One of the major perks of being a writer is that, every once in a while, I get to witness something truly exciting–a real event in the literary world. Today was one of those days.
I didn’t know it when I first arrived to work this morning. Writing partner J. Green, author of Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines, was slumped over the table.
“Wake up!” I said, cheerfully slapping the space next to his head. “It’s Monday! Time to write your fingers off!”
He made a noise sort of like the noise that I once heard a ferret make when it got stuck in a bag and couldn’t find its way out.
“You seem to be kind of dead,” I observed. “Is there a reason?”
“Katherines, um . . . won a Printz Honor last night,” he said. “There was champagne.”
This was big, big news, and the cause of much general shock. Not shock because Katherines had won—just shock that this was the first thing I was hearing this morning. I had been all prepared to tell a great story about how I had gotten a grocery delivery from Fresh Direct, and the container holding my soup had exploded, resulting in my having a large box full of soup. I had all kinds of funny things to say about the soup box, but J. Green’s story eclipsed mine in a second, and I knew it.
For those of you who don’t know, the Printz Award (and its children, the Printz Honors) are like the Oscars of YA. John won the Printz last year. And now, he had won one of the coveted runner-up awards, making him the Prince of Printzes.
The Printz Award is, of course, named after actor Freddie Prinze Jr., even though it is spelled differently. It was created to honor Freddie’s performance as Fred in the live movie version of Scooby Doo.
“No it isn’t,” J. Green said, breaking into my thoughts. “It was created to honor Mike Printz, a school librarian and advocate of YA literature.”
“Says you, Mr. Fancy McWinzalot,” I said dismissively. “We in the hoi polloi know different. It was created by Sarah Michelle Gellar to celebrate her husband’s achievements. Buffy gave us this award.”
“That’s just totally wrong.”
“Not at all,” I went on. “And there’s more to know. Freddie Prinze Jr.’s father was Freddie Prinze, better known to the world as Chico, from the 1970s sitcom, Chico and the Man. So it’s kind of a Chico and the Man Award.”
J. Green put his head back down.
“Just kidding,” I said. “None of that was true. You were right about Mike Printz. Anyway! There has to be a celebration! Let’s get champagne!”
“It’s 10:30 in the morning,” he said.
“So what? Champagne is a morning drink. They serve it at brunch. It’s given out like milk at French schools! It helps you think!”
“I can’t drink ever, ever again,” he said. “I had some last night. And I don’t have enough Weight Watchers points.”
“You can’t count Weight Watchers points at a time like this!”
“I can,” he said. “You just watch me. I’m going to lose these fourteen pounds.”
“But . . .”
He held up a silencing hand.
“Let us say no more about it,” he said. “I like Weight Watchers. I like only eating my daily points allotment every day.”
On saying this, he began to cry very softly, but I pretended not to notice. I opened my computer and began to work.
The fact of the matter is that J. Green is quite humble, and he seemed quite apologetic about having won. He is one of the nicest people in the entire YA world.* But then, he seemed to have been hit by a resurgence of energy.
“You know what?” he said. “You’re right. I just won another ^@#&$*^#& Printz award! Let’s roll!”
And with that, he leapt up, leaving his coat and computer behind, and ran out on to the street.
I shuddered. This seemed entirely too much like the Jekyll and Hyde-like mood switch that came right before he assaulted the audience at our reading at Books of Wonder in December.** I quickly gathered up my things and his. By the time I caught up with him, J. Green was already standing outside the liquor store down the block, pouring champagne down his throat. The foam was spilling out of the corners of his mouth and down to his t-shirt. He had a second bottle waiting by his feet.
“That’s the spirit,” I said cautiously.
“Your #^$#&ing right it is,” he said, triumphantly smashing the empty bottle on the ground. “Come on. We’re going to Barnes and Noble.”
He lurched off, popping the second bottle as he did so. He was talking the entire time, but with every second, his voice became harder and harder to understand. He forced his way into the store and up to the children and YA section, where he rapidly cleaned the shelf of all copies of Waiting for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines.
“PRINTZ BOOKS!” he yelled to everyone on the second floor. “Get your $*&^#“PRINTZ BOOKS!” Written by me, a #$^$%#&^$ Printz author!”
Some of the parents in the section quickly picked up their children and hurried off. John flung copies after them.
“You forgot your books!” he yelled. “Give your kids the gift of #&^$&*# quality!”
This entire time, I had been trying to stop John. But he’s a lot bigger than I am, and surprisingly fast. He darted around the teen romance table.
“Can’t catch me!” he said, devilishly.
But security could. They came up behind him and got him by the arms.
“I won the Printz,” he explained, as soberly as he could. “Named after Freddie Prinze Jr.”
He continued explaining this, even as he was deposited back on the street.
“Forget that place,” he said, punctuating the remark with a loud belch. “I hate it in there. Let’s go to the zoo.”
“John,” I said, “maybe we should just get you a coffee.”
“I’mgunna buy myself a monkey,” he went on. “That’s what I need. A monkey. A lil monkey to help me and get me my pencils. Why hasn’t anyone gotten me a monkey? All writers should have a monkey. It can dust my awards.”
Wheeling around, he noticed the PetCo behind us, and staggered in.
“Monkey!” he shouted. “I need a monkey!”
It took five salespeople to convince him that PetCo does not sell monkeys, so he settled on buying three dozen six-cent goldfish, nine mice, and 50 pounds of cat litter.
“A lil’ present for my wife,” he said, passing over his credit card with great aplomb. “Shhhhh! Big secret!”
“I wish E. was here,” I said quietly. (E. Lockhart, maybe anticipating this, had gone away for the weekend and had not yet returned to us.)
We found ourselves outside again, this time with goldfish, mice, and litter to deal with. But John seemed to have an agenda. He ran into Union Square and dumped the litter on to the ground.
“It’s the John Green Printz Award playground,” he said proudly. “For kids. This is the sandbox.”
“It’s a pile of cat litter in the middle of Union Square,” I corrected him.
He shhhed me again, then snuck off with the mice and goldfish. He didn’t have them with him when he returned, and I didn’t ask where they had gone.
“I have to go,” he said. “Gotta go see my editor. Gonna have lunch. You watch the playground. Shhhhh!”
And with that, he ran down the street, arms flailing in the cold January wind.
If you want to see John’s actual reaction to the news (and who doesn’t want to see what it is really like to win a major literary award?), you can check it out here. And please, buy An Abundance of Katherines, because he’s still out there somewhere, and he may come to your house if you don’t. And you don’t want that. Not if you don’t want a pile of cat litter on your floor, and whatever it is he does with the mice and the fish. That’s what these literary genius types are like.
* This story is, for the most part, true up until this point. Well, except for John Green literally crying over his points. After this point, the reader is cautioned not to expect much in the way of facts. Don’t give me any grief about this. I never promised you facts.
** Which also didn’t happen, but you know that.
Posted: Monday, January 22nd, 2007 @ 11:13 pm
Categories: John Green, awards, drunken outrages, goldfish.
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