Off to Ann Arbor

This morning I leave Chicago for Michigan, which I’ve never visited. I look forward to an event at the Borders flagship store in Ann Arbor this evening.

The last couple of days have been a blast. Thanks to everyone (especially the moms) who came out in such huge numbers on Sunday evening for the Mother’s Day event in Skokie. We had between 400-500 people, which is more than any of us was expecting. My media escort asked, “Do you always draw such a diverse crowd?” I’d never thought about it, but the fans really did run the spectrum – from all parts of town, about half and half boys and girls, every age from first grade through high school. And everyone was just as nice as can be. Each mom I talked to had no problem spending their special day at the event. They all said, “Anything that gets my kids reading I am happy to do!” I got some wonderful artwork and poems from fans. I’ll try to post some of it when I get back home.

Yesterday the weather was gorgeous. I understand it’s been very cold and wet here recently. Last year when I was here, it was searing hot and windy. But this time we’ve been lucky: sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s. In the morning I visited a couple of local schools. My favorite question from a sixth grader, after I’d told the kids about my series: “Why are you here at Scullen Middle School? Shouldn’t you be in Paris or something?” I told him why not Scullen? I’m writing for middle school kids, not the people in Paris (unless they’re kids, of course). I go all over the country, but I’d rather be talking to kids than just about any other audience – and suburban Chicago is just as important as any place else. I’m not sure the kid believed me, but it’s true. And that’s not to say I would turn down a trip to Paris, in case my French publisher is monitoring the blog . . .

In the evening, I did an extremely sold-out event for Anderson’s Books at the Downers Grove Public Library. Thanks to everyone who showed up, and my apologies for all the people who came but were not able to get in. I got to see most of you in the signing line afterwards, but it doesn’t sit well with me when kids and parents make the effort to come out for a book signing and don’t get to see the presentation! I’ve already talked with Anderson’s about getting a bigger venue next year. The Anderson’s staff was as hardworking and enthusiastic as always, and the audience was fantastic. Thanks especially to the family who came all the way from Peoria. I’m happy to report they went away with t-shirts! My favorite question of the night came from Jake, who asked, “Do the monsters all represent common dilemmas that kids face – like Ares represents bullies?” I was impressed. I don’t intentionally assign allegorical meaning to the monsters, but I think Jake is right. They do stand for common school problems. I must admit there were a few cheerleaders at my high school that might’ve been empousai, and the Sphinx definitely stands for standardized testing!

Back to the t-shirt question, I get asked all the time: “Is there any way I can buy those?” Alas, the answer is no. The shirts are printed as promotional items, and we don’t have extras for sale. More importantly, selling them would require an entire staff of people to take orders and ship them, plus tax numbers, etc., and then there are the legal merchandising issues – so no, we can only give them away, and I’m sorry we never have enough. However, I can always recognize a kid I’ve seen before, because if they are wearing a shirt, they must have been to an event.

I’ll let you know how it goes in Ann Arbor. From there, I’m off to my old stomping ground: the San Francisco Bay Area!

Rick Riordan