Wanna Have Lunch With Stephen King?


Suppose you, an aspiring writer (or even an established one), got the chance to have a two-hour lunch with Stephen King?

How much would that be worth?

Shawn at his February STORY GRID seminar in New York

Shawn at his February STORY GRID seminar in New York

If you had to put a dollar figure on it, how much would you pay to have that experience? What price would make it fair to Stephen King for the expenditure of his time, for permitting you access to his wisdom? What would it be worth to you, just to hang out with the master of horror over a cheeseburger and fries?

Or …

Suppose you were a young architect and you could have dinner with Frank Gehry? Suppose Mr. Gehry would not only answer your questions or take a look at your portfolio but that he would actually prepare a two-hour piece of instruction for you? Suppose he would distill everything he had learned over sixty years in the profession—and present it all to you?

How much would you pay for that?

Clearly those happy meals are never gonna happen.

You and I are not going to get to sit down with Toni Morrison or Joyce Carol Oates or Margaret Atwood. They’re too busy. They’ve got work to do and lives to live.

There’s an alternative however.

Joyce Carol Oates teaches at Princeton. Frank Gehry is doing an online MasterClass. Margaret Atwood spoke last weekend at the Los Angeles Times’ Festival of Books.

This is all by way of getting around to Shawn’s three-day STORY GRID course on writing Love Stories this past February in New York.

Shawn gets e-mails every day asking him to read manuscripts, be somebody’s mentor, go out to lunch and let some young writer pick his brain.

Shawn can’t do that. And the people who ask him are asking, whether they realize it or not, for thousands and thousands of dollars worth of hard-earned skill and savvy, for which they are willing to pay nothing.

The answer is to take a course from Shawn.

A few years ago, before Shawn and I had become partners in Black Irish Books, I needed his help. I asked him to read a manuscript I was stuck on. He did it. I wrote him a check for $35,000.

A few years later, feeling guilty, I asked him, “I got off cheap, didn’t I?”

Shawn laughed and said, “Yeah, you did.”

Expertise has value.

Decades of sweat and pain are worth something.

Frank Gehry is not going to write back to you and me saying, “Sure, let’s meet for lunch at Gjelina.” Philip Roth is not gonna have a drink with us at the St. Regis. And J.K. Rowling? Her security staff shredded our note before it got within a half-mile of her.

Maybe you and I can’t take these masters to lunch, but we can sign up the next time one of them teaches a course or a weekend seminar.

Okay, we won’t get Alice Munro one-on-one. But we can raise our hand and ask a question if and when she teaches a course. We can approach her during a break.

People write to me all the time, wanting me to put them in touch with Shawn so he can read/edit their novels. I don’t even tell Shawn. He’s too busy.

The answer, again: take a course from Shawn.

Become a member at Shawn’s blog, www.storygrid.com. Watch for the announcements of upcoming events.

In The War of Art I went off on a rant against workshops. I called them “colleges of Resistance,” which they are, if you’re using the workshop as an excuse not to do your own work.

But my assessment has softened over the years. The right course, taught by the right teacher, can be invaluable. Not just for the specific content (which a lot of times we can glean from a teacher’s published books or blogs or articles) but for the experience of actually meeting the person we hope to learn from. It seems silly but there’s a kind of magic to it. There’s no substitute for it.

For years Shawn has been playing with the idea of teaching what he knows, not just in books but in person. It’s taken him a while to wrap his mind around the idea of booking venues, preparing material, and actually getting up there onstage and engaging an audience.

But he’s doing it now.

If you and I are smart, we’ll get on a plane and go.

We might not be able to get him to have lunch with us, but we can learn a lot from three days in the same room with him.


Steve shows you the predictable Resistance points that every writer hits in a work-in-progress and then shows you how to deal with each one of these sticking points. This book shows you how to keep going with your work.

do the work book banner 1


A short book about the writing of a first novel: for Steve, The Legend of Bagger Vance. Having failed with three earlier attempts at novels, here's how Steve finally succeeded.



Steve shares his "lessons learned" from the trenches of the five different writing careers—advertising, screenwriting, fiction, nonfiction, and self-help. This is tradecraft. An MFA in Writing in 197 pages.



Amateurs have amateur habits. Pros have pro habits. When we turn pro, we give up the comfortable life but we find our power. Steve answers the question, "How do we overcome Resistance?"



  1. Brian Nelson on May 3, 2017 at 9:43 am

    Dear Steve,
    I laughed out loud when I read, “But my assessment has softened over the years.”

    Stephen King is responsible for me becoming a lifelong reader. King and a step-dad that believed ‘grounding to the room without phone, radio, or television’ for months at a time I should add. I was left with reading.

    I’m considering the workshop. The countdown makes me nervous…

  2. Mohit Chawla on May 3, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    Hey Steven,

    I had this opportunity in my field, except that I gave my power away, like an amateur. “Turning Pro” warns us of this.

  3. M. Talmage Moorehead on May 4, 2017 at 4:41 pm

    I just today finished going through the video lessons of one of Shawn’s previous workshops. I thought it was outstandingly valuable.

    Though I’d already read “The Story Grid,” I learned a great deal more about it, especially about applying it to love stories, and why the love story itself, even if just a subplot in an sf thriller, is much more important than I’d ever imagined.

    I felt huge encouragement to write fiction with a specific purpose: to help readers move insightfully forward in the character arcs of their own lives. To me, having a purpose besides entertainment and money is crucial to both my motivation to work and the frequency of visits from the muse.

    A small part of the panel Q&A at the end was a downer for me, when a question came to Seth Godin about how difficult it is to succeed as a writer these days. Of course we all want total honesty from a teacher. Maybe that’s what this was. Or maybe I misunderstood him, but Seth, if I understood him correctly, seemed to suggest that fiction writers (he writes excellent nonfiction exclusively) might well have to give their novels away for free for sixteen years before finding success, and even then, they’ve got to be outstandingly good writers or success won’t happen. Maybe that’s the truth nowadays, but we’ve all read accounts of indie fiction writers who have risen from obscurity to success in far less time without giving all their novels away. Joanna Penn is one sparkling, joyous example.

    Anyway, even including that one tiny down moment in the Panel Q&A (that I hopefully misunderstood), the course was absolutely fantastic and worth far more than its cost.

    Shawn was spectacular – deeply insightful, articulate, sincere, enthusiastic and humble in a way that didn’t detract from his authority.

    Both sides of my brain loved this workshop. Ten stars out of Ten!

    M. Talmage Moorehead

  4. Carlos Sandoval on May 10, 2017 at 3:14 pm

    Hello. This newsletter is a great resource. What do you think about the Masterclass website? David Mamet is teaching how to write drama. cheers!

  5. Cassandre Daniel on January 12, 2021 at 11:46 pm

    Folks love to sit in the company of the men like Stephen King whose life is so wonderful and exemplary for others. I have read this article and eventually knew about some unique moments of the life of Stephen King so thank you so much for this article. I will surely write an essay about Stephen King’s life with the help of an online writer but first I need to read reviews about essay writing website at EduBirdie source to check the reliability of that writer, hopefully, I will be able to find a great writer for this work.

  6. Susan Wise on December 18, 2022 at 11:53 pm

    Thanks for subscribing. I enjoy reading this newsletter. We spent a lot of time talking about the King archetype in these my assignments help articles. This central figure on whom our well-being, honor, and country’s prosperity depend is at the core of our psyches. Thank you for your suggestions.

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