Monday, March 3, 2008
Wow. All I can say is wow. Today will certainly go down as one of the greatest 10 days of my life, right behind the whole marriage and kids thing and right ahead of the Braves winning the World Series.
(Before I continue, I have to say one thing. We had to leave the signing tonight, even though a parent had called and said they were on their way. All the way back to the hotel, I kept telling Angie that some kid in the world was going to be devastated and would haunt us for the rest of our lives. That I'd wake up in the middle of the night and see some poor child's face hovering in the air, weeping and asking me, "Why do you hate me, Mr. Dashner?" To that kid, and to his parents, all I can say is that we're truly sorry. Please don't haunt me, however. I get scared.)
The day started bright and early, especially considering the time change for poor little me. I tried so hard to go to sleep last night, and tried hard again to go BACK to sleep after waking up too early this morning. But my nerves were too juiced, and so I only slept 5 hours at best. I'm really feeling it now, but will keep slapping myself until I get this post done.
Angie Godfrey, the wonderful and awesome Angie Godfrey from my publisher, picked me up at 7:45 a.m. and we headed off for the first school, Randolph Elementary in Crozier, VA. Angie has an iPhone, and I'm here to testify that it is one of the single coolest things that has ever been invented, one slot ahead of the automobile and one slot behind the machine that makes pepper jack cheese.
I was knighted as the navigator for the day, and did so flawlessly (almost) throughout the day thanks to the wonders of the iPhone and Google Maps. Before I heap praise on the 4 awesome schools we visited, I want to make 2 observations about this area around Richmond, VA.
This place is unbelievably beautiful. I mean it. I seriously want to live here. Rolling hills, farms, wheatfields, tree-lined roads, awesome architecture everywhere. All somehow magically surrounding this pretty big city. In fact, it was kind of eerie. Angie and I really thought that somehow we went through a portal and entered another world (or yes, another Reality).
Honest to goodness, we were in downtown Richmond, skyscrapers everywhere, and then 2 minutes later we were in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by breathtaking scenery but not a single restaurant in sight. The Dashner Dude almost had to skip lunch and groan and whine incessantly during the last 2 presentations, but a gas station suddenly popped out of nowhere and had a deli inside. Our lives were saved at the last minute.
Anyway, back to the story. Our first school was Randolph Elementary, home of the Roadrunners. The principal, one of the coolest guys I've ever met (Stacey Austin), deemed me worthy of being hailed as one of their own, and like he said, once a Roadrunner, always a Roadrunner. Angie helped me set up the laptop and projector, and off we went.
I couldn't possibly have imagined a more perfect way to start my tour than visiting Randolph. Stacey and the librarian, Ms. Plowcha, treated me like an old friend from the get go, and I had an awesome time. The kids were smart and well behaved and funny and sincere. I loved every minute of it.
(Ya know, the next couple of days are slow due to travel and a cancellation, so maybe I'll give you the details on the actual presentation I give then. I don't what this post to get too long!)
Mr. Austin did a podcast of the kids answering some questions and me as well, which you can listen to on their website. Google it, people.
Next came Mary Munford Elementary. Another awesome assembly, more awesome kids. Thanks to the librarian, Elena Yamashev, who had such a cool accent I could've talked to her all day. Then came Ward Elementary. Another awesome assembly, more awesome kids. One cool thing here: "Channel 99" filmed the presentation and they are going to show it to all the schools in the county. Thanks to Elizabeth for doing that.
I also want to mention Andrea Velle here. She's the librarian at Ward, and is just one of those people that's so sincere and genuinely interested in you. She really made me feel at home and comfortable, and we had a blast at her school.
The fourth and final school was William Fox Elementary, and a big thanks to their librarian, Faithe Mikense. My presentation had gotten more polished by then, and as it was the last, I was probably the most relaxed I'd been all day. The kids were really great.
I don't know what to say about these school visits. Maybe it's the water out here in Virginia. Maybe they just have extraordinary parents and teachers in these here parts. But I was really impressed by the behavior, smarts, and ideas of the students. I'll definitely take some time tomorrow or Wednesday to tell you more specifics about the actual presentation itself and what I did with the kids. And I really wish I could mention more names - especially of some of the students I met. But if any of you read this, just know that you blew me away.
After the presentations, so began the long 3 hours of waiting until the booksigning to see if anyone would actually show up. Angie kept telling me to quit worrying about it, but I couldn't. Because, basically, I'm an idiot.
We ate at The Cheesecake Factory. We were driving around the big mall at Short Pump (I still have no idea what that means), scanning each passing restaurant with bored indifference. Then something happened. At the same time, we saw TCF and screeched with delight. It wasn't a question. We went there for dinner. The only problem was that it took almost an hour to decide what to get. I've never seen a place with so many options, and all of them good!
And so came the booksigning. The first one in the history of mankind for The 13th Reality.
We walked into the Barnes and Noble. At first I couldn't see any sign that someone had showed up caring one whit about me or my book. Then Pam the CRM (Community Relations Manager) spotted us, one of the nicest ladies I've ever met, and showed us to this big table with stacks and stacks of my book on top. It was then I noticed a crowd of about 20-30 people already lined up, even though we still had 10 minutes before starting time. Relief washed through me, and I never looked back. I also promised myself I would never stress about a signing ever again.
I don't know how many books we sold. A lot. I know I was signing books for an hour and a half straight, and I never complained once. :-) It was a good balance - I was able to spend a minute or two with each student and their parents, and had a great time. Everyone got a free poster, and most people bought a book, many bought 2 or 3. Or 4 or 5. It was awesome.
I feel like I'm not doing justice to what a great day I had. I think it's mainly because my mind shut down about 20 minutes ago and I desperately need to sleep. I think stuff like this can really drain you mentally and emotionally, and make you feel as tired as if you'd dug ditches all day. My back even hurts. But I just hope that all the good people of Virginia I met today, whom I had the privilege of meeting today, will know that you've touched my life forever and given me some memories that will never be forgotten.
No matter what happens in my career, no matter what happens with The 13th Reality, no matter how big it gets (I hope), no matter what, one thing will always be for certain.
Virginia, you were first. And as cheesy and cornbally and eyerolly as it sounds, I'll never forget that.
NOTE: Angie took pictures, but is having trouble emailing them to me. I will post pictures in the next day or two.
Posted by James Dashner at 7:39 PM