Monday, March 3, 2008

Change the World Tour: Day 2

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.


Melinda said...

Those of us who actually were digging ditches today instead of eating at TCF would just like to say: Quit yer complainin'. (JK)

It sounds like things are going famously. Keep it up!

We're rootin' for you here on the homefront.

Really, right up there with the pepper jack cheese machine? I'll have to look into that.

LaFemmeSimple said...

I couldn't go to bed until you posted. Good thing we're in the same time zone.

Today sounds wonderful and sappy ole' me is crying because I'm so proud of my big brother! You're like a snowball rolling down the Timp Jamestown, ain't no stopping you.

I uh, created something today. If you didn't check your email, then this is news.

I created a 13th Reality Flickr group. It's a place where people can post pictures from your school tours, from your book signings. I hope it really takes off, as I think it'd be a great way to show off your fan base!

So here it is: The 13th Reality Flickr Pool.

So please let Angie know about it, she can upload pics herself if she has a Yahoo! account.

Maybe I can make flyers to hand out Friday night to let the parents know about it too.

See you tomorrow James! I love ya bro!

tapestry100 said...

Wow, JD - that does sounds like it was a great day! Congrats again!!

Scoops Mangum said...


Lisa and I couldn't be happier for you. Lisa is grinning from ear to ear! I finished 13th Reality, and really enjoyed it. I can't wait to read book two! Hurry and get it to Lisa, so I can get a sneak peek. :)

Congrats! We'll see you at the Jordan Landing in a few weeks when you are back here in Utah. Travel safe!

Tracy and Lisa Mangum

and my professional site:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for visiting Mary Munford and the other local schools. And for the kind words about Richmond! We love it here too.
I linked to your post here:

Macotar said...

It is so nice when things exceed your expectations. I'm certain you will be a jaded author in no time ;). "I don't see goose down padding on these chairs. You expect me to sign with this?! I expressly requested a Mont Blanc Star Walker pen be available at EACH signing! Not some Staples stick of dried ink! Don't you know who I am?!???" Or something like that...

Anonymous said...

Yay! So glad the tour is off to a rocking start! Maybe the good experience will prompt more locations to visit???


Hope things continue on as wonderfully as they began! Congratulations!

lisa :)

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, James. I have to admit that envy is making me envision all types of horrible punishments upon you for your success. While doing that, I picked up a copy of "The 13th Reality" at the Barnes and Noble at Jordan Landing (you have a signing there on the 13th, so they've given you a great set up). It is small consolation to my jealousy that my purchase will profit a child in need rather than you, but I'll have to be satisfied with this paltry revenge.

Seriously though, I'm ecstatic that things are going so well. And don't pinch yourself. You're not just living your dream, but a dream that many of us share. Savor every moment of it, and know it's well deserved.

Irish said...

Sounds like a good day. Glad to hear that it was such a success. =)

PS - When did the Braves win a world series?? I'm a proud member of Red Sox Nation & once my boys get knocked out of the running I stop paying attention to all things baseball.

Ron Simpson said...


Shanna Blythe said...

Wow. That is all I can say . . . WOW!!! And I'm so glad that things are going great, but I do have to admit to being just a teensy bit jealous! Okay, WAY jealous!! Congrats!

James Dashner said...

Thanks, guys. I'm glad you guys are checking out my tour report. I promise to keep it up. And I'll try really hard to keep it unboringish. (too late hardy har)

Jonah H, thanks for the nice words on your blog. Richmond rocks!

And Lisa, I will try really hard to come to Chicago!!!!

Danyelle Ferguson said...

James -

It's so awesome to read how your tour is going. It sounds like the first day was fabulous! I listened to the podcast and loved all the things the kids had to say. They sincerely enjoyed listening to you and interacting with you! What an awesome complement!

BTW - if you come to Olathe KS, we have a Cheesecake Factory too. :)

Jenny said...

Hi Dashner, it is fun to hear about your tour. Did you ever dream you would be so rich and famous, signing autographs for hours at a time. That is so cool! I have a question for you about your agent. I'm interested in finding one and I wondered if he could recommend someone to me that specializes in cookbooks. Please send info to when you get a chance, or post it on your blog. Thank you, and good luck with the rest of your tour. Can't wait to get a copy of your book!

didi said...


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