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‘Make yourself vulnerable to joy’: John Green talks writing in the pandemic and creating his first nonfiction work

By SAAB LARIOSA Published Aug 13, 2021 8:47 pm

Have you read John Green's The Anthropocene Reviewed?

Dubbed as an “​​open-hearted exploration of the paths we forge and an unironic celebration of falling in love with the world,” The Anthropocene Reviewed (TAR) is the celebrated author’s first dive into non-fiction writing after the success of works such as Looking For Alaska and The Fault In Our Stars.

TAR sees Green making both educational and personal reviews of random facets of the modern age (AKA the Anthropocene)—from sunsets, scratch and sniff stickers, to The Penguins of Madagascar.

Speaking from his home in Indianapolis, John joined a Fully Booked Chat hosted by Saab Magalona-Bacarro today, Aug. 13, to serve as the Philippine leg of his first pandemic virtual book tour (fitting for the pandemic-released book). The author spoke about creating amid the pandemic and accepting vulnerabilities as a writer.

Switching genres

The Anthropocene Reviewed was initially a podcast project of the same name hosted by the author, but his creative endeavors led him to transform the medium into book form.

“Really for the first time, I was trying to find my voice. Like, what do I want to sound like?," Green shared.

Though he isn't officially saying goodbye to fiction writing, the author explained that his recent fictional book Turtles All The Way Down published in 2017 felt like a goodbye of some sort.

“I would like to write fiction again someday, but when I was finishing writing [Turtles All The Way Down] I knew something was changing for me. It felt like a  goodbye to a certain kind of writing that was unexpected for me but that was how I felt," he said. “I only ever had one dream job so I needed to find a new way to write. And for me it was non-fiction.”

Even so, The Anthropocene Reviewed—despite its review writing nature—isn't a far cry from his past works filled with introspection and emotion.

“It is a very different book... What I wanted to do is a different kind of writing but had the same heart in it."

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(Screenshot taken from Facebook / Fully Booked Chats)
Being vulnerable through writing

With the bite-sized reviews serving as an educational passage mixed in with details of Green's life, the author shared that this memoir element was a necessary challenge to accomplish the book.

"When I send a first draft to my editor, it's like I'm 14 again. But I also think we have to find ways to be vulnerable, to be open to others," he shared when asked by Saab what it took to share his personal details for the first time through words.

“[Make] yourself vulnerable to joy… we have to make ourselves vulnerable and to open ourselves up. For me, that's a lot of what writing is: to strip down all of my protective layers. Though it hurts sometimes, I still think it’s worth it.”

“It’s really scary to write something personal and to share it, but it’s also really wonderful. It’s been an incredible experience.”

For me, that's a lot of what writing is: to strip down all of my protective layers. Though it hurts sometimes, I still think it’s worth it.

At the end of the talk, Green reminded listeners how to continue crafting and surviving amid the pandemic:

"We emerge from those experiences changed and different, and thinking of the world differently. And that is often a painful process. But I do see glimmers of hope in history, there is no minimizing the suffering that people are experiencing right now. And I don't think that we should try to find the bright side or silver linings to this absolute horror. I hope that we will take lessons from it," he concluded.

We give the John Green Fully Booked Chat five stars. Catch the entire interview here:

Photos from John Green's Instagram account