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Celebrating The King Of Horror: “When Was The Last Time You Created Another World?”

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By Lavanya Shanbhogue Arvind:

One of my closest friends, a big-time Stephen King reader is both a writer and a painter. When we talk she’d sometimes tell me about the hours she spent trying to get a single stroke right only to end the rant with, “but a writer’s job is tougher any day.” Why, I’d ask her.

Because,” she’d say, “with writing you’re trying to create a 3-dimensional experience in a one-dimensional space. That’s probably why so many people suck at writing!” (Not sure if she’s quoting somebody here.)

Image source: famousauthors.org
Image source: famousauthors.org

So this post isn’t about Carrie or Cujo or Salem’s Lot or The Shining even. It isn’t about King’s greatest inventions – Satan turning into Randall Flagg or Danny’s ‘shining’ that enables him to experience premonitions. This post is neither about Carrie’s telekinetic powers that she uses to destroy the town of Chamberlain in Maine nor about good and evil fighting for the possession of survivors’ souls after a biological holocaust. This isn’t about petrifying, paranormal forces that take over people or property or about seemingly good people turning to evil or becoming evil in a terrifying world where science fiction meets horror. Instead, this is about how the King creates those worlds.

My friend urged me to read ‘On Writing: A Memoir of The Craft’ and the line that almost always comes to me when I begin to try to write anything at all is this:

Description begins in the writer’s imagination but must finish in the reader’s.”

King reminds us that writers must create a sensory and movie-like experience for the reader. Using only language the writer must show that it’s a chirp, not a tweet, it is shock not fear, it is memory not a dream, it’s an awkward silence between people, not temporarily mute characters suspended in a vacuum and that everything is happening somewhere, at some point in time, in a setting so real that you’ve seen it before in your head even before you’ve seen it in the movies. So how did the King establish himself as the master of the horror genre? While it may be right to say that it all began with Carrie, it might make sense to go back in time and ‘visit’ King as a teenager. By his own admission, he did not grow up reading ‘Spiderman’ or ‘The Hulk’ but ‘Tales of The Crypt’ and ‘The Vaultkeeper’. A natural inclination towards a particular genre takes you to a point but combine that with incredible talent, and you have a King. Even after reading a short story like ‘Children of The Corn’ (about a couple stuck in a small, deserted town after running over the corpse of a young boy) you’ll want to sleep with the lights on. It’s his phenomenal ability to create great scenes, the small scary scene, the big scary scene, all of which that adds up to the whole novel.

From all around the children were coming. Some of them were laughing gaily. They held knives, hatchets, pipes, rocks, hammers. One girl, maybe eight, with beautiful long blonde hair, held a jack handle.

All aspiring writers are asked to read, read and read to better their craft. ‘On Writing’ is a great place to start. The book is divided into five sections and contains stellar writing advice interspersed with autobiographical accounts of Stephen King’s life before he got published; how the manuscript he abandoned in a dustbin was rescued by his wife only to turn into Carrie (!), how he dealt with alcohol abuse, the death of his mother who succumbed to uterine cancer, the relationship with his wife and other personal anecdotes that shape his creative practice and what comes out of it all – great, great stories – it’s all in there. Above all, he argues that the story is more important than anything else.

Yet there’s the question that people hush-hush about: is he literary “enough”? To be honest, I don’t understand this question entirely. Do they mean that it’s one thing to make it to bestselling genre-fiction book lists but what about transcending it all and making it to the evergreen, classic, literary 100-Greatest-Books-You-Must-Definitely-Read-Before-You-Die list? Or do they mean that he doesn’t merely celebrate language and human life, human spirit and behaviour that literary fiction often tends to do? I am not sure.

But strangely I do know the answer to a question that I don’t entirely understand and it is this: he doesn’t care. Neither should you for the King is a man who has written 54 novels (including 7 under his pen name Richard Bachman), that have in all sold more than 350 million copies worldwide, books that have been made into tele-series and blockbuster movies, stories that have been read and reread, novels that have won him numerous awards and praise and if you’re still in doubt ask yourself this: when was the last time you created another world?

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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