Monday, November 14, 2011

Young Readers Give Us Hope

They came by the hundreds—some waiting for over three hours in line. As I walked along the sidewalk to the locked gate, the signs of waiting were everywhere. Most had relinquished standing in line to sitting on the dirty sidewalks in downtown Miami. Fortunately, it was a beautiful day, so the heat wasn’t much of a factor in this concrete jungle.

The seven hundred plus faithful followers of ChristopherPaolini’s epic series, The Inheritance Cycle, queued, anxiously awaiting the chance to hear the New York Times Bestselling Author speak about his series. This was his first appearance at the Miami Book Fair International.

What struck me the most about the crowd was the number of young adults lugging volumes of books to this event. Eight-hundred or so pages in each of the four volumes presented a hefty task for the readers. In a world of hi-tech—low tech was certainly the key on this Sunday evening. I spotted only one Kindle throughout the waiting line.

Inside, fans jostled for the best seats close to their storyteller. The buzz was palpable as the guest of honor took the stage. Christopher spent the next hour dissecting his process and giving the fans nuggets of information that would never be found in a bio or interview. The crowd gasped together when Paolini broke into a couple of his created languages and dialects.

During the question and answer period, fans rushed to the microphone to have a chance to talk to their idol. Cracking, nervous voices of all ages, from young teens to adults, stood in front of their “King” like commoners awaiting the blessing into the kingdom.

Christopher connected with his fans as only he could. When creating a new fantasy world, the creator is the only one who could discuss origins and the future. While this is the end of the series, he indicated that other stories might emerge from the highly successful series.

The real fun began with the book signing line. Fans rushed to the line, the early birds cried foul, all for a chance to meet their hero. Fans stood in line for up to an hour and a half to have Paolini sign their volumes, and volumes they did bring. Stacks of books, all four of the series, weighed almost as much as some the kids carrying them.

They traveled from as far as Tampa, four hours both ways, just to have their thirty seconds with the author. Young kids stood nervously, waiting for their chance.

“I’m so scared.”

“I can’t believe I’m meeting him.”

“What if I trip when I walk up?”

“I’m shaking right now.”

… were some of the things I heard while directing them to the signing table.

The entire night had a profound impact on me. To see young readers like this, so excited about reading and meeting, not a sports figure or movie star, but their hero an author, made the process of writing all worthwhile. These kids waited in line, not playing games on their handheld consoles, but reading their newly purchased final volume. They talked about their opinions as to how the story progressed. They truly “dig” reading. When I asked, Christopher Paolini replied, “That’s why I do this, for them.” Those are some wise words for all who aspire to write.

There is real hope in this world that many claim will not see hardbound novels in ten years. The younger generation still appreciates what it means to hold a book in their hands. The thrill of having your hero sign your very own copy can’t be replicated easily in the digital world of Kindle’s and Nooks. While I embrace the eBook world, Sunday night was a special time for hope and dreams in the old school world of books.

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