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John Green appears at the 2012 Library of Congress National Book Festival.

Speaker Biography: John Green is the New York Times best-selling author of "Looking for Alaska," "An Abundance of Katherines" and "Paper Towns." He is also the co-author, with David Levithan, of "Will Grayson, Will Grayson." He has received the Michael L. Printz Award (2006), an Edgar Award (2009) and has twice been a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Green's books have been published in more than a dozen languages. His newest book is "The Fault in Our Stars."

For captions, transcript, and more information visit

From the library of Congress in Washington DC.

 Ned: Good morning.

(Crowd cheers)

We're going to start a little bit early. I'm Ned Martel, I'm a writer at the Washington Post. 

So, uh, how many nerd lovers? I don't know, maybe there's two. So, well, John Green writes books for sure, we know that. Complicated stories with word play and heart break and mysterious deaths but he also creates communities. 

So many writers have the social media tools at their fingertips to promote their next offering but Green seizes them to promote connections so that feelings and problems that surface in the book can be explored more fully. It helps that, uh, that helps readers talk about the topics he raises whether its a missing person or a lost love, a bout with alcoholism or even a prank war between day students and boarders which dangerously escalates. 

Today he's talking about his latest offering The Fault In Our Stars.

(Crowd cheers)

Now what could - what could stir more emotion and connection than kids with cancer and finding friendship and love among each other. In his hands we see possibilities rather than limits. How confronting death speeds choices of how each want to live. Jodi Picoult who I bet you're all familiar with called it 'an electric portrait of young people who learn to live with one foot in the grave'. 

I'm intrigued by all the aliases in Green's book. I bet you guys have noticed them too. Miles becomes Pudge, Chip becomes the Colonel, Mr Starnes becomes the Eagle, Marcus becomes Radar, there are two Will Graysons and a pair of Collins and many, many Katherines. Feel free to ask him about his box set that's about to come out. You can find it online next month and whether he had any nicknames when he was growing up and please join me now in welcoming John Green.

(Crowd cheers and applauds)

Long wind up. I can see him. Wave to him to tell him to come. One more time, let's welcome John Green.

(Crowd cheers and applauds)

Hi. Hi. So my camcorder is broken.

Crowd: Awww.

First off I need to acknowledge something which is there are a lot of people here who thought that they were coming to, like, just a regular book signing.

(Crowd laughs)

And, so for those people, particularly the adults who have just started reading my books, um, I can't explain to you everything that's involved in this but I can, um, I can explain to you the video blog with my brother.

(Crowd cheers)

And all of those videos start out 'Good morning Hank, it's Tuesday' or what ever day it is but it's usually Tuesday. Um, so, I'm going to, uh, ask you to say 'Good morning Hank, it's Tuesday' into my iPhone.

(Crowd cheers)

Yeah, we're both experiencing anxiety from the screaming.

(Crowd laughs)

Um, so on three. One, uh, yeah you say 'Good morning Hank, it's Tuesday' on three. Um, hold on, let me make sure this is working. One, two, three.

Crowd: Good morning Hank, it's Tuesday.

(Crowd cheers)

Thank you guys very much. Thank you. So, now we have to be reasonably quiet just for the benefit of the rest of the, uh, National Book Festival. 

(Crowd laughs)

Um, I want to - I want to read you just a little bit from my new book, The Fault In Our Stars, talk a little bit about the book.

(Crowd cheers)

Uh, but mostly I just want to, uh, answer your questions. I'm more interested in what you're interested in than what I'm interested in and I generally think that, uh, what I love about books, both reading them and writing them, is that it's a conversation between, uh, a reader and a writer and this is a chance for us to have that conversation IRL which is very exciting
to me. So, um, does anyone have a copy of my book that I can borrow? Sorry.

(Crowd laughs)

Sorry, I'm very unprepared. I already signed this for you Julia, I'm not singing it again. 

(Crowd laughs)

Thank you for coming to the event in, uh, was it in Maryland? Oh, it was at LeakyCon, okay. It's nice to see you again, regardless. So, um, I'm just going to read - I'm just going to read a little bit of the book to try to give a sense of the voice I guess, um, but I'm beginning (stammers) I'm going to begin by reading the author's note, um, which is the only time in the book when I am directly speaking to you so it feels like something I can read to you and still sound like myself, maybe. 

This is not so much an author's note as an author's reminder of what was printed in small type a few pages ago: This book is a work of fiction. I made it up. Neither novels nor their reader's-

I can see this is a first printing 'cause it says neither novels or their readers but that's been fixed.

-Neither novels nor their readers benefit from attempts to divine whether any facts hide inside a story. Such efforts attack the very idea that made-up stories can matter, which is sort of the foundational assumption of our species. I appreciate your co-operation in this matter.'

Now this is the beginning of chapter one. Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death.

Whenever you read a cancer booklet or website or whatever, they always list depression among the side effects of cancer. But, in fact, depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying. (Cancer is also a side effect of dying. Almost everything is, really.) 

But my mom believed I required treatment, so she took me to see my regular Doctor Jim, who agreed that I was veritably swimming in a paralyzing and totally clinical depression, and that my meds should be adjusted and also I should attend a weekly Support Group.' 

So that's all I'm going to read. I will return this to Julia.

(Crowd cheers)

So, uh, I get a lot of questions about that very beginning of the novel. 

Um, I wanted to - I wanted to answer that question while also maybe saying something else about the book and why I wrote it. 

The question that I get most often is that, um, cancer is not a side effect of dying. Uh, dying is a side effect of cancer. Which is true in a very narrow sense but in the broader sense cancer is a side effect of dying because cancer is a disease that, uh, is born of mutation. Um, the reason cancer happens is because cells inside of our bodies, uh, mutate and then, uh, whatever is supposed to turn off their replication ceases to turn it off and uh, there's out of control growth of this tumour. Um, that is a side effect of dying because the whole reason that mutation happens is because cells are always in the business of dying, every cell in our body is constantly, well with very few exceptions and even those are dying in the broadest sense. Um, all - all cells are dying. 

More generally, um, all organic matter at all times is - is dying, is in this process of - of sort of falling apart, um, in the broadest sense, but it's also often in the process of coming together so I have a two and a half year old son and I've watched his body go from this thing I could hold in my - in my, you know, forearm to being this swiggly thing capable of talking and asking me questions and making unreasonable requests of my time and all sorts of stuff. 

Um, that process of coming from nothing into something and then slowly falling apart is the process of life. Um, and I wanted to write about that as well as I could and as honestly as I could and in a way that reflected the experience of the people I've known and loved, um, who lived with chronic illness and in many cases died of it. 

Um, and my experience was that all of these things are a side effect of dying and that our sort of cultural inability to acknowledge the reality and omnipresence of this falling apart, um, represented a real sort of failure on our part, um, to grapple with one of the most interesting parts of life. 

So I had that idea initially in like two thousand. I was working as a student chaplain at a children's hospital and um, I really wanted to write this story that was set in a children's hospital and it starred this like super handsome hospital chaplain-

(Crowd laughs)

-kind of an alcoholic and had a lot of troubles but he was really cool and all of his like bad qualities were made up for in his like chiseled good looks and everything and there were all these like hot lady Doctors. Which hot lady Doctor will he choose? Sort of the essential question of this original manuscript. 

Um, and I worked on that book in one form or another for eight years, just kept going back to it over and over again. 

I'd write it, sort of fail at writing it, and then I'd write a different book and then I'd fail. I'd try and fail again and then I'd write a different book and then this continued, um, but this was always the book I wanted to write and in some ways The Fault In Our Stars is my first novel. 

This is the novel that I wanted to write first, um, I just didn't figure it out. Um, I figured it out in two thousand nine or two thousand ten I guess. I had all this stuff that I'd written, you know, hundred thousand, two hundred thousand words which is maybe like six hundred pages but it was all crap. 

It was all about this, mostly about this chaplain, um, and um, so I, I finally found a way into it through my friendship with a, a young woman who was a fan of our videos and a fan of my, uh, my books, named Esther, um, really more a fan of our videos I have to say. I was reading Esther's diaries recently and, uh, you know, I always say that she was a fan of my books but, uh, that's not really true. 

Um, uh, Esther, Esther had cancer from the time that I knew her, um, and she died in August of 2010 when she was just sixteen and knowing Esther and knowing her family and being friends with a lot of her friends, um, it pulled me out of the story, you know. It took me out of the story and it allowed me to center myself in this question of why are we falling apart and why do we fall apart at different rates? 

So why is it that like my Grandfather who was a very nice guy lived to be 93 years old and spent you know, saw all seven continents and had this great full life and Esther who was also a very nice person only lived to be 16 and for - for much of her life, her life was circumscribed by, by this illness, by this chronic illness. 

Um, and, and can we make sense of that world? Can we find a way to be hopeful in that world or are we best off just ignoring the reality? Because I think ultimately that's why we ignore this process of death that is constantly occurring, uh, inside of not just us but inside - but in the planet itself, um, that the planet itself is a kind of organism, um, that is constantly, you know, being born and then falling apart and experiencing the same cycle. 

Um, do we ignore that because it is so --the reality of it, the reality of illness in children, the reality that not all lives are long lives-- is so unacceptable to us that we just can't even look at it? 

And was there a way for me to write a story that made it okay to look at it? Because my experience with being friends, not just with Esther but with the other young sick people I've known, is that it is not hard to look at them and it is not hard to love them. It is not hard to love that reality, um, and that was, uh, but you have to be brought into the place where it's okay and not scary to love and look at the world as it is.

Um, and you know, the sentimental, maudlin cancer stories that I have read when I was a young person, and like, um- make fun of a lot in this book, don't do that for me. Like, they don't take me into that place of love and respect, um, they take- they're really about the well people in the novels, not the sick ones. Um, because really what they're about, is they're about that attempt to try to, uh- that whole idea that, like, people with cancer, particularly young people with cancer exist so that the rest of us can learn important life lessons, right? So like, the rest of us can be, like, grateful for every day. Um. No. That is not why sick people exist. Um, and that dehumanizes them, and depersonalizes them, and makes the story not about them, but about the well. And- and I didn't wanna do that.

I wanted to argue that a short life can also be a full life, and can also be a good life, and a rich life, and that the definition of a rich, full life is not about whether it's long. Although, certainly, it's easier and better if it is long. Um, but it's about uh- different kinds of good. Um, and so I wanted to present in Hazel and Augustus, different kinds of good. Different kinds of good lives, different ways of imagining what constitutes a good life, what constitutes a heroic life. 

Um, and now, you know, nine months after the book has come out, I haven't read it, um, but lots of people have been very nice about it. Um, and the main thing that I wanna say is that, um, all the time that I- I was writing that story, I was terrified. I was terrified that I wasn't doing justice to a story that was in many ways not mine. I was terrified that I was being- that you weren't gonna like it. I was terrified that people would say "oh, a book about cancer, that sounds horrible," because that's what I say when people say "a book about cancer". Um, I've -I -you know, I'm not the kind of person who's like "ooooh, really can I read a book about cancer? How lucky am I now?"

Um, and uh- you know, there are a lot of people in this room who read the book very early and recommended it to their friends, and their family, and in many cases to their parents. Um, and that- that means a lot to me, and that has brought- In the end, like, writing the book did not bring me the peace I was after. But living with the book today has, in many ways, brought me that sense of peace, and that conviction that there are many kinds of good and full lives. So I wanna thank you. Um-

(Crowd cheers)

And- and I think I'll take some questions. Um, if that's alright, and then- I can just call on you and you can shout, that's fine. I'm gonna call on people who are standing, because they're standing, they have it hard.

(Crowd laughs)

Yes ma'am?

(Indistinct shouting)


(Indistinct shouting)

Obviously, if that is- if you're about to say a spoiler do not say it.

(Indistinct shouting)


(Crowd laughs)

(Indistinct shouting)

Um, I don't- the question is about the middle of Looking For Alaska, and if it came from personal experience. Um, I don't like to answer that question because um- I wish I had the copy of the book The Fault in Our Stars so I could read to you the part about how I don't want people to look for facts inside my books. Um, but only because- uh- only- only in the interest of protecting people I know in real life, um- who would maybe rather not be personally connected in their own lives with my work.

Um, I didn't think about that much when I was writing Looking For Alaska, which is a very autobiographical novel in many ways. I mean I wa- the book is about a kid who memories last words, who goes to a boarding school in Alabama, and I memorized last words and went to a boarding school in Alabama, and um it's a very autobiographical book in a lot of ways.

But, um, when I was writing it, you know, on some level you never think anybody outside of your family is gonna read your books. Like, or at least I didn't, um, and I think because of that I wasn't uh- at least initially I maybe wasn't as respectful of- of people's privacy as I should have been.

And so, yeah, I feel like I can't answer it directly because it wouldn't be respectful of the people.

Um, yes.

(Indistinct shouting)

(Crowd laughs)

How do I feel about the giraffe behind me, staring at me. I guess, neutral.

Yes, Holden Caulfield thinks you're a phony.

(Crowd cheering)

(Indistinct shouting)

Crowd member: If you could change anything about The Fault In Our Stars, would you, and what would it be?

Um, that's an interesting question because writers- So, the reason I don't re-read my books after they come out is because, of course, there are many inefficiencies in my work and I am keenly aware of them, and I don't particularly enjoy being reminded of them.

So, there are two kinds of, like, negative reviews, right? There are the negative reviews that you disagree with and that you think are stupid. Like, for instance when people say that I don't believe that teenagers are that smart, well that doesn't bother me because I just disagree, you know? 

(Crowd cheering)

Like, um- it's always adults who say that too. It's funny like, if you go through the Amazon reviews and you read which people said like, teenagers don't actually talk like that, it's a lot of people who then go on to be like, um- not that I read all the reviews of my books- not that there's 24,000 Goodreads reviews of The Fault in Our Stars and I've read every one of them. Um- but- uh- it's always people who are like, "I mean I'm in my twenties and I don't talk like that." And I'm like, well that's not my fault.

(Crowd laughing)

Like, I shouldn't be held accountable for your failure to, like, grapple with the interesting questions of the human species.

(Crowd cheering and laughing)

Um, but yeah, of course, there are lots of things that I would change in The Fault in Our Stars, but there's things that I don't know how to change or I would've changed them. Um. You know, there are lots of uh- there are lots of places- Look all I can see when I re-read one of my books is the things that don't work or the things that I think will make readers stop for a second, or the things that I think will make them conscious that the book is written, and not like, a story that's alive in their minds, you know?

Um, and all that stuff is difficult. And if I tortured myself with it, you know, as I could, for the next, you know, however many years, I would never write another book, I would just sit around and try to re-write The Fault in Our Stars over and over again, and in the end, like, I had to give you guys the book and I did the best I could, and I had to trust that uh- you'll read it generously.

Um, and I think, like, the relationship between reader and writer, ultimately, is one of kind of mutual generosity. And, it's me giving you a gift and you giving me a gift back. And the gift that I give you is that I try very hard to write the best thing I can possibly make, and then you give me sort of two gifts, um, one is money. (Crowd laughs) Which I appreciate. Um, I mean even if you get the book out of the library, on some level, you know, somebody paid for that book. And I encourage you to get the book out of the library, but um-

(Crowd cheers)

But the reason libraries work so well, and that they encourage- uh- they- they- you know, they encourage our entire, you know, civic well-being, um, is because there is- there is some level of financial connection between the reader and the library. Um, which is why it's very different. I'm asked this all the time, why is it- why is it- why- "I could check your book out of the library but instead I just stole it on the internet, why is that different?" Um, and I'm like, "well because I control the means of distribution and I don't want you to steal it so, it stops there really." Uh- but there are lots of other reasons too.

So, uh, we can talk about that if anyone's interested, but um so in my opinion, like, there's that gift, obviously, that's sort of the obvious gift. The bigger and more important gift is the gift of- of your- um- your attention and your generous reading. Like, there are lots of ways to read a novel, and we've all had this experience of going into a novel and being like "I am going to hate this" and then hating it, and then being like "I did it. I hated it."

(Crowd laughs)

In fact, I think a lot of people like, who read the sort of, like, whatever the big phenomenon book of the time is- whether it's 50 Shades of Gray or Twilight or whatever- you go into that book reading it frankly, with a lack of generosity, and like, maybe it was also written with a lack of generosity or maybe- or maybe it wasn't, but like, our responsibility as readers is to try um- to try to give- to try to give the stories the best chance that we can give them. The best life that we can give them, because each story is going to be different for each reader.


(Indistinct shouting)

Yeah, that'd be great, thank you.

Crowd member: Once you have an- an- an idea for a story, what do you- how do you take it from there? What's your next step?

How do I go from an idea to uh- like a book? 

How much time do you have?

(Crowd laughs)

I'm obviously not very good at it because I only publish a book like every three or four years. Um, I don't get big ideas to be honest with you. I've never had a big idea, I've never had an idea like "wizard school".

(Crowd laughs)

I never had that- I want that idea. Like, I- I'm ready for it.

(Crowd laughs)

But I haven't had it yet. I have little ideas like, "why do we suffer?"


Or, um- or, uh- "what if my friend John had been a girl?" That was sort of the initial idea for Paper Towns. So, I was thinking a lot about my friend John Mauldin, and I was like, "man, if John Mauldin had been a girl, he would have been much more interesting".

(Crowd laughs)

Um. He would have had a whole different set of problems, and he would have had this sort of- all these gender expectations, and, it would've been really cool and interesting. So, I mean, that's how Paper Towns began for me.

Looking For Alaska began for me by thinking about my own high school experiences, I think, and wanting to process them, but um. As for how you go from those little ideas to the business of actually writing a book, like- to me it's more about the interconnection of very small ideas, um, linking them together into a chain. 

There's a lot of ways to imagine shapes of novels, so, um, one of the first ways I imagine a book is usually as a spiral. Like, there's this point for Hazel, in The Fault in our Stars, there's this point when Hazel has to go to a support group and this point leads to another point- Hazel meets Augustus- which leads to another point, which leads to this ever widening circle, until woah they're- they're- they're- they're having this crazy life together, and woah, they're in love and woah, this happens, and like, it spirals out from that point.

Um, so if you think about the novel, or your story, as a spiral, then you can think- you can sort of think about what should happen in order for it to keep that shape. And I find that quite useful. This is quite abstract, I'm sorry to people who aren't interested in writing.

But there are lots of other ways to imagine shapes of stories too, so, um. In Will Grayson, Will Grayson, which I wrote with my friend David Levithan, (crowd cheers) we imagined the novel as an 'X'.

Don't cheer for David.

(Crowd laughs)

Um, no. David's new book, by the way, I have to say, I never- I never- um- I never promote the work of other authors because it's very bad for me, but um- no, I do- but um, David's new book is just beautiful. It's just really brilliant, it's called Every Day and it's about a kid who wakes up every day in someone else's body. Um, every day a different body, um. And in love with the same girl. So every day, this person who doesn't have a gender or a physical body of any kind, wakes up in a new body, within about four hours drive of wherever he or she woke up yesterday. Um, and he's all- or she, I'm trying- see, I'm trying, as we do, I'm trying to gender binary it, when it is a brilliant novel that does not allow for that, um. This individual wakes up every day in a different body, and is- and then like has to try get to this girl this individual loves.

We really need a gender neutral pronoun. Um.

(Crowd cheers)

So. That's very hard to say in sign language. About gender neutral pronouns, isn't it? Yeah. Um.

(Crowd laughing)

Well, they- they've solved this problem to a great extent, where we haven't. Um- yeah but um, it's a really fascinating book and it's one of those books that has a brilliant premise but that's also really brilliantly executed, but anyway, in Will Grayson, Will Grayson, we imagine the novel as an 'X'. These two characters start in very different places, they come together, their lives sort of intertwine, and then they go their separate ways. And, um, in imagining that novel as an 'X', that also sort of fuels where your ideas go, because you think, like, well, "I have to put them one step closer to each other", or "I have to put them one step further away from each other". And so, that was- that was very helpful. So I'm imagining, um, these things, as- as shapes and as, like, as forms, not to get all, like, contemporary art theory on you, but like, thinking about the importance of forms and the centrality of the form of the novel, um, uh- was very helpful to me.

Um, pizza John.

(Crowd cheers)

It's always an advantage if you're wearing my face on your torso.

(Crowd laughs)

Crowd member: Okay, so, in one of your novels you wrote that imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia. How often do you find yourself divulging into that nostalgia in your writing, and- and in your personal life?

So I said imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia, how often do I find myself indulging that in my writing and in my personal life? I didn't write that line, my- my wife wrote it. Um.

(Crowd laughs)

We were on our first date- it's a funny story, I'll tell the story if that's okay.

(Crowd cheers)

So we- we- um- I really liked her. I went to high school with Sarah but we did not know each other in high school at all. She was a couple years behind me and we ran in very different circles. And, um- but we met again in Chicago and she was this, like, really talented artist, and she was managing a really cool contemporary art gallery, and she's fascinating, really intelligent. We had brunch, I was really impressed with her, that she was not dating anyone, um- (crowd laughs) so I did my due diligence and everything. And then I, um, so I emailed like seven of my friends and said "do you wanna see the movie Lost in Translation tonight?" and I CCed Sarah, and then I emailed my other six friends and said "not you".

(Crowd laughs)

Right, but no, no, but it's a terrible- actually, no. This, as it turns out is a terrible strategy. Uh, never start a relationship on a lie, uh it will end. And, indeed, she broke up with me after a few dates, because I was so- because I was so, like, performed, like that, you know? Because I was so- I was trying so, so hard. And I was so far removed from whatever authentic self I might have somewhere inside of me that she wasn't, you know, that interested. 

Um, so. Yes, so that did not work out, however, uh, we then got back together and got married and now we have a kid and everything, it's fine. Um.

(Crowd laughs)

So, she said that to me on our first date though because, before Lost in Translation we went to this- this bagel deli and she said- I was talking about high school and how I imagined my life. We were talking about high school and I said I was always imagining my life after high school and thinking about what adulthood would be like and, um how like, you can't indulge that impulse if you write the kind of novels that I write. And she said imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia and I was like "woah".

(Crowd laughs)

Um, I try not to indulge it at all in my novels, I try not to take my novels anywhere past the present. Um, I try not to, like, send my characters to- to tell you what, like- I don't wanna prescribe that for you, I don't wanna give you an order about where my characters end up or where the story ends up, or anything like that because I want that to be yours, not mine. Um, so it's very important to me.

Hey there. Digital book mobile. Aw yeah.

(Crowd laughing and cheering)

They're turning it down.

So, um, lots of people ask me, like, "what happens after the end of The Fault in Our Stars" or "what happens after the end of Looking For Alaska", but to do that would be to imagine the future which is a kind of nostalgia. Like, right? Like these characters aren't writing it from the future, aren't ima- they aren't telling their stories from the future, they're telling their stories from the present. And to, like, to take them far into the future, into adulthood or whatever, to me, would just be that sort of reverse nostalgia.

Oh jeez.

(Crowd laughs)

Yes, with the scarf.

(Person yelling)

The more you scream, the less likely I am to call on you, I have to tell- I'm sorry, but it's true. Because then I get nervous that you're gonna ask- just ask me "who the eff is Hank?" or something, that like will make no sense to anyone in the audience. 


Crowd member: Hello


Crowd member: Um, from- with your autho- with your- um- if you look at your books through more, like a post-modernist perspective with autobiographical content, and you said earlier how you don't feel comfortable, or you feel anxious when you're speaking about a story that isn't technically yours-


Crowd member: What is the limit that you set between your own story and someone else's?

Where do I set the line between my own story and someone else's? That's a really interesting question.

I mean, from a post-modernist perspective, like, I- I tend to agree that the author is dead and the author is irrelevant or to the extent that the author is a character in a novel, the author is the least important, and least- genuinely least interesting character in the novel, um, and should be ignored whenever possible. Like, a truly successful book is a book in which you are not frequently conscious of the author.

Um, I don't want you to be reading The Fault in Our Stars and to be thinking about my biography, and I don't particularly want you to be reading Shakespeare and be thinking about his biography. Um, I think most of what's interesting about Hamlet or, I mean- even- The Tempest is a better example, because in The Tempest it's meant to be Shakespeare's last play, and Prospero throws his wizarding books into the ocean and gives it all up, and yadda yadda yadda. And, like, this is always read, um, from certain uh- uh- certain- sort of- new- new- more recent literary critical readings as Shakespeare throwing in his own tools of- of magic that he used to transform the- the Elizabethan stage and yeah, that's fine, I just don't think it's that interesting. Right?

Like, maybe that tells us something about Shakespeare, and like, I'm sure that Shakespeare liked putting in little jokes that pleased him about his own life into his novels as- or his plays -as do I, as do most writers because it's a pretty self-indulgent trade, um. But, I don't think it's what's interesting about The Tempest. Like, to me, everything that's interesting about The Tempest is this weird idea of- of savageness and this weird relationship between the civilized and the savage, and like- that's interesting. I'm not interested in that, like, Shakespeare was quitting. Um, yeah I feel- it's just not the biggest thing in the book, or in the story- or I guess I should say in the story.

Um, I want the same to be true in my work but it's completely impossible because I have put so much of my life on the internet-

(Crowd laughs)

-and so- so many of you know so much about me that there is no way to separate it out, right? And we live in this personality driven culture, particularly personality driven literary culture, and there's nothing I can do about that. But I also happen to really like, like making stuff with you on the internet, and books are great, but they are not a good way to make stuff.

Books are a terrible way to raise money for charity, and books are a terrible way to, like, work together to do all the projects that we've done in our online community. And so, I wanna do that stuff.

Um. Uh- so I have this- these contradictory desires. Here I am the first page of the book I say "don't- don't think about anything that might be related to me in this book, um, or anything in my life, just don't think about it, just read the novel as a novel, I'm ordering you to do this". And then, I'm like, "hey everybody, it's me, John Green, like look at this sandwich I had for lunch."

(Crowd laughs)

That's a completely unfair thing to ask of my readers, to be both- to both look at my sandwiches, (crowd laughing) and to, like, disconnect me from the novel. Um, all of which is to say that I have absolutely no idea how to answer your question, because I have absolutely- I do not have a solution to this problem. I am conscious of the problem. I spend like- I- it keeps me up at night- I worry about it, I just don't know how to solve it.

Like, I first became conscious of this in 2008 when our community was much, much smaller, but all these people would email and they would say "I read Paper Towns in your voice". Like, they would hear my voice reading it to them. And when I read a book written by a friend, like when I read a Maureen Johnson novel, or I read a David Levithan novel, I often hear their voices when I'm reading. Like, I actually hear them as if they were reading it to me and their, you know, Maureen's, like, weird little voice.

(Crowd laughing)

Hi, Maureen.

(Crowd laughing)

Um, and uh, I don't want that, you know? I don't want you to read my story that way. But, I also know there's no way around it if we're also going to do all this fun interesting stuff together that we can do. Um, and, furthermore, to be completely frank with you, before I told people about my- like- what- like, I showed pictures of my sandwiches, um, my readings were not this well attended.

(Crowd laughing)

So there's that to consider as well. It's a very interesting question that I don't have a solution to.

Yes. Yes.

(Indistinct shouting)

What book am I reading right now?

I'm reading uh- the- uh- I can't even remember the title of it because it's very long, but it's uh- D.T. Max - is that his name? It's D.T. Max's biography of David Foster Wallace. He's one of my favorite writers... Does anyone remember what it's called?

No? Okay.

(Crowd laughing)

Someone knows what it's called? You can just shout it. Well, whatever, it's good. 

(Crowd laughing)

So far. I'm like forty pages in, it could get worse.


I like your shirt.

Crowd member: Oh, is it working? Oh. I actually have one for you, can I give it to you?

Yeah, sure!

Thank you! Thank you for guessing the right size too.

It's a large. 

Yeah, sure.

Crowd member: So I went back and I was watching some of your older videos that weren't on the Vlogbrothers channel.


Crowd member: There's been like- the- I don't- I don't know what they were, but- um- there's one where you went urban exploring.

Oh yeah.

Crowd member: And I was wondering if that was something that inspired- um-

Both: Paper Towns

Probably, I was guessing. But yeah. Um. So, I went to, uh- One time I was in Detroit with uh- M.T. Anderson who's like probably the greatest American Young Adult fiction writer. Um- he said resentfully.

(Crowd laughing)

He is reall- he is the best though. He's a true- he's the- he's a true genius, like, it's very rare in your life that you meet a true genius and uh- he really is. I mean if you read The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation, um, it is real- it is an actual work of genius. Um. Which is a very strange thing to come across. And then it's even stranger to meet the creator of this work, and have him be, you know, mostly normal.

(Crowd laughing)

Um. But anyway. He's not that normal, and uh, I guess he was going to Detroit and he'd heard that it was possible to break into all these abandoned buildings, and so, he like walked up to the post office, which is ab- which has been abandoned for like forty years, and he was like walking around the circumference trying to find a way over the fence and he saw this little, like, head pop up. And he was like "hey, you" and this like 16 year old kid comes out and um, and Tobin, that's what he calls himself, not M.T. Anderson.

Um, Tobin said um- uh- "can you get me in?" and the kid said "for forty dollars." Um. And then he had, like, this crazy experience exploring the ruins of Detroit with this kid, and then he comes to Kalamazoo, where we're speaking together, we- we- we speak together. Um. And then we drive back to Detroit to um, take an airplane home, uh, whereupon there is some massive snowstorm on the east cost and we can't get home for four days. Um. So I ended up going urban exploring with Tobin and this 15 year old kid. Who charged me as well.

(Crowd laughing)

And he was amazing, I mean, this- he was like this savant of Detroit architecture who also happened to have just massive courage. Um. Which I don't have. So I- I'm a very anxious person and I- I- I really struggle with my, uh, anxiety problems and so being in a, you know, large, long abandoned spaces was very nervous for me. Which made me think about, uh, about Quentin, I already set- I'd already written some of the urban exploring sections in Paper Towns but being in that- those places definitely affected it. Definitely, like, reshaped my feelings about that, what it's like.


Crowd member: Okay, I'm older than a lot of the people here, and I know you said you like to write for young people 'cause old people aren't as interesting which is true-

(Crowd laughing)

Crowd member: But- um- as a former English teacher and a current high school librarian-

(Crowd and John cheering)

Crowd member: I'm a big pusher of you and I just wanted to tell you that I think you're great, and I push you a lot, I'm your street pusher-

(Crowd laughing)

Crowd member: So, uh- thank you for what you do.

I appreciate it. Yeah, thank you. Um.

(Crowd cheering)

You are not alone at all in your oldness.

(Crowd laughing)

You look like you're about 23.

Crowd member: I'm deceiving.

Oh, wow. You've- you've ha-

Crowd member: I'm not stalking you and I don't know your mother sells soap.

(Crowd laughing)

My mom does sell goat soap from her goat farm in western North Carolina. Um. Farmer Jane soap. Not afraid to plug her. So uh- yep.

There are a lot of us adults who read young adult fiction and like it, and who've read The Fault in Our Stars and liked it and um- we aren't as loud.

(Crowd cheering)

Yeah, we tend not to make as much noise, um. But in fact like most of my-

(Crowd cheering)

- most of the readers of The Fault in Our Stars now, like the new readers are adults. That's been a very odd transition for me to go to get- to get like, you know, emails from 82 year old grandmothers about my book or whatever, they're very nice usually, but uh- it's an interesting transition for me, because I am used to both having and preferring young adult readers. Now I have to slightly re-calibrate my message, I guess, to pretend that I do like adults, um.

(Crowd laughing)

So, yes. You're my favorite.

Okay, I think we have time for perhaps one- one more question, I apologize to all the people whose questions I won't be asking, but yes, you sir

Crowd member: Mr. Green, Mr. Green.

(Crowd and John laughing)

Crowd member: I- I adore Crash Course, the Crash Course that you and Hank are doin.

Thank you.

Crowd member: Are there plans to continue it, in what fashion, until your weeks are up?

So, uh, my brother and I are teaching- we uh- we have this- uh- show that's funded by Google called Crash Course, um, that teaches- I teach AP level World History and my brother teaches AP level Biology in a series of, uh, videos that are about ten to twelve minutes long.

Um, yeah, it's very very expensive, man to be honest with you. It's not something that, like, will ever earn money on an advertising model because it just costs. Educators are expensive, curriculum advisors are expensive, editors and animators are expensive, and it's a very big undertaking. Um, I don't know that we'll have Google's support again, in which case we will have to figure out what we wanna do.

We would love to keep doing it. I've never been so passionate about anything, I've never had as much fun making stuff, so hopefully we'll find a way to do it.

Alright. Yes.

Last- this is truly the last question.

Crowd member: Hi, I'm a big fan of your books-

Thank you.

Crowd member: And, um, I was just wondering- so many of them are about teenagers, and about this awkward stage of life where you're trying to figure out how to make friends, and what to do with your life, and what high school to go to, and what career to pick, what advice would you have for young people?

What advice do I have for young people about going through all that stuff? I mean, um, the- uh- um- the great poet Robert Frost once said the only way out is through. Um, people will tell you that this is supposed to be the best years of your life or whatever but that's a dirty, dirty lie. It's a-

(Crowd laughing and cheering)

It's an evil, pernicious lie. Adulthood is wonderful. Um, there is- uh- there is a stability to adulthood that may seem like, lame and boring to you when you're a teenager, but oh gosh is it nice. To not have to wonder like "who am I gonna make out with next week."

(Crowd laughing)

It's just- it's that same person it's been for many years- that's nice. 

Um, to uh- to have the background to know what it's like to uh- to have been in love. To know what it's like to experience loss, to be able to contextualize these feelings that are always welling up inside of you. So, I mean, adulthood doesn't stop being exciting by any stretch of the imagination, but um- you're able to contextualize the excitement a little bit better which makes it much easier to survive. Um.

So, my advice to you would be to, um, I guess I would say two things. First off, do listen to adults that you trust in your life - they know something.

(Crowd cheering)

It's hard to do sometimes, because you want, um, because sometimes they're wrong and sometimes they give you advice that's also not just the exact opposite of what you wanna hear. And it's difficult to do things you don't wanna do. It's difficult to do things that just, just sort of seem wrong, even if you know in the broadest sense that they're right.

Um, so I would encourage to listen to the- find adults that you trust and listen to them, the most important thing- uh- to me, is to understand that this will end. In both the best ways and the worst ways, like, things will go on, and, um, you will go on, and- and you as- as- I think- as Augustus says to Isaac, um, in the middle of The Fault in Our Stars, you are going to have a big and wonderful life and do all kinds of wonderful things that you can't possibly imagine now. And so, uh, trust in that.

Thank you.

(Crowd cheering)

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