I really wasn’t sure what to expect from R. L. Stine’s speech, the closing (dare I say, crowning?) event of YALSA’s (awesome!) 2014 YA Literature Symposium. Would he scare us? This seemed unlikely, as it’s not really the traditional mode for keynote speakers to terrify their audience, but from a bestselling horror author, who knew? I just knew I was pumped to see the writer who had fueled so many of the nightmares of my adolescence, in the flesh. I was surprised (but definitely amused) when he opened with a self-deprecatingly hilarious quip about a recent interaction with a fan, in which the admirer asked, “Can I get a picture with you? My kids all think you’re dead!” This was followed with the equally humble and hilarious recounting of the time someone came up to him to say, “Did anyone ever tell you you look like R.L. Stine? No offense.”
He continued by sharing fan letters both hilarious and charming, and demonstrating in person his wonderful sense of humor. He told us that his first dream was to run a comedy magazine; and he did! It was called Bananas (I felt like a pretty subpar fan when one of my work colleagues was not only totally unsurprised by this, but had had a subscription to Bananas!). He shared that his son told him Morgan Freeman should play him in the upcoming Goosebumps movie, and that when he floated the idea of playing himself onscreen to his wife, she told him he’s too old. The role went to Jack Black, and Stine assured us that all the monsters are in the film (which comes out next summer).
I read a lot of horror when I myself was a teenager. All the Fear Street I could get my hands on. So imagine my delight when my seat turned out to have one of the golden tickets (er…yellow standard raffle-style ticket). The prize was pretty much as good as getting to tour a chocolate factory, too; I got an advance copy of the next Fear Street novel, due out in April 2015, called Don’t Stay Up Late)!
And, I’ll admit, his closing comments made me get a little teary. Stine told a story about seeing Ray Bradbury, one of Stine’s absolute favorite authors, at the LA Times book festival years ago. His wife said he should go tell Bradbury how much his work had meant to him. Stine was reluctant (aren’t we all, when faced with someone whose work has affected us? But I was touched by this humility coming from someone who’s sold over 400 million books). His wife insisted. So Stine went over and told Bradbury he was his literary hero. And Ray Bradbury replied, “You’ve been a hero to a lot of people too.”
So true! Thanks for all those hours and hours of can’t-stop-must-see-who-dies-next reading, R.L. Stine, and thanks for being so charming to a roomful of adoring librarians!
-Carly Pansulla, currently reading Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A. S. King