Friday, May 27, 2011

Rick Riordan and James Patterson Live

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You've got to love Twitter.  Information flows fast and free and (generally) accurately.  Twitter was how I discovered this exciting event - an opportunity to attend an encounter with Rick Riordan (author of the "Percy Jackson and the Olympians", "The Kane Chronicles" and "The Heroes of Olympus") and James Patterson (author of "Maximum Ride", "Witch and Wizard", and "Daniel X", to name a few), two best-selling, award-winning authors.

My decision to go was a no-brainer. I am a MASSIVE Rick Riordan fan, having read all the books he's had out and so, despite having no one to attend with, I bought a ticket anyway.

The event was held in the Alice Tully Hall at the Lincoln Center. The building itself is a beautiful place and, as I entered, I found myself wondering why I hadn't ever thought to hang out around that area.  It seemed like the part of New York that would suit me best, with its classic, understated but quite modern elegance.

After claiming my ticket and buying a lemonade, I sat down and immersed myself in one of the titles I'd always noticed but never actually read - Witch and Wizard by James Patterson.  Though his writing style is slightly different from what I'm used to, I found it to be a good sort of different and was completely immersed in the book.  In fact, I was so interested in what was happening to Wisty and Whit that I basically just kept reading up until the event started.

The Interviews

Willie Geist replaced Al Roker as the host, since Roker was busy covering the devastating events in Joplin.  I thought he was very well-spoken, had great comedic timing and knew how to handle hosting and interviewing and the audience very well.  He opened the show with a monologue that was simultaneously entertaining and thought-provoking and I had to agree when he said something to the effect of books opening up an entirely new world for him.

When Rick Riordan and James Patterson actually came out onto the stage, my heart skipped a beat. These were two acclaimed authors, and I was basically in awe of their talent and their stories.  Though I was far from the stage, I could definitely sense their strong stage presence.

One of the stand out questions that I actually remember is when Willie asked why reading was important. I'll never forget Rick's answer: "Because imagination is so powerful". This struck a personal chord with me because I agree - reading allows the imagination to grow, to play and to grow stronger.

Another fun tidbit, this time from James Patterson - "The more you read, the better a reader you become."  This is something I also believe to be true.  As a reader, you only learn to hone your craft and really understand what good writing is if you read widely and often.

We heard plenty more little tidbits from the authors, about their favorite books, their inspiration and even just funny anecdotes. 

The Book Excerpts

One of the parts the entire audience was excited for were the reading of book excerpts - and they definitely did not disappoint.

Rick had somone come in to read the first chapter of "Son of Neptune", the second book in the Heroes of Olympus series.  For fans of Percy Jackson, he's finally back -- and on a brilliant new adventure involving the Roman camp.  And, apparently, Tyson is back too!

Apart from the exciting first read of the book, we in the audience were also privileged enough to get a sneak peek at the cover of the book before anyone else.  As always, John Rocco did a fabulous job and created another beautiful cover for the series.

James also had an excerpt read from his new book "Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life".  It was filled with funny wisecracks and a loveable protagonist and I found myself entirely entertained during the reading.  Though originally I wouldn't have thought to read it, after hearing the excerpt I changed my mind!

Q&A

There was the opportunity for a Q&A right after and I watched in stunned amazement as waves and waves of children (and a few adults) ran for the microphones.

I'm going to go into a brief segue right now - I thought it was brilliant that I was surrounded by loads of children in the audience and their parents.  For one thing, it's nice to see how the parents support their childrens' love of reading. 

But also, it was just plain wonderful and heartwarming to see how these kids cheered on their favorite authors and just how much they loved the books.  These kids were genuine fans; they knew almost everything about their favorite series, they were grateful for these amazing stories and they were basically me when I was a kid - bookworms with an insatiable thirst for good stories. 

I am a big supporter of literacy, especially among children.  It was nice that 100% of the proceeds from the event went to First Book, an organization that provides books for children in need.  It was wonderful how Rick and James were both staunch believers and supporters of getting children to read.  But most of all, it was wonderful seeing how many kids actually liked reading books at the event (most of them had books with them and were reading, like me, while we waited for it to start).

Anyway, returning to the event, there were a lot of questions entertained.  Some were series-specific or about a character, some were about the writers themselves and some were about writing.

The one question that stuck with me was when someone asked about writing.  Rick's answer was a spectacular piece of advice - "For all the writers out there, finish it."  I felt extra motivated and inspired to write again after hearing this, for some reason.

Grab Bags

Two lucky children won two big bags full of books by Rick Riordan and James Patterson at the event, which I thought was pretty great (although obviously, I was sort of jealous).  But it was a pleasant surprise to find that everyone in the audience was receiving a special grab bag.

The grab bags had an assortment of things depending on which one you picked up. Mine had pins, trading cards, a pen and bookmarks from Rick Riordan, postcards from James Patterson and (and this was my favorite one) a copy of James Patterson's "Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life". 

As I headed home that night, grab bag and memories in tow, I found myself smiling.  It was quite amazing to attend this special event with James Patterson and Rick Riordan. The advice and stories they had shared did loads to inspire me to start writing again and not lose hope.  I can only aspire to do what they have done - create wonderful stories, worlds and characters that kids can enjoy.

Congratulations to First Book, Rick Riordan and James Patterson for such a fabulous event!

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