Hello Nerdfighters! Welcome to another Bookish Monday. Today I have a special treat for you. Jennifer E. Smith, the author of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight and This Is What Happy Looks Like is here to talk to you about how she became a nerdfighter. It's pretty special. And if you want to watch the video where John Green mentions her book, please do: it's here.
by Jennifer E. Smith
About seven years ago, I left my tiny New York City apartment for an even tinier dorm room in Scotland to spend a year doing a postgraduate degree in creative writing. Just before leaving, I’d been lucky enough – after many false starts and several rejected manuscripts – to sell my very first YA novel to a publisher. But while I was completely obsessed with Harry Potter, I actually hadn’t read very much contemporary YA, mostly because I’d gone right from college into publishing, where I traded the classics for an endless pile of unsolicited manuscripts. And between that and my own writing, there just wasn’t much time to read for fun.
Once back in school, though, my only job was suddenly to read and write. So I set about looking for some great YA books. This was before Twitter, where the suggestions are constantly flying around, and – at least for me – before Facebook, where you can ask for a recommendation and have dozens of titles tossed back at you within minutes. Instead, I just started googling, and it wasn’t long before I came across the title of a book called Looking for Alaska, which had recently won a big award, and which a lot of people seemed to really love. I immediately ordered a copy, and when it arrived, I completely devoured it. It was sad and smart and so very real, just the sort of thing that I’d hoped YA could be. And from that moment on, I knew I was going to be a big fan of John Green.
Of course, after that, I went right back online to see if he’d written anything else, eager for more books. As it turned out, he hadn’t yet. But as I wound my way around the internet, I found myself on his website, where there was a link to something called Brotherhood 2.0. I read about the experiment, then followed it over to YouTube, where I spent the next half hour watching a dozen or so videos of John and his brother, Hank, bantering back and forth about…well, pretty much anything and everything. They were so random and quirky, so funny and charming and relatable, and I couldn’t get enough. Just like that, I was hooked.
It was mid-January, 2007. They’d only been doing the videos for a couple of weeks at that point. And I’ve been watching ever since.
I’m very proud to have been a Nerdfighter since the very beginning, since even before John stumbled across the arcade game that lent the group its name. I was a fly on the wall back when they talked a little bit slower, and when their videos would get a few dozen comments, rather than a few million. That year in Scotland, I watched each and every one of them from my dorm room. I was there for puppy-sized elephants and Queen Ranavalona and all the early pants jokes. When the final Harry Potter book came out that summer, I made a shirt that said “I Need Harry Potter Like a Grindylow Needs Water” and wore it proudly as I stood in line. And when John said goodbye to New York, making his way to the reservoir in Central Park to the sounds of a Mountain Goats song, it made me cry, because I was so far from home, and he made me remember what I loved about the city, too.
Even once I moved back, and even once Brotherhood 2.0 gave way to VlogBrothers, I kept watching. It was John’s books that had led me there, but it was everything else – the jokes, the community, the passion for making the world a better place – that kept me coming back, day after day, week after week, year after year.
At this point, it’s almost hard to believe I’ve been watching John and Hank for nearly seven years. But as every Nerdfighter knows, it’s about so much more than just the videos. I’ve read all of John’s books (more than once!), listened to so many of Hank’s songs, participated in the Project for Awesome, watched nearly all the videos, and even attended their amazing show at Carnegie Hall, which was the best kind of celebration – an enormous theater full of joy and nerdiness, music and words, friends old and new. It’s been an amazing thing to be a Nerdfighter, to watch this movement grow and expand and continue to make a real difference in the world.
But it all started because I was just looking for a good book. Which made it all the more special when I clicked on one of John’s videos last year – as I have so many times before – and, in a truly surreal moment, he began to talk about one of my novels. I just sat there, bug-eyed, staring at the computer and feeling completely overwhelmed as I listened to him say about my book, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, “it’s amazing, it’s beautifully written, it’s super romantic, but it’s also extremely thoughtful…I was very blown away by it.”
To say that this was a career highlight for me is not remotely overstating it. I doubt a piece of praise will ever mean more, and I’m so grateful to John – not just for the kind words, but for sending so many Nerdfighters in the direction of the book. Because that’s exactly who I’m writing for: people who are smart and funny and creative and unique and passionate and – of course – awesome. People like you. People like me. People who like anglerfish and giraffes, who want to decrease world suck, who worry about puff levels and know exactly who the eff Hank is, and who are, perhaps, just out there looking for a good book to read, too.
Jennifer E. Smith is the author of several including The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight and This Is What Happy Looks Like, both published by Headline. You can visit Jen on her website or by following her on Twitter.