5 Questions with John Green

As the Youth Media Awards ceremony approaches, SLJ checked in with past winners of the Caldecott, Newbery, and Printz. John Green's fans will never guess what he's working on now.

Winning awards can be life-changing. That’s definitely true if the honor is the Caldecott, Newbery, or Printz. SLJ asked past winners of the Big Three about their fondest memories of receiving the award, the biggest challenge after, and their words of advice for this year’s winners—who will be announced Monday, January 22 during the Youth Media Awards ceremony.

Below, read the responses from John Green, who won the 2006 Michael L. Printz Award for Looking for Alaska. Then check back in at SLJ.com throughout the week to see answers from other past winners, including Jerry Craft (2020 Newbery for New Kid), Jason Chin (2022 Caldecott for Watercress),  Brian Floca (2014 Caldecott for Locomotive), and Tae Keller (2021 Newbery for When You Trap a Tiger). 

For you, rules and criteria aside, what makes a book Printz worthy?
I don't feel qualified to define what makes a book worthy of a Printz Award. Each year, the committee reads so many YA books, and they read each of them with openness and thoughtfulness and years of expertise honed in the work of YA librarianship. They understand Printz-worthiness in a way I simply can't.

What is your fondest memory of winning the award?
I happened to be with my parents and my partner when I received the call. It meant a lot to me that I was able to share the moment with my parents—who have encouraged my writing and believed in me as a writer since I was eight years old. And it was also wonderful to be with Sarah, who read Looking for Alaska in its infancy and who'd loved me through the revision and publishing of it. To share that moment with those three people was very, very special.

What is the biggest challenge for an author after winning?
Any time one's work receives attention, it can add to the pressure one feels to make good work. Sometimes I think that's helpful, but it can also stop up the creative process for some folks, including me. I was very grateful that my next book was almost finished when I won the Printz, because it did become hard for me to write for a few months afterward.

What’s your advice for this year’s winner?
Celebrate. It is so hard in this broken world to really celebrate good news. I would advise them to take some time to really enjoy the stupefying wonder of having your book so generously received by such a prestigious committee of YA experts. Drink some sparkling grape juice or champagne!

What are you working on now?
I am writing a nonfiction book about tuberculosis, the world's deadliest infectious disease.

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