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Wednesday, April 01, 2009


So, here we are on the first day of Blog Every Day April! I am very excited by the number of people who are participating . . . so many people who are signing on to write (or film) something EVERY SINGLE DAY this month. For example! My friends Charlieissocool, Alex “Nerimon” Day, and John Green! And many of you I’ve just met! (I am keeping a LONG LIST. It even has a Twitter at @BEDA09!)

Because it’s so new, I’m also going to remind everyone that this blog will be published here AND at the new maureenjohnson.ning.com, where you can hang out with other people, and write your own blogs, and chat.

From me . . . what you’re going to get is more or less of a blow-by-blow account of how I spend an entire month. Let’s start NOW.

So yesterday, I was filming a video for the release of the Suite Scarlett paperback. The filming, I was told, was going to be in the Algonquin Hotel, because it is a famous, classic New York hotel, and one of the scenes from the book takes place there. Yes! The Algonquin, home of the famous Round Table—the center of New York literary life in the 1930s! So classy! And we’d been booked into a room simply referred to as “the library” on the second floor, right across from the Helen Hayes Room. More classy!

I was expecting to find one person wandering around up there with a single video camera. What I got was an entire crew of people, and lights, and those umbrella things that photographers use, and those reflective things, and two cameras, and headsets, and someone walking the hallway to make sure the filming could continue without disruption.

I was put in a chair. There was already a table of makeup ready for me—a roll of brushes as long as my arm. After that, I was miked up and put in a chair, and things were placed around me, and lights and sound were checked.

When I was said and done, the first thing I realized was that the entire setup looked amazingly like the set of Monsterpiece Theater.


Alistair Cookie, Monsterpiece Theater

“This is like Monsterpiece Theater,” I said. But everyone else was too busy taping things to me to pay any attention to this. I had a LOT of stuff taped to me. I felt like a refrigerator.

So we filmed a bunch of stuff. Me talking about the book. Me saying hi to people shopping for books. Me reading. It was a lot of me doing stuff. And between takes (there was even one of those clapper things), the makeup woman would come over and polish me. I just sat very still throughout the whole thing.

I was reminded, sitting there, of the many, many articles I’ve read where actors talk about what it’s like to be on a set—the many hours they spend sitting in a makeup chair so that they can step in front of a camera and do something for two minutes. Then they have to get touched up and stuck back in their trailers.

But this was just me, talking about stuff. But you see what I mean, hopefully. I RELATED to the pain of movie stars. Later on, when we had to do some other shots, I was wandering around with my microphone strapped to me and a pack on my back and two people with cameras. And I had all of this MAKEUP on. I could see people looking at me and wondering who I could possibly be.

“This must be what WEATHERPEOPLE feel like,” I thought to myself.

Anyway, one of the questions I had to answer—several times, on several takes—was if I knew I was always going to be a writer, even when I was Scarlett’s age (15). I didn’t have anything ready to say, so I just started talking. On each successive take, I would a). try to remember what I’d just said, b). try to make it slightly more coherent.

The answer is . . . yes. Yes I did. I’ve been writing forever, largely because I was always a bit of an Indoor Child. You know what I mean. Likes indoor recess. Takes books to the playground and sits on the monkeybars with them. Bleeds easily.

I was also an only child. Only children are forced to come up with ways of entertaining themselves. I thought back on some of the games I invented to entertain myself as a tiny mj. Here are just a few:


This is where you jump into a pool and swim out to the middle, then imagine that a truck of lobsters as been pulled up to the swallow end and . . . inexplicably . . . been offloaded. The pool is now full of lobsters on one end. Your job: get out of the pool as quickly as you can by feverishly paddling to the ladder. (I don’t really know how fast lobsters can move. In my imagination, it was REALLY FAST.)

Can also be played with crabs.


You and your friends have been kidnapped by a madman who forces you to live in a grocery store. Every once in a while, he comes down and chases you through the aisles. As you shop, figure out how you can defend yourself and build shelters out of the things you see.

You can try this in other stores, but I always found grocery stores work best. Other stores often have things that are actually useful in these situations. (See Dawn of the Dead—the zombie movie in which survivors live in a mall—for examples of this.) It’s much more challenging to figure out how to defend yourself with things like muffins, cream cheese, and plastic wrap.

Don’t ask yourself why anyone would kidnap children and make them live in a grocery store, as this will ruin the flow of the game.


My Aunt Clara was out of her mind in many ways and disliked most living things except her very greasy and violent cockatoo (named “Too-Too”) that would occasionally escape from its cage and terrorize me. She had owned many of these horrible birds, and often told me a dramatic story about the one who died right before I was born. “I let him out, just one day,” she said. “Just one day . . . and first he flew into the curtains and got all confused, and he then flew right into the kitchen cabinets, over and over again, until he slid down and fell into the sink.” Even as a child, I realized the bird had committed suicide, but I never said this. Living with my aunt couldn’t have been fun. Her goal in life was to hold a koala. She failed, largely because she never went anywhere. So she just collected small stuffed koalas and pictures of koalas and smoked and made jello and hated people.

Her birds were unlike my grandmother’s many parakeets, who were pleasant and chirpy, probably because my grandmother was a much more pleasant person. (Thought she did go through a strange period in which every bird she bought only had one foot. It wasn’t intentional. She’d get them home and they’d just start hopping strangely . . . and sure enough, one foot. Don’t buy your parakeets at Sears, that’s all I can say.)

Anyway, my Aunt Clara distrusted doctors and banks. So she refused to ever get medical exams, and she kept all of her money in old peanut butter jars in her closet. “So I can watch it grow,” she would say to me. She did like me, however. She liked kids, because “you can trust ‘em.” When she babysat me, she would often have me count her change while she listened to talk radio. I even kept records of my change counting on this pad of paper she kept on her kitchen table. For some reason, I thought this was fun. When I would go to other relative’s houses and I got bored, I would ask to count their change too. I would report this back to my aunt, who nodded sagely and said, “That’s my girl.”

I have no idea what this means.

These are just some of the stories I COULD have told in the video, but decided not to. They are, however, the kinds of stories you can look forward to hearing more of this month, as I become increasingly desperate to figure out what to blog about EVERY SINGLE DAY.

And anyway, if had been smart, I would have just recreated THIS video.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love that Monsterpiece Theater episode! Seeing Grover's little feet tripping up "The 39 Steps!" Woo!

Back to blogging... and maybe counting some change.

4:37 PM  
Anonymous paula said...

I think you've inspired me to blog today! There is no way I could blog everyday because I just can't eat that much food that's been shaped into semicircles.
You've also inspired me to watch more sesame street!

5:28 PM  
Blogger delightfully mediocre said...

Monsterpiece Theater is kind of brilliant. Last summer I was very nervous going to a job interview in Utah, and the only way I could think of to make myself relax on the plane was to watch old videos from Sesame Street on my iPod. I like the Old Man and the C. Also Bert and Ernie Explore a Pyramid, though that is not a Monsterpiece Theater sketch.

I'm not sure I'll make it every day for the entire month on my blog, but I'm going to give it a shot! I'm looking forward to more MJ stories, hooray!

6:18 PM  
Blogger Emily said...

lol!! Monsterpiece Theater is so great.

6:36 PM  
Blogger Clarissa said...

So very much looking forward to more stories like this!!!

9:13 PM  
Blogger DoreMifa said...

A classic, of course.
I did find it interesting that the muppets {albeit the sesame street variety} speak in a very interesting spanish-german accent here [evidenced by the "stehhhs" in lieu of "steps"].
I suppose i'll have to drag out my old Muppet Show recording now to see if they ALL spoke like that, won't i?
*hides all evidence of totally being excited to do that*

10:46 PM  
Blogger Nadia Murti said...

That is so sad. But the Grocery Wars actually sounds like fun.

Can't wait for the other stories!

12:22 AM  
Blogger LaBelleRiviere said...

I busted out laughing when I saw the two pictures. It's the mustard chair that made it really funny.

3:04 AM  
Anonymous Joey-la said...

my sister is a lot older, so she never wanted to play with me, my lonley games were pretend the dog is evil and she is trying to kill you, therefore, run away
torture sister by trying to kiss her..... i was 6 at the time of this game......

3:15 AM  
Anonymous blissfullydazed said...

Just stopping by to read your blog - I am very excited about Blog Every Day April! Even more evidence to support my theorem of April being the best month of the year (add that to flowerz, warm rain, weasels, and various BIRTHDAYS)...(don't ask about the weasels)...

And cheers to you, MJ, for referencing Sesame Street, which 9 out of 10 Jacleens agree is the Best Show Ever. Except for Whose Line Is It Anyway, of course.

4:55 AM  
Blogger SaraLynn said...

I'm doing BEDA! =]

6:35 AM  
Anonymous SarahE said...

Yay! I thought we'd never get to the top.

6:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always got the strangest looks when I decided to read instead of play soccer.

6:59 AM  
Blogger Nosidam said...

"Happy Beda!" she says with enthusiasm knowing that by the end of the month in will drain.

Anyway, there was an article on AfterEllen.com today about lesbian/bi character in ya fiction. It's pretty interesting if you're into that book and it mentioned Bermudez Triangle.


7:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aw, the start of BEDA! I've been a silent reader of your blog for quite some time, and your grand movement has inspired me to do the same in my livejournal. This in turn has caused several of my friends to join me in this endeavor. Perhaps your random thought in the shower will become a world-wide phenomenon and will be celebrated every year like NaNoWriMo! I, certainly, will strive to keep such a marvelous idea thriving in my homely - and very purple - livejournal. ^_^

Kudos to you, oh, totally awesome and hilarious teen author of ultimate magnitude!

7:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow... I remember when I was little I'd always play kidnappers. Basically it was a game where I (& possibly some friends) would have to make potions ( that were posionous) and set up traps so we wouldn't get kidnapped by whatever was supposed to be kidnapping us.

I was kinda an odd kid, very imaginative but didn't get into reading until the third grade when a friend introduced me to harry potter. But I was always thinking of stories to write. Haha...

3:25 AM  
Anonymous JK said...

hahaha. The grocery store thing sounds amazing! I also feel like this would work in Target, but that is just me.

6:46 PM  
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