Extreme Total Geekiness Revealed

Check it out; it’s me and my new BFF!

Tui & Alex

Thank you, "Jeopardy!" Productions!  Hee!  How exciting is that?  During the first commercial break, they have Alex come around and take these official photos with each of us.  I wonder if anyone has ever fainted.  I mean, (1) being on TV, (2) proximity of Alex, and (3) trying to remember everything in the known universe = recipe for flutteriness, if you ask me.  🙂

So this was going to be a blog answering lots of exciting Jeopardy FAQs, but then I started the "what did I study?" answer and realized the post would be FOUR MILLION PAGES LONG if I didn’t stop there.  So there’s actually only two Jeopardy FAQs here, but if I think of any other very exciting ones, I’ll post them next week. 

I also want to say thank you to all the lovely people who’ve emailed me using the Contact Form, particularly Elysabeth (yay fellow author!), James, David P. (who sent me perhaps the sweetest, loveliest email I’ve ever gotten), and Adam (not my Adam), who sent me the most magnificently fascinating explanation for why most Bible translations say "love of money" rather than "greed" (referring to my comment about my last Daily Double), but how I might still be able to make a case for my answer.  WOW.  I hope you’re planning to be on Jeopardy, Adam (or maybe you already have been?), because that was a ridiculously brilliant email. 

There was also a question from Emily, who wants to know if there’s anywhere she can send her books so I can sign them.  Aww!  What an exciting idea!  I do love signing books.  But I’m also not quite ready to post my address on the Internets yet.  ;-)  I can get snail mail through HarperCollins or Scholastic, if you write to me there, although it’ll most likely take a while for a package to make its way through the system to me and then back to you again.  Or, if you don’t mind this option, you can email me again with your address and I’d be happy to send you signed bookplates!  :-)  Just let me know how many you’d like and if I should sign them to anyone in particular, and I’ll send ’em out as soon as I can.  :-)  I’d be thrilled to do that, anytime (for any of you). 

All right, on to the Jeopardy! FAQs!

How did you get on the show in the first place?
I took the online test!  Mine was in January 2008; it looks like they had one in January 2009 as well, so you might have to wait until January 2010 to take the next one (for adults) (although I thought they were twice a year, so there might be one sooner).  But LOOK!  They’re having an online test for their KIDS TOURNAMENT on August 4th!  Are you between 10 and 12 and wicked smart?  (Clearly you are the latter, if you read my books.)  ;-)  Ask your parents if you can sign up!  Maybe you can be on TV just like me!  Then you should ask Alex if he remembers me, and if he’s read any of my books yet.  😉

There are also Teen and College tests, if you qualify for those.  The best thing to do is sign up for the Jeopardy! e-newsletter (which you can do on that same page), and then they’ll email you when there’s a new test coming up, so you can register for it.  That’s what I did, and I promise you don’t end up with a lot of goofy Jeopardy! spam or anything — they only email you relevant information!

Personally, I thought the online test was SO FUN.  But I’ll admit I like taking tests (well, when I know the answers, anyway!).  :-)  You have half an hour for fifty questions (or something like that), so it zips by really quickly.  And you can do it in your pyjamas!  Score!  As regular blog readers know, I am all in favor of anything you can do in your pyjamas.  🙂

Then, if you do well enough, you’ll get called back for an in-person audition at a city near you (you’ll note the closest big cities when you take the online test).  Mine was in Boston in May 2008.  I just about had a heart attack when I got that email, by the way.  So crazy exciting!  And the in-person thing is ALSO really fun — you get to meet some of the contestant wranglers (like Maggie and Robert and Corinna, who are The Awesomest People Ever) and other future contestants (I made friends with yet another fabulous librarian there), plus you take another 50-question test (presumably to make sure you weren’t somehow cheating on the online one), plus you get to play a pretend version of the game.  This is to ensure that you (a) can call out a category and dollar value without freezing up, and (b) know how to hit a button.

They also chat with you like Alex would — I imagine to find out if you have a TV-friendly personality and interesting things to say (although everyone at my audition did, so I don’t know how they narrow it down!).  And then they tell you you’re in the pool for a year and a half, so go home, cross your fingers, and don’t take the test again until that time period is up.

So I wrote some books and went off to India and tried not to think about it too much, although of course I was still watching the show all the time like "I want to do that!  Put me on TV!"  :-)  And then one day in February 2009, while I was home by myself, the phone rang.  And the Caller ID said Sony Studios.  And I was like "DON’T GET EXCITED DON’T GET EXCITED DON’T GET EXCITED it’s probably just another survey about which movies I like…Hello?" 

And it was Maggie from Jeopardy, calling to tell me they wanted me to come out to be on the show in March.


I think I played it pretty cool on the phone, but as soon as I hung up I burst into tears, called my husband, called my mom, and totally freaked out.  Oh my goodness gracious!  This was really happening!

Did you study?
Holy smokes, did I study.  From what I’ve read, contestants have mixed advice about this, but I can’t imagine not studying.  On the other hand, I know what works for me.  I have a great short-term memory and a dreadful long-term memory, so I can easily remember a bunch of facts I stuffed in my head yesterday, but none of the names of my seventh grade teachers, for instance.  This makes running into people from my past somewhat embarrassing, but is terrifically helpful for studying for Jeopardy

I’m lucky because a couple of Jeopardy staples are already among my favorite things: Shakespeare, literature in general, mythology (I mean, just look at This Must Be Love and Avatars!), so I felt pretty secure on those.  The thing I knew was the most important for me to study was presidents, since those come up all the time, and the last time I took US History was ninth grade.  So even before the online test, I memorized the presidents in order and repeated it to myself whenever I had a spare moment with nothing to do.  (We’ll see how long I can keep that in my head now!)  I also tried to hook them all to their dates and keep straight which ones died in office.

A couple of books really helped me turn the presidents into stories in my head, which are easier to remember than a bunch of names in a row:

PresBook1        PresBook2  

These exact details might not be on Jeopardy, but the stories will at least help you remember the funny stuff like "oh, yeah, Taft was the fat one," and "Lucy Hayes wouldn’t allow alcohol in the White House," or that Teddy Roosevelt said about his daughter: "I can be President of the United States, or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both."  You’d be surprised how helpful that kind of thing is! 

I was also what I’d call "studying at a low level" for Jeopardy from about the online test onward, which included reading some other helpful books that I would have wanted to read anyway, but perhaps would have spread out more if I hadn’t been hoping for The Call at some point.  Specifically:


which I have raved about here before, because it also happens to be One of the Greatest Books of All Time, even if you’re not studying to be on Jeopardy.  But if you are, it’s AMAZING!  It’s basically everything you need to know about Lincoln and the Civil War, told in the most completely fascinating way possible.  I couldn’t put this book down.  SERIOUSLY.

I also started this giganto trilogy, which is fiction, but horrifyingly super-intensely-researched historical fiction:

First of all, it’s fun to read, and second of all, it’s very informative about crazy things like Newton and Leibniz and financial systems in the 1600s and also pirates, SO, if you have patience and time, I think it’s pretty awesome.  I didn’t get to finish the whole trilogy before the show (each book is LITERALLY A THOUSAND PAGES LONG) — in fact, I’m just finishing book two now — but so far it’s fantastic. 

Basically I tried to find fun books that would still qualify as studying, such as:

image   image   image     

Oh, and of course, everyone should read this:


which is kind of what started me on this whole quest in the first place (plus it’s hilarious).  

Over the year and a half between signing up for the online test and going on the show, I also tried to watch a lot of old movies and TV, because I know hardly anything about pop culture before 1980.  I went on a mission to watch all the Academy Award Best Picture winners (thank you, Turner Classic Movie channel!) and got through 60 of them (including the recent ones I’d already seen).  So that was also fun studying, and helped me figure out who Montgomery Clift, Greer Garson, Billy Wilder, and Leslie Caron are (for example). 

Sure, none of that came up on my shows, but it could have!  And I was so ready for it!  I’m going to try and finish watching that whole list anyway…I’m so close!  I’ve even seen freaking Wings, the very first Best Picture winner from 1928, which is EXTREMELY GOOFY.  It’s like FOUR HOURS LONG (well, 2 1/2, but it feels like 4!), and SILENT, and half of it is long, long, long-distance shots of planes up in the sky, filmed from the ground! because in 1928 it was still very exciting to get footage of planes.  Woo!  Airplanes!  Holy cow!  OK, so I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get a question about that.  But it was still pretty funny to watch.

Also, I played a truckload of online geography games while I watched TV, such as these and these, which is how I know where all the countries in Africa are plus their capitals, thank you very much and I can’t believe I didn’t get to show that off!  😉

Also, I watched an episode each of Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Dallas, Dynasty, All in the Family, M*A*S*H* — all of those old TV shows, some of which are still rerunning on TV, some of which are on Hulu, and some of which you can watch through Netflix.  Adam called me once from work and I was like, "Hey, that’s so weird!  I was just watching the pilot episode of Dragnet and–" and he was like, "OK, stop right there, because the story can’t actually get any funnier than that."

See, I watch a lot of current TV, so I knew if I got a Daily Double in a TV category, I was liable to wager a lot of money on it — but if the question turned out to be about YE OLDE TV, which is to say B.J.W. (Before Joss Whedon), then I’d be sunk.  Hence: studying!  And you don’t need to know every detail about those shows; really all you need is the main character and place names, and you’re already ahead of the game.

OK.  Do I sound like a crazy person yet?  :-)  Because after getting The Call, I also went bananas on Useful Movies, Miniseries, and Documentaries, such as:

image  World War II!  and military lingo!

JohnAdams   Also just an awesome miniseries.

image  All KINDS of useful space-race information!

Ali  This is pretty much the only "sports studying" I did, because (a) v. informative about boxing history, and (b) hello, Will Smith, so I figured I could make it through this one.  😉

image  I was really worried about music before 1980, because I am, essentially, a 13-year-old girl when it comes to my music preferences — I like it new, shiny, poppy, and girl-powered (sorry, I know half of you just totally fell out of love with me, but it’s true) (my excuse is I write for that audience!  I have to think like them!) (also it’s more fun to dance to).  Whiny boy music from the ’70’s makes me want to shoot myself, and I’m more of a Supremes gal than a Beatles girl (as I discovered).  But I made myself study ye olde rock music, because it seems to come up all the time.  And now, thankfully, I can forget it all again.  🙂

(Seriously, don’t quiz me on any of this.  It’ll all be gone soon!  Leaving only Shakespeare and mythology in its wake…)  😉

And finally, perhaps the most useful thing I did to study was watch as many Jeopardy games as I could.  I practiced buzzing with a pen when I knew the answer (and equally importantly, NOT buzzing when I didn’t!), I pretended to wager on DD’s and Final Jeopardy, and I wrote down things I didn’t know that I thought might come up again, and then I carried around this goofy 20-page study sheet and made poor Adam/Mom/Dad/Kari quiz me on it while we were on the plane, in the hotel, etc.

So…how much of it helped me?  Probably less than 10%, but if I’d stayed longer, I bet it would have been more.  And I tried to mainly do things I’d be happy to do anyway (it is no great hardship to watch Band of Brothers, believe me!), but which might also turn out to be useful.  It sounds crazy when I write it all down, but at the time it felt like it fit into my normal life pretty well.

BUT THERE IS ONE DOWNSIDE.  I have to warn you: If you spend that much time stuffing your brain with stuff, you might end up like me afterwards.  When we left the Jeopardy studio, and I knew I was done with the show forever, I felt like I didn’t know what to do with myself anymore.  Half my brain had been studying for Jeopardy for over a year, and it was kind of hard to stop!  Everything I heard made me go: "Oh, I should remember that for Jeopardy!"…but no, not any more.  I had to kind of work myself down from that hyper-brain-stuffing place, and it was really surprisingly strange.  No matter how much writing I did in the next month, I still felt like I wasn’t being productive enough. 

I think I’m finally over it now, but it was a very unexpected backlash (and probably serves me right for being such a geek anyway).  🙂

OK.  I have no idea if any of that will be helpful to any of you, but I know oodles of you are interested in being on the show, so I wish you lots of luck!

And one brief writer-y thing!  I will be at ReaderCon this weekend (HOORAY!) talking about books, specifically on a panel called Upbeat and Downbeat in YA Fiction.  Part of the description:  "Is the tone and resolution of a work of YA fiction actually more important than in adult fiction, e.g., because the readers are still at the age where their worldview is being shaped? Do young readers have a different tolerance for or reaction to downbeat endings than adults? Do they need to be forcibly exposed to the cruel realities of the world, shielded from them, or gently inoculated?"

Hoo boy, do I have thoughts on this!  So I’ll be there, yakking about that, and then on Sunday I’m having a "kaffeeklatsch" with my sister (yay!), who is a V. Important Assistant Editor at a Major Book Publishing Company, and we’re going to talk about fantasy and sci-fi in the children’s/YA world right now and why there’s still room for books about vampires who aren’t sparkly, etc.  SO!  If you’re going to be at ReaderCon, it’d be awesome if you could join us!  Or else we will hang out with each other, eating doughnuts, and that’ll be OK, too.  🙂

Phew.  Sorry for the long blog!  Are you wishing I’d go back to talking about So You Think You Can Dance yet?  (Yay Brandon & Janette!)  :-)  Oh, I’m sure it’ll happen soon…we get our Top Ten this week!  Yay!  OK, OK, I’ll shut up and go to bed now.

Quote of the Day:
“Mary Preston had always lived next door.  Once Jack had picked her out of a bonfire – and sometimes he regretted it.” – Wings