Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Are you there, Judy? It's me, James.

That right there is me and Judy Blume. Me. Judy Blume. In the same picture. As Sherman Alexie once put it so eloquently (at the 2008 BEA Children's Breakfast): that's Judy f***ing Blume!

I've been thinking a lot about my 3-week, 8-city tour since coming home, and nothing seems to sum it up better than that picture. I met a lot of great booksellers, librarians, teachers, students, readers, bloggers, fans - and many amazing people at Random House itself - and I had so many incredible experiences. But meeting Ms. Blume was so surreal and unforgettable, and just seems to sum up how RH and The Maze Runner have changed my life.

Here's how it went down:

My hotel was just a few blocks from the Random House offices in Manhattan. I walked over and, after taking a break to eat a hot dog from a street vendor (something I'd been anxiously awaiting for months), I arrived to see this in the window right by the front door:

After shamelessly taking a picture and tweeting it, I entered the building, checked in with security and headed for the elevators. (At which point I popped in a piece of gum because that's what you do after eating a hot dog.) The doors opened, I stepped inside, and so did another person. A very nice, lovely lady.

I knew immediately that it was Judy Blume - I'd seen her speak at BEA, right after the colorfully languaged Mr. Alexie. I wanted to say something, shake her hand, hug her, get down on my knees and thank her for providing all those books that - more than any other author by far - made me fall in love with reading as a kid. But I did nothing.

The elevator dinged and we got off on the same floor. My publicist (the utterly fantastic Noreen Marchisi) was there to greet me, and the Delacorte Publisher (the utterly fantastic Beverly Horowitz) was there to greet Ms. Blume (from this point on I will refer to her as Judy because she is now my friend and you can't say anything different).

Noreen and Beverly made sure to introduce me to Judy, we showed her my book, exchanged a few pleasantries, etc. She was gracious and wonderful. But the real kicker came later. After I did a phone interview, someone came and told us that Judy had invited us back to have "tea and cupcakes" with her.

And that's when the surreal awesomeness of it all started. I spent the next hour chilling in the Big Boss's office (hi Chip Gibson!) with Judy (and several other great people, including my editor Krista and author and friend Carrie Ryan).

Me and Judy.
Judy and me.
Judy and James.
Double J.
J Squared.

She is so awesome, guys! Not a trace or hint of arrogance. Not a wisp of condescension. She made me feel like an equal and a friend. I loved hearing about her life in the Florida Keys and how she and her husband started a movie theater down there. (Which just made me love her all the more because I'm such a movie buff.) I really, really enjoyed every minute of hanging out with her. Even the cupcakes (Famous Magnolia's) were great!

When we were done, she made me promise I'd come visit them in the Keys. Now, I know she might say that to everyone, but still. Don't burst my bubble!

Anyway. Maybe it's odd that I chose this one experience after all the incredible things I did over the last 3 weeks. But you have to understand. The words "Judy Blume" define my childhood. Plain and simple. This is not hyperbole: I love to read because of Judy Blume. She started it all for me, and to sit with her 20-something years later and talk and laugh and eat...

I'll never forget it. You may laugh, but it was as surreal as sitting down with Abraham Lincoln or Charles Dickens. Just amazing for me. I think only one event in my life could come close to matching this one, and maybe I should go ahead and shout this to the world as a plea: Could someone please make sure I meet Stephen King? As Judy defined my middle grade reading years, Uncle Stevie defined high school and everything after.

So, there you have it. I'll try to share more stories from the tour in the next days and weeks.

I do want to say one thing: Thank you to Random House. Not sure I deserved such fine treatment over the last few weeks, but I'm extremely grateful and I hope it was worth the cost. I hope my book makes you lots of money!

Lyrics of the Day:

Judy, Judy, Judy
You're so great, so great
Judy, Judy, Judy
You're the greatest great
You. Are. Great.

Judy, James Dashner


Katy said...

I love the lyrics of the day. And, so cool that you go to meet Judy Blume!

Kelly M said...

uh, yeah- that is AWESOME! Who doesn't love Judy Blume? How cool. Man, you really are something big these days. Congrats!!

Anonymous said...

How exciting! You live quite the charmed life. Not only did you meet Judy Blume, but I also saw you got to hang out with Scott Westerfeld. I almost have to pinch myself for you.

Magenta said...

Wow! You met Judy Blume! So awesome. (I thought I recognized the reference in the title. ^_~ I remember reading and liking "Are you there God? It's me, Margaret.")

But your excitement for meeting one of your huge author heroes is contagious! She sounded so nice! You must know by now that this is how all your fans feel when they meet YOU!

(Of course, I haven't yet had the pleasure of experiencing this feeling, but I'm positive that I will meet you someday, and that is how I will feel. ^_^)

James Dashner said...

Thanks, guys!

Magenta, that is so sweet. Hard for me to believe, but so sweet. Thank you.

melissa @ 1lbr said...

That is so cool! I'm totally jealous. Meeting a favorite childhood author - can't even imagine the tongue-tied-ness I'd experience.

Erin G. said...

Forget writing books! You should totally be a song writer! Haha. ;)

That's so amazing that you met Judy Blume! She sounds really sweet (like a cupcake, perhaps?).

Nichole Giles said...

Oh my gosh, first ROFLOL! You're too funny. J squared? Tee hee.

Second, oh my gosh, you met Judy Blume! That is so wicked cool.

Now, not that I know the guy, but I think I feel comfortable saying that I'm pretty sure if you're a good boy and eat all your vegetables, you'll probably get to meet Steven King someday. Maybe he'll come to one of your signings wanting to meet the great, all powerful James Dashner. Never know. It could happen.

Maybe he'll go just so you'll write him a song the way you wrote one for your new friend Judy.

Hey, bestselling authors have dreams,too,you know.

Glad to know you made it home in one piece.

Heather Moore said...

So did you talk about her books that were banned? LOL. The best thing about Judy as opposed to Lincoln and Charles, is that Judy is still alive :)

Hoontah said...



That is all I can say. Except . . .

Are you kidding me? Judy *&^%$^# Bloom?

Laura said...

Uhh, James, better stick to the novels. I'm not sure lyrics are your thing.

So cool about you and Judy! Thanks for sharing the pictures, too. It makes it real, like we can see the two of you hanging out.


OH MY GOODNESS!!! JUDY BLUME!!! I'm so jealous beyond words!

Anonymous said...

This is an awesome moment, James. It's like watching Christmas Morning. Congrats to you. Congrats to Judy. J squared.

Lyssa(: said...

Hey. thats cool that you got to talk with Judy!

Looooooove the song, by the way!

Brodi Ashton said...

I wrote a book report on "Are you there God, it's me, Margaret". I still remember how much Judy's books affected me. So, I'm totally jealous you got to meet her!

Sounds like you had a great time.

Unknown said...

I remember reading all of her Fudge books in elementary school. She's iconic for middle grade novels. Way to go, brother.

Anna said...

LOL!!!!!!!!! You make me laugh. That's so cool.

ronna15 said...

First of your hilarious! J squared! Epic. LOL!

Anyway, that's so awesome that you get to meet the author that inspired you to read. That is a once-in-a-life-time experience. It's not lame at all! Heck, I'd do the same thing to if I meet J.K.Rowling. I was 10 when I first picked up her book, and I loved reading since then. That is really cool that after 20 or so years, you actually met her. ;D

So yeah, congratulations on meeting Judy Blume and completing your tour. You're awesome and hilarious! Don't stop writing. Will be counting the days until The Scorch Trials! I hope you come back to the famous Changing Hands, AZ! ;D

Take care!


Vanessa M. said...

Hey, isn't Stephen King the guy you call "the master"? I'll bet in a couple more years when you're all big and bad that he'll be calling YOU the master....unless if you start taking up song writing ;). I'm not sure where that choice in career would lead :D

numberonedashnerfan said...

u meeting Judy Blume= Awesome ................... So at lunch time I went outside hanging out with my friends in the snow and the hot french foreign exchange stundent walked past me after all my friends went inside to class (my class was really close so I stayed outside in the snow because snow is amazing) and he slipped and fell in the snow and I helped him up and he talked to me!!!!.......sorry selfish moment.....anywho Im jealous that you got to meet Blume James............

Jenny said...

Awesomeness indeed!
Thanks for being you, James. I imagine you will be the same way 20years from now when you meet one of your fans who has become a writer, in part because of your influence.

Cluttered Brain said...

You are TOTALLY joking right? Judy BLUME??? I spent MOST of my childhood with my nose in her books...
AWESOME! Now I should spend Christmas vacation in YOUR books....
13th reality here I come!!!!

PS. Also This is my FIRST year for particpiating in Naniwrimo! There is a first year for everything huh?

Unknown said...

As soon as I saw this picture I was going to comment about the BEA quote "Judy effing Blume" but you beat me to it. I don't even know where *I* read about that quote. Probably from your blog last year. Glad you made it home safe! Hope it's nice and cold. A balmy 65 today here. =D

James Dashner said...

Thanks for all the awesome comments, guys! It's so fun to be back home and chill with the Duders.

Dave said...

WoW! I'm scared that when you do meet Stephen King you might go into cardiac arrest or something! Remember, when the day comes that you do, he will probably be just as excited to meet you. Once he reads Maze, I'm sure he will secretly go back and become a 13th fan as well.

I wanted to thank you very much for giving myself and my family the "special treatment" in NY. You made the very unpleasant train ride from NJ including 3 subways and terrential downpours worth every minute. It might not seem like a big deal to you, but you made our night and more, so thanks so much! And we owe you a book report. She did it and her teacher asked to borrow the book. She told her she didn't think her dad would lend it to her because it was signed. She was right!

Dave and the rest of The Lateiner Gang

Dave said...

Ill actually email you the link to her report as she wants to post it on the site. It was a max of 200 words. Geez, kids these days have it so good. Remember the 4-6 page with a cover that you had to draw and put in one of those plastic thingys? Now she emails it to the teacher. Nuts!
Also forgot to say congrats on completing the tour and we are all waiting to hear some preliminary #'s, so when you get them, please share!


Taffy said...

You're trip and the people you meet sounded all amazing.

So cool when you get to meet your literary heroes and it's a bonus when they are 'normal'.

A few of mine are dead (Austen, Bronte, Dickens, Tolstoy etc) but a few are not.
I'd like to meet Janette Rallison; oh yeah! Did that and love her. Jessica Day George? Check. Shannon Hale. Check. Brandon Sanderson. Heard him speak but didn't meet him. Seem to recall someone saying they are friends with him and would intro him to me but that didn't happen :)
James Dashner? Check.

Mary E Campbell said...

Awesome! love Judy - yes I think that we should be on first name basis too.

lotusgirl said...

that's so great about meeting Judy Blume. I can only imagine. Maybe someday. Hey, where in SC did your Granddad live. My old stomping grounds are Camden, so I'm a big fan of southerners doing well in the publishing world. I loved your book (The Maze Runner) by the way. I blogged about it today. In looking for info about you I found your blog. What fun!

I'm going to have to go back now and read all your other books.

James Dashner said...

lotusgirl, glad you found us!

Dave, my pleasure dude.

Taffy, you're hilarious.

Cranberryfries said...

That is such a great story. I especially loved that you included the part about the gum because it just goes to show what a story teller you are. :)

Good luck catching up from your whirlwind of a fabulous trip.

Mariano's Mom said...

Wow. I think I would have been speechless as well. So THAT'S why people become authors: to meet Judy Blume. =) Congrats and now stop blogging and get back to our sequel! I just finished Maze Runner last night (eyes still burning) and I want #2. Tomorrow. =)

Cyber Ann said...

Wow! I was ecstatic when I received an e-mail from Judy, but it would be great to actually meet her! I'm old enough to have read many of her books when they were first published not having a clue about why anyone wouldn't want us to read them.

I was excited to meet you--thanks for visiting Valley. The kids talked about your visit for days! We now have at least two copies of each of your books and they go out as quickly as they check in...awesome!

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