Inspiration Monday: What I Learned from Rick Riordan

Saturday was such an awesome day. My nine-year-old daughter came with me to Rick Riordan’s talk and book signing for his book, The Battle of the Labyrinth, in a nearby town. The Wellesley Booksmith, an independent bookstore, hosted this incredible event.  I knew there would be a crowd, and wasn’t sure if my daughter would have the staying power to last the entire time–but she did!

Especially after I read this…Jen had a post on her blog about Rick’s The Battle of the Labyrinth book launch. I commented how I wasn’t sure whether daughter would last, and Rick’s wife commented on how their children didn’t last the whole time!

I’m impressed my daughter was willing to wait two hours and fifteen minutes to meet Rick Riordan–okay, there was great entertainment by Radio Disney for most of this time, but still–she was so pumped up after his presentation, she wanted her books signed.

It was downright inspiring to see children enthusiastic about reading, and I was so glad my reluctant reader could see this for herself. I am convinced children who love the Percy Jackson series see Rick Riordan as a god–their shouts, cheers and love for the world Rick Riordan created rocked the house.

If you ever have a chance to hear Rick Riordan speak, go. Rick is the first author I’ve ever had a chance to hear speak, and wow! He really knows how to deliver an inspirational message to the kids. Rick is funny, he gets the kids to think, and most importantly, he is kind and respectful to the kids. You can tell he’s grateful the kids adore his books and that he loves what he does.

Rick divided his presentation into three main parts. He first talked about how the idea for the Percy Jackson stories came about. Here’s the basic scoop: one of his sons has ADHD and dyslexia and loved Greek mythology. Rick told him all the myths, but his son wanted more. That’s when he made up Percy Jackson. His son loved Percy Jackson’s story so much, he urged Rick to write the book. Isn’t his son awesome?

Rick then did a Q&A session–two cool things from this session are down below. The boys asked most of the questions. For the final piece of the presentation, he offered up Battle of the Labyrinth t-shirts as prizes for kids who could answer questions about the Greek mythology and his books.

The kids went wild! They climbed over people to get to the aisles. They jumped up and down, waving their hands all around, shrieking out to get Rick’s attention. Can you imagine this is all over a t-shirt for a book?

What I also found impressive is he’s on a multi-city book tour, and must be exhausted, but you’d never know it. His presentation was fresh, upbeat, and interactive. Kids were jumping out of their seats, shouting out, laughing and clapping during his talk. Who knew reading could be so cool?

If you don’t know this already, the Percy Jackson series is fantastic. It’s a perfect MG read for kids who enjoy fast paced adventures and Greek mythology. What is awesome is reluctant readers and children with learning disabilities will enjoy reading these books. There’s great empowerment and fantastic heroes/villians packaged in a smart, funny, action packed, entertaining, fast read.

Two interesting things we found out during the Q&A session:

1. It takes Rick about a year to write each book. Book Five, the conclusion of Percy Jackson’s story, is scheduled to be released next year. But fear not, Rick is planning to write more books on the next generation of demi-gods from Camp Half-Blood.

2. The kids screamed when they found out there will be a movie of The Lightning Thief. The writers have written the second script and Chris Columbus, the director of the first two Harry Potter films, will direct The Lightning Thief. No actors have been cast yet, but the movie is scheduled to be released in November 2009.

I learned so much from Rick Riordan. He really knows how inspire children to feel powerful. It was such a privilege to be in the thick of it all and to watch the children get this pumped up about reading. The fact this man loves what he does is evident in his actions. He was kind, encouraging and respectful to his fans. And he interacted with the fans–joking around with them, encouraging their curiousity, and feeding their enthusiasm.

As I mentioned earlier, my daughter and I waited two hours and fifteen minutes to meet Rick Riordan and get our books signed. I stressed, trying to think of something half-way intelligent to say, once it was our turn to join the book signing line. But when we got closer, I noticed Rick looked tired, and any thoughts of engaging him in small talk flew right out my mind.

There was a group of four boys who won The Battle of the Labyrinth t-shirts right in front of us. They wanted Rick to sign their shirts and pose for pictures with them. He did it all, in a gracious manner, without trying to hurry them along. I was simply in awe with this man’s behavior towards his fans. Tired or not, the fans were the priority.

By the time it was our turn to meet Rick, I was tongue-tied. Rick Riordan smiled, asked my daughter if she had any questions about his book, and signed our books.

My daughter talked about Rick Riordan and the Percy Jackson stories all weekend. Thank you, Rick Riordan, for creating a series that inspires kids–most especially reluctant readers–to want to read.

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Vivian Lee Mahoney

Consider yourself warned: I write books about rebels. I'm also a postergirlz for readergirlz, a literary advisory group for teens. Who knew going back to the teenage years would be so rewarding?

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