Five Kids Need to Read volunteers (plus one husband) and our founder, PJ Haarsma, had a blast at the Phoenix Cactus Comicon January 25-27, 2008. Our purpose was to work for KNTR, but we had way too much fun to call it work. Here we all are working very hard, along with author J.S. Lewis.

KNTR @ Sluggos Bar
(The KNTR crew at Sluggo’s Bar. From left to right: Randy, PJ, Richelle, Debb, Sherrie, Kristen, Denise, and author J.S. Lewis)

We met lots of great people, including several of the authors and a publisher on our book list, our Book Goddess, and our book distributor.

(From left to right: James Owen, KNTR Book Goddess Faith Hochhalter, Derek Benz, J.S. Lewis, and Komikwerks publisher Shannon Denton.)

Here are our friendly authors with the books they kindly signed and illustrated for the KNTR auctions.

James Owen
(Author James Owen)

Jon and Derek
(Authors J.S. Lewis and Derek Benz)

This is PJ offering his book for the good of The Force.

PJ and Stormtroopers

When Wil Wheaton heard about our cause, he didn’t think twice before offering to donate and sign his book for KNTR. He seemed completely thrilled with his copy of The Softwire: Virus on Orbis 1 that PJ sent over to him in return.

Will Wheaton

We did have a discussion panel audience even without the presence of Nathan Fillion. Thank you all for coming and sharing your great ideas with us. We hope you are enjoying your free books. Thank you to the sweet girl in pink who colored such wonderful pictures for us.

KNTR Panel
(PJ, Denise, and Kristen)

Of course, costumes were everywhere, but this one was our biased favorite. No, not the one of PJ Haarsma; the one of Mini Mal! Thank you, Timmy, for standing in for Kids Need to Read co-founder, Nathan Fillion!

PJ and Mini Mal

Mini Mal Cropped

SpazDog Comics conducted a fundraiser for KNTR by pre-selling copies of Serenity: Better Days, signed by Nathan Fillion. They are donating all profits to KNTR and will continue this fundraiser on eBay soon, so keep an eye out for them. Thank you, Shawn Demumbrum, for giving so much to KNTR.


Saturday evening was very special, as the Dune Sea Garrison of the 501st Stormtroopers put on a super fantabulous USO-style show to benefit KNTR.

USO Girls

They were absolutely terrific and were joined in song by Jeremy Bulloch. Yes, Boba Fett sings very well! Peter Mayhew also joined in the evening’s festivities…but didn’t sing. No, Chewbacca does not sing! Thank you so much, Jen LaFortune and the entire Dune Sea Garrison. We really had a great time. You need to take your act on the road! Here we are getting in on the fun.


On Sunday, we had a free drawing for an Advance Reading Copy of PJ Haarsma’s new book, The Softwire: Betrayal on Orbis 2. We had a very enthusiastic crowd gathered. Thank you for donating the book, PJ. Here is PJ with the happy winner.

ARC Winner

We had a delicious dinner Sunday evening with Jade Corn of Phoenix Book Company, KNTR’s book distributor. He took us on a spontaneous midnight tour of his new warehouse. Seeing KNTR volunteers walking among a half million kids’ books was awesome!

Phoenix Book Company

Thank you, Marg of the Arizona Browncoats and our friend, Amrit Kaur, for giving us so many books for our Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic drive. The children will love them!

Thanks to all the bidders on our sci-fi package and to our package donors: MSPG Autographs, SFX magazine, PJ Haarsma, Marty Dwyer and Denise Gary. This money will be combined with the 501st Stormtroopers KNTR Benefit money, as well as some of the SpazDog Comics proceeds, to give books to underfunded schools in Mesa and Tempe, Arizona.


We would like to extend huge, appreciative thanks to all of the authors, artists and comic book merchants who generously donated signed items for our upcoming auctions. Thank you Jeremy Bulloch and Peter Mayhew for contributing your signatures as well. You will all be part of giving books to those who cannot afford them.

We would like to extend our gratitude to the following people for donating the books we gave away at the KNTR discussion panel. Our audience sure enjoyed receiving the books.

Shannon Denton of Komikwerks, publisher of the Actionopolis series by Bruce Zick, Christopher E. Long & Michael Geiger, Dan Mishkin & Tom Mandrake, Rob M. Worley & Mike Dubisch, Gary Reed & Rick Hoberg, J.J. Hart & Will Meugniot, and Adam Beechen & Dan Hipp

Dawn Kehret of Scholastic, Inc., publisher of the Grey Griffins series by Derek Benz and J.S. Lewis

Helen Griffin and Kate Smyth of Simon & Schuster Publishing, publisher of The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series by James Owen

Frank Beddor, author of The Looking Glass Wars series

PJ Haarsma, author of The Softwire series

Denise Gary, director of Kids Need to Read

KNTR Crew in Booth
(From left to right: Denise, Kristen, Richelle, Sherrie, PJ, and Debb)

Thank you Matt Solberg, Linda Zaruches (for all of your cheerful help), the Arizona Browncoats (what an amazing job you did in the hospitality suite) and everyone involved with Phoenix Cactus Comicon. What a great convention! We had a fantastic weekend!


2 Responses to “Fun in Phoenix”

  1. Tammy on February 15th, 2008 5:48 pm

    OOH! That mini Mal (aka Timmy) is soooo adorable. I just want to scoop him up and put him in my pocket.LOL I’m glad everyone had such a great time.

  2. Kelly Harker on February 16th, 2008 6:21 pm

    You’re all so wonderful. Gifts to this world. KNTR is such a noble and wonderful thing, and it’s great to see everyone working so hard to ensure that every child has a book in his/her hands. I don’t know what I would do without books, really. I need them like a river needs an ocean. Without literature, I think I would simply dry up.

    One thing that books have taught me, it is to never be afraid to have a dream. KNTR is helping give the gift of adventure, knowledge, education, and the fearlessness to dream and imagine, to so many children, and it is so heartwarming to know that there are still good folks in this world. I admire all that are involved in KNTR.

    Oh, and the wee Captain MAL is SOOOO CUTE!



Leave a Reply