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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

And Unto This Day Is Born... A Nerdfighter
or sharing the good nerd word with our nephew

Okay, so a couple of weeks ago I finally was a good influence on our nephew, Alex. I know. Surprising, right? Don't get too excited. My influence was indirect and took the form of sharing Geo's and my favorite award winning Young Adult author, John Green with our soon-to-be 14 year old relative.

Wait...what?!? Fourteen???!? Time is flying by like an F-16.

Anywho, four years ago John and his brother Hank launched a year-long project named Brotherhood 2.0, wherein they would communicate solely via video blogs posted on YouTube. As the year progressed, their popularity grew steadily as word of mouth promoted the brothers' hilarious vignettes. Together they coined the term Nerdfighter, encouraged kids to embrace who they are and challenged them to decrease world suck by volunteering, being charitable and generally doing good works. Through the power of social media, an amazing global community was formed, showing kids (and adults) that it's okay to be smart, nerdy and thoughtful, in fact it's downright cool. Their collective credo is DFTBA, Don't Forget To Be Awesome.

This nurturing community is dubbed Nerdfighteria. And it is HUGE! Each year John & Hank designate one day as the Project4Awesome in which Nerdfighters vlog about their favorite charity in order to raise awareness and funds for good causes. This year P4A raised over $120,000.

It's amazing how these two unassuming brothers have inspired so many young people to do so much. You can read a past post here. It includes several videos for your enjoyment.

Two years ago, the Brothers Green embarked on a hugely successful, 2000 mile Tour De Nerd stopping in Pittsburgh. We were able to book them on our local dog and pony show, Pittsburgh Today Live. We all loved them. They were terrific! So when I read John would be a guest lecturer at the library's Black, White and Read series, I contacted him to be our guest once again. He readily accepted.
the author on the set of Pittsburgh Today Live

You can watch the interview here

I'm always hesitant to meet someone I truly love and admire. The fear is he or she will be disingenuous, surly or just plain dicky. Geo and I have been really lucky in this respect. Both of our musical loves, Francis Dunnery and the divine Rhett Miller, are incredibly kind, warm and accessible. John is no different.

Hanging in the Green Room with John Green 

Talking with him is effortless. He's so sweet and such a good sport. He didn't hesitate for one second when I asked if he would call my friend, K-Schnikes who was unable to attend the festivities due to the recent birth of their third child. 

How cool is that? Seriously.

That small, three minute gesture made Schnikey's entire day, not to mention sealing my cred as the most awesome friend he has at the Special K. Thanks much, John. Just another of the many reasons I love him.

Due to work obligations, Geo gave his ticket for the lecture to our nephew, Alex. We had given John's second book, An Abundance of Katherines (our personal favorite) to Alex for Christmas. He started reading it the week prior and could not put it down. Even though he was unaware of the culture of Nerdfighteria, he was stoked to attend the lecture. The auditorium was packed to capacity with 580 giddy enthusiasts and a handful of bewildered parents--the largest crowd to which John's ever spoke.

He took the stage to an ear-splitting roar befitting a rock star.

Community, Connection and Gary Busey Family Portrait

Through just the right mixture of humor and staidness, he made the point that we are all connected whether we realize it or not. Through reading we can expand ourselves to think outside of our own little box. We have the power to choose how we think, how we act, how we impact those around us. Through our choices we can turn imagination into reality. 

The kids ate it up.

After about 45 minutes, the floor was opened up for questions from the audience. There were lots of great queries. Alex was picked to ask the penultimate one. (Sorry for the pretension there, but I love that word "penultimate") When asked what he did prior to the lecture, John gave a little shout out to his PTL appearance and me, his only "TV Nerdfighter". I guess we have legitimate claim to him as our resident author. HaHa! 

You can read more about the evening from a teenager's perspective in her detailed blog about the evening here. As an adult, some of her "whatevers" will make you laugh out loud.

One of the things I admire most about John is he never, ever talks down to the kids. He respects them and their intelligence by speaking to them as peers. And they adore him for it. And now so does our nephew. Waiting in the book-signing line, he reported back to his friends, unable to contain his enthusiasm.
Alex and John. New best buds.

For me the most rewarding aspect of the entire evening was when we first sat down. Alex looked around the jammed auditorium and stated even though he was in a roomful of complete strangers, for the first time in his young life he felt right at home.

And for that alone, I thank you John Green.


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