For the release of The Gathering Storm, publisher Tor recruited several volunteers - called Storm Leaders - to help with each tour stop. I was thrilled to be selected for the Maryland event! Below is the (very detailed) recap that my team put together for Dragonmount.com, the main fan site for The Wheel of Time book. I had planned to simply link to that post today, but Dragonmount recently transferred to a new server and lost all their old content (at least temporarily) so I'm giving you the complete recap here.
And in case you are interested, here's my review of The Gathering Storm from last year - I'm currently listening to it on audio to get ready for The Towers of Midnight!
On October 29th, 2009 THE GATHERING STORM hit Baltimore … and what an evening it was!
Around 5:30pm the four Storm Leaders – Susan, Mike, Matt, and Heather (me) – met up with Brandon, Harriet, and their media escort, Paul, for dinner. We were supposed to meet at 5:15pm but the restaurant staff seated us in two separate places so each group was wondering why the other was late. (A great way to start the evening, no?) Dinner was a real treat for us Storm Leaders; simply to be sitting at the table with Brandon and Harriet was fantastic, but of course we had some great conversations as well. There was definitely no lull in the chatter!
After our meal we walked through the mall to the Books-A-Million store. Our entourage was spotted by the large crowd gathered in the bookstore café and applause broke out at the site of Brandon and Harriet. After Brandon said a quick hello to the fans, we headed to the back of the store. While our two celebrities were being interviewed, we Storm Leaders reviewed our notes and tried to contain our excitement. Then it was 7:00pm and time to get started.
“For those of you here today, the Wheel of Time needs no introduction.” Standing at the podium, I was thrilled to be speaking to WoT fans and honored to lead them in a moment of silence honoring Robert Jordan. After that I introduced Brandon and Harriet … and inadvertently referred to Harriet as Brandon’s wife rather than Robert Jordan’s. *flushes with embarrassment*
Then it was time for audience questions. Fans wanted to know how Brandon was chosen to complete the series and his reactions to that choice, which characters were the most difficult to write, the fate of the prequel and outrigger novels Jordan planned to write, and more. We captured the entire QandA on a series of videos so you wouldn’t have to miss a thing. (Check out videos 2-6 in the playlist.)
|the line leader|
Storm Leader Mike spent the first hour or so stuffing bookmarks and other promotional material into the books after Brandon and Harriet signed them. Mike had a front row seat for the wonderful interactions between our celebs and their fans. Here’s his report from the trenches:
At the front of the signing line the over 200 enthusiastic fans each got a chance to meet Brandon and Harriet. And both were as gracious and friendly as they could be, answering questions, posing for photos, and sharing their own thoughts about The Wheel of Time.
The first person in line was already halfway through The Gathering Storm and had been reading the series since The Eye of the World was first published. He and Brandon talked about how Rand, Perrin, and Mat were like high school friends to them. He asked Harriet how much time had passed in the timeline of the story, and when told only two years, responded “I didn't figure they had aged along with me!” The coolest interaction at the signing table came near the end of the night, though, when a young boy asked if he could show Brandon his Magic cards... It was quite adorable...
Brandon talking about Magic cards with a young fan
As he spoke with fans throughout the night, Brandon talked about learning to turn off his inner fanboy during his final Wheel of Time read through (Harriet called this “getting into editorial thinking”), encouraged aspiring writers to get their stories down on paper, and repeatedly apologized for his atrocious handwriting (but it's definitely not!). Also, if your name is Tom or Matt, be prepared to be asked “Do I spell that with an 'h'?” or “One ’t’ or two?”
It was truly touching to be able to witness the mutual exchange of heartfelt gratitude between the fans, Harriet, and Brandon. The excitement was palpable. It made me proud to be part of this awesome community of WoT fans. All in all, a wonderful evening...
If you’d like to see some of Brandon and Harriet’s interaction with the fans be sure to check out videos 13-14 in the playlist.
While Mike was busy at the signing table, I was chatting with fans farther back in line and also taking some videos (videos 7-12 in the playlist). I must admit that I was rather jealous of those who got to stand in line and simply read; I had just picked up my copy of TGS that afternoon and had not yet been able to read a single page. *sigh*
Some things I learned while taking videos and watching them afterward:
- The “average” fan at this event has been reading WoT for about 10 years.
- WoT fans know the answers to the most obscure trivia questions.
- There are phrases I say WAY too often, like “very, VERY cool” and “alriiiight!”
- When I record all the videos that means I’m not IN any of the videos. Go figure.
Here’s Matt to tell you all about it:
The combination of over 200 people and Brandon and Harriet’s sweet penchant for taking the time to talk to every fan made for a very loooong line. Enter the Wheel of Time pop quiz and interviews!Storm Leader Susan kept busy as well. She spent the first half of the event talking up JordanCon to all the fans in line. She had flyers to hand out, and since she actually attended JordanCon this year she had lots of info to share about it. I think I overheard something about belly dancing lessons being offered ... must find out more about that! For the second half of the evening she took over Mike’s stuffing job at the signing table, a job I also got to sample near the end of the night.
After everyone had been given their complementary swag (one of 3 bumper stickers), a couple of the Storm Leaders spent the rest of the evening engaging the line with interviews and pop quiz questions. (Check out videos 9-12 in the playlist.)
The quiz questions ranged from freebies (“Name Rand’s two living blood relatives.”) to the tricksy (“The Head Clerk is the head of which Ajah: Gray or Brown?”) to the downright mean (“Cadsuane has 8 hair ornaments, 5 of which have known uses. Describe these ornaments and their abilities.”)
Normally, questions were answered by a hand-raising quick draw, but some of the tougher and multiple answer questions forced the line to group up and share knowledge come up with the right answers.
Toward the close of the evening Brandon and Harriet signed the TGS promo poster (Harriet said she’d sign on Aviendha’s bosom but I guess she thought better of it …) and chose a random winner from the entries we’d collected. (Watch Harriet draw the winning name in video 15 in the playlist.)
I spoke to the winner by phone the following day and she was very excited about her prize!
By 10:00pm about 215 people come through the line and the store was almost empty. One fan was still there though. Our Perrin look-a-like was # 70 in line but he wanted to take a few more photos with Brandon and Harriet so he waited around (reading contentedly) until everything else was finished.
At this point Harriet was ready for her escort to take her to the hotel so we said our goodbyes. Speaking for all the Storm Leaders and the fans as well, we were incredibly honored to have Harriet at this event and we are very grateful to her for coming.
After Harriet left we helped Brandon sign store stock of TGS (if you are local, be sure to pick up a copy before they’re all gone!), and thanked the bookstore staff for having us. The store manager was thrilled with the event, as were we. She even provided us with complementary snacks and drinks from the café before we left.
As a side note, I never thought of myself as particularly short, but compared to these guys, Susan and I might as well be Cairhienen!
|Brandon, Mike, me, Matt, and Susan|
The Baltimore Storm Leaders are so tremendously grateful for the opportunity to help out with this event. We truly enjoyed our time with Brandon and Harriet and all the WoT fans. Personally, I had a strong desire to go down the line hugging people to share my excitement … but I restrained myself. We all agree that this was a fantastic evening and that we were privileged to be a part of it. A huge thank you goes to Tor and Dragonmount for allowing us to participate and to report back to all of you.
The Wheel of Time turns and the next tour date draws ever closer … so be sure to get to your nearest event – it is definitely worth it!