We can’t get much louder than this

Five months ago, I hunkered down in my newly-purchased camp chair, enjoying a good book and one of the spring’s final cool nights. I wasn’t bothered by the rain–although it required me to read my book through my poncho–or the setting. The fact that I was the dork reading a YA novel during Stevie Wonder’s jazz fest performance only made my first reading of Paper Towns more memorable.

Last month I attempted to recount that story to John Green, the book’s author. I think I’m usually pretty articulate, or at least intentional about what I say. Not that night. I was so excited to meet this author that I could barely remember my name.

Or, well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration–I knew who I was, but couldn’t say it. I’m not normally so star struck, I don’t think. I’ve met a few musicians and interviewed authors I admire. But I don’t suppose I’ve met someone whose work I hold quite so dear, someone who I hope to emulate, if not in exact career path, certainly in his authentic portrayal of people and stories on the page.

So what I imagined as a calm expression of thanks for three magnificent books and a fair bit of inspiration translated into a nervous, muddled recounting of the number of times I’ve read his books (Alaska, three; Katherines, two; Paper Towns, then one, now two), the fact that I too am a writer (perhaps unbelievable as I stuttered!) and my tale of reading through a transparent orange poncho while listening to one of music’s living legends. I didn’t even have the decency to be embarrassed by my awkwardness. The message remained: Thank you for doing what you do. And maybe I’ll be less awkward with paper and pen than with the spoken word. I’ve read that John Green wrote the first of his three books–still my favorite–when he was my age. (I was therefore reluctant to turn 27.) I’ll let that stand as both an inspiration and a challenge … one that I am quite frankly terrified to face.

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2 Comments

Filed under Autobiography, Reading

2 responses to “We can’t get much louder than this

  1. Kari

    My copy of Paper Towns came in last week. As soon as I finish the Kathleen Norris, it’s next!

  2. CK

    I love this post, CJ. I’m the same way about meeting my most beloved authors/musicians. One time I stood in a book-signing line for an hour to see Dave Eggers, practicing what I was going to say over and over in my head, only to totally clam up at the table. There was an awkward silence, and then he goes, “So … what’s your name?” and I mumbled “Cassia,” and then another awkward silence, and then, “Well, that’s a cool name,” and then I blurt out real fast, “Yeah, it’s a spice, it’s like cinnamon, the Chinese word for it actually means ‘bastard cinnamon,’ … ” and he smiles in an embarrassed way, like, who in the hell is this?

    What makes this story worse is that there were two really pretty girls immediately ahead of me in line, and they talked eloquently and flirtatiously to Dave for like 15 minutes, while I just stood there getting more freaked out.

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