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Sunday, June 21, 2009


Katie asks: Maureen, Any ideas on how to convince my mother that I, at 18 years old, can go camping in the world's most controlled environment (Disney World) without dying or injuring myself?

Camping? Are you out of your MIND??? Have you learned NOTHING from me?

Listen to a story.

Last night, I was out with Justine Larbalestier and Scott Westerfeld. I am often out with Justine and Scott, because we, for lack of a better term for it, work together. Last night, we went to see an excellent New York Liberty game, and then we all went for dinner at a fancy restaurant, because that is the way we roll. (Or, that is the way they roll, and I just like following people whenever I think there might be food in it for me, because otherwise, I might end up as I did today—slicing my finger open while cutting the head of Swiss chard I had for lunch, and then just forgetting to make dinner and eating crackers and a smoothie. I am still enjoying the smoothie as I type this with one finger wrapped up in a big band aid, so I keep hitting all the wrong keys.)

Anyway, we rocked up to the restaurant, all smiles and city manners, and took our seats next to some large, open French doors that lead to the outside patio, letting in the lovely night breeze. We ordered a five course tasting menu and proceeded to enjoy five (sadly tiny) courses. (Everyone got a different thing, and I swear to god, I kept getting the smallest ones, which was sad because I was so hungry I could have eaten my napkin.) Scott was telling us all about the conversation he had had with the producers of the still-hypothetical but nonetheless awesome in concept Uglies movie just that afternoon.

Anyway, I hope I am conveying the ambiance of class and style—writers sitting around, drinking wine and having very tiny plates of fancy food, talking about movie deals—when all of a sudden my brain started feeding me information. I was sitting directly across from Scott, and I noticed there was a huge black stripe on his white shirt that I was sure had not been there before, and that the stripe was moving, and then finally my brain concluded that it was not a stripe at all but a THREE INCH COCKROACH climbing down from his shoulder and down the front of his shirt.

Now, as it happens, I have quite a high voice. Maybe not my speaking voice, which is a medium girly-high. But my singing/screaming voice is quite high in pitch. I have a bit of a natural whistle register. This is why I can do such a good impression of a seagull and such a very bad version of this song. And when I scream when I, say, see a three inch cockroach climbing down someone’s shoulder, it is both VERY HIGH and VERY LOUD—enough to cause everyone at the table to leap out of their chairs and ALSO start screaming and to bring all activity in the restaurant to a temporary halt.

Scott, of course, has a deep man-scream and was mostly just screaming because we were all screaming at him and staring in HORROR, and mostly everyone was screaming because I was screaming, and he was looking around for whatever it was that was about to DEVOUR him (as he later explained, “I thought it had to be some kind of a rat, a dog, a rat-dog, something about to, you know, eat me in one bite”). Justine flicked bravely at the roach and it went away, and Scott was still looking for the source of the screaming when I saw it had merely flown around and on to HIS BACK, which made me scream AGAIN.

So, Katie, what I am saying is if this kind of thing can take place AT THE VERY HEIGHT OF CIVILIZATION, just IMAGINE what horrors await you at a campsite. Even at Disney World, which IS the world’s most controlled environment, camping is guaranteed death. The Disney corporation wants you to think they can control the environment through their ridiculously clean and manicured parks where music comes out of rocks and nothing ever rusts or even loses its shine, but they are lying to themselves and to you.

I mean, when the snake armies come and the ground goes soft and swallows your tent, do you think MICKEY MOUSE is going to come running out of the bushes to save you? Do you even WANT that to happen if that’s an option? Because I wouldn’t. Can you imagine it, Katie? There you are, insects swarming, rain pouring down on you, beating your pathetic excuse for a shelter into a new and sinister form . . . because that tent of yours will be about as useful as a paper boat when the Rains come, and come they will, Katie, because Florida is hurricane country . . . and then, as you sink into the fecund earth, crashing out of some freaky bushes manicured in the shape of giant mice comes a REAL, MASSIVE, HUMANOID MOUSE with ears the size of dinner plates, screaming in a keening voice that is neither male nor female but distinctly toonish, “I’ll save you!” And then, it will be reaching for you with those big, white, mitted hands, which are the last thing many children see before they descend into the Caves of Madness. Because nothing can hold back the forces of chaos, Katie. Nothing at all. Except, perhaps, the walls of a hotel.

Have a good trip!

The last thing many children ever see.

Starlysh asks: I'm a paranoid person. I think people talk about me. How do I become less crazy?

It’s difficult for me to say for sure, Starlysh, because I don’t know for a fact that people AREN’T talking about you. But there are ways to find out. Have you witnessed any of the following behaviors?

When you enter a room, do people stop talking?

Do they start talking?

Do they continue talking as if your entrance didn’t change the way they talked at all?

Do people look at you?

Do they sometimes not look at you?

Do people sometimes take phone calls around you and then go outside or a few feet away to talk?

Do you sometimes hear your name mentioned?

Do you sometimes notice that your name has NOT been mentioned?

If you have seen any or all of the above, then I think it is pretty safe to say that all your worries are valid. I don’t know what they’re planning, but whatever it is, you need to get out of there before they hatch that plan. They will probably strike when you are least expecting it, using some innocent ruse. For example, they may all gather together by a phone and call you, trying to lure you out. One person will be assigned the task of making the call, and they’ll say something like, “Hey, Katie, want to go on an awesome camping trip to Disneyworld?”

They may be gathering now.

Now, if you’re smart and you’ve read the above, you’ll know to turn that down. You’ll use some clever excuse, like, “Sorry. I’m taking place in a highly experimental treatment for my compulsive homicide disorder. I just can’t seem to fight the urge to chop everyone into TINY, TINY PIECES with a GIANT AX and I am running out of places to put the bodies. But thank you for asking!”

In some cases, they won’t be this obvious. They will never call and make their demands known. They’ll just lurk . . . talking, not talking, looking, not looking, saying your name, not saying your name. They are doing this to test you, to try to weaken you. Don’t give in. You have to throw them off guard.

For instance, you could make up 200 fake Facebook profiles, using stock photographs of people. Make all these people friend you AND each other. Create a group called “The Army of Sekrits.” Spend several days having your new, fake friends write on your wall, leaving messages like, “Last night was best one EVER. I can’t WAIT until the BIG EVENT!” Or, “Yeah, it got out and bit three people but that won’t be a problem for long, lol!” Or, “The injection stings but you know, it is SO MUCH BETTER than YOU KNOW WHAT! CHOMP, CHOMP, CHOMP! <3 YOU!”

When your “real” friends ask you who all these people are and why they keep leaving these creepy messages on your wall, just smile enigmatically. At this point, your phone will ring, because it goes without saying that you’ve gotten a second phone that you have programmed with your number, which you keep in your pocket at all times so you can just hit a button and dial yourself whenever anyone comes near you, and then go off and have mysterious conversations with yourself during which you laugh a lot and look over at your “friends” sadly, like you know about some terrible fate that is about to befall them and there is simply nothing you can do about it.

Or it could be nothing.

Cortney asks: As a very soon to be college graduate, what do you suggest I do to get myself ready to live in the big, scary, real world?

There is no way of avoiding the real world, Cortney. Sure, the collapse of the world economy might make it a hair tricky to do things like eat food that is not from a trash can and live in an apartment, instead of an old refrigerator box or in a van down by the river, but where is your spirit of adventure, anyway? We Americans are a plucky people. We made our country based on nothing! Nothing! Why, when the American Revolution started, we were a simple tree-dwelling people with nothing but a dream. Our forefathers hired someone to make a piece of paper, and on that single piece of paper, they wrote the Declaration of Independence. Then we fought off the evil British (sorry, British people) by throwing anything we had at them! Sticks, bricks, tea, cats, pineapples . . . we gave all we had. And look at us now!

So think of that and be INSPIRED! And then lie on your resume! Tell them you went to Harvard AND Yale AT THE SAME TIME where you majored in EVERYTHING! Tell them you’ll do anything! Wait for your competition to turn their back and then shove him/her into the nearest closet/stairwell/tar pit and GET THAT JOB! It’s what George Washington would do.

The competition needs to get out of your way!

I hope this has been helpful. I look forward to answering more of your questions.

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Anonymous acciofun said...

Thank you, Maureen. If you didn't blog in the next two days, I might have died.

7:30 AM  
Blogger loveacrosstheocean said...

gosh, Maureen. How do you write such fantastically entertaining entries EVERY TIME?! The dinner/cockroach story made me laugh out loud.
I love your advice posts, they are filled with wisdomosity.

7:32 AM  
Blogger angela said...

That was amazing,MJ. Considering you wrote it under the pressure of me reply-tweeting to everything you said to try and get you to write a blog. xP

I kinda wish you'd answered my advice. I'm gonna go find it in comments and copy and paste it in a new one so you remember. Silly forgetful Maureen. -pets-

7:47 AM  
Blogger Ninja Fanpire said...

So Maureen, I was sitting here, eating this TV dinner that looked much better one the box. And since I was so preoccupied trying not to choke from laughing so hard, I ended up being able to eat this slightly disgusting meal and hardly notice.

7:51 AM  
Blogger Brittany Ann said...

Poor Scott!! That story made me LOL! And Mickey Mouse!! haha...thanks for an entry that made my day MJ!

8:06 AM  
Blogger Carrie said...

Currently watching that video of Minnie Riperton's high notes... Oh. Dear.

9:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazing post. Trauma seriously gets your juices flowing. This explains a lot.

9:11 AM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

I got attacked by flying roaches at the beach last year. People came out of their hotel rooms to see why I was shrieking.


9:37 AM  
Blogger Alex Dahlberry said...

When people ask who Maureen Johnson is, I always reply, "Only the funniest person in the world." And its so true.

Here's a question for ya:
How do I survive this entire summer doing NOTHING?

9:43 AM  
Blogger Little Willow said...

I'm currently rehearsing for my next play. In the second scene, I am dragged upstage and thrown off into the wings, at which point I scream. The first time we blocked this scene, I was complimented on my quote "horror movie scream." I said thank you, then apologized in case I had burst anyone's eardrums.

10:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bravo. Very inspirational :)

P.S. OMG my word verification is SYCHED! LOL random

12:19 PM  
Anonymous Kat Fish said...

Your wisdom is too great for us. You are so generous to grace us with your wisdom and knowledge.

5:51 PM  
Blogger Emily said...

lol. What traumatic experience. Poor Scott.

And I envy your story-telling abilities. I guess that's what you get paid for, though.

6:39 PM  
Anonymous JK said...

I agree about the camping. I got a mouse/ rat (I really can't remember)in my tent once while I was camping. And I have developed quite a fear of cockroaches over the years having gorwn up in Georgia.

7:06 PM  
Blogger Nadia Murti said...

Mickey Mouse is so evil.

8:31 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I laughed so hard I cried at the cockroach story. Not even exaggerating. The image alone of Scott screaming was enough.

8:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know the only way to camp.
You set up a tent in your living room! Or if you really want to go somewhere like Disney, set up the tent in the hotel room! Much safer way to camp.

9:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

am also with Kira902k. how do we survive the summer doing nothing? please help us Maureen!

9:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The image of being saved by Mickey Mouse is going to haunt my nightmares for weeks.

10:48 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

the cockroach story had me laughing so hard the people around me at the coffee shop that I'm in looked at me like I was an insane person who had recently escaped the clutches of the insane place. :)

I have a question for you: how do you manage to write such awesome blogs, and how can I be more awesome and write more awesome blogs?

5:59 AM  
Anonymous Kaitlyn Anne said...

so that one trip to disney world when I was 5 should be enough for me? But my character autograph book is so empty! Surely, the campgrounds are a bit better after 15 years, and no I wouldn't be going in a tent or that pop-up tin can camper my parents dragged behind our mini-van.
I would have air-conditioning! Or a hotel room. Which would contain air, of course, to condition.

Did you see Cinderella? I searched everywhere, but never found her. My five year old brain's most desired dream was dashed to pieces on the last day when I found out I needed an appointment.
Like she was the dentist or something.

5:34 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

does anyone else here suddenly feel the EXTREME NEED to make the The Army of Sekrits on Facebook? because I'm making it.

11:20 PM  
Anonymous JD said...

The cockaroach story was hiliarious, I nearly fell off my chair in a fit of laughter.

I have a question though: How do I convince my parents that I will not die/get eaten by a sasquatch if spend two weeks in Seattle (a place where I practically grew up) with my best friend and her family while staying right on the Columbia for one of those weeks?

(*chuckles randomly*, my verifictation thing says "mantuck")

11:25 PM  
Anonymous Kaylen said...

I have had more terrible haircuts than anyone I have ever known.

I think the hairstylists hate me. They meet in the woods at night and dance around campfires, discussing how next they will attempt to make me look like a man. They speak in code and greet eachother with secret handshakes. Only the women though. Only the women...*shifty eyes*

Today their faithful plotting has once again foiled my attempt at an artsy haircut. My hair has been transformed into a bobbish disaster of epic proportions.

Mom: A pixie cut will fix it! Pixie cuts fix everything!
Me: No! They won't! Not for me!
Mom: Come on! It will be cute!
Me: Can you say G.I. Jane?

Well, I think it's already too late for that... It looks like a cat died on my head. A really fat cat who only ever ate blenderized happy meals.

What do I do? How do I fix this? And what should I do about those evil hair ladies?

1:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this post just solved all the problems I have ever had and will ever have. Thank you.

Also, I'm leaving for school in a couple of months and my parents are moving into a new house. In said house, I will not have a room. How do I convince them that they are irrevocably damaging my psyche and making me feel unwanted?

6:35 AM  
Blogger M.L. said...

Hi MJ. Your posts always make me smile, no matter what kind of day I'm having. Today I needed to smile--Thank you!

I wanted to ask if you knew that ABBA was going on tour this summer?

Oops. That isn't really a correct sentence. Think the grammar police will be out to get me?

7:23 AM  
Blogger ?? said...

MJ- I started my first day of college today and I'm finding it hard to get in the swing of things and make new friends. Do you have any advice for starting school and meeting new people? Thanks!

7:59 AM  
Anonymous Sandy Peterson said...

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12:42 PM  
Anonymous Effy said...

I have a question about "Devilish" which I just finished reading: Why didn't Owen actually die in the fire, and when he shot himself? And why could he suddenly be allowed to kiss Jane after Lanalee gets her comeuppance???

9:24 PM  
Blogger Hannah said...

I've decided that I want to write a musical. But instead of acting, they'll just SING. This musical is about something in a mall. I was thinking we could stand on top of the tables in the food court and just be annoying everyone who is eating. But the problem is... I can't think of anything to write this lovely musical about. Do you have any suggestions, Maureen? Because I need help otherwise I'm afraid my mall musical is just a dream.

*sigh* life is hard.

1:35 AM  
Blogger Meftihe said...

Just a thought- perhaps you should eat a full nutritional meal before blogging? Smoothies may seem nutritional, but they (clearly) are crazy people fuel.

3:08 PM  
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5:25 PM  
Anonymous Laura said...

I have a question:
So I just got my SAT scores back and didn't do as well as I had hoped, and I studied really hard for them. Do you have any advice on how I should prepare for the next time I take them?

2:12 AM  
Anonymous Katie said...

Thanks for the response; you've found a new fan in my mother. We ended up in a hotel, so any possible disasters were averted.

5:14 AM  
Anonymous LeahSence said...

KaitlynAnne, I am a nerdfighter working at Disneyworld. Come friend me on facebook! I was the one who suggested the camping in the first place

6:22 AM  
Anonymous Claire said...

Maureen, I'm kinda nervous right now. In a couple days I'll be going to Germany as a foreign exchange student for three weeks. What do you think I should expect?

12:56 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

MJ (and I dont mean Michal Jackson) I challange you! I challange you to, in your next blogpost, stop using punctuation (exclamation marks may be used, but not as a substitute of punctuation) and start using "and" in stead"

6:30 PM  
Anonymous NIK said...

I am now going to have nightmares of big white gloves reaching for me.


Actually, I don't have nightmares. But if I did I would see big whte gloves trying to grab me...

11:45 PM  
Anonymous Megan said...

Maureen, I'm going to Italy soon. Would you suggest I make like Clio and discover an artifact that alters history?

2:17 AM  
Anonymous Rachel said...

y'know, my cousin did go to harvard and yale. but not at the same time.

is it proselytizing if my word verification thing is "crusifec"?

6:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually screamed and my mom freaked out.

5:36 AM  
Anonymous Triskaideka said...

Did Scott Westerfeld steal all of the heads of the girls on your book covers for his?

I think he might have

10:20 AM  
Blogger Samantha said...

Hi. While I was in Florida (not camping) on vacation, my dad ran out of books and we went to a bookstore, where I happily ransacked the place until I found Suite Scarlett, because sadly I hadn't read it yet. On the really long trip home, I was reading it with everybody in the car asleep but my dad and me. ABBA was mentioned. Lack of sleep and the random appearance of ABBA made me laugh really really hard, but I couldn't wake anybody up, so I had to silently laugh really really hard while stuffing my face into a pillow, which made me laugh more, and then two minutes later I came out of the pillow still chuckling softly to see my dad staring at me through the rearview mirror, and then I laughed so hard I cried, and then I went back to reading. Thank you for helping me solidify my place as the insane lunatic of the family. And the book was very good, too.

10:01 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

The bug thing reminded me of when I was in Belize and we were staying in these cabanas with thatched roofs (aka roofs made of DEAD LEAVES) and at night you could hear things SCUTTLING (not walking, not crawling, but hardcore scuttling) in the dead-leaf roofs. But the people who owned the place told us not to worry, the massive spiders and the scaly geckos that also lived in the roofs would eat the scuttling insects, and that we should not fear. Of course, the minute they finish telling us this, a grasshopper kind of but FALLS OUT OF THE DEAD-LEAF ROOF and lands ON MY CHEST, UNCOMFORTABLY CLOSE TO MY FACE, so I can understand your horror at seeing a large cockroach. There was one of those in our bathroom sink I was enemies with.

8:35 AM  
Anonymous Kyla said...

Dear MJ, Other than seeing Harry Potter in a place where even the guy selling popcorn has a fabulous accent and going to Herrods in search of ox tongues, what should one do while in London, say, next week?

5:13 AM  
Blogger Megg said...

That was hilarious, Maureen!

Now, I have my own question: I am currently working on my first novel, and I want to try and write for 24 hours straight (but taking time to eat and go to the bathroom). What are the pros and cons of this idea? Any advice you can give me?

3:11 AM  
Blogger Priya said...

Oh my gosh, this made me laugh so much.

9:26 PM  
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