So! Me & Earl is one of the books that will be distributed on World Book Night. This is a night where half a million total books are handed out, for free, by self-nominated volunteers, each of whom gets 20 of a book to give out in a non-retail location of the volunteer’s choosing, e.g., a school or church or nursing home or subway station or the beach or a Chipotle or a little lovingly constructed stand in the forest. Volunteers are encouraged to choose recipients who would be unlikely to get this book otherwise.
Authors and publishers make no money on these books. So needless to say, we fought this thing tooth and nail.
Just kidding! I’ll be helping kick off World Book Night the night before, April 22nd, at Malibu’s Diesel Bookstore at 7pm. Details are on my events page. Please come. My mom thinks that Amy Poehler will be there. She will not.
Then on Saturday the 26th I’m one of a bunch of fun-loving winsome authors on display at the Pasadena Book Festival. Come to the Pasadena Public Library between the hours of noon and 4pm to watch us romp, frolic, tussle over chew toys, and complain about royalty structures. Details are on my events page again. Also in support of this festival I did an interview with the LA blog Fan Girl Feeels which you could read.
About the Me & Earl movie: there has been a bunch of news/speculation circulating recently about casting and locations, but none of it is official, and unfortunately I can’t comment on any of it. But there will probably be some pretty exciting official news soon. So hold tight.
In the meantime, here is the music video of Attack Me With Your Love, by Cameo.
i used to smoke. there’s no excuse. i averaged maybe a pack a day for three years and half that for another four.
one outcome of doing it, and reason i continued doing it, was that i was twitchy and nervous and profoundly uncomfortable with the creeping unstoppable passage of time. a cigarette to me was a way to divide up a task. it was a reason to leave a conversation. i thought there was no more graceful exit from a room than, “well, i’m going for a smoke.” i thought that was the smoothest possible thing. it was years until i appreciated that it was shorthand for, “please excuse me while i indulge my addiction to this toxin. i will return in five minutes smelling like toasted garbage but also beaming and sighing with a kind of gross satisfaction that will possibly subject you to the insidious teenagery fear of missing out. i may also cough tarry mucus up into my mouth.”
i was nauseated by the idea of quitting. without cigarettes, time was just undifferentiated endless time. there would be basically nothing between Now and Death. quitting meant jumping into a cold lake of time and just being in there until it was time to die.
but finally, one day, i jumped into the lake. i tread water, shivering obnoxiously, for a few days. then i scrambled back out. then a few weeks later i jumped back in. i went in and out a few times. and eventually i found that i didn’t want to get back out. and that was because the lake made me meaningfully different than before. more patient and more empathetic. also i could play pickup basketball for more than ten minutes without wheezing.
the metaphor is a little inane, but it’s good to go into the cold lake and just be. and be content with just being. you are reading this on your phone or tablet or laptop or whatever. there’s a good chance your life has a lot of comforts, chemical, technological, or otherwise. they might be poisoning you. they also might be poisoning the planet. if you don’t need to be comforted, comfort is the enemy. go into the cold lake. have a good 2014.
Keynote speeches are hard. I was present for three last year: Libba Bray’s magnificent one at Austin Teen Book Fest last year; my own, at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh, which I’m sure was twitchy and weird; and, at Houston’s TeenBookCon, Orson Scott Card’s.
These days some YA readers/writers are proposing to boycott Ender’s Game, the movie, because of what Orson has said over the years about homosexuality. Thank God, he did not mention homosexuality that morning, except maybe obliquely in a laugh line about how teenagers should know that sex “gets better.” “It gets better, guys,” he announced, vis-a-vis sex, and suddenly without warning several hundred teenagers and YA writers had been invited to imagine this 60ish man’s lifelong sexual journey, and the ways in which it got better, and there was just a ton of hunched shoulders and anguished squirming.
But that wasn’t the thing he said that I wanted to put here. The heart of his speech went something like this:
1. reading is just the best
2. how many worlds have you visited because of books? how many people have you gotten to be? a lot
Obviously everyone was on board with this. Reading is the fucking best! Also: thank God you are not talking about sex anymore!
3. everyone should get to read whatever they want
4. no one should ever try to stop you from reading something, or make fun of you for reading that thing
Absolutely. Yes. Throughout the audience, authors and readers alike are nodding happily.
5. if someone makes fun of you for reading, they are stupid
6. it is okay to make fun of stupid people
This was the part where we realized it was going to get weird.
7. in my high school i ascended to the apex of the social order by mocking people through song
What? What the fuck does that mean?
8. each time a person entered the classroom every other head would turn to look at me in delight and apprehension
9. and if i felt moved to do so, i would oblige them by standing and greeting this new person, who was often stupid, with a short but merciless song of mockery about them
Are you for goddamn real suggesting to these kids that that’s what you’re supposed to—FUCK, HE IS SAYING MORE THINGS
10. it’s stupid to read books about zombies
What the fuck is happening.
11. also vampires
Okay. Now you are just straight up trolling us. Because you just said—right?—that
12. also the hunger games
13. don’t read the hunger games because those books are stupid
It’s fine if you didn’t like The Hunger Games! But you don’t have to
14. have i read the hunger games? no
ORSON SCOTT CARD YOU ARE EVERY YOUTUBE COMMENTER
15. the end
Look: God knows it’s trendy to pile on Orson right now. But I really couldn’t stop thinking about the mocking-song part of the speech, afterwards. Could that possibly have worked?, I thought. It’s Calc I, and Tia Green or Dave Kowalski has just come back from the bathroom, and then some kid gets to his feet and sings a mean song about them (sings! It’s not just a poem! It’s got a melody and everything)—is there any universe in which that kid does so because he’s the most popular kid in school?
That’s why this speech broke my heart. It was so contentedly unself-aware. It was such a specifically teenage depiction, of this kind of sad delusion about what power is and how to get it. It was a portrait of a bully who thinks he’s doing an incredible job, and isn’t.
And so I’m not going to see the movie, or reread the book. But not out of principle. It’s just that I have an Ender Wiggin in my head, and I love that kid, and I don’t want him to change. I don’t want to have to start thinking about him singing mocking songs at people. And that’s why keynotes are hard. Not just for the one on stage.
Me and Earl is OUT IN PAPERBACK! Same great cover! Pretty much all of the same words! Actually I think 100% of the same words!! But now it costs and weighs less. And as a bonus, four of the paperbacks in our initial run have, instead of Chapter 18, eight glossy high-definition photos of lions having sex. So those are collector’s editions and probably they’ll be worth a lot someday. Chapter 18 is fine, but it’s surprising how well the book reads without it.
Here is a raccoon reading this brand-new paperback. He’s a pretty slow reader! You’re just gonna have to wait your turn, functionless modular origami shape!
(raccoon by hazel village)
So, some kind of incredible stuff happened. This morning, I found out that Me and Earl won the 2012 Cybil Award for Young-Adult Fiction.
This is all incredible news, and maybe it’s not worth pointing out, but maybe it is, that every time I find out about stuff like this it’s right after I’ve woken up, and I’m sitting there at my computer, probably with some kind of booger issue, completely unencumbered by pants, still mumbling whatever commercial jingle has been ricocheting through my head for the duration of me being asleep, e.g., “five! muh nuh nuh! five dollar! nuh nuh nuh five dollar foot long! februany any,” and then I learn that my bizarre potty-mouthed little book won some wonderful recognition from someone, and inevitably I think something along the lines of: Oh Jesus Christ. If they saw me right now they would immediately revoke this award. And maybe they should. So in the interest of transparency: Cybil voters, YALSA, Black List executives, Tayshas voters, and Booklist’s Ilene Cooper: every time Me and Earl wins something, it means that somewhere in Los Angeles, a pantsless muttering guy with measurable yogurt in his hair is being honored, and if that makes you rethink things, I would definitely understand. Also: thank you.