Longform

Charmed

Outside the entrance of ASU's old gym on a warm Saturday in May, hundreds of teenage girls stand in full prom get-ups, chattering, shrieking, and hugging in the way only adolescent girls should. It's a windy day and the girls fidget with their hair and poofy dresses while they wait for the doors to open. They are nervous and excited. Inside the gym, black and red crepe paper streamers and homemade centerpieces try to hide the fact that this is a room made for sports, not fancy dresses.

When the doors finally open, the girls stream in quickly, stampeding for the food and a place to stand near a stage set up on the far side of the gym. Their nervous energy finally has a place to go.

The scene is like every awkward school dance you ever went to, except for a few key things: It's the middle of the day. At this prom, the bored wallflowers are parents. There are almost no boys here. And it's not boys (not real ones, anyway) or first kisses or even dancing that have brought hundreds of girls to this prom.

It's a book. Or rather, an author: Glendale's Stephenie Meyer, who, in the past two years, has caused an international sensation with her young adult vampire series Twilight.

The prom is actually a publicity event to celebrate a special edition of her second release, New Moon, and get readers hyped for Eclipse, the third book in her series.

The event, put on personally by Meyer with help from Tempe's Changing Hands Bookstore and ASU's English department, sold out in seven hours. It sold out so fast that Meyer decided to do two proms in one day. Tickets for the second one were gone in four hours.

Meyer sold out the ASU gym faster than presidential candidate Barack Obama filled the Orpheum Theater last fall. And though tickets for Meyer's event were only $8 (compared with $30 for Obama), all the girls here have purchased her books, which retail for $18.

The buzz today is that she's going to read the first chapter of Eclipse, which won't be released until late summer.

The Arcade Fire pumps through the loudspeakers in the gym as the girls shove around the stage. After what seems like forever to the fans, Meyer emerges in an enormous red dress and glides toward the podium.



With her dark hair and pale skin, she could almost fit in with the fictional bloodsuckers she's invented.

The crowd goes wild with an adolescent roar as soon as they see her. She looks out at her fans. She looks down at her paper.

"I'm a little nervous," she tells the prom. The resulting screams almost drown her out.


She shouldn't be worried.

Meyer's books have sold a combined million copies and both have topped the New York Times bestseller list for young adult fiction. Publishers Weekly named Twilight one of the best books of the year. Amazon.com called it one of the best books of the decade. It's been translated into 20 languages, and there's talk of turning it into a movie.

It's not just the publishing industry that loves her. Her fans are rabidly loyal. Harry Potter loyal.

In fact, when the Harry Potter series wraps up this summer, industry insiders think Meyer and her vampires might just be poised as the Next Big Thing. Meyer's characters Edward Cullen and Bella Swan are positioned to become household names — teenagers across the globe already know them on a first name basis, the same way they know Harry, Hermione and Ron.

Though J.K. Rowling is still the best-known young adult writer in the world, Meyer is closing in on the title.

Not bad considering that four summers ago, she was a stay-at-home Mormon mom with three young sons and no connection to hordes of teenage girls. Four summers ago, she'd never written anything more than what she calls "really bad" poetry, and that was in college.

Yet at prom, she will sign more than 1,000 books. And a few weeks later, she will tour Europe, visiting Spain and Italy, where hundreds of fans will travel hundreds of miles just to see her.

Meyer can't quite make sense of the past few years of her life.

"It's surreal," she says. "It's hard to think about."


June 2, 2003, should have been a normal day for Meyer. It was the first day of swim lessons for her kids. It was the first day of her new diet, a time to lose the weight that comes with having two babies nearly back-to-back. When she climbed into bed the night before, she certainly didn't have any reason to think her life was going to change overnight.

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Megan Irwin
Contact: Megan Irwin