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.