the time I was fourteen … the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and kept on writing.”
In 1965, Comic’s Review, published his story “I Was a Teenage Grave Robber.” He graduated High School in 1966 and studied English at the University of Maine with the help of a scholarship. During his first year he wrote his first full length novel and submitted it to Random House. It was not accepted and he took the rejection hard. His first financial success came in 1967 with the sale of his story The Glass Floor. He made $35.
King graduated from the University of Maine in 1970 with a BS in English. He went back to school to earn a high school teaching certificate but was unable to find a post. So, he worked as a gas station attendant (making $1.25/hr), at a Laundromat, and as a janitor. In the meanwhile, he started making a little money selling his short stories to various magazines.
King married his wife Tabitha in 1971 and that fall began teaching at a local academy making $6400 a year. They lived in a trailer and were so strapped that at one point the phone service was disconnected in order to save money. He continued to write short stories and work on ideas for novels at a “desk” he set up in between the washer and dryer.
Around this time he began to write a story about a teenage girl who discovers she has telekinetic powers. In an article in the Milwaukee Journal in 1980, King stated that he felt discouraged about his story, “I didn’t expect much of Carrie. I thought who’d want to read a book about a poor little girl with menstrual problems? I couldn’t believe I was writing it.” He abandoned the project and threw it in the trash. His wife found it, read it and encouraged him to continue. He submitted Carrie to several publishing houses and was rejected 30 times before Doubleday bought it in March of 1973. His advance was $2500. Two months later Doubleday sold the paperback rights to New American Library for $400,000 and King received half of that. After over a decade of determination, he was finally able to quit his job and write full time.
Stephen King went on to become one of the world’s best-selling authors with over 350 million copies in print; translated into 33 different languages in 35 different countries. He has written almost 200 short stories and of his 50 novels, many have been adapted for film, television, and comic books.