I recently listened to an Armchair Expert podcast interview with R.L. Stine and was reminded about this piece I wrote a few years back for UntitledTown. I knew very little about Stine before the events I wrote about, but I walked away with great respect for the man. What a gift he is.

What’s In It For Me at 2019 UT? A Happy Heart

by Ami Maxine Irmen

When asked what was so great about UntitledTown 2018, my mind went straight to R.L. Stine.

I (am afraid to publically admit that I) have never read anything by R.L. Stine. You see, horror was not my thing growing up. That being said, I sure knew who he was. As a kid, my sister hated reading – the complete opposite of me. But when she stumbled upon R.L. Stine’s books, she gobbled them up. And I know she is not the only child Stine converted into a reader.

Friday, April 20, 2018, which will forever be known as R.L. Stine Day, I had the opportunity to act as venue lead all day at the Weidner Center – and I had no idea what I was in for. By the end of it, though, I felt very much like the Grinch at the end of his movie – my heart had at minimum tripled in size (though unlike the Grinch, I did not go into the day cranky and ready to ruin everyone’s fun).

There are three moments in particular that turned me into R.L. Stine’s newest fan.

An auditorium photographed from the back. The seats are all filled. It is hard to make out, but R.L. Stine is standing at a podium on stage addressing the audience.

First, I had the chance to witness bus loads of middle school children invade the Weidner Center that Friday morning (in the most organized manner I have ever seen – major kudos to the Weidner Center crew!). 1,726 children, I was informed. And the moment that R.L. Stine walked onto the stage, the crowd lost it – and I just stood there thinking, Children who love books – is there anything better?!? And the most incredible part? Stine has been helping children love the act of reading for generations.

The second moment was actually a series of moments – an hour-long series, to be exact. After his evening event (attended by 1,102 people), I was aiding in the signing line, handing off books to be signed and trying to keep things moving. Stine was incredibly kind, funny, and charming. Especially to those young fans who, in the presence of their favorite author, could barely speak above a whisper. Especially to those older fans whose hands shook as they reached for their book-turned-most-prized-possession. Especially to those fans who brought in copies of books that had been so well read (well loved) that the covers had long fallen off. (As an introvert, I just kept thinking – surely he wants a break now? Surely he’s going to cut off the line soon?)

Which brings me to the third moment. For those that paid for their prime seating and access to the priority signing line, they arrived confident that they would be walking out with a signed copy of their favorite R.L. Stine book. For those that ended up with general admission tickets, they had no such certainty – but still they piled into the signing line in the hopes that they would have a chance to say hello. When the priority line was done, Stine grabbed his pen, stood up, and then walked the remaining line – making sure that every single person who had waited left with a signed book and a smile.

Now Stine certainly doesn’t need to do these events. Had he never attended UntitledTown, had he not offered to sign books, had he chosen to cut off the signing line early – no one was going to stop buying his books or reading his work. And to me, THAT is what made the day such a wonderful experience to witness – seeing someone who so genuinely loves his work and is just as devoted to his fans as they are to him.

So what is in it for you at UntitledTown 2019? A chance to meet your favorite author. A chance to listen to writers and artists and bookmakers talk about the craft they love so very much. A chance to meet fellow readers and writers. A community. And if UntitledTown 2018 (or 2017 for that matter) is any indication, a very happy heart.

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