Along with getting 5 feet from Julie Andrews, Betty White & being in close vicinity of Anne Rice & The Mystery Machine (oh, yeah!) at The Festival of Books at The USC campus in Downtown LA this past weekend, I must say the highlight for me was a completley spur-of-the-moment trip to the Ladies Room! Let me explain…..
I was walking aimlessly looking for a restroom, & a volunteer directed me towards The Bovard Auditorium. Once inside, I saw several were gathering for a panel, the house was not filled, so I decided to take a seat, having no idea who was about to speak. Shortly after, Amber Benson of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame, took the stage (score!) as moderator to the guest speakers: Sci Fi writer & columnist, John Scalzi, Young Adult writer, Maureen Johnson & TV Writer, Author & Actress, Pamela Ribon (aka–The Pop Culture Princess). The panel was “Nerds Shall Inherit the Earth” & during their time on stage, the 3 discussed their backgrounds & just what it means to be a Nerd; is there a difference from Nerd, Geek & Dork? (Not really, we love ’em all), Hipster vs. Nerd (Hipsters apparently care more about whats in & who is cool; as to where Nerds don’t give a sh*t) & a great discussion arised with a question from an audience member; how do the ‘true’ Nerds & comic lovers feel about the action heroes being brought to life for all to enjoy by Hollywood? John was very welcoming & thinks its great to get more ‘members’ so to speak, in Nerd land, so the more the merrier, & its great when a film can spark a new interest in people.
I really felt at home among this crew! Although I admit I am not a comic book reader, Star Wars addict or Star Trekie (yet some of their references were not lost on me, as I always seem to surround myself with Nerds & love The Big Bang Theory), I have my own ‘nerd out’ obsessions, & could relate to the panel’s struggles to find their place in the world among the cool & the hip. Pamela’s background struck closest to home with mine as she recalled starting her own newspaper when she was young; complete with a comics section & the cover story what Mom made for dinner…growing up, I was the Editor in Chief (or are you when you are the only Editor??) of my own ‘publication’ covering the life & times of my stuffed animals. She went on to have a laugh over the arrival of TV Guide every week when she was little…highlighting in marker what was on, making a spreadsheet for the movies she had to watch…if she is truly a Nerd, I bet she is only half joking since I was brought up the same way! So, hearing a successful writer speak of a similar youth made me smile:-)
They laughed over the nerd freak out when one discovers anothers similar interests, something I can totally feel if someone mentions Tori Amos or Broadway musicals. When asked what they currently are ‘nerding out’ over, I enjoyed John’s explanation about the ukelele, which he just got for Athena, his daughter. They even went instrument shopping at a music shop I grew up going to with my Dad, too, in Clairmont, CA.
When Maureen Johnson explained she has trouble going on vacation, feeling she does not know how since she always is writing, I was struck at how true to her passion she must be, & how fantastic that is….that is not a Nerd, I think, but someone following their bliss.
I thought Amber was making a joke when she said Maureen has won the award for Most Interesting User to Follow on Twitter, but, no! Mashable, the largest independant web-site that covers social media, DID indeed choose her as just that in 2009. Maureen was super funny & had great banter with John & Pamela; she has written several YA books & I am now interested to check out her Suite Scarlett as well as its sequels; it focuses on a teenager in NYC amidst all the theatre drama of the city.
Pamela Ribon is not only a talented screenwriter, actress & author, but also an amazing fundraiser for her charity, http://deweydonationsystem.org/ The Dewey Donation System helps organize book drives & raise money for schools & libraries to aquire new books to fill their shelves. Shes also helped overseas & during Hurricane Katrina.
Looking over John’s site, I feel ashamed I had not heard of him prior to yesterday! John Scalzi’s book, The Last Colony is a NY Times Best Seller, & his Old Man’s War is being made into a film. He has served as President for The Sci Fi & Fantasy Writers of America as well as serving as Toastmaster in the up-coming World Sci Fi convention in Chicago.
One of the funniest moments had to be after a fan gave John gingerbread man cookies with the ‘men’ wearing a red shirt; Amber & Maureen teased they would share a cookie, breaking off a head & leg, & hope they weren’t poisonous. Amber was quiet for a little after with her comeback being, “Hm, I am feeling whoozy after eating head”–the entire crowd was silent for a second, then roared for minutes in laughter, I nearly cried I was cracking up so hard!
The most poignant & significant moment had to be when John answered another question from the audience; a girl wanted to know that with all the disturbing coverage about bullying in the news, how does one stick to being themselves & making it through high school? He mentioned Athena, his 13 yr old daughter & how his advice to her is if you’re being bullied, you go to your teacher, if they do nothing, go to the principal, if they ignore you, go straight to the top to your administrator…then if you still are left with no help, take it on with the bully & when the school is upset at you for causing an altercation, the parents can say, ‘Hey, its not her, its YOU. you did nothing” I thought that was amazing advice & I applaud him for addressing the dirty-little-secret that often the problem is because of the lack of intervention within the school.
I think, even more so after attending this panel, that we truly all are Nerds, in one sense or another. Nerds are individuals with a strong love for something; be it a movie, book, series…. ANYTHING goes, & they are proud of their likes. What is something that you’re simply passionate about? Get your Nerd on & share with me!
I am so happy I fell into the panel & have 3 new people I can nerd out over!:-)