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Thursday, May 31, 2007


Tonight, friends, I was out celebrating the release of Girl At Sea. This is something I usually don’t do. Not Girl At Sea, specifically, but book releases in general.

Book releases are strangely ninja-like. The books just appear. No one wakes you in the middle of the night to let you know that they’re stacking them at Barnes and Noble. They just show up, sometimes over the course of a few days. So, it can be kind of easy to slide over the whole thing. Sure, I like to blog, and send out Free Monkey, and give away books, and talk to you guys! But me, personally? I tend to just go about my business.

Besides, the last time I really tried to do anything on the release day was when my first book, The Key to the Golden Firebird, came out. And that something basically consisted of:

1. almost getting arrested in the HarperCollins building
2. falling into Sixth Avenue because the heels I was wearing destroyed my feet (see below for details)
3. sitting on Daphne Unfeasible’s couch all night because my feet hurt so much, and eventually putting on her comically inflated flip-flops and stumbling to the corner to buy ice cream

I told John and Sarah Green that I generally don’t do anything big for myself when my books come out. They said, “No way, mj. You must do something!” So we met tonight and had drinks at the famous Algonquin Hotel, home of the Algonquin Round Table. I have an unabashed fascination with the Algonquin’s literary history. Anywhere that Robert Benchley and Dorothy Parker had drinks . . . it’s good enough for me.

Then John and Sarah took me to a breathtaking fancy dinner, where I got to watch John Green try to pick out wine, which was kind of like watching a cat pick out a television. (To be fair, the wine list was easily seventy-five pages long, and all we had really figured out was that we wanted white, and that we didn’t want it to cost $3500, which was what several of the bottles were going for.) We were somewhat baffled by the total fancitude of the menu, as it did seem to be going out of its way to be confusing. In the end, I had plain old spaghetti, because the waiter recommended it so warmly that he almost wept. And you know what? It was some of the best spaghetti I ever had—with a smoky, spicy sauce—rivaled only by the spaghetti I had in Sorrento when researching Girl At Sea. (I work hard for you guys.)

In any case, it was a fantastic evening.

Many of you working on book reports write in and ask me what I like. I like so many things, I find this hard to answer. But I can tell you what I don’t like, because those things are less numerous, and I dislike them in enough detail that I can go on and on about them. And what else are blogs for, if not to go on and on and on?

Plus, these things are very relevant today.

I’ve included some things I do like as a counterpoint, just to keep things balanced.


I don’t like reading passages from my books aloud, in front of groups. Which is a massive problem right now, as I face down what is pretty much a month of doing nothing but.

I don’t suffer from stagefright. It’s not that. I’ll happily sit in front of a large audience as long as you make me and do pretty much whatever you want, as long as it doesn’t involve me reading from one of my books. I think this is because the monologue in my head goes something like this, whenever I am forced to read:

Okay, Johnson, what was the point of that last sentence? You could have skipped it. In fact, you should have tied that sentence to this next paragraph, which cuts way too early. Just skip. Skip! Skip to the . . .

Oh, now you’ve skipped and it makes no sense.

Wait . . . wait . . . Oh God. It’s a typo. This book is ENTIRELY MADE OF TYPOS! I’VE WRITTEN THE FIRST ALL-TYPO NOVEL!

It’s not said in a terribly self-critical, everything-I-do-is-bad voice. It’s more of a crisp editorial voice that wants to go home and start rewriting. Which I can’t do, because the book is out, and I am reading it in front of people. And the process of revision (blog entry coming soon) is not a pretty one that you would want to watch, anyway.

No amount of cheering makes this better. I am 100% NO ME GUSTA on this. Which is why, if you’ve ever seen me read, you may have watched:

- me rambling about whatever comes to mind
- me trying to start a Q&A immediately after my name is announced, even if the audience has no questions because they don’t know who I am
- me doing imitations of John Green, even if the audience does not know who he is
- me doing an improvised dance (everyone speaks dance)
- me asking questions of the (now slightly alarmed) audience
- me reading from books that I did not write
- me quietly trying to escape the room via an alarmed exit


However much I don’t want to read my own book to you, I love coming out and seeing you and doing all of the above things. In fact, if you guys have any ideas for things I can do instead of reading aloud, PLEASE PUT THEM IN THE COMMENTS!


You know how girls are supposed to love shoes and shoe shopping and how we’ll do anything for shoes? Not this girl. This girl thinks shoe shopping should be outlawed by the Geneva Convention. Shoe shopping is something I do under extreme duress.

The why behind this one is anatomical.

I made out fairly well, in the generally healthy, normally formed body department. I am one of those people who can be heard bragging, after a glass of wine or two or when sitting in front of an audience expecting me to read from my book, that I have better than perfect vision. No one ever cares, but I go on about it anyway.

But it all falls apart with the feet.

I have horrible feet. Seriously horrible feet that should be cut off at the ankle and stored in carefully sealed jars, which should be locked away and guarded at all times in case they reanimate and become evil zombie feet. (I have, in fact, long been working on a musical based on this premise with my friend J. Krimble. It’s called FOOTZAPOPIN!)

They are flat. Not just a little flat. Very, very flat. So flat that I have caused at least one doctor to let out a low whistle and say, “Wow, those are profoundly flat feet.”

My feet are flatter than these.

The result is that I can never seem to find shoes that don’t feel like tiny bear traps clamped to my feet. This rarely stops me from buying heels, but the pain I suffer can go on for days.

The truth is, I’d just rather go barefoot. Or have my feet cut off, jarred, and have a hoverboard attached right to my legs. But since no one will do this, and since I have to go out of doors, and since hoverboards don’t exist, I have to shoe shop.

Everyone I know loves to shoe shop. Daphne Unfeasible swoons at the idea. I wish shoes would just show up in my closet, placed there by elves. I get so bored, looking for shoes. I can see that many of them are pretty, and I like pretty things as much as the next person, but mostly, they just all look the same. Especially summer flat sandals, which I definitely can’t wear, because the flatness of it all would become so overwhelming that I might actually start evolving on the spot into some new kind of flat human.

I needed shoes to go and do the readings. You can see the problem here.


After I come hobbling in, I like to put my feet up and do a little internet research at my favorite site, I CAN HAS CHEEZEBURGER. I could look at this site for hours, because it has pictures like this:

Foot pain, forgotten!

I am already waiting for your brilliant comments about how to deal with this reading situation. You guys are my only hope. And if you want to bring be shoes, or if you are cobblers . . .

And you’re still coming out, right? I mean, I may make puppets or something. Trust me, you’ll like it!

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Blogger Jez said...

You should lead the crowd in renditions of ABBA songs--I would definately join in with you even if we were the only two singing.

As for shoe shopping, I'm also one of those girls who hates to shop for shoes. I have a big space between my big toe and my...uh...the toe next to it, so much so there's room for a 6th toe. So I have trouble finding regular shoes because of how wide my feet are, when they are actually short in length. I stick with flip flops mostly because they work so well with the space! It's like my feet were made for flip flops!
Other than those though, I absolutely hate shopping for shoes.

9:24 AM  
Anonymous Ileana said...

I WOULD come see you if you came to Los Angeles. Since I have not seen it on your list of places to visit, I will simply have to imagine that you visited and that it was fun/ny.

Anywho: An idea for what to do instead of reading is to print out copies of the first chapter, pass them around, and have the people in the audience read it for you, one person at a time. They would be so immensly distracted waiting for their own turn that they would never ever actually listen to what anyone else is saying. And it would be interactively fun. Wins all around.

10:21 AM  
Anonymous Ileana (again) said...

Umm...the comment above is mine, too. I just realized that it sounds like every person will be reading the entire chapter, which would take forever and a day. Let me clarify-each person would read one paragraph, then the next person would read the next, and so on.

10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maureen! I think I just might have an insanely brilliant idea as to how to get over your hatred of book reading! Well, I think it's brilliant anyway.

Okay, here it is:


Okay, so here's the skinny. You could bring (or have the bookstore arrange this for you maybe) a small TV, and your laptop and plug it in somehow (I know one CAN do this I just don't know how) and have a pre-recorded video of you reading the chapter play that people could watch! That way you can do it over and over until it's PERFECT and you don't have to worry about stuttering and when it's playing you could just plug your ears or something. Or MAYBE you could have Free-Monkey read it for you in your video!

Then you would have much more sanity to go around and talk to your fans like you love to. I bet John Green might even help you.

I hope I've helped!

Getting Girl At Sea in the mail TOMORROW! *Squee*


Hannah Rose

10:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my God, puppets! I'm sure if you made puppets you totally would not have to do readings.

11:44 AM  
Blogger ozjazza said...

Just don't read. This is my new approach. I tell a story about the book instead or about Elvis or about monkey knife fighting book ninjas. Reading is lame! (Unless it's someone really good at doing the reading then it's deeply awesome.)

On NO ACCOUNT use puppets. Many people are afraid of them.

I do not love shoe shopping. I do not hate it either. But I would much rather be at a fancy restaurant picking out the good wine . . .


12:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ooooo u no what would be really cool. I you showed a bunch of those I CAN HAS CHEEZEBURGER pics. Everybody would be so busy alternatively cooing and cracking up that they wouldn't even mention the lack of book reading.

With shoe shopping, i start off really enthusiastic but then i realise that all the shoes i like are way beyond my budget and by the end of the day i'm all grumpy and tired. I seriously don't know more than one girl who likes shoe shopping.

Good Luck with shoes and reading


3:05 PM  
Blogger DeAnna said...

I saw your ninja book yesterday. It was trying to sneak away after assassinating Martha Stewart Living, but I could tell.

4:23 PM  
Blogger Ian said...

Instead of reading, you should engage the audience in a talent show. Make them come up and show off a little. Introduce it by saying "you know, it's not really about ME so much as it is about YOU." Of course, it really is about you, but if you're charming enough, they will forget that, and then it's really still about you because you're doing something much more enjoyable to you.

5:17 PM  
Anonymous Maria said...

I think Justine has the answer. I saw Chris Crutcher keep a gymnasium full of 7th and 8th graders enthralled - yes, I said *enthralled* - just by talking about inspirations of stories, people he's met, the process of writing, etc. You can do that. You're interesting. You're funny. You're hot (hence, the appeal for junior high boys.) There you go - you're golden.

5:37 PM  
Anonymous Elissa said...

I would hire (or coerce, or kidnap at gunpoint) an excellent (or mediocre, even tolerably good would suffice) voice actor to read the book for you while you sit back and bask in the glory of the awesomeness of your written word.

I can relate to your shoe issue. I've heard many doctors remark on the largeness of my tonsils. Yes, Tonsils. They could be their own little entities, but at least they don't need shoes. ;-)

6:13 PM  
Anonymous Lindsay N. said...

My brother wears size sixteen shoe. I don't know how this is in anyway relevant, but I thought I'd put it out there.

And I don't see the harm in dancing at a book reading. Seems to me that it would be quite entertaining. Especially some interpertive dancing- or hip-hop- oh, I know, you could riverdance.

7:41 PM  
Anonymous Liz said...

I'm glad I'm not alone in not enjoying shoe shopping. (Pigeon-toed feet, ugh!)
As for avoiding reading, why not forget your copy of the book? And have an accomplice take all the copies of that said book and tote them over to, say, CSI-type book section. A bit of manual labor and slightly obvious, but it's an option.

7:55 PM  
Anonymous Jessica said...

Make people from the audience act out the scene!

That way, in spite of the overly-uncomfortable shoes, you can sit back and watch your book come to life. Also, they'll be too busy acting to realize that you aren't reading to them.

8:26 PM  
Anonymous Dawn Edelen said...

I wish I could have had dinner with John and Sarah Green. Because they are that cool. Plus, it would have been great to see John try to pick out the wine. I'm not much of a shoe shopper either. I'm very much a fan of going to Old Navy, picking out a couple pairs of flip-flops and wearing only those all summer. Even through the months of Autumn until it I start to realize I can't feel my toes anymore.

I'm very excited for Girl at Sea! I was at Borders and didn't see it yet, so I'll keep waiting!

9:34 PM  
Anonymous kiersten said...

I too hate shoe shopping. i have unbelievably narrow feet. this may seem fine and dandy. "you can fit in those cute little shoes that would squish other people's feet to the point of death by falling over because you lost feeling in your feet!" erm... not really. I have freaky long toes. i would try to avoid sandals at all cost. Well, I would but I like them too much to not wear them.

10:36 PM  
Anonymous kiersten said...

oh and i will be at barnes and noble on tuesday. I can't wait. I don't mind rambling. If i did, i would never be able to listen to myself. I know who you are and will ask random questions for you. (if i can think of any) i know who john green is. dancing is fun. i promise to answer questions (even if i am slightly alarmed) if you're reading from books you didn't write, I suggest wicked. or something by scott westerfeld.

10:41 PM  
Anonymous kiersten said...

sorry last comment. for now. i agree with Lindsay N. you should riverdance! i used to irish dance. that would be fun.

10:48 PM  
Anonymous Rexroad I. said...

You could get Daphne up there to riverdance with you. I have it on good authority that she can step like a proper Irish girl.

The Smallest Improbable says you can shoe shop with her -- she gets lots of cute shoes and wears them on the wrong feet, but doesn't seem to mind -- perhaps her good feet and your bad feet would balance out.

She will also wear your shoes for you, if you ask; sometimes, even if you don't.

12:33 AM  
Anonymous Stephanie said...

I feel your pain; I have flat feet as well. It's hard to find shoes that don't make my feet hurt after less then a half hour of walking. My friends are convinced I am a "duck" because of this exceedingly flat feet. That name also may have something to do with the fact that I have a tendency to make a quacking noise when I'm scared or surprised.

So, on the bright side? You aren't being called Duck Girl. That's always a plus right?

3:25 AM  
Anonymous Sidda said...

So why did Hank Green call you?!

4:05 AM  
Anonymous kiersten said...

have you tried orthodics? (or however you spell that) my friend got them becuase she has the same problem and it was messing up her spine.

5:08 AM  
Anonymous kiersten said...

and puppets sound fun. how about a girl at sea puppet show? then you wont have to read just act it out.

5:11 AM  
Anonymous Boothy said...

Alright, unfortunately, the only time you will be near me is at the ALA Conference and I'm not sure that I can go, though I am checking the site out to see what I can do.

Also, mental images of you dancing to hip-hop or riverdancing has made me giggle IMMENSELY. I would totally love to see that. You could have a dance party in the bookstore! I'd join you, if you were actually gonna be at a bookstore in the DC/Northern VA area. Or if I can get into the ALA conference.

And I actually don't really like it when authors do a reading. I much prefer them to talk about the book itself, or just whatever comes to their head. I can read the book for myself, lol. I like hearing more about the author and such.

5:19 AM  
Anonymous Ally said...

haha I read about the cheezburger website before I went to school so in Computer Tech i got on there and it's so funny! I keep laughing out loud and the teacher was giving me crazy looks. But when I'm at school I can't get on your website becuase your URL has the word BLOG in it so it "Access Dennied"'s it. Which makes me really mad because you can trick it on Scott's but not on yours or Justine's. So I guess the schools are banning your website too. No, I'm kidding.

8:31 AM  
Blogger Ashley L. said...

I was going to suggest the same thing Jessica suggested: group interpretation. You might have to suck it up and be at least one of the people acting out the scene, but you should make some poor, unwilling audience member who just wants to melt into the floor help you out by reading some dialogue with you.

Also, read just short segments at a time, and then take a lot of time between the segments to tell funny stories about the writing process or John Green or Libba Bray's glass eye, etc.

8:31 AM  
Anonymous julia c said...

instead of acctually reading from teh book you could hold it up and be like this book is about bla bla bla and though i would love to read from it for you! i wouldn't want to ruin anything for you when you when you get the chance to read it. then you could like ramble on about how you got the idea to write the book, and why it was fun, and the best parts aout the writing procces and teh worst parts about the writing procces until people totaly forget about the acctual book altogether. and then ask if they have anyquestions and that can last a long time cause seriously alot of people have alot of questions about the most random stuff like what color toothbrush the main character uses. sry if there are alot of typos. i can't spell and i never paid attention when they tried to teach us how to type properly.

4:41 PM  
Anonymous Jessica said...

Guess what:

I finally got Girl at Sea!

They had it at Books-A-Million when I went last night, so instead of getting my mother a birthday present, I got myself one. :D

I'm halfway through and it's great!

9:34 PM  
Anonymous kiersten said...

isn't it? i have about 20 pages to go.

10:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't say how it ends!!! I can't get it till after finals. Which I shold be studing for now. But this is more fun :) I like the idea of the people there reading the book!
I would so do that for you! I can't read what I write in front of other people but if it's something someone else wrote I can.
I also hate shoe shopping. I will wear flip flops or bare feet all year. But the school I go to won't let us wear flip flops - Catholic School = stupid uniforms - and I have to hunt for shoes that are "exceptable". Which means shoes I'm forced to go shoping. For shoes. At the mall. I walk away from the book store. Where I'd rather be.
I just wrote alot, sorry bout that.

11:58 PM  
Anonymous kiersten said...

i won't say how it ends. all i will say is that it's WICKED AWSOME> and that if you haven't gotten it yet, you should. I finished exactly 18 min. ago. sooooooooo good!

12:38 AM  
Anonymous Melanie said...

Yah i finally got the new books, I wanted to get it on Tuesday but my Mum wouldnt let me....so I"m off to go read it!!!!

12:05 AM  
Anonymous tess said...

Aaauugh, I can't beleive you like i can has cheezeburger. My mom really loves it and I said it was really really really lame. Then I am reading this, and it turns out she is looking over my shoulder

So, of course, she goes, "Hah! See? Maureen Johnson likes I can has cheezeburger! Why don't you?"

1:19 AM  
Anonymous kiersten said...

oooOOOooo I just got my girl at sea card! *squeal*

7:04 PM  
Anonymous Danica said...

Personally, I adore shoe shopping. As far as feet go, I think I hit the jackpot. I don't want to brag, but I take pride in my feet. The only problem is they are FREAKING TINY. We're talking size 5 here. There's not much selection in sizes that small. So sometimes I'll find shoes that I REALLY REALLY WANT, but they won't be small enough. (Sigh) But whatever. I deal with it. lol

3:21 AM  
Anonymous Danica said...

PS: Hooray for I Can Has Cheezburger!!!

3:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I LOVE cheezburger. I found it a few months ago, before we got Crash the Kitten. (Who is just turned 8 months old. She's turning into Crash the Cat...) Crash seems to be posing for cheezburger all the time...

My sympathies on the shoe shopping. I have the opposite issue, astonishingly high arches. I once had a Dr say "you could build a church on those arches!" and then suggest to my mother that "we" do surgery to correct the issue. Basically, break both feet and mend them with smaller arches. I was in high school at the time. That was a major mother/daughter HELL NO bonding moment. But anyway, I like to shop for books and music. I hate shopping for everything else including groceries. My husband is remarkabley sweet about this.

But anyway, good luck with tBT issue in Bville. My letter wasn't published either. sigh... Interestingly enough, here in the Baked Apple, we have a major cool used bookstore chain that celebrates banned books. I went looking for tBT and I couldn't find it in the YA section. It was in the General (read non-kid) Lit section. I asked to have it placed in the YA section with Meg and Co, and the manager gave me a nervous shuffle and a sideways glance and said "I'll pass that up the line. Some parents y'know...." His voice trailed off sort of nervously. He suddenly looked over my shoulder and said "oh excuse me, I'm needed over there." and joined two other employees standing behind me. (I turned to see where he was going.) Funny thing is, they both seemed surprised when he joined them... This bears looking into, I think.

Sorry for the length...

3:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't you get one of your many peons to read for you? Like me?

2:49 AM  
Anonymous ShellTheShark said...

Well, you could hire a band (perhaps a folk band? or perhaps a very hard metal band?) to write a song that sumarizes the event or emotions in the reading, then when you are expected to read from the book, just turn on the stereo really loud and DANCE get everyone to DANCE DANCE DANCE. they won't even realize that you should be reading!

I don't really like shoe shopping much. there are many reasons for this.
1. I have balance/klutz issues. this rules out all shoes with any form of a heel. leaving flat sandals, converse, and skate shoes
2. Cool shoes cost mucho money. yo no tengo mucho money
3. i have very long, skinny feet (especially when compared to my lack of height). skate shoes tend to be wide so they don't fit. converse fit quite nicely, but make my feet look twice as long. and sandals expose my feet so you can see how long and skinny and way to big they are.

2:43 AM  

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