A letter to John Green, author

John Green is the author of The Fault in Our Stars, the book I began reading while in the hospital after my surgery. As I continued to read, real life and fiction became entangled as I found myself diagnosed with the very disease the main characters were fighting.

Below is a copy of my letter to the author of the fabulous book. After reading this blog post, you are free to take care of your most basic needs, but then you should immediately acquire a copy of this book.

NOTE: This letter contains a spoiler to an awesome book. I can’t believe I didn’t originally include this note. I broke the cardinal rule of readers. For shame!


Hello Mr. Green,

I am a 28 year old English teacher at Fremd High School in Palatine, IL. Ten days ago, I went in for surgery to remove what seemed to be ovarian cysts. I would be out for some weeks, missing my beloved Writers Week at Fremd, which began today Feb. 27, 2012.

Completely necessary tangent: Writers Week is the greatest thing in the history of the entire world. We are on year 18 and each year the resume of writers we’ve brought in gets more and more impressive and mind-bogglingly awesome. Gwendolyn Brooks. Patricia Smith. Ted Kooser. Billy Collins. Chris Crutcher. Simone Elkeles. Patricia Smith. Nikki Giovanni. Sara Holbrook. Ellen Hopkins. Veronica Roth. LeAlan Jones. Alex Kotlowitz. Dave Cullen. Loung Ung. And this is just a sampling. See http://fremdwritersweek.ning.com/forum/topics/previous-writers-week-guests

In typical English teacher fashion, I left Fremd prior to my surgery armed with my favorite comfort food– books, The Fault in Our Stars among them and the one I gravitated toward. I read slowly at first (darn those narcotics) but eventually gained some speed and even pinched myself to stay awake to read more at times.

This past Thursday, I was diagnosed with cancer. A type of Ewing’s sarcoma, very rare, particularly in adults. Augustus may say there’s a metaphor in this. Others might call it really shitty irony. That diagnosis came out of left field. Right field? I’m just terrible with sports metaphors. I played catcher in my town’s softball league growing up in a league that had no stealing.

After that appointment, I wasn’t ready to feel much just yet. So I read. People began asking about this book attached to my hand. I shared a little teaser (I’ve gotten quite good at selling books to kids over the last 5 years, if I do say so myself) always ending with, “But enough about that. You must read it.” There’ve been some looks of horror in response to my reading selection, as if I’m some sort of masochist. Well, yes. I am the same girl who once custom-crafted break-up CDs to cry to in her car.

Last night a good friend of mine passed away. His name is Augustus Waters. Boy oh boy oh boy, did that hurt. I was able to hide the hot, stinging, burning tears from my fiance sitting on the other side of the couch for a little bit, but it soon became an Isaac-style wailing, the kind of cry that has to be heard. I scared the hell out of my fiance. He is so freaking awesome, it’s not even funny. I see so much of our love in Hazel and Augustus that I never once questioned that they’d fall head over heels for each other in a love so beyond their years.

I got to feel what I needed to feel. Anger. Sadness. A whole bunch of other words that essentially boil down to mean anger and sadness. I get married this October and wish I could worry about crappy flowers and cake design and all that other shit right now. I want to go back to complaining about how many papers I need to grade. But that’ll come. I feel appreciation that I was lucky to have this book with me at this moment in my life. So thank you.

You may hear from me again cause I’d love to see you on the stage of Writers Week 19, exactly one year from today, with me, married and healthy. But if not, no worries. I have books. I have your books. Time to sign off. I have some more reading to do.


Jaclyn DeRose


16 thoughts on “A letter to John Green, author

  1. Wow, Jac! You have books, and you also have your friends. Whatever you need…don’t be afraid to ask. Even if it is just to cry. Seriously…


  2. Jaclyn, here’s hoping you’ll consider a comment from a somewhat removed but nevertheless extremely interested friend…

    Although I didn’t get to see you teach often, I’ll never forget the times I had the pleasure. Your work with kids reveals what’s best about your character – tenacity, a quiet but persistent willingness to help, and a creativity to search out a path for kids who can only reach the goal via their unique path. In the face of this recent news, please remember to save some of those great gifts for yourself.

    When John Green comes to speak at WW19, please invite me to help celebrate that day with you! What an amazing day it will be.

    All my best,
    Jen Krause

  3. This post is perfect. The more I sit at WW and feel inspired by students and presenters, I’m reminded that one of my greatest inspirations as a teacher and a writer is healing up at home (yet thankfully connected to me through this crazy Internet thingy). I can’t wait for you to burst back onto the scene. We miss you!

  4. Jacs, you are the strongest person I know! And Angenette said it best, you have books but you also have friends. I hope you know that we will do anything you need, please don’t hesitate to ask. I may have 2 newborns at home, but I have lots of people who are begging to watch them so if you need a night out, someone to get coffee with, a shopping spree buddy (I’m in dire need of one of these) please please please call me! And we all know who the phone person is in our group of friend so if you ever just want to talk, about anything, even if it’s FB gossip to get your mind of of things, I’m your girl. Love you friend!!!!

  5. Just so you know Jaclyn you are one of my favorite people in the entire world. An inspiration to us all. I loved reading this, and also love that your fabulous sense of humor shines through no matter what you are doing or where life takes you. I see so much of myself in you (I think I’m funny?), only you are the upgraded limited edition (with leather seats and nav) and I am the “SE” edition. Thinking of you. xo

  6. Oh, my beautiful niece–you bring tears to my eyes. I am in awe of your intellect, your strength, the depth of your soul. You make us all very grateful to know you, even only if most times peripherally. Your passion for reading is inspiring! We love you and can’t wait to meet James. He must be special if he is your one & only!lysm.

  7. Jaclyn, I agree with so many of these posts, especially Gary’s post. You are so brave. We’ll be 100 % behind you as you kick cancer’s ass. I’ll show you some Cicero moves. I’m so glad you have James in your life too. I wish you could just be worrying about cake designs. Love ya, girl.

  8. I’m not sure if you’ll remember me or possibly seeing as how my mother seems to stay in-touch with every teacher who has taught me English since the fourth grade, you never had the chance to forget.  Either way, you were my junior year English teacher, and I also spent time with you in the tutoring center (I was a peer tutor in math and science). I graduated in 2010. I just wanted you to know that you are in my thoughts. You were and still are one of my favorite teachers at Fremd. I’m rooting for you, and I know that you can beat this. I know there’s nothing I can say that will make this go away, but you need to know that everyone is pulling for you. I know I don’t know any of your current students personally, but I can say with 100% certainty that you left an impression on every one of your past students (and because I am a chemistry major and have learned how to correctly use and state scientific assumptions), I can make the following statement:  Assuming that the data trend is a constant, the only conclusion is that you are still bringing classic literature to life for all your students (though I’m not going to lie. I don’t think that anyone, even you, could bring life to A Raisin in the Sun). Anyway I just thought that you should hear it from an alumnus. You have touched so many of our lives and now more than ever you need to know it’s appreciated. I hope that at the very least this made you smile.  BTW, I have taken or am taking some very interesting classes at Illinois Wesleyan, and, yes, that goes hand in hand with good/great books. I might have a good author for next year’s Writers Week for you. He’s one of my professors. I’ll be sure to send you an email with his contact information.

  9. You are incredible… and so very strong. This is so beautifully written, and I can’t wait to read more! Don’t forget that I am literally right next door if you need anything. We miss you at school – can’t wait for WW19!

  10. Jaclyn, please know I am thinking of you. I know you will beat this with the same style and strength as you have shown in all your endeavors. I am inspired and humbled by your post.

  11. Jac,

    This blog post is incredibly written, in typical Jaclyn fashion. You are an absolute inspiration to me and I am so proud of you for your strength and positive attitude. You have so many good people behind you, but I am really confident that you have already kicked cancer’s ass on your own! I hope that you won’t hesitate to come to us with anything you want or need…we are your best friends and we will do anything for you! Love ya always!

  12. Thank you for sharing with me on my Nook! I am anxious to begin this weekend.
    I’m so proud of you in every way (but then you already know this ;-)).
    Love You!

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