What Happened When I Read the Same Book as a Teenager, Then Again As an Adult

One book. Two completely different experiences.

After nearly 10 years, my favorite book is still Looking for Alaska by John Green.

I didn’t read it when it first came out, but after I accidentally discovered the Green brothers indirectly though NaNoWriMo, I jumped at the chance to read a book by an author I’d never heard of.

I loved LFA. It was a powerful story that captivated me from the very first page. But I felt no real-world connection to it. It was a good story – but even then, I tended to read a book, say how much I loved it, and then move on to the next one without many further thoughts.

I think it was my favorite book then because it felt different to me. I didn’t understand why then, but it did. I wasn’t a very adventurous reader at 15: I had a few favorite authors, and Meg Cabot’s long list of titles kept me busy the majority of my reading time.

When the 10th anniversary edition of the book came out a few years ago, I was excited enough to buy it, even though I already had a paperback copy. I’d been watching Vlogbrothers videos from start to finish for the first time, and felt very strongly about supporting John in, honestly, a kind of selfish (but still totally worth it) way.

There are only a select number of books I have ever read more than once. I’m one of those people who always says I’m going to reread something before the movie comes out, then never do.

With a new, shiny hardcover in my hands, I made the decision to read LFA a second time.

It was nothing like the first time I read it. Not even close.

The first time, I shed no tears. I related to the characters enough, but not on a deep, empathetic level. I liked the story, but it wasn’t life-changing.

But since I’d read LFA for the first time, I had grown up significantly, both in age and in spirit. I had also lost someone very close to me not long before. I had experienced grief in a number of unexpected ways in my young adulthood by that point. But I did not expect that to matter so much.

I spent what I can only estimate to be about 30 straight pages in tears. I understood it now. That scene in the gym where the MC tells the principal the assembly can’t start yet absolutely destroyed me. Because I had felt that feeling. I got it. It spoke to me.

Many people over many lifetimes have been touched by books. I know I’m not the only one. But first of all, it bothers me when people assume young adult books are only for teenagers. I’ve gotten more out of YA books as an adult than I ever did when I was still in high school.

Second of all – how amazing is it, that we can read the same book twice, years apart, and have a completely different experience the second time?

This is important for a writer to understand. You already know that not every person is going to relate on a deeply personal level to every story you write. It’s just not possible. It can be frustrating, because you want to reach everyone.

But just because someone isn’t changed by a story now, doesn’t mean they won’t be someday.

You’re reaching more people than you think. People with very different experiences and disappointments and dreams and failures and fears.

The audience you are writing for is very important. Your genre is important.

The depth of your story, how relatable your characters are, your theme – these are even more important. When you are writing fiction, you are saying to someone, “Here – let me tell you a story.” And you are hoping that at least some piece of it will speak to them. You are hoping that at least one paragraph, one page will be enough to motivate them to hold that book close to their heart. To love it. To need it.

Maybe someone won’t need it now. But they might need it eventually.

A good story isn’t about pleasing everyone. It is about meeting people where they are, about saying to them, “You are okay. You are understood, and you are loved.”

I don’t love books because they make me happy. I love them because they make me feel alive.

Write stories that make people feel. Books are not an escape. They are discoveries. To some readers, books are adventures. Take your readers on epic quests. Change their lives. Make them feel whole.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

Nobody Tells Stories the Way You Do

No one writes like you do.


There’s something amazing that happens when we read.

The more we do it, the wider our eyes open to the infinite possibilities of storytelling.

Something that happens when you’re first testing out what you can do is a writer is a form of copying. You mimic the way other writers structure and carry out their stories. It’s not a bad thing at all: you have to learn how other people do something before you can create your own way of getting it done. If that means writing in the same voice as your favorite author, well, it’s a necessary starting point.

Many writers do eventually grow out of this style-mimicking phase. It becomes easier the more writers’ works you read. But some writers struggle to break free of it. They read something written by an experienced writer they admire, and – without realizing it, usually – write their stories in a very similar way.

It happens because it’s comfortable. It also happens because it’s easy to believe that one style of writing is the style you need to write in if you want to be successful.

That’s not the case, of course. But even John Green fell into this trap. You know, John Green, of TFIOS, Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska fame.

He addressed this very concept – this phase of writing stories the way other people write stories – in his talk with Ransom Riggs (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children) at VidCon this past June.

You’re welcome to watch the video in its entirety – it’s an interesting 45-minute discussion about writing and creating things, failure and success – but the part I will discuss further below starts around 24:30.

Green recalls: “This writing professor invited me over to his house, and he said, ‘You know … you’re trying to sound like a writer. You’re writing the way that you think writers write. If you could just write the way you tell stories … you would be much better.'”

The way you tell stories is the way you tell stories – think of all those times you’ve sat down with your friend or called someone on the phone and launched into a story about something that just recently happened to you. What kind of language do you use? How do things flow together? Aside from the likes and umms, the backtracking to fill in the gaps you missed, the dangling conclusions, that should give you an idea of how you structure stories. And in terms of writing itself, there’s a pretty easy way to figure out, at least in part, your style, language and voice.

It’s my favorite kind of writing. The kind where you open to a blank document on your laptop and just start  typing. We write so many stories no one ever sees because we have to practice. We have to let ourselves write our way into a flow state, and stop worrying about whether or not the sentences sound good or the language is colorful enough or the metaphors pop.

That all comes naturally, eventually. But you can’t write well, in your own style, until you give yourself permission to write even when it’s bad. Because every good story starts from nothing, and suffers from plot holes and flat MCs and chapters that don’t fit together. You don’t have to sound like a writer. But you do have to sound like you.

Write the way YOU tell stories. There really is no right or wrong when it comes to voice and style. Wouldn’t you rather be unique and memorable in the way you write your stories, instead of trying to write like everyone else? You’re trying to stand out, after all.

We all gather small bits and pieces of other writers’ methods and styles as we’re forming our own, but from that we’re creating something original. The idea is to create something new, not copy something someone else has already done. Eventually, you stop falling into the habit of using the same voice other writers use, and stick to your own.

All new writers struggle to “find their voice” and figure out their own style. The best thing you can do for yourself is write your way to both things. It sort of just appears, perhaps gradually, but it comes to you, and once it’s there, it’s yours to keep and hold close forever.

You are unique. Every writer is. Don’t worry about whether what you’re writing is good or bad. Focus on whether or not it’s truly yours. The rest will come together in time, as long as you keep writing.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

Image courtesy of VidCon.

Dear John: Confessions of an Anxious Writer

“I understand that stories are the keys that let us out of a consciousness we cannot always control.”


“I love stories because they let me out of this prison of myself.”

For a long time, I didn’t understand what you meant when you said that.

There are good kinds of escapes in this world. Healthy ones. Reading and writing alike let us take journeys away from the present so we can turn negative emotions and situations into beautiful stories. That I knew. I have always known.

I tried seeing things from your point of view then and for whatever reason found that I could not do it. When I write stories, it’s always been the opposite for me. It forces me to dive deeper into myself, to understand what I am thinking and feeling. To try and see writing as a way to set myself free was seemingly impossible.

I can’t (rather, prefer not to) explain exactly what has changed in the months since I first heard you speak these words. But I can say that I have come to a much deeper understanding of what you meant when you cited storytelling as a way for you to step out of your inner consciousness.

Lately, for me, writing has become something I must force myself to do. Not because I do not enjoy it but because stopping would throw me completely off balance.

I have discovered that I am two different people when I am writing and when I am not. When I write, I am honest. I am opinionated and decisive and intelligent, sometimes. I am driven and outgoing and always content. Even when I write something I know isn’t good, that doesn’t shake my confidence.

But in the real world, I am not that person. I am neither confident nor outgoing. I do not speak my mind. A lot of the time I don’t speak at all. It isn’t something I am comfortable doing and I’m not comfortable writing about it, either. But I can say that here, because here my words matter and they make sense and they are my wings.

This is a terrifying thing to realize but it is through writing that I have come to accept the reality of my existence. I cannot be who I want to be without my words. Searching deeper I have found that telling stories really does free me. I would feel eternally trapped if I did not have this outlet, and even on days when I struggle to write, something always comes out and it is usually enough to get me through the day.

I think you can admire a person for many different reasons. I admire you as an author because your stories speak to me and they are, as expected, beautifully written. But I also admire you for your openness and your willingness to talk about how important writing is to your mental health.

When I originally found this quote I wasn’t really sure why it stuck out to me so much. But I get it now. I understand that stories are the keys that let us out of a consciousness we cannot always control, and we can run and jump and say anything we want to in our stories and there is no fear. There is no hesitation. Sitting in front of my creations, I am so happy. So alive. Whole.

It isn’t that stories serve as an escape from our problems. Instead, stories are the pathways through which we can free ourselves from the barriers that prevent us from acting as our true selves. If there are parts of the mind that hold us back, also there are parts that drive us forward.

The only hope I have for myself, and for anyone else in situations similar to mine, is that someday we will figure out how to feel less trapped, and more free. I appreciate the places my mind allows me to go when I am telling a story. But I must always return to the places that make me feel inadequate, and this makes writing so much harder.

But so, so much more rewarding all the same.

DFTBA, Meg<3

Image courtesy of The Wall Street Journal.

Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

Dear John: Somehow, I’m Still Writing


Back in March/April 2015, I did something that, at the time, sounded like a good idea.

I decided to watch every single Vlogbrothers video ever uploaded, in order, starting with Hank Green’s very first upload on January 1, 2007.

Also in March/April 2015, I started my first-ever graduate course, said goodbye to a temporary job doing something I actually sort of enjoyed, and re-branded this blog (a decision, I can assure you wholeheartedly, I do not regret).

Some beginnings. An ending. A good balance. Or so it seemed.

Halfway through April, I could feel something in my life was missing. Then, I still had my job. I was making new friends, doing more things I enjoyed (and watching Vlogbrothers pretty much nonstop, obviously). But somehow, in the midst of all these things, I’d stopped doing something important.

What was that something?

Writing. Writing for myself. Writing what I wanted to write. A book.

And then this video came along in my own personal marathon.

This video, and another one I’m having a hard time finding at the moment, flipped a switch in my brain I hadn’t even realized had been turned off. For so long I had been writing for myself. Writing because I wanted to prove to myself I could finish another project. Not even just creatively on my own time, but for my blog and for a magazine. Just to keep myself sane.

I have been reminded on multiple occasions in this way that writing is not about finishing a project for the sake of being able to finish it. It is not about writing because you have something to prove.

This lesson has been a particularly difficult one for me to learn, because I am knee-deep in the job market. Which means, while I am writing because I love to write, and I am writing for my readers and for those who enjoy reading my words, I am also, in some cases, writing to show I can, so when I send a potential employer a link to my work, there’s (maybe) something there that will grasp their attention.

And I don’t always like that. But I’m sure you don’t always, either. Especially when people try to pressure you into finishing another book (I’m really sorry about that BTW) when you’re doing your absolute best. I watch Hank’s video though, and I think, “It was hard work, but look at the joy it brought to so many people that day,” and still does even now.

Some days, honestly, I don’t even enjoy writing anymore. Even when it’s not actually work for me, it often still feels that way. I don’t want to lose the balance I’ve somehow found between writing for personal reasons and writing for professional reasons and writing to build relationships with those who stumble upon my work and want to read/know more.

Maybe, at some point, every writer feels this way. I think at some point you have to learn to give up the idea of what you want to happen and just let it happen. I don’t think any fairly successful author ever looks back and says, “I knew this would happen one day.” That’s not the kind of mindset that brings out the best in any of us as writers.

You’ve never given up on writing, and I suppose I really haven’t, either. Sometimes the joy gets buried and it all feels draining and pointless. But maybe that’s okay. Somehow I’m still writing, and I’ve finished that book and am halfway done with another already, and I’ve started writing for a few websites and blogs and even if that doesn’t make any difference to anyone else, I still enjoy it. I haven’t completely lost my joy.

I never thought a YouTube video would legitimately bring any sort of value to my life in the real world, but it has, and John, that’s pretty awesome to me.

I’ve written a few other letters to John Green (because why not?). You can read them here.

DFTBA, Meg<3

Image courtesy of The Telegraph.

Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

Dear John: Stories Aren’t Just for Readers


Storytelling is as complicated as it is simple. It’s very difficult, as a writer, to describe the writing process to someone who hasn’t experienced it themselves. Why? Because just as often as you have to think about your purpose for sitting down and writing a story, you must consider who you are sitting down and writing a story for – someone that is not you.

Complicating the matter even further is knowing that every story you write will mean something different to every person who reads it, no matter your intention for writing it in the first place.

We all write for different reasons, but something all writers have in common is the fact that writing stories is a powerful tool, and that is why we work so hard to refine our craft and learn how to tell the best stories we can, and how to tell them well.

Every story sends a message. Not just to the person reading it, but to the person writing it.

At NerdCon: Stories 2015, John Green spoke about stories and why they matter. Speaking from the viewpoint of a writer, he explained why he tells stories, and how they can be used to, in a sense, mentally, temporarily teleport from the real world to a world we create for ourselves. Stories are a way to escape our bodies and our minds and find comfort, at least for a little while, in the fiction we are attempting to bring to life through our love-hate relationship with words.

As often as we try to focus on who we are writing for – because, in the end, our readers are in a sense our customers, and their emotions and opinions do matter – John reminds us here that writing a story doesn’t start out that way. It all starts with us, and why we are writing the story we are writing. How that story resonates with other people comes later. Sometimes much, much later in the process.

Some of us start writing stories loosely based on things that have happened to us. Maybe we went through something when we were younger, or maybe it was recently, and we don’t know how else to come to terms with it and move on from it. It’s the same idea if you see someone else going through something and need to come to a better understanding of it yourself.

Maybe someone has seriously wronged you, and you want to use a story to try and see things from their point of view, in an attempt to understand why you have been targeted and hurt.

Maybe you’re at a point in your life where you feel you have a lot of important things to say, but nobody is listening, and a story is the only way you can seem to get your ideas out on paper.

Before the reader comes the writer, and when a story is born, the writer’s relationship with that story is the only relationship that matters. You have to use stories for your own benefit before they can be of any use to anyone else.

It’s okay to worry about what your readers might think. After you’re able to process what you needed to process while constructing your thoughts.

Here is John’s short monologue from NerdCon: Stories a few weeks ago.

Let’s take a step away from the reader today, and focus on us – the writers. Not everyone will love your story. That’s not what matters. What matters is that you’re writing something that is meaningful to you, and that is the only way for anyone else to gather meaning from it for themselves.

Image courtesy of youtube.com.

Dear John: Happy Birthday, and Thank You


Honestly, sometimes I forget I have become an adult.

It isn’t that I’m not willing to take responsibility for myself or that I don’t want to be in charge of my own life. It’s just that sometimes, when I wake up in the middle of the night because I drank coffee too late, because I’m thinking about my novel, because I’m stressed, because I’m paranoid my alarm won’t go off when it’s supposed to, I wish all the other things didn’t matter. Things like emails and job applications and choosing a profile picture that represents my absolute best, professional self.

Okay, so that last one isn’t at the top of my list of everyday worries. But on these mornings I just want to sleep so I don’t have to think, honestly, sometimes I start wondering how you do it all.

Let’s be clear: I know you’re just a regular human being who just so happens to have a little bit more awesome inside you than everybody else. I know being an intelligent, successful person really doesn’t make you all that different from people like me, who are still trying to find a thing or two (or twelve) they can be successful at without losing their joy.

What makes you stand out is your willingness to be real, John. And I think, today, that deserves to be recognized.

You see, we all carry fragments of our pasts around in the back pockets of our favorite pairs of jeans. It’s easy to forget they’re there, but every once in awhile, hello, we remember. And the thing is, everybody has their own outlet for dealing with how it feels to remember things we might not always want to remember. Or at least, everybody is doing their best to find theirs.

I never saw writing as an outlet for these kinds of things, really. Not until I saw the way you incorporate writing into your life, instead of making writing your entire life, all day, every day.

That’s what I used to want to do, just sit around and write all the time. But for some reason, I’d get really tired of it. I’d feel drained and, actually, kind of awful after long stretches of writing without stopping. For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out why.

You’re a writer, John, but that’s not all you are. That’s not all you talk about and that’s not all you’re willing to support or express interest in. You’re an interesting person to follow (that sounded creepy but I don’t mean it like that) because you always have something worthwhile to say. You know a lot about a lot of different things. You wear a lot of hats.

And on top of all that, on top of your work and your family and your dedication to Nerdfighteria, you’ve still found time to write a few books on the side.

Now I’m not saying I want to live an exact replica of your life. That would be going too far.

But I do admire you for being so willing to share what it is like to be you, the good and the bad and all the airport-sized chaos in-between. Because it reminds people like me that it’s okay to be 23 and have no idea what our lives are going to be like five, 10 years from now. It’s okay to try a lot of different things, even if we’re not so good at them, until we either get better at them or figure out what we’re good enough at to make it work in our favor.

It’s okay to have days where writing is the only thing we want to do. It’s okay to have days, weeks, months where writing is just something we do at our own pace, when we can, because sometimes there are things that take precedence.

It’s okay to forget we have become adults. And at the same time, it’s okay to be an adult, because that’s when everything eventually falls into place.

Thanks for reminding us we’re going to make it.

We hope you have a good day, all of us, and many more to come.

Best wishes.

Image courtesy of John Green.

Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and health. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi, Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine.  She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink. Follow Meg on Twitter. 

Dear John: We Read You First


Today, especially today, we can’t turn around without hearing about something else amazing you’ve done. Your book is now a movie (yet not for the first time). You’re flying around VidCon like a superhero right now, because to those outside your circle, you can do anything, and you have nothing but positive messages to leave in your wake. You’re in this country. On that talk show. Hanging out with this person. Being awesome, as always. Always.

But you see, John, there’s something we’ve been meaning to talk with you about. We, the ones who have stuck with you since the beginning. We, the ones who were reading your books before anyone really knew who you were and why you were so awesome.

Before we followed you into Nerfighteria, John, we loved your books, and we loved you for writing them, and we want nothing more than to continue to breathe in the products of your literary madness (the good kind). We still love you. However, we can only read and reread your books so many times before we lose our own minds.

John, please. For the good of the people. For the sanity of nerd-saturated humanity. Finish writing your next book. Soon.

It’s not that we don’t love your weekly exchanges with Hank; CrashCourse; Mental Floss; your Twitter addiction (but please, don’t stop tweeting, we need our daily fix). But you can’t forget where you came from. You can’t forget the words that started it all, the stories that shaped your career, the pages filled with inspiration we secretly reread again and again, as if we can’t get enough.

There seems to be a pattern in the timeline of your previous publications of the novel variety, John. And based on what we’re seeing, we don’t like the predictable outcome.

Looking for Alaska (2005)

An Abundance of Katherines (2006)

Paper Towns (2008)

Will Grayson, Will Grayson (2010)

The Fault In Our Stars (2012)

Your first two releases were only a year apart; the third, fourth and fifth: two years between each. It is now over halfway through 2015, meaning it has been over three years since the January 2012 release of your most recent book, and WE ARE SUFFOCATING.

Even if this pattern continued, and the book you may or may not be working on right now somehow miraculously got a 2016 release date, this is still a very long time for us to wait. Remember, we read you before we watched you. Your words are part of us. Forever.

You are honest, John, and you make us all laugh whether we need to or we don’t. But you also understand your audience better than anyone. You know what resonates with us. You know what matters to us. You care about what we care about. Your books reflect that. And reading them makes us care even if we didn’t know we weren’t.

We know life gets busy, and there’s family and adulting and the never FTBA’ing, but you’re a writer. You need to write words as much as any of us, more than many of us need to read them. It can’t be healthy to keep even yourself away from this element of your work. And sure, you’re probably writing a little every day, in cars, on planes, stuck in airports. But promise us you haven’t forgotten. Promise us there will be more words.

Hurry home, John. Write a little. Write a lot. Write because you love it. And because, shamelessly, we need you never to stop.

Love&hugs, your readers<3

Image courtesy of the Hollywood Reporter.

A recent graduate with a B.A. in English and a completed major in nutrition, currently seeking a graduate degree in health communication, Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and dietetics. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi (and the mastermind behind this site), Meg is an editor for College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine’s Stone Soup.  She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink magazine. Follow Meg on Twitter. 

There’s One Part of the New Edition of “Looking for Alaska” I Almost Like More Than the Book Itself

blog0625 Yesterday afternoon John Green teased us with the “possibility” of Looking for Alaska movie news. Since then he has officially announced that a movie is in the works, and though he’s had mixed feelings about it since handing over the movie rights, he’s probably just as excited as we are (well, I am).

Alaska was not only the first book Green published, but it also happens to be the first book of his I happened to read. Which explains why, even though I don’t buy “doubles” of books or read them more than once (with a few exceptions), I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a 10th anniversary edition.

I read it straight through, cried like a baby and felt my love for writing and editing take flight again.

There are a lot of books out there, I know. This one is probably one of my favorites though. I fell in love with it all over again—faster, harder the second time, even—when I got to the back of the book for the new edition’s “extras.” I hadn’t paid much attention to what those would be before I got there. I fell for it from the outside in, which you can’t really count as judging a book by its cover since I’d read it once before (loop hole).

What I found back there? I liked it almost as much as I liked the book.

Real-World Editing

I’ve been a magazine editor for over two years now, which doesn’t seem like a very long time unless you truly understand how much daily work goes into the process (a lot). I’ve been an “unofficial editor” longer than that, because not only do I love ideas and words and storytelling—I also love refining a finished product.

So if you have your own copy of the 10th anniversary edition, you know why I was so intrigued.

The new edition includes notes and excerpts from Green and his editor, giving readers a glimpse into the revisions process and how difficult it can be to take a good story and make it good enough to sell. I can’t remember off the top of my head how many times he had to rewrite one of the shorter, yet one of the most significant, scenes in the story (no spoilers, but if you haven’t read it, why are you here??), but it took multiple revisions to get it where it needed to be. They had to count days and keep track of dates.

To me, this was eye-opening enough to motivate me to keep working on my own book, even though I’m not working with an editor. You don’t think about how much work actually goes into a book when you’re reading it, sometimes not even as a writer. I enjoy a good story, and just because I’m an editor doesn’t mean I can’t separate my editing brain from my reading brain (though it does creep in with a criticism every now and then, and typographical errors drive me absolutely insane). I loved seeing this. I needed to see it. I’m sure not a lot of people even looked at these excerpts. But I did.

Why It Matters

While I do love the story and it really spoke to me, rereading it at a particularly rough patch in my life (I’m happy, just stuck in a rut—we’ve all been there), I’m fascinated by how stories transform from first to final drafts. It’s one of the things I love most about being an editor. I can evaluate where a writer is at the beginning of an internship semester and watch her develop her skills and improve significantly by the end, from week to week. Even from raw draft to article. I love my job because I understand what it’s like not to realize your own shortcomings until someone else offers to help you fix them up. I think novelists and their editors go through similar processes.

Green has talked before about how Alaska started and how much he struggled to get a full story on paper at first. I think this is also something else readers forget: writing a novel sometimes takes years before it even gets to the revisions stage. Editors don’t get enough credit. They’re the ones who help transform books from good to better to astonishing. I love how this edition of the book highlighted the importance of a relationship between writer and editor, even if that wasn’t the original intent (or maybe it was, I haven’t done my research, I apologize, it’s finals week—my excuse for everything lately).

I have such respect for successful authors because they’re the ones who are really willing to go through revision after revision to make their stories the best they can be. You can’t work with an editor and expect everything to be perfect the first, third or even fifth time around. Criticism can be hard to take, but you learn over time how important it is to take it seriously, not personally. I don’t ask for a lot of feedback for my own work (maybe I should get into that habit)—not because I don’t want it, but because I want to have a finished project to work with.

I’m just like you—I struggle with time management and juggling everything and trying to keep writing toward the top of the to-do list. But it took years for Alaska to become the book we know it as today, and even longer for the promise of a movie to unfold. I can wait a little longer, until the end of the week when I get a short break from school and can focus on writing and editing and all the things that keep me going (including these posts, so if you’re reading, I appreciate you, I really do).

Love&hugs, Meg

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

A recent graduate with a B.A. in English and a completed major in nutrition, currently seeking a graduate degree in health communication, Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and dietetics. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi (and the mastermind behind this site), Meg is an editor for College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine’s Stone Soup.  She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink magazine. Follow Meg on Twitter.

Would John Green Have Been Such a Successful Author without Vlogbrothers?


This question has poked at me for weeks.

Before any of you get angry (avoiding giant squids at all costs) I liked John Green and his books before I watched, and I mean really watched, his and Hank’s videos (and even more so after the fact). I’m expressing a thought, not bashing someone I admire. Promise. I want to discuss, not at all criticize.

To give a little background, through NaNoWriMo I discovered an aspiring writer who also happened to be a vlogger on YouTube. This would have had to have been in 2008 or maybe 2009 (still in high school, I try to block most of the specifics out). John may have done a video about it and I saw that, too.

Anyway, this vlogger was also something called a “Nerdfighter” and at that point I had no idea what that, or DFTBA, meant. I just liked to follow people who wrote like I wrote, and she followed the Vlogbrothers, so I sort of hopped on the bandwagon. I watched a few videos. They were entertaining. I didn’t really understand whatever this nerd-culture-thing was though.

I mostly stuck to writing as time went on, but my curiosity about John’s books persuaded me enough to buy a few. I fell in love with them, and Will Grayson, Will Grayson ended up being the first new release of his I bought fairly soon after its release date. I continued watching Vlogbrothers videos on and off (mostly off) until a few months ago, when I decided I needed to understand what a Nerdfighter was and why Hank and John were so, well, awesome.

So I did what many have tried and I suppose succeeded to do: watch thousands of Vlogbrothers videos, starting from January 1, 2007, in order, straight through to 2015.

Quite a feat on top of work and school and, you know, maintaining baseline homeostasis and all that. But the thing is, it’s almost like you can’t fully understand the full awesomeness of his books without having seen the videos. It goes the other way, too. That’s why I did it. I love books, but because I’ve wanted to publish my own for so long (still working on it), I have this deep appreciation and curiosity for and about the writers behind the books I love.

This raises yet another question: is it because of John’s books that we also like his videos, or because of his videos that we remember to pick up, read and appreciate his books?

I don’t think there’s a definite answer to that one; I think it goes both ways. I think both of these elements of his literary and virtual character—the writer and the video blogger, though there are more—hold each other up in ways neither could do alone.

John’s books are good (good enough for the world to go crazy about them all over again, now that there are movies sprouting) but at first, and long before his and Hank’s success as YouTubers, he was just another young adult author. There are more YA authors out there than we often know what to do with. I write in that genre and Sarah Dessen is my second favorite behind John, so that’s not a jab at YA at all either.

Yet when TFIOS was announced, Nerdfighteria went so crazy about it that the publisher moved up the release date (basically so all the nerds would shut up and read the freaking book already, but logistically because what publisher would pass up the chance to explode sales earlier than initially anticipated due to a No. 1 spot on bookseller sites even before it came out?).

John didn’t know it at first—after all, he and Hank started vlogging back-and-forth as basically a bet between brothers (it became more than that, obviously)—but he’d figured out a new way to casually promote his authorship before most people even knew how YouTube worked.

The reason it’s so hard not to like him (well, if you don’t, that’s completely up to you and I’m not judging) is that he promotes his work all the time—but not because he has to. He is pretty much a master of virtual communities. He is not afraid to show people who he is or what his life is like, which makes his books so much more heartfelt and meaningful. We see the person behind the words he writes. This is exactly why I try to encourage aspiring writers, like myself, to immerse themselves in their genre’s virtual community even if they haven’t published anything yet.

Why? Because a book becomes more than a book the moment you understand why it was written. Without the author, there would be no book. You can’t ever fully appreciate a book, essentially, unless you know enough about the writer to just ‘get it.’

I do believe, without his consistent online presence, John’s books still would have made impressions on many readers. They are highly relatable, entertaining and well-written. However, I don’t think he could have made it to the level of success he’s at now without it. Where are all the young adults, the most likely to read YA novels? On the Internet. On YouTube. Looking for public figures, or really just people, who understand them and their struggles and speak to them like the intelligent individuals they want the world to know they are.

Where is John Green, when he’s not writing or roaming around Europe with the Paper Towns cast? On the Internet. On YouTube and Twitter and Tumblr, speaking directly to an audience who wants to hear what he has to say, believing in and accepting everyone, giving them a pretty good reason to want to read his books without having to do much of anything extra to push them to read.

As far as fame goes, I think this guy has it all figured out.

But he’s not just famous, really. He’s a real, honest person who just happens to write books and make videos and be awesome. That’s why I appreciate him, because completely on accident, he figured out how to do it all well, and do it right.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of John Green [Facebook].

A recent graduate with a B.A. in English and a completed major in nutrition, currently seeking a graduate degree in health communication, Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and dietetics. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi (and the mastermind behind this site), Meg is an editor for College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine’s Stone Soup.  She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink magazine. Follow Meg on Twitter.

Dear John: I Will Always Stand Up for Your Words


I’m not writing this post to “get attention” or “increase traffic.” I don’t expect many to sift through the rest of the content being posted about this today and find this near the bottom. Writers have feelings. They are entitled to share those feelings. This, of course, is a major theme and inspiration for the post itself.

I must confess, it’s been a long time since I’ve felt strongly enough about a current event to double up on posts in a day. I’m actually sitting here almost “speechless” because of how deeply I have been affected by what I have been seeing.

So the quality of the writing that follows won’t be great, but I have something to say and I hope you’ll take note, even if you don’t agree.

Let it be known: I am a Nerdfighter. I am a writer and a long-time reader of books of all kinds. I have an English degree and write, unofficially, in the young adult genre. I have been a fan of John Green’s books since I was in high school and have a growing respect for all the work he does outside of his role as a young adult author.

But I want to focus just on that right now—on the fact that Green is an author, a very successful one, but he is also a person. He is a person who, though not perfect (who is?), has never done anything publicly to deserve being thrust into a negative stream of publicity the day he leaves for the Paper Towns tour.

This started out with someone on Twitter calling him out for using the “r-word” in Paper Towns. This was enough to send me on a few rants (which I am prone to do, and if you’d like to hear more, let me know) but that had more to do with the reader’s response than how Green handled it (I think he did the right thing, even though using the r-word once in a book is not that big of a deal).

Then this article was brought to my attention, in which Green is quoted as deciding to use his Tumblr account to post “more original content and less reblogging/commenting/answering asks/etc.,…” from now on, because of unnecessary accusations against his morals and character.

Here’s why this bothers me so much.

I have always praised Green for the dedication he has shown to his readers and followers. His responsiveness and involvement in the online community represents the type of interaction all modern authors really need to have with their readers (see this post for more thoughts on this). His posts and replies are authentic. You know it’s him when you read his Tweets, not just a behind-the-screen PR pro. If he makes a mistake—which he has, who hasn’t?—he’s been known to acknowledge it.

He was right to respond to the Twitter follower who wanted to know why he had one of his characters say the r-word. He respects that follower’s feelings and has made a decision not to use the word in a book from here on out.

He was right to respond to these terrible accusations on Tumblr, written by who-knows-who for who-cares-what-reason, saying he needed to take himself out of the conversation for a while in order to avoid being treated so terribly again.

But he shouldn’t have had to do it.

Do you know what’s worse? People on Tumblr, or any social network for that matter, are treated this way 24/7, and basically forced to stop participating in their own communities to avoid more hurt, and no one ever talks about that.

At least with the “r-word” situation, there is a positive in that it brings to light how offensive the word can be to some people and how, in the real world, we shouldn’t use it without expecting consequences.

Green received support for his response to the Tumblr accusations. But do you know what? The Tumblr users who posted the message, they got the attention they wanted in the first place. And that upsets me more.

Authors have a specific obligation to their readers. They should be allowed—they should want—to engage in conversations on the same social networks everyone else uses, to remind their readers there are real people behind the books they read, and they’re often times nothing like the characters they write, and that’s a beautiful thing.

No matter who you are or what you do (or don’t do) for a living, you’re going to come in contact with people who are only there to hate. That’s reality and if you can’t accept that, you just can’t handle a presence online. That’s the truth.

And for the record, Green handled this situation well, and remained very transparent, which is what his followers admire so much about him. I’m glad he did. Even if it brought even more attention to the situation, his lack of a response would have done even more damage.

Why do we have to push people into that trap?

As a writer you’re going to tick people off, and make them despise you and your family, and say all the things no one thinks you should say, and some people aren’t going to be happy, and no one is going to be happy with you all the time.

But look how down-to-Earth Green has proven himself to be. You can’t win. Either you’re too fake or you’re too real. Thankfully, his honesty is getting him a lot more positive attention than otherwise. It’s also no coincidence that this news came out at the exact same time the “r-word” articles started circling.

We’re so bored with our Internet-based lives, we can’t hold ourselves back from latching onto the subject of an Entertainment Weekly article and ripping them apart.


Well if you’re going to do it, say something nice. It’s enough someone had to make him feel bad for using one offensive word in an otherwise phenomenal book. Now this is going too far, and if you ever wonder why I’m not on Tumblr, now you know.

Haters will be haters, but John Green hasn’t done a thing to deserve this kind of negativity. Did anyone else see all his Tweets about his kids this morning? COME ON.

This was my Facebook response to the EW article. Some people liked it.

Screen shot 2015-06-13 at 2.21.45 PM

Use your words. Remind your favorite authors how much they mean to you, and kill the trolls with kindness and a major boost in book and movie ticket sales. The end.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of John Green [Facebook].

A recent graduate with a B.A. in English and a completed major in nutrition, currently seeking a graduate degree in health communication, Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and dietetics. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi (and the mastermind behind this site), Meg is an editor for College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine’s Stone Soup.  She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink magazine. Follow Meg on Twitter.