As if meeting (ahem) Judy Blume wasn't enough, I had the pleasure of talking with the delightful John Green and hearing him speak. The first time I saw John Green was here in Oxford, three days after Looking for Alaska hit the shelves. He was one of the authors participating in the Oxford Conference for the Book. I loved his newbie enthusiasm and his witty remarks--especially as he held his own and stood out as brilliant and funny on a panel with Richard Peck. And if you've ever heard Richard Peck capture and audience, you know what a brain feat that is!
In his speech, John Green talked about how important stories are in creating genuine empathy with others. He asked, "how do we come to believe that other people are as human as we are?" His answer--story. It is story that enables us to feel what it might be like to be someone else.
John also revealed his belief that books are a co-creation between the writer and the reader, and he admitted that his books feel unfinished until he starts getting emails from readers. He also apologized to all of the librarians in the audience who were missing out on some great fan letters. John often gets letters from readers praising their librarians for pressing his book into their hands.
Finally, John talked about the need to hear the voice of the "truly other." He stressed the importance of kids inhabiting worlds they do not know and do a better job of imagining the other with complexity. People we will never know are also human--they have birthdays, babies, cook food . . .
John peppered his speech with hilarious stories and anecdotes that I just can't do justice to here. I can only say, if John Green is speaking or signing books anywhere near where you are . . go. Go. Go.