East Coast Wrap-up

I’m sitting in the Fairmont Hotel at Copley Square in Boston — a setting from 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones, by the way! Later today I’ll be flying to St. Paul for an event at the Red Balloon Bookshop.

The East Coast leg of the tour has been great. Monday I visited the Disney Publishing offices in Manhattan and set a land speed record, signing 1000 books in 45 minutes, though I couldn’t have done it without a lot of help from the staff. I felt like Lucille Ball in that chocolate factory conveyor belt sketch (yes, REALLY dating myself with that reference). We then took the Long Island Railroad to a signing at the Barnes & Noble in Huntington. This was my first event as part of the Barnes & Noble Summer Reading program – more on that later. The store had really done a great job decorating. We had volunteers in Camp Half-Blood T-shirts, great artwork by Hannah, and even specialty drinks in the cafeteria, which had been relabeled the Mount Olympus Café. I hear they did a brisk business in Mint Medusa, Pink Poseidon, and (wait for it) Zeus Juice. Thanks to the many hundreds of young demigods who came out. The biggest question of the night: Why did I put Camp Half-Blood on Long Island? The answer: my wife’s family is from Long Island, and the place made a big impression on me when I first visited many years ago on our honeymoon.

Tuesday I went the other direction from the city – out to New Jersey. I did a school event at Bogert Elementary in Upper Saddle River, sponsored by Books, Bytes, and Beyond. What a beautiful area of the state. We had an informal signing at the store (just me and a few hundred close friends) then I drove down south for a signing with Clinton Bookshop. They’d reserved the Raritan Community College auditorium, and we needed the space! Again, we had about 700 people show up. The bookstore staff was well-organized and the signing line went quickly. They also made Camp Half-Blood T-shirts, which I understand sold out almost immediately. Big question of the night as I was talking about future books: Will I ever do a Norse mythology book? Oh, believe me, I love Norse mythology and taught it just as often as Greek & Roman. It’s on my radar screen, but there are other projects to be done first.

Yesterday, I took the train to Boston, which is always a nice ride. I like watching the coastline go by, and I even got a little writing done — amazing! The event last night for Wellesley Booksmith was even more enormous than usual. I’m told we had close to 1000 people, but Alison and the rest of the staff did their normal fantastic job and everything moved along smoothly. Thanks to everyone for being so patient, and to Gareth Hinds for keeping the kids entertained with monster-drawing lessons while they waited. I hope to show you some of the pictures he came up with when I get back home and get to my scanner. Gareth has an illustrated version of the Odyssey coming out next year that will blow you away, but more on that later.

As I’ve gone through my events, my media escorts keep making the same comment: “Look at all the girls in the audience!” I suppose this surprises people because my books are so often labeled as ‘book boys.’ Not that I mind that. I’m very happy they appeal to boys, because I’ve got two reluctant reader boys of my own, and I know how tricky it can be finding good books for them. But it’s true that at every single event, the audience has been almost exactly balanced between girls and boys. I love that. As I’ve said before, I always taught in co-ed schools, and I would hate to think my stories only worked for one gender. The girl fans range from elementary school through college, and they are so enthusiastic! Last night I lost count of the number of homemade Camp Half-Blood T-shirts and bead necklaces. We even had a dead ringer for Annabeth, complete with NY Yankees camp, and this was in Boston! I’ve also met quite a few fans with Greek mythology names on this tour – Rhea, Phoebe, Athena, and even an Annabeth! So thanks, girls, for showing your demigod pride.

In other news, the Last Olympian is ripping up the bestseller charts. It is #1 today out of all books in USA Today, part of a very small group of children’s books ever to debut at #1. It has also driven the series to #2 on the NYT bestseller list, second only to someone named Stephenie. Apparently she writes vampire books. Who knew?

Tonight, I’ll be in St. Paul, and tomorrow it’s on to St. Louis. Sorry if I haven’t visited your city. Believe me, we’ve crammed as much as we could into a fifteen day tour, but it’s a big big country! For the complete tour details, as always, check the web calendar.

Rick Riordan