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girl at sea
13 little blue envelopes
the bermudez triangle
the key to the golden firebird
vacations from hell
let it snow

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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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

NOW WE’RE COOKING! (now with updates!)

Behold, friends! The day has arrived! Girl At Sea is no longer just at sea! Today, the book is out! At least on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and probably at most stores. If you don’t see it yet, it should be there in a few days. If not, demand it!

The first Girl At Sea cards are going in the mail, Free Monkey is preparing for his trip, I’m preparing to get out there to meet some of you and sign some books.

Let’s not wait! Let’s start celebrating RIGHT NOW! I’m giving away two signed copies today. Here are today’s two ways to win:


Make a big stink
Do something crazy, internet-wise, to get the word out about Girl At Sea. I leave the what and how up to you! You are far cleverer than I! Write and tell me what you did, and at the end of the day, I will choose the one person who did the thing that had the most impact and general panache. I like style! I like loud! I like VIRAL! (Not the bad kind that makes you sick or kills your computer. The good kind.)

If you get me into the top 100 on Amazon, I’ll give you TWO copies. And a unicorn.

UPDATE: Several of you wrote in in a bit of a panic because you wanted to do something but saw this too late. So I have decided to extend this part until SATURDAY at noon. You have days to spread the word, however you can! The winner will get a book, and maybe something else, if I find something else that is interesting around here. I have many interesting things.

How will you get people’s attention?

Leave a comment
Easier than the first, but less certain. Just leave a comment. At the end of the day, when I am reviewing the internet offerings, I will also gather the names of all commenters and pick one out of a hat. (Note: anonymous won’t win. You have to leave SOME kind of name.)

I'm giving away an extra copy here to make up for the one I held in the other part of the contest. So, the two commenter winners are Gabrielle and Katiek. Please send me your addresses so I can send you your books!

Now, let’s talk about Food Network.

“Wait,” you said. “What? Food Network? Why are you talking about Food Network on a day like this?”

Well, inquisitive and good-looking friends, I’ll tell you.

One of Girl At Sea’s first readers wrote to me and asked, “Do you like to cook? Because there are a lot of really good sounding dishes in here.”

Actually, I do. I have had a lifelong obsession with cooking. I’m not saying I’m great at it, but I’m not bad. And I definitely try. Ever since I was a tiny mj, I have been an obsessive cookbook reader. I’m also a big believer in making fresh food, and trying not to eat processed stuff—because it’s gross, and it’s bad for your health, and it’s not as fun as real food. Real cooking, real food culture . . . people actually caring about what they eat . . . I like that! It’s one of the millions of reasons I like Justine Larbalestier, who knows a thing or two about good food.

The evil processed "food" weakness I have is for Diet Coke, which is one of the most noxious substances on the planet. I still drink it, but I know I should stop. Especially since the last can that I had attacked me. It slipped from my hand as I took it out of the fridge, and it landed on my foot . . . and hurt. A lot more than you'd think. Then I picked it up, limping along, and opened it, and it sprayed right into my eye, blinding me for a moment. Lesson learned!

I have long been a devotee of Food Network. Before I wanted to be a dead body on Law and Order, I wanted to be a guest on a Food Network show. That dream came true. (I won’t tell you what show it was—though I may have before, somewhere on this blog, a long time ago. I will say it involved a picnic and a lot of beer, and I wasn’t expecting to be featured as much as I was, nor to be as obviously drunk on television as I was. Not my fault. Really.)

Plus, I have long had a case on Rachel Ray simply because of this ad, which is all over the New York subway.


As I think I have mentioned a thousand or two times, I really need a Vespa. Not want. Need. And as I also mentioned, no one will let me have one, because they think I will be instantly killed by a speeding cab as I cruise along on my excellent scooter, which has pretty much the same amount of power as a blow dryer and no means of protection.

Which MAY be so, but I still need one. So this ad is really just taunting me. It’s not okay that Rachel Ray has both a cooking show and a Vespa.

Many of you may have seen Anthony Bourdain’s mean but extremely funny rant about Food Network. He bashed Rachel Ray, but saved his absolute worst vitriol for a show called Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee. He had this to say about it:

Pure evil. This frightening Hell Spawn of Kathie Lee and Betty Crocker seems on a mission to kill her fans, one meal at a time. She Must Be Stopped. Her death-dealing can-opening ways will cut a swath of destruction through the world if not contained. I would likely be arrested if I suggested on television that any children watching should promptly go to a wooded area with a gun and harm themselves. What’s the difference between that and Sandra suggesting we fill our mouths with Ritz Crackers, jam a can of Cheez Wiz in after and press hard? None that I can see.

Because I love a car wreck as much as the next person, I had to see for myself. I had never seen Semi-Homemade cooking with Sandra Lee before. And because I refuse to suffer alone or in silence, I made Oscar Gingersnort watch it with me when we took a break from painting.

“Sit down,” I said, knocking him sideways on to the plastic-covered sofa. “You’re going to get a lesson in American culture.”


“We’re going to watch Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee.”

“What is that?”

“Less talking. More culture-learning,” I said, switching on the tv.

In this episode, Sandra Lee went to a racetrack. Not a very famous one, I don’t think. She was wearing a jumpsuit and standing at a portable kitchen by the track itself. She promised to make the most delicious day at the races meal you’d ever seen.

The thing that first hit me about Sandra Lee is that a lot of her “cooking” is actually just “pouring” or “unwrapping.” Literally. I have seen this woman “make” a cocktail that was actually just pre-made bottled cocktail that she poured into a glass. Which, no matter how you slice it, really isn’t cooking. It is spectacularly unimpressive. I mean, I understand the occasional use of pre-packaged products, but come on. My grandma had a way with pudding mix that would make you weep with joy. This is like watching someone do a three meter run at the Olympics. It’s just not exciting.

Also, Sandra kept referring to her display table as a tablescape—which is simply unacceptable. It was made worse by the fact that in this episode it was actually some kind of tool chest.

“What the^&#*$^*#&^ is a tablescape?” I asked Oscar.

“How do I know?” Oscar asked weakly. “I’m English. What did I do to deserve this?”

She also seems really shocked by pretty normal foods, and seems to feel you will be shocked by them as well. Foods like raspberries, which she holds up to the camera and announces, in much the same way that a biologist might display and name the egg of a heretofore unknown sea turtle species.

“Look,” she seems to be saying. “This is a RASP-BER-EEE. Isn’t it AMAZING? I’ll bet you’ve never seen one of these! And now I’m going to put in on my TABLESCAPE.”

But we didn’t see anything really awful until we came to the carpetbagger steaks.

I have never heard of carpetbagger steak. I no longer eat steak, but I remain fairly up-to-speed on common foods. This one escaped me. She promised to make the nicest, most delicious steak, filled with “the most delicious blue cheese dressing.”

Oscar and I looked at each other.

“First,” she said. “Red wine.”

She filled a bowl with wine. We nodded. That was an okay start.

And then, she added the salad dressing mix. What was worse was that she had two kinds of salad dressing mix, and that she had to pick one. Then she asked everyone to look at it, to examine how wonderful and full of flavor it was. Salad dressing mix is generally made of stale dried seasoning, dried processed fake cheese, and preservatives and additives and whatever else they find in the plant. Mugwort. Those little paper circles that fall out of hole punches. I don’t mean to sound like a total snob here, but it’s just not good.

She stirred it into the wine with a maniacal grin.

“No!” Oscar shouted. “Why? Why? The wine! The wine! We have to save it!”

She took some kind of manky steaks with thumb-sized holes in them and dumped them into the wine. She had some of these that were pre-done waiting in her cooler. Then she made “the most delicious blue cheese dressing,” which was a mix of pre-packaged blue cheese, hideous jarred mushrooms, and a different kind of salad dressing mix . . . and I tell you the truth, it was the most disgusting looking food item I have ever seen on television. Or possibly anywhere. Suddenly, Anthony’s harsh words did not seem strong enough.

“I can’t watch this,” Oscar said.

“You must!” I said, grabbing his ankle and preventing his escape. “It’s for science!”

“No it’s not!”

She stuffed this goop into the steaks, and we both winced.

Then it was time for cocktails. We watched in grim silence as she filled a blender with soda and booze, and then . . .

“No,” I said. “No. Do NOT fill that blender with . . .”

In went about a half a gallon of Gatorade.

“Great,” I said. “You can get drunk AND keep your electrolyte balance!”

As the show concluded, Sandra walked us over to the tablescape, which was decorated in racing decorations. She was exceptionally proud of the fact that the plate-holders were hubcaps, the fake flowers (“Don’t they look real?” Answer: NO) were in empty paint tins that were supposed to look like oil cans, the massive and lopsided (seriously, this show is sloppy) store-bought cake was covered in two tatty flags and sat on a tire, and the placecards were made of spark plugs. It looked like a Pep Boys had thrown up on the table.

“And look!” she said. “Look at the table dividers! Aren’t they amazing? Know what they are? LUG WRENCHES.”

“I’m going home,” Oscar said, getting up. “Where’s my passport?”

I had, of course, hidden his passport before turning on the television. I’m not a total idiot.

All right . . . enough! This must be posted! Books must be given out! And I need to get myself a Gatorade cocktail to celebrate Girl At Sea! Ahoy!



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Sunday, May 27, 2007


Were you wondering where I was?

Friends, I was here, but not online. In the buildup to the release of Girl At Sea, the tour, and work on the new book . . . much work had to be done.

Not the least of which was the repainting, rearranging, and rewiring of the New York office. This was done with the aid of Oscar Gingersnort, who flew over from London last weekend. One week of plastering, moving, taping, boxing, and generally chaos ensued (Oscar knows how to have a good time in the US). But now, the new office is up and running! The Girl At Sea cards are stacked up right next to me, ready for the signing workshop to open. Even bigger stacks of Girl At Seas are right here as well.


Obviously, I missed YOU. And I have a backlog of information to get to. So today will be full of bulletins. I will likely be posting every single day this week to catch you up on all of my other thoughts, of which I have had MANY. I have thoughts on writing, revising, painting, ancient history . . . and, of course, there will be an update on what I am now calling The Great Bartlesville Conundrum.

Let’s do the news now. Bonus: I have TWO videos to share with you today!


Guys, I can’t believe it. The time is almost here. Girl At Sea will be released in the next few days. I say few, because it seems that some stores will be getting it in two days time, and some in three, and some in four. Amazon and Barnes and Noble will start shipping it on Tuesday. Why the many dates? I have no idea. I finished making all the photocopies and gluing on the covers WEEKS ago.

If you order it now, you can have a copy in your hot little hands by next weekend.

If you are in New York this upcoming week or two and you DON’T see me, you’re being deliberately difficult. I’m going to be everywhere but IN YOUR HOUSE. (And this last one isn’t even that certain. I am very expert at gaining admittance to places by fire escape and dumbwaiter. I could magically appear in your shower in the morning, singing my favorite Abba tunes and handing you your soap. You never know.)

I have many ways of gaining access to your house. Not all of them all legal, but they are effective.

You can see the entire list of events on the news page, but here are the events for this upcoming week, May 28-June 2nd.

May 31st: Borders Columbus Circle (Time Warner Center), 5:30PM
with Jenny Pollack, Bennett Madison, Emily Gould, and Zareen Jaffery

June 1st: two places!

Book Expo America, Jacob Javits Center, 8:00 AM-4:00 PM
(This is a professional publishing event—I’ll be at the children’s books breakfast starting at eight, and will be at large with other YA writers through the afternoon. Anyone wishing to meet with me/Free Monkey at BEA should send me an e-mail and we will see what we can do.)

Barnes and Noble Park Slope, Brooklyn, 6:30 PM
with Bennett Madison and Jenny Pollack

June 2nd: BEA, con’t
Still generally at large, but mostly at the social stuff. FREE MONKEY likes canapés.


I will be giving away copies of Girl at Sea starting this week, and I’m going to KEEP giving them away throughout June.

But one copy is going out right now to Joanna Milner, who gave a generous donation to City Harvest’s Skip Lunch Fight Hunger. Thank you to all who donated! The money you sent in will go right to feeding kids here in New York.

In the meantime, the signed cards will be going out the door starting this week. If you’d like one, just write in and ask. I’ll be sending them throughout June.


Thank you to all who wrote in to FREE MONKEY to request his visit on the World Tour. As you will see in the video below, he has made his pre-tour stop with Hank Green.

Sadly, he could not take all of you up on your invitations, only because if he did, I would never see him again. (There were a lot of them.) We read each and every one, and I can tell you . . . he loved them. Making the decisions was a hard process. He had to do it, but I could tell it was difficult.

Originally, Free Monkey said he would be visiting five places, but the demand for his visits was larger than we anticipated, so the tour was lengthened. We managed, through creative scheduling, to get this up to six visits in the US in June, and four international visits in July.

The Free Monkey World Tour hosts are:

Elisabeth Sanders, San Francisco, California
Little Willow, Los Angeles, California
Joanna Milner, Portland, Oregon
Breca Halley, San Antonio, Texas
Laura Reece, Bartlesville, Oklahoma
Kiersten Gutherman, Penndel, Pennsylvania
Hanna Khan, London, England
Tobias Huisman, Rouveen, The Netherlands
Susan Kämpfer, Ballenberg, Switzerland
Lili Wilkinson, Melbourne, Australia

FREE MONKEY pre-World Tour greetings and instructions will be e-mailed this week.

Thanks again to everyone!


I did take time this week to escape the paint fumes and film my response to the Brotherhood2.0 Evil Baby Orphanage discussion.

For now, I have to put Oscar on a plane. I’ll see you tomorrow.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


I overflowith with things to tell you guys today—partially because Girl At Sea is coming out so soon, and there is banning news, and just plain exciting news. I’ve divided this post into sections to cover it all.


First of all, one clarification on an important point: though I've been told the book is not officially banned, IT IS NO LONGER ON THE SHELF. All copies have vanished, and the last known copy is STILL with the head of the committee, Janet Vernon, who STILL will not reply to me and give me any information at all.

Well, Janet (can I call you Janet?), I’m glad you like the book so much that you never want to give it back! Fortunately, I’ve sent new copies to replace the missing ones.

My many friends in Bartlesville have been giving me some information, and one of them pointed me to this very interesting link. If you go here and have a look down on the right side of the page, you will see a little area that asks if anyone has read The Bermudez Triangle, and if so, do you have anything to say about it?

I’m taking it that this is the “notification of the public” that was skipped over in the earlier proceedings. Consider us notified!

Maybe you guys want to check out that link, too? The friend who sent it to me is concerned that most of the people who take the time to write in will be very negative. Can you help me balance that out?

Meanwhile, notes condemning me, my upbringing, Free Monkey, and the entire civilized world have continued to pour in. My lawyer, C. Catso Fangola, reviewed all of them with a cool and appraising eye, and then promptly took a nap on them. Luckily, I’ve gotten even more notes of support, so I have something to nap on too.

But still, no definite news. What’s going on down there? Will we ever be told whether or not Bermudez is TOO DANGEROUS for the library?

Just a general message to whoever is in charge of the book’s fate now, here’s something you should know—I am stupidly tenacious. I’m an anti-book banning nerdfighter, and I’ve made you my personal interest.

I know that the effort made so far has had an impact. I know you guys were caught with your pants down a little with the “not notifying the public” thing. I know you were well on your way to banning a book unread. I know you didn’t love the fact that hundreds of e-mail poured in to your inboxes and that people around the globe were reading about your actions. I will ride this through to the very end, and if I go quiet, it’s because I AM PLANNING SOMETHING ELSE.

Consider yourself notified!

You never really know what I might be planning. I pride myself on my ability to surprise.


Okay, now I’m going to brag.

Last night, I was talking to Sarah Mlynowski, and she is just as obsessed with playing a dead body on Law and Order as I am! Maybe even more so. She almost cried when I told her that I used to have the casting agent’s e-mail address and that I threw it away because I was too shy to write to them. We have decided to combine our efforts. We may need help, and a plan. A plan would be good. Ideas?

And today . . . today I had lunch with my editor Emma Lollipop, Rachel Vail, Michelle Jaffe, and Meg Cabot.

I know.

In fact, Meg (who is exactly as lovely in life as you imagine, and I know you have vivid imaginations) asked me if I was going to blog about it. And I said yes. We were having lunch to celebrate the fact that Emma is getting married. Now it’s my editor and my agent. (I guess if you’re hoping to get married, come and work on one of my books. That seems to do the trick.)

Gossip: it seems that Gem, Meg’s cat, is every bit as slutty as she says.

Most of today’s focus was on Emma’s upcoming Day of Happiness, but I also got to sit in her extremely sparkly office at Scholastic (my new publisher) and have a discussion with the art director about the cover of my NEW AND AS YET SECRET BOOK.

Guys, I am so excited for this book, I can barely speak. And I can also promise you this: THERE WILL BE NO HEADLESS GIRL ON THE NEW COVER. (Some of you care deeply about this, and I just wanted you to know that I know your concerns.)

And now, a photo (I told you this post was going to overflow) . . . check it out!

Stay tuned for updates on how you can get your mitts on one of these copies! It’s not like I’m keeping them all. Notice who is not sitting on top of this mountain of books, though.


He’s not here! He’s left on a pre-world tour visit. I have been instructed to not say where he’s gone, but he promises to get in touch as soon as he arrives. And don’t worry—he can still access his e-mail when he’s away, and is still reading your applications. You have until Wednesday to get in your letters!

I'm also still taking requests for signed Girl At Sea cards. And if you don't want to wait around for me to have a contest, you can pre-order the book from Amazon or Barnes and Noble or anywhere else you like, provided they sell books.

Also, thank you to Ian for making me a wikipedia page! Feel free to edit it as you so desire!


I promised you guys more video blogs, and I never go back on my promises!*

In my new role as John and Hank Green’s secret sister at Brotherhood 2.0, I will be making various video blogs this year. I still don’t know how to use the camera or iMovie ** very well, but not knowing how to do something has never stopped me yet. So, behold!

All right. That’s it for today. But expect that I’ll be posting like mad over the next few days. And who knows? Maybe we’ll even get an answer from Bartlesville!

* Except when I forget or run out of time or something. I am sure you understand. We are none of us perfect.

** Those of you who are iMovie experts and who want to help me out by giving me tips or making me some credits, please feel free to drop me a line.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007


It’s become very quiet in Bartlesville.

Too quiet.

I don’t know what’s going on there, friends. No one is talking. I have a feeling that all of a sudden I’m going to hear some news, and then we’ll be right off to the races again. I sleep with one eye open, never fear. If you want to hear me talk about it--or if you just want to hear what I sound like on the phone--you can listen to this podcast. Or you can read this article on the banning by Little Willow.

My team and I are monitoring the situation.

In the meantime, here is a little update on the weekend.

First, I was at the Nebula Awards. My personal reason for being there was because Devilish was nominated for the Andre Norton Award, a fact which astonished me from the very first moment I heard it. I was on the same list as Scott Westerfeld (for Peeps and Midnighters) and Justine Larbalestier (for Magic or Madness). Not only are Scott and Justine my friends—I’m a huge fan.

I am beyond pleased to tell you that Justine won! I screamed. We cried. I texted them in Australia and my phone kept going off and I thought the woman behind me was going to hit me with her robot (we all got robots and they are AWESOME—Free Monkey has already claimed it as his).


Thank you.

I have also been going through the dozens and dozens of comments from the last few posts, and I wanted to take a moment to respond to just a few of them.

liz said...
Fake irish food sucks, too.

Finally! While everybody is yammering on about the “friendship” and the “romance” in Bermudez, Liz has correctly summed up what the book is REALLY about. It is my manifesto against chain restaurants! While Bennigan’s is the specific target, any chain restaurant that pretends to be representative of another country (I’m talking to you, Outback Steakhouse) can be substituted.

anonymous said...
Many of you are ridiculing the parents for signing a petition without reading the book. While at the same time, many of you are ridiculing the Bible - - - -have you read it?? The Bible does speak of many horrible acts because it is explaining to us what happens when we turn our backs on God and God's truth. Try reading the book- - -it might change your life!!

I have read the Bible. Cover to cover. On multiple occasions. In multiple editions. I had to sit through religion classes for four years in high school. Half the year was Bible study and church history, and half the year in religious life class, like my senior year marriage class (which was taught by a nun and featured prom lessons). Then I continued reading it in college as part of the Biblical and classical literature component of my major, which did not have marriage or prom classes.

You’ve missed the point, anonymous. The people who have commented here are pointing out the fact that if we start banning books, the Bible is in as much danger as everything else.

(An aside: did I ever tell you the story about the time my friend Betty Vox and I had to run from a nun and how it was all my fault? I don’t think I did. Please indicate if you would like to hear it.)

anonymous said...
can free monkey travel overseas- i.e. England?

YES! In fact, Free Monkey will be visiting England in July. Please feel free to submit your proposal to him! He loves traveling in his home country.

anonymous said...
Jesus said the world would hate Christians because it hates him (John 15:18-21) People hate Jesus because his very name convicts them of their sin even if they can't fully articulate that.

There are a lot of Christians reading this site who, I am sure, are wondering why you think this is about hating Christianity. It’s not. Nothing could be further from the truth. Realize that many Christians are not on board with hateful condemnations of others. It’s against their religion.

cecil castellucci said...
I am going to the 4 day Star Wars Celebration event here in LA in two weeks. I'm sure there will be a store called "SLAVE LEIA OUTFITS 'R US" and I will get you an order form.

I'm not even kidding. 

I've said it before, I'll say it again. "Maureen, I've got your (princess leia) back."

Thank you, Miss Cecil! You guys know Cecil, right? You have read her new book, Beige, haven’t you?

You have, right? Because I can wait.

Let me know if they have forms. I don’t want to end up making my own gold slave bikini, because that will NOT end well.

kiersten said...
wait so what are the honkers? the alien guys are the yip-yips, right? so the honkers are...what? and also, is free monkey a guy or a girl? dont know why its important i just was wondering.

I always thought these guys were called the Honkers, but I was wrong. They are Yip-Yips. How did I live before Wikipedia?

Free Monkey is a boy, but mainly, he’s a monkey.

He’s been very impressed with the World Tour submissions so far. Remember, the deadline is May 23rd! In the meantime, I have to get ready for the release . . . and be on the lookout for a secret sister Brotherhood2.0 video later this week. John has put out the call for people to help editing his wikipedia page and Hank’s wikipedia page. Now, that’s worth a few minutes of your time.

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Friday, May 11, 2007


Happy Friday, friends!

You know, I figured you guys might be getting sick of reading about the book ban in every single post. So I thought that today, I would write about something else.

This doesn’t mean that I’m not on the situation! I am! I am communicating with my Bartlesville team even as I write this. I know an AMAZING amount of inside gossip on a town I’ve never even been to! Some of the stuff I’m hearing about some of the people involved in this is VERY close to home. Literally. Close to their homes. I could be talking over the fence. I think I love Bartlesville. Maybe I will move there.

I am still asking people who are from Bartlesville or from anywhere else to sign my anti-banning petitions, which I will send to the superintendent.

My next post will undoubtedly return to the subject. I just thought it would be good to catch up with some of the logjam of other things that I had to tell you.

Here are two great things that have nothing to do with the Bartlesville Book Ban. The first is about a great charity and how to get a copy of Girl At Sea! The second is . . . well . . . better just read and see.


Since traffic on this site has gone way up since this whole debacle began, I thought it would be good to turn something that sucks into something that is made of awesome (in the parlance of my secret, fake brothers, Hank and John).

City Harvest is one of the best, ground-up charities out there. The concept is brilliant. It’s a food rescue organization.

What does that mean? I’ll tell you!

Think about all the bakery items like the fresh breads and muffins that you see at Whole Foods or Starbucks. At the end of the day, the baked goods are still good, but they have to be eaten right away. Or at the end of the day at the Green Market, when there are piles of produce left over that the farmers would have to drive back to the farms, and which may just go bad. Or at fancy restaurants around the city, where more food is ordered than can be used in one evening’s service. Or a big wedding, where caterers prepare many large dishes of food, of which only a percentage may be eaten.

Enter the City Harvest trucks. The fleet goes around New York, stopping at the fancy restaurants, the Starbucks, the big hotels, the Whole Foodses . . . and they—very carefully and to the highest safety standards—package the food up. It goes right to the places where it’s needed, like soup kitchens, community pantries, and more than 600 local organizations.

The result is that people who are hungry are getting great, high-quality food, like fresh produce, meat, and bread. And the food is not wasted. EVERYONE WINS!

I don’t have enough good things to say about City Harvest. It is entirely devoted to decreasing World Suck.

Wednesday, May 16th is Skip Lunch, Fight Hunger Day. The idea is that you donate the amount of money you would normally spend on lunch. I’ve signed up as a team captain. Most people are team captains within their companies, and they take the materials to work. Since I don’t have a company per se, I have decided to call my team the YA NERDFIGHTERS HUNGER STRIKE FORCE.

Everywhere I go for the next few days, I will be carrying Skip Lunch Fight Hunger paper lunch bags somewhere on my person. (And no, it’s not a contest to figure out where.) This means I’ll be taking my bags to the Nebula Awards, and to some cocktail events (where the event will be “Skip a Drink, Fight Hunger”).

If you won’t see me personally, but you like the sound of this and can send a check for your part of the lunch, contact me. I especially encourage my new friends from the last day or so who have graciously taken the time to write to me to tell me all about their personal interpretations of the Bible and the condition of my soul. Nice to meet you! Everyone is welcome here. Won’t you support the fight against hunger?

Make sure to write the fact that you are with the YA NERDFIGHTERS HUNGER STRIKE FORCE on the memo of any checks!

I’ll send whoever sends the biggest check an autographed, spanking new copy of GIRL AT SEA! I can assure you that it is a DIRTY BOOK. This is because it has archeology in it, which is inherently a filthy undertaking. Copies of Girl At Sea are currently quite rare. I only have three. One is for me. One is for my mama. One is for ONE OF YOU.

(Don’t worry, though, if you can’t send money for this. I realize that this is not possible for many of you! I will be giving away more free copies later, when I get the proper shipment.)


So, I was sitting on Scott Westerfeld and Justine Larbalestier’s apartment floor maybe a month or two ago. Holly Black and Cassandra Claire were there. They all started telling me about an event called Dragoncon, which they all went to the year before to sign books.

I generally don’t go to things that end in con. No particular reason. But I am a person who likes to see the wonders of this world. I listened in awe as they told me about the 24 hour a day costume parade and the security guards dressed as storm troopers. I was amazed.


“I never get to go to things like that,” I said sadly.

“You could now,” Justine said. “Devilish is scifi/fantasy. You’re up for a Norton!”

“Yeah, I guess,” I said. But I said it glumly, because I didn’t believe it.

“You could,” Scott said. And Cassie and Holly nodded.

“If you can get me into Dragoncon,” I said, “I will go dressed as Princess Leia in that outfit she wears . . . with the gold stuff . . . in that one movie. The Empire Strikes Back.”

I don’t know why I said this. Maybe because it was the only scifi/fantasy costume I know. Or sort of know. I remember seeing it on Friends at the gym once.

“Return of the Jedi,” Scott kindly corrected me. “And you’re on.”

“And what we should do,” Justine continued, “is all go on the train. We’ll get sleepers and we’ll all ride down together.”

“Dragon Train,” Holly said.

“Dragon Train,” Cassie repeated.

I said uh-huh and nodded. I was busy eating something and picking crumbs off my shirt and not really paying attention, because I didn’t believe Scott would set it up.

Yeah. Don’t make assumptions like that with Scott. The Dragon Train is being booked right now, and it looks like I am now in the market for one of those gold bikini outfits. I have three months to find one. And yes, I will be signing copies of Devilish while wearing it.

Yes, I’ll bring the video camera for Brotherhood2.0.

If anyone has any advice on this, please let me know, because I think I’m going to be kind of cold in it. Does it have some kind of wrap that goes with it? Like a cape or something? I could be wrong, but I think the people at this event might be stickers for detail, and on this matter, detail is something I just don’t have. Yet.

Do you have one of these?

My inferior knowledge of things scifi and fantasy will put me at a disadvantage at the Nebula Awards tomorrow. I’m thrilled to death to be nominated, but my general plan for the night is to keep drinking and shoving food in my mouth so I don’t have to talk, which is the plan I use for many events, really.

In the meantime, here are some aliens I do know, and know well! And they show how books are useful!

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Thursday, May 10, 2007


The first article has just appeared in the local Barltesville paper about the banning, and right now, I am just the tiniest bit steamed about it. Fortunately, FREE MONKEY is here, and he talked me down a bit.

Here's the link, first of all. But you'll see I have copied almost the entire thing below. Save a click!

I hope you don’t mind a tiny bit of running commentary with both me and FREE MONKEY. Here we go. (I apologize in advance for my behavior. I have since sat down with a cup of calming tea.)


Blogs across the country were buzzing about Bartlesville last week after word got out that a book had been banned from the Bartlesville Mid-High Library shelves.

The banning of the book was allegedly a rumor because Bartlesville Public Schools Community Relations Coordinator David Austin says no decision had been made to ban the book.

ME: I contest this fact. I stand by my story that the decision was made. I have lots of people in the know who telling me so.

FREE MONKEY: The Bartlesville team.

But Maureen Johnson, the author of the book, “The Bermudez Triangle,” says she does not think the banning was a rumor.

“My personal opinion right now is the people that wrote in, I think that those had an impact. I think things happened because of those letters. I think they saw it’s a serious issue that people think about. I’ll be interested to know what the superintendent does,” Johnson said. She had blogged about the alleged banning, people read her blog and responded by writing letters to her and to the school district.

FREE MONKEY: I get your point, but you didn’t express yourself very well here.

ME: Look, I was doing this interview over a bad cell phone connection from the street, outside of where John Green and E. Lockhart and I were working, and there was a trash truck in a constant state of backing up and moving forward very slowly next to me the whole time. I kept trying to get away from it, but whatever way I went, there was the trash truck. Welcome to the glamorous world of phone interviews.

A committee was formed to review the book, after a challenge to the book was submitted in March by local parent Angela Rader.

FREE MONKEY: Did you know the name of the person who made the complaint?

ME: Yes. I never printed it, out of concern for her privacy. Obviously, she doesn't mind being in the paper about this.

Rader's child brought the book home and Rader read it. She complained to the Mid-High librarian and to the principal before writing a letter to school administration and filling out a form to challenge the book's inclusion in the library.

"I didn’t appreciate that it was there," Rader said, referring to the book being in the library. "I just don’t think homosexual materials belong in our schools."

Rader said the basic moral of the story is if everyone sleeps with each other to find out who they are, then they will all learn something.

Rader also submitted a petition that had 164 signatures of people who agreed with her that the book should be removed from the library.

FREE MONKEY: You look agitated.

ME: (pacing) I am agitated. I feel like I've suddenly come down with angina.

Maybe you should get me a banana.

ME: There are two parts of this that are going to do me in. The first is the part about homosexual materials not belonging in schools. That's a hateful, ignorant statement.

FREE MONKEY: She is entitled to her opinion, no matter how crass and wrongheaded.

ME: Of course she is. Thankfully, we have a social system that should shield students against this kind of bigotry. I don't mind if you’re a homophobe—just do it in your own home.

FREE MONKEY: I agree. I hate homophobia. I would really like a banana.

ME: Second, WHAT THE #&^*$*#&$^&* IS SHE TALKING ABOUT? "The basic moral of the story is that if everyone sleeps with each other to find out who they are, then they will all learn something." Can I just come out and say it now? Can I? If you really think this is what the book is saying, YOU ARE DUMB. You don’t know how to read. You are the last person who should be making any decisions on books. How do you get that from a book with no sex in it, genius?

FREE MONKEY: You are taking this personally. Take a moment to get the banana. I see that there are some rather ripe ones on the kitchen table. You need not trouble yourself with the peeling. I like the skin.

ME: And then . . . and then . . . she says that she got a petition with 164 signatures on it to have the book removed. Where did you go, lady? Was it your local chapter of MENSA, of which you simply must be a member?

FREE MONKEY vanishes for a moment in fear, and returns a few moments later with some bananas and other pieces of fruit. He finds me sitting on the sofa, breathing into a paper bag.

FREE MONKEY: This is what happens when you let this kind of thing get to you. Try a banana. They are full of potassium and other vitamins and minerals that will calm and balance your system.

ME: (eating banana) I know. But it HAS to get to us all, sometime. It seems pretty clear that not all of those 164 people read the book. I sort of doubt that there are that many copies of it in the town. And even with a book swap going on, it would take weeks to get the book around to that many people.

FREE MONKEY: There's no way they read it. Why don't you move on to the rest of the article? The next part is about you.

After hearing of her book’s alleged banning, Johnson tried to make contact with several committee members.

A committee member returned one of Johnson’s calls Friday.

"To be honest, I couldn’t get a lot of information about what was going on," Johnson said, adding that she did learn from the committee member that the book had not been banned yet.

ME: Allegedly.

FREE MONKEY: Allegedly.

ME: They banned it. Then denied it and backtracked.

FREE MONKEY: I know. I was sitting here when you were screaming about it to John Green, saying all those things that you know from people involved in the situation, but that you can't say on this blog because they might get those same people in trouble.

According to Bartlesville Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Gary W. Quinn, the committee has not yet made a recommendation. Once Quinn reads the book himself and receives the committee's recommendation, he will make the final decision whether the book will be banned or not.

ME: Wait . . . what? What do you mean the committee hasn't made a recommendation? I've spoken to one committee member. He TOLD me they made a recommendation already. I have E-MAIL PROOF.

FREE MONKEY: Let's see it.

ME: Here you go. This is from an e-mail forwarded to me by a committee member.

Dated Friday, May 4th, 2007:
A committee appointed by the Superintendent met to discuss the book, and their recommendations have been forwarded to him.

FREE MONKEY: That seems pretty clear.

Me: It does. I stand by the fact that the decision was made on April 27th. People were there. It happened.

FREE MONKEY: That’s been denied.

ME: Yes. There's a word for when one thing happens, but you say another thing happens. It begins with L. I’ll bet the readers know what that word is.

FREE MONKEY: So, the committee is saying they haven't made a decision?

ME: Strangely, it appears that way. I also know, directly from the e-mail from the committee member, that he read the book "last week," meaning the week of April 30th-May 6th.

FREE MONKEY: He told you that?

ME: He sure did.

FREE MONKEY: So, he read it after the decision was made.

ME: Right.

FREE MONKEY: Does this issue really need to be this complicated?

ME: No.

FREE MONKEY: The next few paragraphs of the article are just quotes from a letter you wrote. The readers have heard you say this stuff. Then here's the end.

If someone is unhappy with the decision when it is made, Quinn says there is a process to appeal.

ME: Well, that doesn’t sound good. Know what that sounds like? that sounds like someone saying, "Look, we've been dating for a while, and I've just realized we have very different needs. But we're really good friends, and I don't want that to change."

FREE MONKEY: No matter what, someone is going to be unhappy.

ME: See, this is why I wanted to do this. This is book banning. It starts with letters and quotes like the ones you saw above from the parent, Mrs. Rader—and I’ve said what I think about those—maybe too much of what I think about those. From there, it goes to things like committees that don’t read the book. The issue often stops there, and the book is just taken from the shelf, and no one is any the wiser.

FREE MONKEY: So public policy and school materials are being influenced by letters and comments like that?

ME: YES! That’s why this is so important.

Because all the readers got involved, now everyone is spinning in place and spazzing out and making up stories and generally trying to deny and delay . . . so that this relatively small matter of one book getting pulled becomes a bureaucratic nightmare. People start acting like they are in the CIA, planning some kind of black ops mission.

FREE MONKEY: A library invasion.

ME: And now that I've heard about these 164 signatures, which was new information, I'm even more outraged. I think I feel righteous indignation coming on! Maybe a new commitment to this! I'm as sick of talking about this as everyone must be of reading about it, but if I give up and stop . . . then it all just happens. That's how book banning can sometimes be permitted to happen. People try to bore you so much and frazzle you with detail that you lose the will to go on.

FREE MONKEY: It's worth the effort. I would like one of those oranges as well, please. The peel policy still applies.

ME: (waving at the oranges) What if I could get 165 signatures from inside the town of Bartlesville, condemning this anti-American and homophobic action?

FREE MONKEY: I think that is an excellent idea. Will you keep talking in that pompous way, though?

ME: Sorry.

FREE MONKEY: And why not collect signatures from other people as well? So you could have two petitions—one from within the town, and one from outside of it?

ME: I like the way you think.

FREE MONKEY goes to computer and types for a few moments.

FREE MONKEY: Here. I have created two petitions. One is for the people of Bartlesville, and the other is for everyone else who wants to get involved.

ME: Slap them up there on the page!

This is the link for Bartlesville residents.

This is the link for everyone else.

It gives you the option of being anonymous, but if you don't mind leaving your name, that would be better.

ME: All right. You had better get back to reading those invitations for your world tour.

FREE MONKEY: You should probably go relax.

ME: Or get a stun gun.

FREE MONKEY: Let’s not go down that road again. I think you should also remind people that GIRL AT SEA is coming out in about three weeks, and that you are sending out signed cards, doing signings, and will generally being doing all kinds of things to celebrate. Also, you are going to the Nebula Awards this weekend because Devilish is up for the Andre Norton Award.

ME: Everyone should have a monkey.

FREE MONKEY: This is true. Now give me your Diet Coke. I have worked up a thirst from all of this talking.

UPDATE: I just got a call from Bartlesville. (Again, I'm somewhat obliged not to say who I just spoke to, but please trust me when I say that it was a trustworthy and non-biased source.) I have just heard the most amazing piece of this story to date.

The person on the phone tried to get to the bottom of this "did they send in the recommendation or not" issue. The PR person said yes. The superintendent said no.

Well, except the committee did send it in. And then they had to pull it back and re-submit it.

Why, friends?


Yes. You read that right. They DID submit it. When they said it hadn't been submitted, it was because they had to pull it back in because they had forgotten the part where they had to tell everyone so the public could weigh in.


This is the most telling part of this entire story, and the worst excuse I've ever heard. I told you the story stood. Thank you for your support and belief, and for GETTING THE MESSAGE THROUGH! Without your letters, none of this would have happened.

It's a Scooby Doo moment!

They would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for those meddling kids!

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007


This weekend, I was at the Princeton Teen Book Bash, which was a very good time. Free Monkey was there with me, enjoying the sun and all of the good company. I got to meet some of you, which is always a pleasure.

Several people came up to my table to talk to me about the Battle of Bartlesville. A lot of those people were librarians with words of support for this campaign. Librarian after librarian came up and said things like, “It was interesting hearing what it was like for you—but weird because this is what happens to us all the time. We are constantly dealing with challenges. It’s good to know that the authors are willing to fight back.”

Yup. I know. I find it shocking, and Free Monkey is always rendered speechless by this fact, but it’s true.

A confession: there were moments in this like I felt like kind of a jerk, like I was giving people who were probably otherwise quite nice a hard time.

But here’s the thing . . .

I don’t for a moment think that people who challenge books or who serve on committees that recommend book removal wake up each day, rub their hands together gleefully, and ask the human skull by their bedside, “What eeeevil shall we do today, my boney friend?” The decision to ban/remove/challenge/burn a book is always dressed up as something else, something noble, or something administrative or biological that simply can’t be helped, like taxes and death.

As E. Lockhart, who is currently sitting next to me, just said, “Nobody calls themselves a book banner.”


Bad things are sometimes not as obvious as they could be.

Good things have come out of the actions of some otherwise reprehensible people, and some terrible decisions have been made with the very best of intentions. We all have to sit in the naughty corner from time to time. So I stand by everything I’ve said, and I object to the action.

So let’s get to the update!

One of the committee members—the same one I spoke to on Friday—has written to me today to reiterate the fact that the book is not banned yet. He said that the committee sent a recommendation to the superintendent, and apparently he will make the next move.

I asked this committee member the following questions directly:

1. What was the committee’s recommendation?

2. Since the book is now only mid-ban (whoopee!), would they accept a box of donated copies?

3. Has he had the chance to read the book since the meeting on Friday, April 27th?

The responses:

1. He won’t say. He asked me to write to the head of the committee, and her e-mail address is toast. The local newspaper is trying, too. So I just don’t know what they said! (I’ll bet I can guess, but guessing doesn’t count.)

2. No answer on the donated copies. I’ll take that as a “Yes, please!”

3. He said he read the book LAST WEEK. Yes, that would be after the meeting at which (as far as I know) the still-secret decision was made. And yeah, I’d read it too if the paper was calling me and hundreds of well-spoken readers were dropping eloquent notes into my inbox . . . so that if I was asked, I could SAY I’d read it, even if I hadn’t read it when it really mattered.

Do I think that the people on the committee are covering their posteriors? I’ll say this . . . I think there was a reason it took a full week and a hundred or more letters and a call from a newspaper before I got a somewhat fumbling reply of any kind—and the best anyone can tell me that the book hasn’t been banned yet.

One of the more bizarre aspects of all of this is the secrecy in which this action was conducted. Without the actions of the librarian, no one would have known this happened. Book banning often happens in small meetings, out of sight. If you’re going to do something like this, I think you have the responsibly of making it public. It’s amazing what happens when you just add public knowledge to the equation.

And now this whole affair is public knowledge, why couldn’t he just tell me what the committee’s recommendation was? What’s the big secret?

Well, who knows? And maybe just asking that question here will get me an answer. I can’t seem to get the Law and Order people, but I sure can get a lot of seriously proactive book lovers. When I post questions here about this issue, they seem to get answered, like magic.

In any case, I can’t change what happened in the last few weeks, and I can’t do anything except speculate on the bureaucratic cha-cha that’s going on now. The good news is that now, because of everyone’s effort, the outcome is still open. Now it remains to be seen what the recommendation was, and whether it will be taken.

For me, a few really important things have come out of this whole experience.

- When you let people know that book banning is going on, they (and by they, I mean you guys) will act. I never expected the response I got when I first put this news out there.

- I think some potential book removers have been put on notice. When you try to take books out of libraries—WE MAY ALL TALK ABOUT YOU. Shame is an amazingly powerful thing.

So, now I’m going to pack up a box o’Bermudez and send it down to the school, then I’m going to wait and see what happens next. You can be assured that I will tell you guys the minute I know something.

While all of this has been going on, the Girl At Sea release date has rolled closer. I was shocked when I looked at the calendar and saw how soon it was coming!

FREE MONKEY, however, has been on top of this. And he has something to say.

Those of you who subscribe to my newsletter, (that little box to the right, top of the page) already know that FREE MONKEY is planning something special for the release of Girl At Sea. You see, I can only go so many places for the tour. I also have a book I’m working on right now, and while my editor Emma Lollipop has not yet superglued me to my desk chair, that may be something she considers in the future.

So, FREE MONKEY has offered to do some of the traveling for me.

Yes, you heard it right! Free Monkey wants to get out there and meet you! Here’s how that can happen. Send me an e-mail using the link below explaining who you are, where you live, and what you would like to do with FREE MONKEY. Will you take him somewhere exciting and take pictures? Will you care for him?

Those selected will have 48 hours with Free Monkey! Then you have to send him back to me. You must be very trustworthy! And not hurt him!
FREE MONKEY himself will make the selections, and there can only be FIVE visits--so make your letters good! He is very discriminating.

He’s just set the deadline for these entries. Get your letters in by Wednesday, May 23rd!

Where will FREE MONKEY end up?

And rest assured, there will be more Girl At Sea events, and more videos are on the way. In the meantime, here’s hoping for the Battle of Bartlesville. What do you think will happen?

UPDATE: check out this video from Bartlesville . . . Viva la Internets!

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Saturday, May 05, 2007


Friends, it’s been a weird day.

As you must know by now, today was the day I said I was going to call the committee. The day went something like this:

Around 11 AM or so, I put up an update on yesterday’s post, giving the e-mail address of the local Bartlesville paper. I had contacted them days ago, but received no response.

12:30: I get a call from the local Bartlesville newspaper. (Amazing, huh?) I wasn’t asked many questions, but was allowed to talk pretty much to my heart’s content. I asked the reporter if she had contacted the committee members, and she said that she had tried, but had been unable to reach them.

2:00: I call all three committee members. I reach no one, but leave voice mails for all.

5:00: I get a call back from one committee member.

This is when things get weird.

He denied the whole thing.

“You’re telling me the book wasn’t banned?” I asked.

“We can’t ban it,” he said. “That’s for the school board.”

“So,” I said, “you’re telling me that you didn’t have a meeting last Friday around ten in the morning, with the participants listed. And that you didn’t vote to remove the book. And that you didn’t send word to this effect to the library at two that afternoon?”

He said maybe he remembered something about there being a meeting last week and maybe it was Friday. There was no answer to the rest.

I tried to get some kind of clear sense of what was happening, and the only thing I could get was that their ban—which he still didn’t seem to remember—is a non-binding ban until they get approval to ban. And something clearly happened last week, but as to what . . . there was no recollection. I got the idea that he was very unhappy about the fact that so many people were writing to him. He made this very clear.

It was a weird conversation. I spent a while when I got off the phone tapping my teeth and wondering why—if there was no ban—didn’t they just tell me that a week ago? Why did it take a week, plus a few hundred letters? And why did this phone call follow so closely the phone call from the newspaper?

And really, what kind of an answer did I really get?

I don’t particularly like confronting people or giving them a hard time. I also don’t like accusing people of things. But do you know that part in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, where Cindy Lou Who catches the Grinch sneaking off with their tree in the middle of the night and asks, “Santy Claus, why? Why are you stealing our Christmas tree. Why?”

And the Grinch is on the spot, and so he says, “"There's a light on this tree that that won't light on one side! So I'm taking it home to my workshop my dear. I'll fix it up there, then I'll bring it back here!"

It felt like that.

Something about this conversation didn't add up.

So I did a little digging around, because as this has gone on, I’ve gotten to meet some of you from Bartlesville, including someone I will only refer to as Bartlesville’s own Veronica Mars. For good and sensible reasons, people have asked not to be identified or quoted—because there is trouble to be gotten into and jobs potentially lost (it’s amazing the trauma that can be created over talking about a book)—but here is the bottom line of what they have all told me:

1. There was a meeting last week.

2. It became painfully clear to this quite surprised committee that hundreds of people were suddenly watching them.

3. YOUR LETTERS WORKED. At least, they slowed whatever was happening and brought it out in the open.

I was just coming to all of these conclusions when Oscar Gingersnort called me. It was midnight in England and he had just come home from the pub, but that didn’t stop me from giving him a highly detailed rundown.

“So what you’re saying,” he said, “is that he called to deliver the good news that you have not yet been banned. They’re just halfway through it. They will ban you, they just need some time.”

“Right,” I said.

“That’s not much of an answer,” he said. "In fact, it's a #$&^#& answer."

“Right,” I said. “And it’s getting complicated. Lots of hemming and hawing and who said what to whom.”

“Things always get messy when people are caught in the middle of doing something they shouldn’t be doing,” he Obi-Waned on. “They start making excuses, and there are always lots of meetings, and people getting their stories straight. It's called saving face. Not they they even seem to be saving face much. It still sounds like the want to ban your book--they just don't want everyone watching.”

“Right,” I said. "Welcome to the world of book banning."

“Meanwhile,” he said, “all of this attention and all of these people reading your blog, and still no one has asked you to play a dead body on Law and Order.”

I was dumbstruck. He was right again!

“It’s not over,” I said.

“Far from it,” he agreed. “If anything, it sounds like you’re having an impact.”

I’ve spoken to Ninja Librarian Susan, and we’re agreed. We don’t stop until they say that the book stays on the shelf. My threat to come there and dance is still valid.

In all of this, maybe it seems like I’m saying that Bartlesville is a bad place. No way! Bartlesville seems like an excellent place. Ninja Librarian Susan is an inspiration, and I’ve spoken to many great people. Plus, they’re doing Oklahoma as the high school musical. In Oklahoma.

Come on. That deserves some serious credit.

Now, on a different note (just to keep my promise that I would eventually talk about something else) let me tell you my exciting SURPRISE NEWS! I’ve been bursting with this for days.

I am officially the SECRET SISTER OF JOHN AND HANK GREEN. That’s right. You’ll be able to see the girly side of Brotherhood2.0. (I’m leaving a space for you to write your own joke here.) I won’t be posting every day, like a real brother. But you’ll see me there.

As my very first act, here is my Hank Green birthday video. Didn’t you know it was Hank’s birthday?

If you take nothing else from this video, take this . . . I am going to see this thing through, if I have to dance my way there yet.

Maybe I'll see some of you at the Princeton Teen Book Festival. Please let me know what you think of this situation and my moves.

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Friday, May 04, 2007


And when we say
Yeeow! Ayipioeeay!
We're only sayin'
You're doin' fine,
Oklahoma O.K.

Welcome to day seven of the Bartlesville standoff. It’s been four days since I first sent my letters to the committee that didn’t read and then banned Bermudez. I continue to hear nothing.

You have not been silent, though, I’ve long lost count of how many letters have been written. Many of you are copying them to me, putting them in the comments here, or over in the comments at Brotherhood2.0. I have read every single one, and they are, on the whole, pretty amazing. I see that both Meg Cabot and Neil Gaiman have picked up on this little saga of mine, along with several other writer friends and various blog friends I have yet to meet. There are too many links to list here.

I have news that they have gotten your notes and mine, though . . . even though they do not reply. There is a little rumble in the air in Bartlesville, friends. I’m not 100% clear on what is happening, but I think that our friend (she is friend to us all) Ninja Librarian Susan Hunt may be in some kind of trouble because of this. I don’t know that for certain yet, but if she is . . . you can be certain that there will be an unleashing of the hounds.

Please stay tuned on this subject for Susan’s sake.

The only update I have right now is that the library’s two copies of Bermudez (awaiting banishment) have vanished! One was checked out by a reader and not returned. It has presumably been whisked away to safety. Hooray from you reader.

The other one is with committee head Janet Vernon, who apparently hasn’t given it back.

Oh, you naught Bartlesville minxes! Now you’ve really ruffled Free Monkey’s fur. And by fur, I mean his plush coating. And by plush, I mean kind of knobbly knitting. Now you’re just adding insult to injury. Stealing public property—even BANNED public property—is very naughty indeed! Please give the book back to the library, so that it may be put into a lead box, or whatever it is you do with dangerous materials like novels that feature a positive, clean portrayal of homosexuality.

Until then, I’m going to be sending down copies of the book to Ninja Librarian Susan Hunt. I don't know what she can do with them, but they are hers, not paid for by tax money.

As some of you may have seen from J. Green’s Brotherhood2.0 video, tomorrow is TELEPHONE DAY! Yes, tomorrow, both J. Green and I will be trying to get through to the committee members on the phone. You will undoubtedly see these efforts on Brotherhood2.0.

I hope they pick up the phone. Otherwise I will have to GO to Bartlesville, where Free Monkey and I will perform selected scenes from the musical Oklahoma outside of their office windows. And believe me, you don’t want that. Free Monkey REALLY likes Rogers and Hammerstein, and my dance interpretation of the cowboy walk will never leave you.

Don't make me unleash my dance on you!

And just so you know that this has not totally consumed my life and that it isn’t going to be the only thing I talk about for the rest of my days . . . I can tell you that I will be posting a video that has nothing to do with this very soon. Also, more monkey, more pirates, more everything else that you know and love. (Or at least tolerate with extreme good will.) Also, if you want to see me and/or Free Monkey in person, I will be at the Princeton Teen Book Festival this weekend.

But again . . . please stay tuned for news about Susan and any potential developments.

And please . . . KEEP UP THE NOTES! Something is happening! Onward!

Once again, the addresses are:

Mrs. Janet Vernon, Executive Director of Secondary Instruction
Dr. Richard Rosenberger, Executive Director of Human Resources
Mr. Chuck McCauley, Principal of Bartlesville High School

UPDATE: another Bartlesvillian, Ninja Librarian Beth, tells me that this still hasn't even hit the local paper. So, if have a moment and the inclination, please drop a copy of your letter to the local newspaper editor.

We need your letters!

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007


Before anything else . . . can I get a big HOWZABOUTIT! for Coe Booth? Her excellent, excellent novel Tyrell just won the Los Angeles Times Book Award in the YA category. Great book, great person. Everyone wins!

I’m sure you remember Coe from the attack on the audience at our group reading in New York in December. No? Read about it here.

This whole book banning thing has pushed aside several things I had lined up to tell you—and don’t worry, I will. Oh, you know me. I can go on and on. Free Monkey has been keeping track of it all. For immediate updates, though, read my news page. I have been adding more signing dates for the upcoming Girl At Sea release. For those of your interested in the details of the publishing process, I have put up a new podcast which features my agent, Daphne Unfeasbile, describing an agent’s job in great detail. (If you aren’t interested in publishing, I don’t recommend this one.) Plus, now that I have a new video camera, I can promise more video blogs. The first is already recorded.

Thanks to the—by this point I think it’s hundreds of you—who have written to express your support. Free Monkey and I have read all of the comments and notes and are trying to respond as quickly as we can. Several of your wrote in from abroad, expressing shock that this sort of thing is going on in the United States. Yes—I am sorry to report that this stuff happens in the United States a lot. So much more than many people realize.

The issue was also covered in the online news show at the Human Rights Campaign, an organization that I happen to adore.

So, let’s get to the update.

First of all, another twist, one that is depressingly familiar. I am told that of all the people in attendance at the meeting that banned Bermudez . . . only the librarian and one parent had read the book. The librarian fought for it. I’m guessing (though I do not know this) that the parent was the same parent who wanted to have it banned.

The other committee members? Nope. They totally pulled a Sandra. They not only pulled the book (bad enough), they pulled it without knowing what was in it. Apparently, they took the word of someone who seems to have massively misread it.

I had to wonder about the person who had reviewed the book.

I’ve written to all of these committee members. In one case, I sent an additional copy of my letter (which was very nice, I assure you) to the secretary of the lead member, requesting that it be printed out and put in her hand.

I haven’t heard a word.

One thing you should know about me, friends . . . I can be tenacious. An explanation is owed, and I’m going to do all I can to get it. Should the e-mail fail . . . I do own one of those fancy telephone apparatuses. That’s the next step.

In case they happen to see this and missed my note, here are the names of the people I am looking for:

Mrs. Janet Vernon, Executive Director of Secondary Instruction
Dr. Richard Rosenberger, Executive Director of Human Resources
Mr. Chuck McCauley, Principal of Bartlesville High School

As none of you have read the book, I am happy to send you a free copy for review. Hopefully, I will be speaking to your soon!

(By the way, those links will bring up their e-mail addresses, just in case you have anything to add! You guys have so many good things to say, it seems a shame to keep you all to myself.)

I am a delight to speak to, both over e-mail and in person.

On the day this happened, my father came up to New York—and we actually spent the day running around to various consultates in the rain in an attempt to get some visas, and then my father lost his passport in a cab. In the middle of all of this, I was telling him what had happened. My dad is a pretty conservative guy, but even he shook his head.

“There’s nothing you can do about things like that,” he said. “It’s a shame.”

I said he was wrong. There is a LOT you can do. I think people only need to know WHY they should do something, and then how to go about it.

First, know that nothing really impacts me directly in this. I’m fine. I’m sitting up here in New York eating a bowl of soup, watching John Green talk to himself over the top of my computer. I don’t lose any money. The book was purchased. That it’s being locked in a closet or used as the Doorstop of Evil or pulped makes no difference to me financially. Even if I lose a handful of sales in that area, it’s not going to make me or break me. I can still get that inflatable palm tree that Free Monkey has been begging me for for weeks.

The people losing out in this are you guys—readers in high school and middle school. And it’s not because my book is just that good. I’m not so convinced of my own powers of thought that I believe that if you are deprived of the experience of reading one of my books, you will never quite ascend to the levels of intellectual magnitude that you could have otherwise reached.

No. The problem is that book banning and its related activities are amazingly easy, and their effect rots our national brain. Book banning in schools and libraries is particularly insidious because it often happens unchecked. The only reason I know about my book is because Ninja Librarian Susan Hunt got in touch with me and told me. A lot of this stuff happens under the radar.

One thing I didn’t mention in the last post about the “Citizen’s Request for Removal of Instructional Materials” form that got the book pulled is that there was a checkbox near the bottom with three options. They are:

Do not assign it to my child
Withdraw it from all students as well as my child
Send it back to the proper department for reevaluation

Did you guys see that one in the middle? That’s the one that was checked. I question the sanity of the first, but the second option is just out of control.

More disturbing: it worked in this case. I still don’t know why the board gave in, and I’m still working to find out. Won’t that be an interesting answer?

Now, the “what to do about it” part.

Here’s a not-so-secret secret: a lot of adults don’t make very good decisions themselves. They can be as needy for attention as the neediest person in your class. Several of your pointed out that the Bermudez banning campaign letter sounded like the work of an attention-seeker, and I think you may have a point there. Some people love to be seen doing things, especially if that thing seems “righteous.” When I worked at a school as a college student, it was all I could do not to throw pencils at the pompous and desperately uninformed members of the local school board, when they made their occasional, regal visits. A few of them were good, but a good half of them were horrible, and boy, did they like to hear themselves talk.

But here’s another important secret: a lot of parents and administrators are scared of you. They have no idea what’s going on in your head. Many think you’re kind of dim and you don’t care about anything.

You have more power than you think. If students fought against banning, you would really rattle a lot of people. If you demanded to know what books had been removed from your library (if any), if you demanded their return, if you showed up at a school board meeting, if you spoke to the local press . . .

People would listen to you. Not all the time, and not everyone . . . but I think you’d be surprised. Your rights are exactly the same as everyone else’s. You are born with them. They are yours to exercise.

As more and more people try to get you what you can’t do or read or know, I’m afraid it is down to you to kick back. Here are some ideas on how YOU can take some control:

1. Go to your school or local librarian and ask if any books have been challenged, removed, or deliberately not ordered because of a potential objection. If books have been banned or removed, ask WHO banned them and how to appeal. Start a petition in your school to have them brought back. (A lot of people in your school might not care about books, so if you can somehow convince the non-readers that this is just another way you’re being kept down in general, they may sign.)

2. Ask your English teachers to include at least one of the 100 most frequently challenged books in your curriculum.

3. Go to a school board meeting. I know this sounds boring, but it can be an eye-opening experience. You won’t believe some of the people who are making decisions for school out there. I have watched school board members fall asleep in the middle of public meetings and snore into microphones, or just walk out when confronted. Those are elected positions—and sometimes easy ones to get. You have as much right to be there, or even more right to be there, than anyone. You can confront these people.

4. You have one important tool: the internet. You are far better at using it than they are. It’s like you have magical powers.

Free Monkey says: don't be afraid to insist on your rights.

Have other ideas? Bring them on!

And I promise, next time . . . along with the updates, more shiny things. More monkey. And some dancing.

UPDATE: I see on reading the comments that it must sound like I am suggesting that teengers should be allowed to run the schools, and maybe the world, and that all adults are dumb, or something along those lines. That's not what I'm suggesting. Adults, or monkeys, or adult monkeys should run the schools and make the rules. That's fair enough. What I was saying, obviously inelegantly, is that students can take an active role in certain parts of the process.

You do have the right to ask if books have been removed, and you also have the right to ask for an appeal to bring them back. Trust me, if you show an interest in books, you are going to make some teachers and librarians very happy.

You also have the right to attend public school board meetings and speak when the floor is open. You gain the right to vote at age 18--this can only help you prepare for the process and see who is running in your area.

But I am not so insane as to think that 15 year-olds should be determing what goes on, as excellent as I think all of you are. And I do think you are excellent. I wouldn't be writing YA if I didn't. I would be writing knockoff novels with titles like The DaSquinchy Code.

Now I kind of want to write The DaSquinchy Code.

Also: please see award-winning novelist John Green's sample e-mail. Not that I am suggesting anything.

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