In Which Ella Meets John and Hank Green

Today, I journeyed into the city for some adventuring and to see John and Hank Green at a signing. It was fantastic. I’m much to tired and giddy with excitement, so tonight’s post will be limited to some pictures of the event taken with my iPhone. If you stick around and check back tomorrow, expect a very long post full of gushing about how surreal and fun it was to finally meet them.

 

On Friday, I’ll write about this week’s reader’s chosen topic, so vote here:

 

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.

 

In Which Ella Visits Many, Many Parks on Her Way to Maureen Johnson’s In the Name of the Star Book Launch

A month and a half later, I am picking up the story of the time I went to Maureen Johnson’s book launch and got to talk to Libba Bray right where I left off, sitting in a park and reading The Help at about 2:30 in the afternoon.

If you’d like to read the story start to finish, which I highly recommend you do, you can start here with A Scintillating Story in Which Ella Nearly Loses a Boot, Takes a Train, and Eats Lunch and then move onto In Which Ella Has a Costume Change. Those links will open those posts in another window, so you don’t have to worry about having to find this post again.

Okay, done reading?

Great, let’s go.

I had chosen a bench half under a shrub, in an attempt to avoid the sun, and was instead rewarded with a healthy amount of leaves taking up residence in my hair, which optimistically, gave me the look of a wood nymph, but more realistically, made me look like I stuck my head in a shrub. I am nothing if not glamorous.

Leaves or no leaves, I continued reading The Help. Like with any good book, all it took was a few paragraphs for me to fall into a new world. The heat and humidity suddenly didn’t just belong to the city, and I was no longer sitting on an uncomfortable green metal bench. No, I was in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s, a few years before my parents were born, drinking lemonade and contemplating the injustices of racism and the poor treatment of maids by their white employers. I was hanging over Skeeter’s shoulder as she labored over the typewriter in her stifling attic bedroom and following around Aibleen as she did her ironing while watching soaps.

But then the spell was broken when a man in a suit sat down next to me and began to have an extreme loud conversation on his cellphone with his health insurance company. Next, a dog ran through the park chasing a squirrel, nearly knocking down several people in its zeal, and I was totally distracted. So I got up, stuffed the book back into my purse and went to go find the bookstore to make sure I knew where it was for later.

I found it, the store almost perfectly bisecting a long numbered block with a huge Maureen Johnson display set up right in the front of the store. But I still had almost three hours to kill. I owed my mother a Mother’s Day present, the result of an agreement where she would tell me what she wanted when she found it, and it seemed like thanks to the power of texting pictures and calling her, I might be able to find something for her in one of the many boutiques in the area. And indeed I did.

Right next door to the bookstore was a very large art supply store. I went in, enticed by the neoprene laptop cases and my love of paint color charts. (While I may not be a very good artist, I have always been fond of art supplies and lucky enough to have family members who are very artistic, namely a mother who is known for her impressive gift wrapping and card-making skills and an uncle and aunt who are architects who also spend a lot of time drawing and painting and designing.) Speaking of my mother and gift-wrapping (And I’m talking about the fancy type of gift-wrapping here, not the I-got-this-pretty-paper-and-tied-a-bow wrapping. She spends all year visiting stationary shops and buying sheets of beautiful wrapping paper, tissue paper, stickers, ribbons, and cardstock. My favorite picks of hers so far this year have been a piece of incredibly soft paper that looks like eyelet fabric and some textured rice paper. This Christmas, I’m going to take pictures of the presents so you can see.), right to the right of the door they had a gift wrap section, with sheets draped on at least ten displays. Of course, I immediately called my mother.

After about ten minutes of debate, I selected three sheets (pictured below) and got them wrapped up in brown paper, also purchasing some funny sticky notes and jars to give to Maureen Johnson. Whenever I know that I’m going to meet someone whose work has really impacted me and that I really enjoy, I always feel like I need to bring them a present, to have some sort of tangible way of them knowing how much I care.

With that shopping done and a very excited mother waiting for me at home, I walked north again, towards another park to purchase dinner and read. I am not sure if many of you know about the glorious burger place called Shake Shack in Madison Square Park, but if you don’t, I highly recommend that you make its acquaintance posthaste. It’s part of Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group that also runs other amazing restaurants like Grammercy Tavern and Union Square Café. Being somewhat of a hamburger and chocolate milkshake fanatic, I was throughly ready for dinner even though it was only four in the afternoon.

Some man had been collecting Venti-sized Starbucks coffee cups and was in the process of creating an amazing mobile like structure in a storefront. He was seated in the lit window display on a short, worn wooden stool, cup in hand, holding a thin paintbrush, painting a beautiful swirl of dark blues over the green mermaid logo. A palate was at his feet, covered with thick globs of paint, and there were scattered rolled up, but still carefully and tightly capped tubes of paint, covered with dried paint fingerprints and flecks. I would have paused and watched him, but the young children with their noses pressed up against the glass, fresh out of school, nannies holding their backpacks, seemed to be bothering him, so I walked on. Maybe someday soon I’ll walk past that store again and see it completed, cups twisting about on their strings as they are buffeted about by the air from heating ducts. But more likely than not, by the time I’m back in that area of the city, the cup mobile will be gone, part of only an endless tide of seasonal window dressings.

The park was crowded, the way it always is, so I walked its perimeter looking for an open space on a bench, trying to avoid eye contact with the homeless people begging for change. One followed me for a while, but there really was no reason to be scared. The whole park was full of people and if anything remotely bad would have happened to me all I would have needed to do was scream and thrash about and someone would have come to my aid. Besides, just because someone is homeless does not mean that they are a bad person or have any intent to harm, they are simply in need of aid. (However, I would advise you to rarely give money to them on the streets because in many cases they use it to further their drug habits. Instead, hand them unopened food or donate to organizations that help the homeless.)

I bought myself a hamburger and chocolate milkshake and settled down on my second green metal bench of the day and read as I ate and drank. Finishing The Help, I moved onto skimming one of the Maureen Johnson books I had brought along for her to sign. At some point some man sat down next to me to talk on his cellphone and then when he finished the call, which I hadn’t been listening to, he apologized for using so many curse words that he thought I would be upset by, judging by the “innocent” book I was reading. And then he started asking me about the book and myself. So I did what I very frequently do when on airplanes and made up an alternate persona.

Now there is uncomfortable I can put up with, and there is uncomfortable that really creeps me out. And maybe it’s because I am automatically and somewhat unreasonably distrustful of adults who start talking to me in parks in the city (unless they have young children with them or are asking for directions), but I really did not want to continue talking to him, no matter how normal he seemed. So I made my very speedy exit from the park and went back to the bookstore even though I still had close to an hour before the book launch.

And it actually turned out to be a good thing that I left when I did. When I got to the store around ten minutes later, there were already plenty of people there and it took a while for the store to get the book I reserved. I don’t normally go to events alone, and it was strange to be standing with no one to talk to in a room full of people chatting. But it sure made for fantastic eavesdropping. A few more minutes of standing around awkwardly later, it became apparent that hardly any of the other people knew each other before the event, either.

And that’s what I like about books: they bring people together. Every person there felt passionate enough about Maureen Johnson and her books to go to go to a bookstore for her book launch even though it was a school/work night. Some people even drove from Massachusetts (a state I will never spell properly, despite my sometimes residency) and Delaware. That means that they would be getting home quite, quite late! And yet they came because people love books, and people also love Maureen Johnson.

And let me tell you, even if Maureen Johnson wasn’t a fabulous author, I still would have gone to any event she hosted, because Maureen Johnson is hilarious and so much fun. She’s got a very funny blog and is amazingly fun to follow on Twitter. She tweets constantly and is known for such gems as:

But she also tackles more serious topics. Today, she was talking about Penguin deciding to stop allowing libraries to atop lending ebooks and the scrutiny books aimed at women are placed under, specifically Twilight.

I’ll leave the story here for the night, and pick it back up again tomorrow. That post is already written and has been set to publish at eight p.m.

(Note: This is the second time I’ve written this post, as the first copy was destroyed when my computer crashed. Thankfully, this version is far superior to the original. I’m beginning to think that my blog was conspiring against me to improve the quality of my work.)

For the month, you can find me updating my word count on NaNoWriMo here. (I need to do it more regularly so that it doesn’t become flat for a few days, only to receive an enormous spike, indicating that I somehow magically wrote about twelve thousand words in one day.)

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.

In Which Ella Reviews The Name of the Star

It’s 2011, not 1888, but Jack the Ripper is loose in London, and once again he’s impossible to catch. Murdering women and this time also men right in front of the watchful eyes of the CCTV cameras, he’s recreating each of the six murders down to the exact dismembering of the bodies. And just like in 1888, he has the attention of the entire world.

Enter Rory, a seventeen-year-old girl from Louisiana attending Westford, a London boarding school. One night Rory catches a glimpse of a creepy man walking away from the scene of the fourth murder, the man the police believe to be their prime suspect. But there’s a catch—only Rory was able to see him, not even her roommate who was with her at the time or the CCTV camera pointed directly at the crime.

The Name of the Star will send tingles up your spine as you uncover the reasons for why only Rory can see the Ripper and keep you on the edge of your seat as you follow her attempts to catch him. But the book is more than just your average YA thriller. Sure, it’s got suspense and plenty of action, but it’s also a story of friendship in light of troubling times. Despite branching out into a new genre, Johnson retains her humorous and witty style that her fans adore. She will make you laugh out-loud with her descriptions of Rory’s family back home, her negligee-wearing grandmother and uncle who freezes jars of peanut butter and yogurt, and you’ll wish you had friends as loyal and fun as Rory’s new British ones. This book is impossible to put down and a must for the spooky Halloween season.

Warning: Do not read this thriller at night or you’ll find yourself unable to sleep for hours as every creak in the house sounds like the Ripper’s footfalls coming and closer to your bed.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if you’re into that kind of thing.

In Which Ella Declares Her Love for the Night

Oh for goodness sakes am I tired. My eyelids burn, my head is heavy, and I want nothing more than to lean over, bury my head in the pillows, and just sleep. For hours and hours and hours. But it’s not exactly an option.

It is night, and I hate to waste it sleeping. These dark hours are my favorite. It’s as if I am the only one alive in the world, and I can do whatever I want without anyone ever seeing or knowing. I do my best writing after midnight, and I’ve grown accustomed to the clock showing one, two, even three in the morning before I drift off. But the exhaustion is worth it just to have those quiet hours where it’s only me and the crickets chirping.

Perhaps it’s because bad things never happen in the middle of the night, and you don’t have to deal with all of the sucky parts of the day. You’re running away from them, but this time it’s okay. You can’t be expected to fix an argument or stop being so depressed because everyone’s asleep and every place is closed. So it’s okay to pretend that everything is alright and that you’re gonna be okay.

And the cats are always up. They climb up on my bed. All three of them. Rolley fur-balls, nuzzling their wet noses and mouths against my hand and settling down in the most inconvenient places, forcing me to contort my body in order to share the bed. But I don’t mind. I think they might be the best companions in the world. But people are still pretty good, too.

Sometimes, you don’t have to share the darkness alone. Sometimes, there’s someone there with you to talk to and say things you never would if it were light out. The night makes life feel a little more safe to let down all of those barriers. I love talking on the phone, leaning halfway off my bed, seeing how close I can get my head to the floor before I overbalance and have to grab at the sheets to avoid falling. I love talking to people at sleep-overs until the wee hours and when they fall asleep in the middle of an answer, leaving me wondering how lucky I am to have friends like them.

But most of all, I love how not so many people like the night as much as I do. It’s my time, all for me, and it’s rare that I ever have to share it. I get to be horribly selfish with absolutely no consequences.

But as much as I’d like to, I can’t stay up until all hours tonight. I really ought to go to bed. Because tomorrow morning, I’m going on an adventure.

I’m taking my self to MoMA and to a book launch for Maureen Johnson’s In the Name of the Star. I might go my favorite book store and to nerdfighter MJ party. Maybe I’ll take some pictures to share. I’ll write in a park and make up stories while I’m riding on the subway. It’ll be amazing.

But when I come home, it’ll be dark again, and I’ll have these wonderful hours just to be, exactly the way I like it.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if you’re into that kind of thing.

These Words Are Calm and Brown, the Color of Coffee Mixed With Milk

My dress smells like coffee, the way that all clothing and hair does when it stays inside of a coffee shop too long. Pippa and I sat for hours at a small table next to the window and an outlet as I wrote a incredibly long email to Sadie, and she annotated a book on the Founding Fathers. When she mentioned Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton’s duel, I laughed and tried to get her more enthusiastic about it. But twenty pages of dense academic writing can be boring if you’re not a history lover, so I just posted links to her Facebook wall in a half-joking manner. I doubt she’ll read any of the articles about the duel or Aaron Burr’s treason, but it felt nice to try to share something I feel so passionate about.

But I wasn’t thinking about Aaron Burr and the way that his name begins and ends with double letters or Alexander Hamilton and the fact that he wasn’t born in the United States when I first noticed the coffee smell that had infused my clothes and hair. I was just lying on my back, diagonal across the bed, staring at the ceiling. I had read the previews of Laini Taylor’s and Maureen Johnson’s new books earlier in the day, and I was hungry for more. Hungry in a way that made my neck hurt and my fingers tingle, because I wanted to grab those books and hole up in a corner of the house and just read. Read and read and read. But I couldn’t. They don’t come out until the end of September.

So I just lay there and thought about the way that the coffee smell was so close to that of cigarettes after you’ve been around somebody whose been chain smoking. The way that my clothing used to smell on Thanksgiving. Only the coffee doesn’t make me choke or give me headaches, or make me screw up my eyes and hold my breath as I move to someplace in the house that isn’t quite so full of smoke. But even though I hate, hate, hate cigarettes, I always associated the smell with love and smooth mashed potatoes and online poker and horse racing where you use fake money instead of credit cards and cold wind that turns my cheeks red when I run across the fairgrounds to play on the swings.

Coffee just smells like work.

So I closed my eyes, pulled my hair roughly out of its ponytail, draped the ends across my face, and just lay back. Because I needed some sort of good idea. Something to write that was proper fiction or at least something to turn into blog post. But nothing was coming. My mind was just blank and lethargic, the way it always is after I stay up too late for too many nights without taking any naps.

And I wished that I could have people to hang out with so that I didn’t have to write so many darn letters. Because I’m scared of this quote from a John Green novel, An Abundance of Katherines: “You can love someone so much…But you can never love people as much as you can miss them.”

But I didn’t cry because crying means admitting how lonely and jealous I sometimes am when all I want to be is happy and excited for everyone gone at college. I just opened my computer and wrote all of this down in some jumbled sort of mess because it sounded nice inside my head. It was calm and pale brown, like coffee mixed with milk after the swirling of the white against the dark brown has stopped, and it’s just one smooth color. And the words needed to find a home.