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Get Popular this Summer

Sitting on Books Backyard - Alpha TextbooksWhen I was a young, I cherished summer as an opportunity to do nothing except rollerblade and read. I had a daily ritual, and I loved it.

For me, reading was a way to explore fascinating worlds and wild stories. I also used it as a way to keep learning – I had heard on some newscast that reading fiction makes you smarter. I wanted to get ahead of my class and excel at school. So, while I tried to play it cool with my peers, I was secretly a book nerd.

Although we have tons of novels to offer, summer reading may not be the best option for all kids. Not everyone digs fiction, our minds work differently. Still, being on summer break doesn’t mean that learning has to stop, or worse, regress.

At the risk of making a gross generalization, I think most people would agree that children love to show off their smarts. Kids light-up when they finally “get” that math formula, learn to “do math” in their head, or when they know the periodic table and what happens in chemical compounds. They also want to express themselves well, because they like sharing their experiences with others.

But the brain is a muscle, and, as the saying goes, “if you don’t use it, you lose it.” According to a study by Harris Cooper of Duke University, the average student loses at least a month’s worth of learning over the summer.  Other studies conducted throughout the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s, came to similar conclusions, finding that students lose an average of 2.6 months of math, and 2 months of English over the summer when they don’t actively practice their skills. Further studies have also determined that there is a correlation between a family’s socioeconomic status and the degree to which children fall behind in the summer – most families need affordable ways to keep their kids actively learning.

Since it is part of Alpha Textbooks’ mission to provide affordable educational resources to families, this summer we teamed up with Popular Book Company to promote Popular’s SummerSmart series. Our business is in education, we care about the quality of learning and student success at school, and we want to help students keep achieving while still enjoying their summer.

summersmartPopular’s summer workbooks serve a unique function. The age/level appropriate books give kids the opportunity to hone their existing skills, but also get ahead. The books function as a bridge between two grade levels. Children review what they learned in the previous school year, but also learn ahead for the coming grade.

Staying true to our education system, the workbooks correspond to the Canadian curriculum and explore Canadian content and themes. They can be used as eight week courses that cover English, math, science, and social studies. The books also contain “hands-on” activities – after all, it is summer.

We are offering a special summer promotion for the series. From now, until July 31, you can pick up the SummerSmart books at Alpha for 30% off the retail price.

Visit this webpage or come into our store for more details. We ship all over Canada.

… In case you are wondering, with all that reading, math was never my strong suit. Unfortunately, I was looking for the other kind of popular in the ‘90s. Although I excelled at school in the liberal arts, I wish I could have been a stronger student in other subjects. My own experience has made me a big advocate of encouraging children to keep trying at all the subjects all year-round, even if they think it is too hard.


Posted by Cris Costa, Alpha Textbooks Communications Manager


2015-16 Short Story Contest Winners Announced

Winners CollageWe are very excited to announce the winners of the 2015-16 Alpha Textbooks Short Story Contest.

The art of writing fiction is a challenge that takes years to master, and everyone who submitted is on their way there. The team at Alpha Textbooks offers BIG congratulations to all the young writers who rose to the challenge and submitted their work. It takes a lot of courage and craftiness to write fiction. You all did a great job.

There was some stiff competition! We received story submissions from 200 students in nine school boards and 14 private schools. Entries came in from as far north as Thunder Bay, right through the province and down into southwestern Ontario, in Hamilton and the Niagara regions.

First place winner in the middle school category is Nathan Nambiar, a grade seven student in Mississauga, for his touching story about a boy who remembers his deceased father through images found on an old smart phone. Nambiar was closely followed by Katrina Lefebvre, “Futuristic Jeopardy,” and Anika Tan, “Red Button.”

First place winner in the high school category was Laura Collie, for her story, “The Wall” – a telling narrative about the complicated and fraught relationship between a mother and daughter in the face of cancer. Collie was followed closely by Kay Wu, “Innocence: A Story,” and Abby Traina, “The City’s Secret Glass.”

Visit the contest website for winner photos and bios.

First place winners will be re-working their stories for publication in the Claremont Review, they also receive four passes to the AGO or Medieval Times (depending on their category), and two ROM passes. Second place winners receive two passes to the ROM, plus two movie passes; third place winners are also going to the ROM.

We want to thank the contest’s generous sponsors including the Claremont Review, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Medieval Times, the Royal Ontario Museum, Pizza Pizza, and a private donor (who wishes to remain anonymous) for the Cineplex passes.

These great sponsors helped make the contest a success. They helped enrich the lives of young people across the province.

We want to offer another big applause to all the schools from where students submitted and/or teachers participated. You are obviously doing a great job.

Congratulations goes out to Bishop Strachan School, Blyth Academy, Brantford Collegiate Institute, Great Lakes Christian High School, Greenwood College, Hagersville Elementary, Hillfield Strathallan College, Hudson College, Lasalle Secondary School, MacLachlan College, Maitland River Elementary School, Marymount Academy, Newton’s Grove School, North Toronto Christian School, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Mercy School, Pretty River Academy, St. Charles Garnier, St. Edmund Campion, St. Elizabeth Seton School, St. Gerard Catholic Separate School, St. Gertrude, St. Joan of Arc Catholic Secondary School, St. Luke Catholic School, St. Mark, St. Mildred’s Lightbourn School, St. Patrick High School, Statford Northwestern Secondary School, Sterling Hall, The Country Day School, University of Toronto Schools, and Westmount Secondary School.

A raffle for four more AGO passes will be held next week, that will include the shortlisted students and the second runners-up.

the Claremont Review’s Annual Writing & Art Contest is on

Last fall, we teamed up with the Claremont Review (tCR) an international magazine for young writers based out of Victoria, BC. tCR generously helped out the 2015-16 Alpha Textbooks Short Story Contest, by offering a space for our winners to be published in the journal. Judging for our contest is in the final stages, but tCR has a great contest of its own.tCR 2016 poster

tCRs Annual Writing & Art Contest is open to teens (13-19) anywhere in the world. Not only are winners published, but they are awarded a handy sum of cash too. Jody Carrow, tCR editor-in-chief, told Alpha Textbooks “just this year [they] doubled the prize money, which makes the amounts very significant[,] $1000 for first” place, and a new $500 prize for visual arts. Second and third place young writers get $600 and $400 respectively. Winners are selected in both poetry and fiction categories.

Carrow mentions that the magazine receives entries from all over the world. Winners have come from Canada and the United States up until now, but she “expects that to change as [they] get more entries from youth around the world (Korea, Vietnam, India, the UK, Columbia, etc.).” The stories are kept anonymous throughout the judging process to keep the contest results free of bias.

When it comes to the volume of contest entries, Carrow says that she finds herself “in awe of how many young people still want to write”:

I am continuously amazed by the range of unique perspectives on age-old topics such as love, loss, identity, what makes a meaningful existence, relationships, the future…

To read so many heartfelt explorations of the human condition gives me hope for our collective future (even when, actually, ESPECIALLY when the writing is dark) because the act of writing means one hasn’t given up; it means that people still care to grapple with this great, messy, glorious event called Life.

What sets tCR apart from other magazines is that it offers feedback or mentorship to all youth who submit to the magazine. Unfortunately, because of the sheer volume of contest entries, the magazine editors cannot offer feedback on contest submissions. However, young writers are invited to rework their stories or poems and resubmit for general publication, or they can try submitting a totally different piece. Even if the works-in-progress aren’t published, the feedback process helps youths become better writers, bringing them one step closer to their goal.

Mentorship and feedback is essential to the longevity and quality of a young writer’s experience not only because when they take the time to read and consider it they become better writers, but the exchange creates a relationship that is always available to them. Our editors are committed to remaining mentors for young writers long after the initial exchange of feedback. Anyone who sends us work will get feedback from us and the writers/artists know they can write to us anytime with questions or concerns they have.

The contest deadline is March 15, 2016. Visit the Claremont Review‘s contest page for more details.

Read Alpha’s full interview with Jody Carrow.


the Claremont Review, along with the generous support of the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Royal Ontario Museum, Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, and Pizza Pizza, made the Alpha Textbooks 2015-16 Short Story Contest possible. Thank you.

Change Your Teaching Materials Periodically and Keep Your Students Engaged


Teaching is a tough gig. You might have a great year with one set of students, then the following year it seems like your students are recent graduates from the inferno. As the wise Forrest Gump once said, “… you never know what you’re gonna get.”

When students are not engaged, they act out. So how do you keep them engaged?

Although personality management is something one learns over time, other remedies to calm inattentive or unruly students and get them back into learning are found in learning materials.

If you are experiencing difficulties teaching, because students are unable to understand or relate to their books, you do not have to endure a year of madness. There are many supplementary materials that you can implement in the middle of the scholastic year to improve lessons.

One problem area that we hear about all the time at Alpha concerns math books. Schools often use the same math books year after year. At some point, teachers find themselves in a dilemma when students do not relate to the books anymore. The  math lessons are lost on students.

We’ve heard different versions of this experience many times when speaking with teachers at conferences, in our store, or when they call us. We find that teachers share their experiences and issues with us after they realize that we are not a publisher.

oldbooksIt’s not just math, however. We hear similar stories in every subject — English, French, Science, Religion etc. Many teachers and schools are frustrated about their teaching resources, but they do not know where to source new materials. Since they have used the same ones for so long, it seems difficult to find out what else is available.

There are many different publishers to contact in order to figure out what new books would be the right one. It is not work that can be done during the day while a teacher is teaching. After school, there are extra-curricular activities, marking and other administrative obligations. Therefore, at no fault of their own, it is difficult for teachers to make time to meet with different publishers during business hours. So, teaching methods and programs become stagnant and students disengage.

This is when we get a phone call asking, “Can you show us everything in…”, or “Can you recommend something in [insert discipline] that’s new, relevant and age appropriate?” Some teachers come into the store (we are open late on Thursdays) and straight-out ask us, “What are the other schools using?” Or, “What’s new and being adopted in alternative schools?” Or the opposite, “What are the school boards using?” We can offer this information since we have relationships with school boards, private schools and alternative learning centres.

A lot of our information about textbook effectiveness, however, comes firsthand from teachers, principals and homeschoolers. This enables us to recommend certain textbooks and resources based on real teaching experiences and not just what the book jacket claims. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the book you are using is bad; it just means that it is not working for your students at this time or anymore – it is time to try something else.

With information about textbooks coming to us from different sources, we can recommend alternative math, science, language, religion, history, or supplementary materials, for example. We can inform teachers about new novels and graphic novels, or books that make it easier and more engaging to teach and learn classical texts.

Book-Stack-No-Back-Reduced_webThe advantage we offer over dealing directly with publishers is that we provide an objective perspective on the materials in question. Whenever possible, we try to maintain strong relationships with publishers or we form partnerships, that way we offer their products with a confident understanding of the benefits of their programs.

Schools find that we make buying easy for them, because they do not have to get their books from a million different sources. They can just come to us and we do all the heavy lifting. That also cuts down on administration costs.

As an added benefit, we might be able to buy those books that you no longer want, which is an effective cost saving opportunity for your school.

So if you are having a hard time with your current teaching materials, we welcome you to call us. We are happy to meet with you in our store, office, or we can visit your school if possible. We provide sample copies of books, as well as educational discounts.

Good luck wrapping up the fall semester. Let us know if you have any questions.

Get Celestial Writing Advice: 2014 Short Story Contest Winner Celestial Santiago Shares a Story on Writing a Short Story

It’s the middle of the first month back at school. The 2015 Alpha Textbooks Short Story Contest is well underway. Many students are thinking about how to write a compelling story with the hope of getting published. For young writers, developing a creative, but structured short story that has engaging characters and zero spelling or grammar errors might be easier said than done. That’s why we’re here to help. We spoke to Celestial Santiago, winner of the 2014 Short Story Contest high school category and would like to share her experience with you.

Celestial, 2014 Short Story Contest high school category winner

Celestial Santiago entered the contest in grade 12 through her Writer’s Craft teacher. The contest was intended as a minor assignment that exercised students’ creativity in writing, but it also helped Santiago hone her skills as a writer.

Every writer experiences the dreaded writer’s block, and as a young writer Santiago is no stranger to it. She faced that challenge almost immediately, during the story planning stage. Her mind was preoccupied with many different things, so it was hard to create something out of thin-air. Santiago recalls staring at a blank document for hours with little success. She then relied on her teacher’s advice for conquering writer’s block: write about your experience or something else you know.

“At the time, I was in my own jungle of thoughts and emotions about university applications and portfolios,” says Santiago. “So I decided the easiest story to write was something I knew the most about, and that was the feeling of growing up.”

Once Santiago overcame what she describes as the hectic brainstorm, the writing process was less challenging than she anticipated.

Celestial’s story “It Takes One to Know One” takes readers on a journey with a first year university student on her first day. Santiago – in high school at the time of writing the story –draws upon her own experiences of feelings of uncertainty, nervousness, excitement being overwhelmed and that all-too-common experience of not knowing where you are supposed to go on your first day of university, as her narrator makes the transition from high school.

“Everything in the story is related to my personal emotions and concerns about my first day of university,” says Santiago talking about character development. “From trying to fit in a new environment to reminiscing about the old one, [the] character based off [me].”

But writing the story wasn’t a solo ride for Santiago. She found inspiration outside of herself too, with the help of friends and peers. In the original draft, Celestial’s character is unable to belong. She is left alienated and alone. During the revision process, Celestial’s peer pointed out the inaccuracy of the story’s ending in relation to what can happen at university. Inspired by the suggestion, Santiago produced a more hopeful ending – despite the character’s wildest fears and perception of reality, the first day of school turned out not to be so bleak after all.

Echoing a sentiment shared in a previous post, an interview with Canadian author Alex Leslie, Santiago advises that especially during the initial stage of story writing – in a writer’s early years – it’s important for young writers to remember their voice matters, and that it can be a part of the conversation of other and even great works of literature.

To jog her inspiration, Santiago would look at other literature. She recalls her own feelings of doubt and intimidation after reading great pieces. “Prior to an assignment of any sort,” she said, “I always find myself online looking at how other writers write. I would spend hours reading amazing articles or short stories, and then begin to doubt my own abilities and creativity. As a result, I started to alter my own writing to fit another person’s voice.”

Realizing that you can still be original while allowing yourself to be influenced or inspired by other writers was a great learning experience. Santiago encourages students to find inspiration from external resources, but reminds them not to be intimidated when stumbling upon great work. Most importantly she says, “Take the opportunity to show the reader who you are.”

Like Edgar Rice Burro said, “If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favour.”

Tell us about your experience writing your first short story!

Faced with Writer’s Block? 6 Tips to Overcome Every Writer’s Worst Nightmare

Every writer encounters writer’s block at one point or another. Even experienced writers wrestle with inspiration, or just figuring out where to start on an existing idea.

With Alpha’s Short Story Contest launch just around the corner – September 1 – we thought we could offer some helpful suggestions on how to get over writer’s block.


1. Brainstorm and Take Notes

Sometimes you feel inspired, so all you need to do is sit at your computer and write a story. But more often than not, you’ll find that you need to create your inspiration.

Brainstorming will guide you down the road to a great narrative. It helps to be “old skool” in this step. That means take a pen or pencil, use a notebook or even scrap paper. Write down all your ideas; even if you think you won’t use them write them down. Make diagrams, draw lines, whatever you need to do get your thoughts on paper.

You can brainstorm all story elements, from scenes to characters, plot, themes, conflict, and resolutions. Or you can start with a few things until you hit inspiration. Do what’s right for you. Write.


2. Write What You Know

Take a topic that is familiar to you and write about it. Write about something you care about, something that motivates you, or that you think about often. Take a story that you may have experienced in real life and change things – setting, characters and outcome – to create a work of fiction. Ask, “What if?” Think about the interesting characteristics, the quirks and great skills of different people you know and mix them up to create new characters.

Writing what you know will help you get over writer’s block, and it will help you write a story that feels real and engages the reader.


3. Write by Hand

Studies have shown that writing by hand helps you generate and process ideas more so than typing on a keyboard. This doesn’t mean that great writing can’t be done using a computer keyboard, but it means if you are stuck, writing by hand can give you an extra boost.

In this article, Sarah Baughman, a writer and teacher, says that she “use[s] the computer to actually write and edit, but if [she] need[s] to think first, [she goes] for the pen and paper.” Baughman goes on to cite many studies that link handwriting to thinking, and she refers to the Wall Street Journal, which notes “the hand has a unique relationship with the brain” when it comes to “composing thoughts and ideas.”


4. Move Around

Sometimes working in the same spot you always work in might make you feel stuck. Do you typically do your math at the kitchen table? We can associate certain places with specific feelings, and those feelings might leave you uninspired.

Try sitting on the couch, or work in your school library. Maybe a relative has a nice quiet room, where you will find a different atmosphere that inspires you. Maybe you often work everywhere except your study desk, so try sitting there!

Everybody is different. Some people work better staying in the same place all the time. But if you’ve tried everything else, a change of scenery might be the medicine you need to see beyond writer’s block.


5. Read a Book

At first it sounds counter-intuitive. Why should you be reading if you are supposed to be writing? Reading other literature you like not only gets your creative juices flowing, but it can also help you write in the tone you want for your story.

Many authors recommend reading the writers you want to sound like. In the end, you’ll always sound like you, because your voice is unique. People may detect influence in your work, and that’s okay.


6. Write All the Thoughts That Come to You

If you have an idea, put it down. You may not use everything at the end, but you have to work through those thoughts to create your masterpiece. One thought can lead to another. Days after you decided you didn’t want to use something, you may feel inspired to integrate it into your narrative in an important way.

The main point: just write.



There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to overcoming writer’s block. You may have to try different methods before you find what works, or even a combination of our suggestions. The tips we offer in this post are tried and tested by many writers, but don’t feel frustrated if none of them work for you. There are many different ways to get over writer’s block, so keep trying them out until you find something that works.

Do you have a different method on overcoming writer’s block? Share it in the comments!


GetPublishedAlpha_BigTitle_Rounded-cornersClick here to learn more about the 2015 Alpha Textbooks Short Story Contest. Alpha extends a big thank you to the contest’s generous sponsors, including the Claremont Review, AGO, ROM, Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, and Pizza Pizza.

Students, schools and sustainability: great things happen when you put your mind to it



Sustainability is an important cause for most bookstores, and it’s a key cause for us at Alpha Textbooks. Our business relies on the use of a major natural resource – paper. This is why it is important for us to continue to make our business environmentally sustainable, and to give back to the communities that support us.

Howard PlantingOne way that we give back is by participating in an annual tree planting event with our sister company, BookSwap Inc. BookSwap plants a tree on behalf of every school or school department that orders more than $250 dollars in book orders in one year. In 2015, the plant took place on Earth Week in Caledon, and in 2014, we participated in the reforestation of Tommy Thompson Park on Toronto’s waterfront. BookSwap has been donating trees to the TRCA since 2006. On the day-to-day level, we make a conscious effort to reduce paper waste in the office. There is one initiative, however, that is unique to Alpha: new in 2015, we now have a worm farm.

Alpha Textbook president, Howard Cohen, says that this is something he has always wanted to do, “I have a degree in biology, and I’ve always been big on protecting our environment.”

“A worm farm is an incredible example of the cycle of life. The worms consume any fruit or vegetable, as well as shredded paper, and turn it into fertilizer. This in turn will be used in our home and office plants, as well as our gardens. The worms will eat their weight in scraps daily and then turn the compost into soil,” Cohen explains. “It’s stuff that normally gets thrown out anyway. This way, it has a purpose. It’s reusable and sustainable.” And it makes great, nutrient rich, soil. All the staff at Alpha enthusiastically participate in the development of the worm farm, by using appropriate lunch leftovers to contribute to the compost.

What we love as much as the worm farm is seeing schools implement their own sustainability programs. Schools like Rowntree Montessori School and St. Mildred’s-Lightbourn School have noteworthy environmental initiatives.

Rowntree teaches students the importance of sustainability at a young age. Commencing in grade one, students learn how the recycling process works and what happens at the local recycling plant.

St. Mildred's

The playground at St. Mildred’s eco-wing.

St. Mildred’s has created an eco-wing at the school. The wing targets five specific categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, indoor environmental quality, energy and atmosphere, and materials and resources. The eco-wing comes complete with motion censored lights, a daylight harvesting system, and a rainwater cistern.

Rowntree and St. Mildred’s have set a great example for students and teachers who wish to keep their schools sustainable and reduce their carbon footprint.


As many of you already know, the beginning of summer marks the beginning of Alpha’s BuyBack season. Putting books back into circulation is a huge part of how we give back to the environment. It helps reduce production of new books when there are many already printed that can be used again to teach, while offering reconditioned books to students at reduced prices.

This year, to bring home the message, a team at Alpha has been working to connect to the schools we visit and our greater community. We are aiming to remind them about the importance of putting their books back into circulation. It’s not uncommon that high school graduates bring us their books from as far back as grade nine! So this year, we’ve been working on reminding people to bring their books in early – the best time is at the end of June and in July. So, we hope to see you in the store with books to sell. Don’t forget to ask about our worm farm when you visit!


There’s no such thing as a unique zombie apocalypse | What are zombies really about?

by Deleone Downes, Special to Alpha Textbooks

No… seriously. The undead are the least of your problems.

The Walking Dead - Robert KirkmanBook A. With flashbacks, we follow a group of survivors from different walks of life.  Each with a story of how they managed to get this far and all the people they cared about who didn’t make it. This is a group of people who’ve survived the zombie apocalypse, so far. Scavenging for food, befriending other survivors, falling in love, elements of racism, elements of isolationism, elements of protectionism, betrayal, teamwork, falling apart, evil, good, cannibalism, religion and spiritual faith, trying not to become the undead, trying to remain civilized, trying to remain human in the world with dwindling numbers of unbitten and a dwindling number of moral and humane people.


Book B. With flashbacks, we interview a select, combined group of people. Each individual is from a different walk of life.  Each has a story of how they survived the zombie apocalypse.  They have the ability to analyze how they managed to survive and how so many others did not. They scavenged for food, befriended other survivors (sometimes to their detriment). They fell in love, much to their detriment. They experienced racism, practiced isolationism and protectionism. They were betrayed by others to survive and betrayed themselves to survive. They survived through teamwork and died when teamwork fell apart.  They saw the best of humanity (good/selflessness)  and the very, very worst of humanity (evil/gluttony), often seeing no happy medium in themselves.  Some resorted to cannibalism to fill their stomachs and save themselves. Others resorted to religion and spiritual faith to fill their souls and save their sanity.  Both the cannibals and the faithful, each trying not to become the undead, trying to remain civilized, trying to remain human in the world with dwindling numbers of unbitten and a dwindling number of moral and humane people.


Book A is the graphic novel, The Walking Dead written by Robert Kirkman.

Book B is the novel, World War Z written by Max Brooks.World War Z - Battle of Yonkers

What is the difference here?

There isn’t one.

The zombies are just these things in the background which keep both Brooks’ and Kirkman’s characters moving. If the characters stop living, stop fighting, and stop fighting to live, they will die.

Both authors show us with a backdrop, being a zombie apocalypse, what humans – regardless of their state of health and existence – will do for self-preservation.


Finding King: Ever wonder where Stephen King got his inspiration?

by Deleone Downes, Special to Alpha Textbooks

“What Jackson and King do best, as part of their horror storytelling, is to take a character(s) from  beginning of the novel and completely destroy any preconceived notions you had about them by the end of the novel.  Often good becomes evil, bad develops a conscious.”

Humble Beginnings. I’ve long been a fan of Stephen King. I remember a time when I was attempting to convince my teachers that I was capable of reading stuff that the ‘big kids’ read. When my teachers finally caved in and I was shown around the library and into the areas previously off-limits to the ‘little kids.’ I have a faint memory of immediately gravitating towards R. L. Stine and Mr. King, despite the librarian’s suggestion to read Nancy Drew and The Babysitter’s Club. “No!  He will give you nightmares,” she said, and about King, “He’s even worse.” But, what’s worse than a nightmare?

Mental Download. So, for a kid who was pretty stubborn, I took their advice. I stuck with R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps series for quite sometime, even fangirled it out before the term was popular/existed, rushing home to watch the show after school. Later, however, I decided to up-the-ante, so to speak, and ‘upgrade’ to Stephen King.

Under the Dome - Stephen KingThe King Effect. The last Stephen King book I read was quite a few years ago. But when I finished and put it down on my night table, I had this feeling that I had just experienced some truly amazing literature. So much so that I will brag and big-up, props and promote this book as a must read until, well … I die, I suppose. That book is King’s Under the Dome, somewhat recently made into a television show.

A Literary Exploration. Reading often gives a new meaning to the famous potato chip mantra, “You can’t just have one.” Why? Because when you finish a good book, you start wonder er (1) what other stuff they’ve written; (2) what, if any, other authors have a similar style; and, the most obvious question, (3) where do they get their ideas from? Let’s explore:

King’s Inspiration.  When I was in university, I attended a fourth year seminar course. We read an extremely morbid book by author Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Later, I would find out that Stephen King credits Jackson as one of his inspirations for horror fiction writing.

No Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing. I would compare Jackson’s main character, Merricat, in We Have Always Lived in the CastleWe have always lived in the castle - S. Jackson (1962) to King’s character, Junior Rennie, in Under the Dome (2009).  Merricat  appear quite normal on the outside, but there is a psychological storm brewing on the inside, which later consumes her leading them into the abyss, where she does terrible things.  King’s character of Junior is no different.  And, I think this is where we see the student paying homage to the teacher.  What Jackson and King do best, as part of their horror storytelling, is to take a character(s) from  beginning of the novel and completely destroy any preconceived notions you had about them by the end of the novel.  Often good becomes evil, bad develops a conscious.

The Taught Teach.  Stephen King is a literary giant.  And, I’m sure there are author who’ve been inspired by his writings, none come to mind (or even Google search results) that have captured the essence of horror storytelling, used that foundation and built on it to redefine the craft like King did with the writings of those who inspired him.

Etched in the Psyche. Regardless, the man has the market cornered.  And he has definitely left a mark on pop culture with many of his work successfully making the transition from the page to the big screens and small screens: Carrie, It, Haven.  So, perhaps King IS in fact inspiring generations, but through a different medium.