3. Get into a (relatively small) event, and clink glasses with him, shake his hand, thank him, listen to him discuss censorship and education (a deep passion of yours, obviously), be brave and raise your hand to ask a question when he asks for Q and A, and go get the book from “step 1″ signed and personalized.
Here’s the longer version.
Seriously, guys. I went from someone who “really enjoyed Will Grayson, Will Grayson” to a full on Nerdfighter in just a few short days.
I’ll start by giving a little review of the book that kicked off this fantasm… The Fault in Our Stars. I really did enjoy WG, WG, but it wasn’t a game changer for me. It was lovely. But It was on a shelf with a dozen other contemporary YA pieces that I really liked. When TFIOS came out, and lots of my book loving friends said it was can’t miss, I was skeptical, but eventually, ventured to my local Kroger and picked up a copy. About that time, my friend, Smash and I decided we’d try to go to his event in Dallas.
Now, this event was NOT a nerdfighter/TFIOS tour/Vlogbrothers event. This was a fundraiser for the American Library Association (ALA) Freedom to Read campaign. For a small donation, Smash and I were granted access to a “cocktail hour reception, and a presentation by John on censorship” (Nothing else was promised… in fact, on twitter, he stated that he would likely be unable to sign anything due to the time constraints) Seeing as his regular events have up to 1000 people at them, those signings take HOURS. This was a 6:00-8:30 affair, having time for an hour of refreshments, 45 minutes of his speaking, and later, we were told, 45 minutes for a signing (as time would allow).
In the days leading to the event, I cracked open the book.
And I read.
And I cried.
And I laughed.
And I begged every page to never end…
But one by one, as pages do… the turned into each other, and it was over.
As I planned my imminent re-read (back to back re-reads are super rare for me), I slowly began to research who this John Green guy is, and why he has these followers, what are all of these acronyms, how does he have over a million twitter followers, WHAT is HAPPENING?
I discovered that he’s a marketing genius. He has an incredibly successful youtube channel with vlogs he makes with his brother Hank. He encourages people (young and old) to be creative, principled, and active in their communities “increasing awesome, and decreasing suck” under the banner “NERDFIGHTERS”. He is an active tweeter and tumblr, sharing lovely quotes, artwork, and other gems – NOT just promoting his own work. He and his nerdfighters plaster DFTBA all over the internet, reminding folks: “Don’t forget to be awesome.”
Basically, he’s brilliantly smart about handling his persona: public, and less public.
He even agreed to sign the ENTIRE first printing (150,000ish copies) of his novel. (He had a poll over which sharpie color to use, and signed books based on the winning percentages.) When I picked up my copy at Kroger, I managed to grab one that WASN’T signed! When I went out on Saturday, and looked on the shelves of Target, Walmart, Barnes and Noble, and even grocery stores, I found DOZENS of signed copies, in a rainbow of colors of varied rareness. (I settled on one signed in my fave color, turquoise – which apparently is rare-ish… whatever)
At this point, I was getting pretty excited.
I was clearly a fan of the book. Clearly a fan of John. Of his writing, of his creativity, of his social presence, of his ability to market himself AND his works. I was fully SQUEALING about the event of Sunday night.
Smash and I started the evening by indulging in milkshakes at Twisted Root, (which were delish) and spent time talking about how wonderfully honest and beautiful this book is. And then we were off to drive the dozen or so blocks to the Dallas Public Library.
When we got a few blocks away, stopped at a light, I turned around and looked 150 yards away to a back corner of a random lot, and LO, I saw the John Green TFIOS Tour Mobile!!!
You must understand how serendipitious this was, because honestly, it was NO WHERE NEAR the actual library. It was a sign of the aweomeness yet to come.
We took pictures, avoided a few homeless people, and were soon back on the streets, driving the rest of the way to the library.
Upon our arrival, I was overjoyed at the little nerdfighters who had already arrived. Adorned in their hand painted shirts, and lugging copies of well-loved books; they waited for John as if he were a rock star. (By my count he pretty much is a rockstar, but I digress)
A table of books was already set up, and at such a discounted price, I decided to pick up a copy of his other, most recent novel, 2008′s Paper Towns. A little more waiting, and we were among the first of the throngs of fans ready to get signed in and enter the reception.
As Smash and I are so dedicated, we were easily the first two people at the sign in table. I checked in, and entered the room.
A large meeting room had a small open bar (wine and beer!!!) and some hors d’œuvres. In the center was John Green, and 2-3 companions… THAT’S IT.
The crowds were being delayed, and I was the first one in.
I was nervous, and wanted to avoid rushing him, so I grabbed a glass of wine, and slowly made my way to his area. One of the men, from the library team, I think, smiled at me and said, “Just jump right in, it’s about to be crazy in here”. So, I did.
I walked up to his little crew, and he gave me his attention.
“Good evening! I’m Kelsey. (handshake) I want to thank you… so much, actually, for writing such an emotive and honest novel. The Fault in Our Stars was beautiful, and touched my heart in an incredible way. I am so grateful for your having written it. Cheers (WINE GLASS CLINK – He clinked with his beer bottle), thank you for being here.”
I was so glad I didn’t squeal and run around in circles or something.
He was so gracious, and thanked me for reading and for attending the event. It was a very lovely and sweet moment. I was so happy.
Right around that time Smash (who’d been wrongfully detained due to some clerical error) and about 25 others were making there way into the room. Smash had her moment, and totally chatted him up. She got lots of smiles from him. She obviously wanted a photo, but we were told that it was just logistically impossible, and that posed pictures were not an option.
By then, it was clear that the nearly 200 people were all wanting their turns, and he graciously gave each of them a bit of attention. Several of the youngins were asking him to sign books and other things, and he was abliging them… but I began to wonder if he was going to have a proper signing. Previously, he’d tweeted that there would not be time, and we’d been given no guarantees.
I asked one of the event helpers, and was assured that following his speech, he’d be doing a very brief signing.
In a moment of strateg-ery, I convinced Smash to come with me to snag seats near to the door, so that when it was over, we’d be among the first in line.
We had a bit more wine (one of those glasses was Smash’s by the way) and we readied for his discussion.
When he took the podium, he began to share about being banned (and nearly banned) for a scene in a book that he honestly penned thinking it’d be labeled “Christian fiction”, and how censoring library shelves is a disservice to society. He said that librarians and teachers are the people who’ve been entrusted with the JOB of deciding what and how to teach. NOT for the exclusive benefit of a parent. NOT for the exclusive benefit of one kid, but for the COLLECTIVE benefit of our society.
Keep in mind that this event was essentially for librarians, and educators (I KNOW, RIGHT!?!?!) so there were 25-50 young people, and 150-175 teachers, librarians, and literature enthusiasts. Seeing and meeting John Green is one thing. But seeing John Green talk about education (obviously an area of passion for me, as a teacher), and talk about the role of a wide spectrum of literature being available to people of all ages as a means of cultivating greater knowledge in our communities as a whole… THAT’s an entirely different level of awesome.
After he spoke, he had time for 5ish questions.
Feeling bold, I raised my hand. Once. Twice. Thrice. BAM. He called on me.
“What role or responsibility do you feel that these (gesturing to the young nerdfighters who were all gathered on the floor at his feet like story time in Sunday school) exuberant young people have in advocating for the books that they want to remain on their school library shelves?”
WORD. That would be coherent exchange with JG #2.
I got a bit of applause from the other educators and librarians in the room, and then he commented that authors have the opportunity and ability to build real relationships with their readers and encourage that kind of involvement. It was awesome.
Just about then he ran out of time, and Smash and I DASHED to the door and into the hall, where we took our places as person #1 and #2 in the signing line. He came out and took a seat.
He didn’t have a sharpie, but as a prepared signing participant, I GAVE him mine! EEEP! Smash got a myriad of books signed, which was awesome, and I had him add personalization to my turquoise signature, and asked if he’d draw an infinity symbol… (this plays on a theme in the novel) I’d hoped to ask him to draw one that was larger than the other, but his hands were causing him so much pain I couldn’t ask for more. (After signing well over 150,000 copies, his dexterity is unfortunately and understandably a bit compromised at the moment.)
One extra “Thank you” and we left him to the masses.
Honestly, he looked exhausted. Dedicated to greeting all those who came to him, but exhausted all the same. I don’t feel bad for him, being able to do what he loves and being adored by his fans, but, as one human observing another, I definitely feel sorry for that tired fella, who misses his wife and baby, and is undoubtedly longing for some time at home.
This event was incredible. Typically, these events have hundreds more people, longer lines, limited access, and a very different vibe. This event was academic, incredibly intimate, and absolutely unique.
I was so thrilled to meet him. So thrilled to THANK him for this book. THRILLED to share the evening with Smash…
And that, my friends, is how you become a John Green fangirl in just 72 short hours, and in 3 easy steps.
I must reiterate that the first step is the most important one…
Read The Fault in Our Stars… and allow yourself to be inspired.