I ended up in Washington D.C., because John Green was scheduled to be there. Some of you may have noticed that this is the year of John Green. If you haven’t read him yet, I’d start with Looking for Alaska and then read The Fault in Our Stars (which is one of the best books I’ve read . . . . ever).
Sometime during the summer, I learned that John Green was going to be in attendance at the National Book Festival in Washington D.C. I immediately contacted some fellow readers in hopes that they would be interested in going. I went to D.C. with my friend Emily and our school Librarian Mary Rose.
When we arrived at our hotel, D.C. was stylin’. Emily’s “distant relative” at the concierge desk, Alex Griffith, informed us that there was an event that night for the Black Caucasus. The night before John Green Day, I couldn’t sleep. The anticipation and excitement kept me awake in my lovely room at the Hyatt Regency on the equally lovely New Jersey Avenue (total coincidence).
I got up around 5:30 am, which I am pretty sure Emily thought was insane. We ate an over-priced, but delicious, breakfast at the hotel and then headed out to the National Mall with only a map as our guide. For those of you who know me, my sense of direction is skewed at best but mostly close to non-existent.
Be that as it may, Emily and I found our way to the National Mall a little before 8:30am. It was an endless meadow filled with white tents arranged under the shadow of the Washington Monument. We made our way to the teen tent, where several John Green fans were already seated, and plopped down in the third row. It wasn’t too long before the whole tent was filled and people had to stand on the outskirts at least three people deep.
The D.C. Nerdfighters showed up in full force and received a rousing welcome. They were pretty badass. They marched in with a sign, they made John Green a green t-shirt and let people sign it. They had a scrapbook to give him with all of their Nerdfighter events from the past year. Em and I wore our DFTBA and This Star Won’t Go Out wristbands. I even painted my toes a Fault in Our Stars blue. But that was nothing compared to the readers who actually dyed their hair that shade of blue. Or the ones rockin’ a John Green t-shirt. It was more than refreshing to see so many younger people moved into action by one writer. Does John Green even comprehend that he has incited this movement of awesomeness?
I think more than anything Emily and I talked about the energy that we felt from these people. If we could bottle it, we’d make a pretty penny. I felt like I could go out and save the world . . . . and all this before the actual arrival of John Green. When the crowd got just a glimpse of him they emitted a roar of appreciation.
One of the things he talked about that stuck with me is that “We are all falling apart. But we are falling apart at different rates.” He read from chapter 1 of Fault. And even though I watched him read this on YouTube, nothing compares to hearing and seeing it in person. He talked; he answered questions. Time seemed frozen and on fast-forward simultaneously. When it was time to move to the signing area, people ran. But they were not fast enough, because some people skipped his presentation and were already in line. I think we ended up in line 11. We were in line for a little over 3 hours. People sat down and read, mostly books penned by John Green. Another group busted out an impromptu sing-along to Queen. The Library of Congress and their event staff were incredibly organized and friendly.
Most writers were slated to sign for 1 hour. John Green was scheduled to sign for 3 AND he stayed at least another 30 minutes to try and get to everyone. Another example of his awesomeness.
When it was close to our turn, I was overwhelmed. In the moment, I knew I only had a few seconds and I perhaps spoke faster than I have ever spoken in my life. I said something about our students loving his books (true) and how Emily and I are planning a Fault pilgrimage to Amsterdam (also true). He paused, looked up and said “Wow!”. And he didn’t just say it, he meant it. All of this can be verified by Emily and Mary Rose. I got a “Wow!” from John Green. I can’t wait to display my signed John Green reading poster in my classroom. It was the most amazing 10.5 seconds of my life.
I think most people would agree that I am usually disappointed with people in general and that I don’t think they meet my expectations or live up to their hype. That is not the case with John Green. He is brilliant and well spoken and self-effacing. The energy from everyone in the John Green tent was palpable and I was absorbing it all. Today was a day filled most certainly filled with awesomeness.