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An Open Letter To R.L. Stine

Dear R.L. Stine,

I’m going to try my best to put this into words, but we all know that sometimes, they fall short.

Sir, are you aware that your writing is a gateway drug that has lured several generations into the addictive world of horror? Are you aware of how many trees have bowed down to your talent, and spent their afterlives passing through our fingertips, as we eagerly absorbed every tale you’ve conjured with your keyboards throughout the decades? Do you know how many social lives you have ruined because we would rather stay at home and read? Are you aware of just how many kids you have saved by triggering our addictions to paper and ink instead of bottles, needles, or pills? Do you know how many real-life nightmares you have saved us from by allowing us to get lost in fictitious worlds of your own?

I remember being seven years old and being drawn to the colorful art on one of your Goosebumps books in my school’s library. I picked it up and stumbled my way through words and grammar that I wasn’t quite sure of yet. Before I knew it, I had finished the entire book all by myself, and I was desperate for another. When I was eight, my sister and I would rush home from school and build a blanket fort on our bunk bed and have competitions to see who could finish their latest Goosebumps book faster. If we weren’t reading your work, we were tripping over ourselves as we made our way to the couch to stuff our faces with Gushers and binge-watch Goosebumps on Nickelodeon. In middle school, I was that weird, smart girl who knew too many words and had zero social skills. So, I often sat at an empty table in the cafeteria, but I wasn’t alone because I had one of your Fear Street books in my hand. In high school, after losing multiple friends to various tragedies, I often found myself at home, too riddled with depression, anxiety, and grief to get out of bed. I always reached for one of your books to carry me through my worst days.

All throughout college, and even now in my late 20s, you have always been there. I swear, there has not been a single phase of my life where I have not had one of your books in my hand, backpack, purse, suitcase, or car. Whenever I needed an escape, you were always right there, on the ground or in the sky, at that lonely middle school lunch table, in detention, in hospital waiting rooms, or on the restless night before every painful funeral I’ve ever had to attend. If it wasn’t one of your books comforting me, it was your TV shows or movies. Your words are the foundation from which I have built the majority of my coping mechanisms around. By being scared in the safety of one of your stories, I knew how to deal with being scared in real life. I knew how to cope and stay strong, even in situations where I felt alone and like no one believed me. I would just summon my inner Carly Beth and know it was okay to take off society’s haunted mask that I had been stuck behind. Because of your stories, I knew that it was okay to just be myself, even in the darkest of situations. Even if I was the only one who was brave enough to do so at the time and I scared people away by no longer seeking their approval.

Your talent and beautiful relationship with words have been the driving force that encouraged me to pick up a pen and discover my own. I would not be who or where I am today, had it not been for you. Every time I meet an adult who says that they don’t like to read, it makes me so damn sad because I just know in my heart it’s because they never picked up one of your books as a child. You can lead an idiot to the library, but you can’t make them read. You can pour your heart into words written just for them, but you can’t force them to see the magic in the ink.

Thank you for giving all of us and our children a safe place to run away to throughout the years. Your words will always feel like home.