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Maze Runner author James Dashner responds to sexual harassment allegations

FILE - In this July 11, 2015 file photo, James Dashner, author of "Maze Runner" attends the 20th Century Fox press line at Comic-Con International in San Diego. Dashner has been dropped by his literary agent. In recent days, Dashner has faced allegations
FILE - In this July 11, 2015 file photo, James Dashner, author of "Maze Runner" attends the 20th Century Fox press line at Comic-Con International in San Diego. Dashner has been dropped by his literary agent. In recent days, Dashner has faced allegations of sexual harassment. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)
Richard Shotwell, Invision

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah author James Dashner, who penned the popular The Maze Runner young adult series, responded on Twitter to recent allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct.

Dashner tweeted his response on Thursday.

“I have spent the recent days re-examining my actions and searching my soul,” Dashner said in a statement posted to his official Twitter account. “Some of the things said about me have been shocking and my initial instinct was to be defensive. But I also have thought about how numerous women now have come forward as part of a vital movement to lead a discussion about sexual harassment and discrimination in the publishing industry. And I have talked with friends deeply immersed in the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement," he wrote.

“I believe all victims must be heard, and I’m committed to listening to them,” Dashner continued. “I’ve taken these past few days for introspection, to see if I’ve been part of the problem. I think that I have. I didn’t honor or fully understand boundaries and power dynamics. I can sincerely say that I have never intentionally hurt another person. But to those affected, I am so deeply sorry. I am taking any and all criticism and accusations very seriously, and I will seek counseling and guidance to address them. Thank you for listening.”

Dashner was recently dropped by his literary agent after facing allegations of sexual misconduct, according to The New York Times. His agent, Michael W. Bourret, said in a statement to the Associated Press that he would no longer represent Dashner.

“I couldn’t in good conscience continue working with James, and I let him go yesterday,” Bourret said, according to The New York Times.

Bourett’s decision comes as comments on the School Library Journal’s website include allegations against Dashner and several other popular young adult novelists.

Dashner has also stepped down as emcee for the popular Utah-based Storytellers Convention, according to the organization's Facebook page. The event will be held May 3-5 at the Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo.

Jay Asher, author of “13 Reasons Why,” was also listed among those writers for sexual harassment allegations, according to BuzzFeed.

The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators told BuzzFeed that Asher was expelled from the program because of the sexual harassment allegations.

“After we investigated, we felt that terminating his membership was the proper course of action,” the group's executive director Lin Oliver told BuzzFeed News. “We have always been really sensitive to sexual harassment issues and have a zero tolerance policy, but clearly our policies haven’t prevented violations, so we’re taking this opportunity to take another look at our guidelines.”

However, Asher contested that he left the group for his own reasons.

“It's very scary when you know people are just not going to believe you once you open your mouth,” Asher told BuzzFeed News. “I feel very conflicted about it just because of what's going on in the culture and who's supposed to be believed and who's not.”

In a statement emailed to the Deseret News, Asher's spokesperson Tamara Taylor wrote, "There was no allegation, investigation or finding of sexual harassment."

Taylor wrote that Asher "voluntarily agreed that he would no longer attend SCBWI conferences. This was in response to hurt feelings of a group of authors with whom he had consensual relationships that ended poorly.

"Mr. Asher was not banned by the SCBWI," she continued. "In fact, when he let his membership in the group lapse last summer, Lin Oliver, the group's executive director, suggested that he keep his membership going. He did as requested, and Mr. Asher's membership is active today."

Taylor wrote that the women involved in these relationships "were not subordinates of Mr. Asher; they were his peers and they each entered into romantic relationships with him voluntarily, with some initially pursuing him."

She added, "Mr. Asher was married at the time of these relationships, as were many of the women. He is deeply sorry for the pain these consensual decisions caused his family, and others."

Both Asher and Dashner were listed in the comments section of the School Library Journal post titled “Children’s Publishing Reckons With Sexual Harassment in Its Ranks.”

Writer Anne Ursu recently conducted a survey and received 90 responses about children's book and young adult writers who allegedly sexually harassed or abused other people connected with the book industry. While she did not name any specific writers in her Feb. 7 article for the online publication Medium, people flooded the comments section of the School Library Journal article with accusations of sexual harassment and misconduct against specific writers. Both Asher and Dashner were included among those writers accused.

“We appreciate people expressing solidarity to the victims,” Oliver told BuzzFeed. “There’s also an atmosphere where anybody can be named, and those claims should generally be investigated. … I think for all of us, it’s important to hear the facts.”