August 22, 2019 28

TEDxNASA – Maggie Stiefvater – How Bad Teens Become Famous People

TEDxNASA – Maggie Stiefvater – How Bad Teens Become Famous People

Translator: Marie Viala
Reviewer: Denise RQ Hello. I’m supposed to be talking about
how bad teens become famous people, and it’s a topic that kind of implies
that I have personal experience either being a bad teen
or a famous person, and I already know what you’re thinking, “But she’s only slightly famous …?” But that’s OK
because I was only slightly bad. (Laughter) Actually this whole thing
came as a surprise to me. I was getting ready to go
on a three-week European book tour, and I really thought that the most
surprising thing to happen to me all year would be getting invited to Lithuania. And then, NASA called. The NASA. I mean, you guys know
what I do for a living, right? I write books. The book that paid for my 73 Camaro is actually about a boy
who turns into a wolf every winter, and don’t get me wrong,
it has some science in it, but it’s along the lines of … Basically, the gist is
that if you’re a werewolf, and you’re looking for a cure,
and you’re picking up my novel, don’t try this at home. (Laughter) (Whispering) It’s kind of crappy science. Anyway; so NASA calls. “Maggie, how would you like
to speak to 1,700 of your peers?” “Peers?” “You know, intellectuals!” “I think you grossly misunderstand
what I do for a living.” (Laughter) Like, “Hahahaha. Just be profound.” I’m profound every day, and so I said, “I’m going to need a chair,
that’s going tp help me be profound.” So that’s why
the chair is there, actually. I still remember the last conversation
I had that was profound, because I have so few
that I remember each and every one. It was a few weeks ago,
and I was in the UK, and I was in the Scholastic offices
with the Brits, and they were arguing about Jaffa cakes. Do you know what they are? They are like a sponge cake with orange filling
and chocolate over the top. Anyway, the Brits could not decide whether or not Jaffa cakes
were cakes or biscuits. That’s British for cookie. And they had taken
the matter to court, actually. (Laughter) Because in the most stereotypically
British way possible, whether or not a Jaffa cake
was a cake or a biscuit, had tax implications. I can’t make this stuff up. And so, the thing that really intrigued me
the most about this discussion was the fact that one presumes that during the course of this discussion,
the Jaffa cakes themselves were unchanged. No matter what we called them, they were still sponge cake,
orange, chocolate filling; and delicious. And it was only what we were
calling them that changed. And this is something that has always
fascinated me as an author, how perspective changes
the way we look at things, and how we label things differently depending on which side of the box
we’re looking at it from. I love to write scenes
from different characters’ point of view because they see so much
that is different. So, we’re going to step backward in time,
to when Maggie was a teen. I was surly, disdainful of authority,
had a problem with rules, spent much of my time
in an invented fantasy land, learned almost nothing
in a classroom setting. I also wore black all of the time, and when people asked me
why I wore black, I said things like, “I’m mourning the death
of modern society.” (Laughter) That was a riot. I frequently frustrated my parents by my desire to drop out
of high school, then college, I stayed out late, I didn’t call,
I drove too fast, I got speeding tickets, I didn’t study, I mocked my professors, I married a man
that I had only known for a month, and I played the bagpipes. (Laughter) I was “a bad teen.” Now, at age 28, I have to say
that not too much has changed about me, except for the fact that I now own
a couple of shirts that aren’t black – not that I am wearing one today – and I’m slightly famous. But the same character traits
that back then earned me ‘rebellious, ‘ and ‘difficult, ‘
and ‘anarchist, ‘ now make me ‘creative, ‘
and ‘free-thinking, ‘ and ‘eccentric.’ And really, the only thing
that’s changed is the perspective, because now, with the beauty
of 20/20 hindsight, you can look back, now that I’m a useful,
tax-paying member of society, and go, “Look at her past! What a character!
What a rebel! How romantic!” as if it was inevitable,
this path to success, when I’m quite sure it didn’t look
inevitable to anyone else at the time. Because as you all know, there’s something
that’s really warm and fuzzy about watching a teen following
the well-rutted path to success. You know, that road that’s paved with
extra-curriculars and AP courses? (Laughter) On the other hand, watching a teen that’s charging along a road
that no baby book has ever invented? Not so warm and fuzzy, no.
More like terrifying. You don’t really know if you are watching a star being born
or an impending car crash. So, luckily for baby, teen,
‘difficult’ Maggie, I was actually a navy brat,
which meant that we moved around a lot, which meant that from sixth grade on,
my parents decided to home-school me. And I say ‘lucky’ for two reasons. First of all, because when I wanted
to get out of high school, because I was bored out of my mind,
instead of dropping out, it was easy for me to get a GED
and go straight on to college. Second, because it allowed young,
peculiar, strange, wearing-black Maggie to grow up far away from the somewhat judgemental eyes
of the American high-school system. Lots of brilliant teens
don’t have it so lucky, however. Last year, when I was on tour for my book, I visited a lot of schools, and one school visit
stuck in my mind forever, and it was at an alternative school. It was labeled ‘alternative’ because the kids were at high risk
for dropping out. Not because of bad grades but because they either were
disinterested or had social issues. And I thought, “This is intriguing.” I get there, and I’m unnoticed
in the back of the room, the kids are all plotting my demise, and so I go up to the front of the room,
and I stand on a desk and say, “I tell lies for a living!” which got their attention. And is true. And … (Laughter) Then I gave my usual talk about how
the whole world would bow down for goals. If you make a goal,
and really head towards it, it doesn’t matter how impossible it is, being the world’s largest man
made of marshmallows, or an astronaut, or a TED speaker, make it a goal, and it will happen. And afterwards, the teens
came up to me, and they said, “No one’s ever told us that before. No one’s ever told us than anything
other than high school was the goal. They said you are high-risk students, if you could just make it
to high-school, through high-school, it would be a miracle.” And so, the goal was here. High-school. Astronaut? Giant marshmallow man? Somewhere way out there,
but inside their box? It did not belong there. The thing I’ve learned
about boxes, actually, is that no one wants you
to think outside the box until you’ve already climbed out and proven that the landscape outside
the box can support intelligent life. (Laughter) That’s a NASA joke for you guys,
so laugh harder! Good! Anyway; so, the thing is that afterwards, these kids showed me all of their art,
music, and writing, and guess what? They were amazing. And I thought to myself,
“This could have so easily been me.” If I had gone through high school,
being my anarchist self, I could have easily landed
with that ‘alternative’ label in that ‘alternative’ box. And what would have happened
to me if I had that label? And what would have happened
if I’d believed it? There is a really fine line
between brilliance and deviance. So I was watching the news
a couple of months ago, and they were showing a new program that they designed
for testing high school students. And it was a really boring
computer program, intentionally boring,
mind-numbingly boring, irrelevantly boring. And the goal was to … – I knew I could use
this chair for something – if the student could sit down,
type away, for an hour, then they’d be fine. Off they went. But if that student sat down at the chair
and could not focus because the head technology
tracks your eyes and makes sure you’re paying attention, if you sat down on that chair, and you could not focus
on this completely irrelevant program, they prescribed drugs. The dosage was adjusted until the teen could sit in the chair and work at the completely irrelevant
program, without fidgeting. Success! Now the teen is well on the way to becoming a member
of the American workforce. But the thing that struck me
about this test was that it doesn’t really take
into account the fact that learning to sit still for eight hours
a day is not always success. I am quite certain
that I would have failed that test. The theme of this conference
is “What comes next.” Weird people come next. (Applause) We’re a big, well-fed, glossy country, and we would really like for our geniuses
to look like Val Kilmer. But guess what? It’s not always that easy. Success looks really different
worn on different shoulders. With this talk, I just really wanted to reach out to two different
groups of people. First, those of you in the audience
who are in a position to label people. And that is all of us. We all label people,
that’s a human condition. But be really careful, especially
when you’re talking about teens, and their what comes next, because the box that you put them in,
takes you two seconds to put them there, but they might wear that label
for the rest of their lives. And then the other group
that I want to talk to are those of us who are
in a position to be labelled. And that too is every single one of us. I’m not going to stand on this chair
and shout, “Anarchy! Anarchy! Anarchy!” because that would be really rude
at a NASA conference (Laughter) but I am going to tell you
to reject your labels, reject the authority that tells you that you are something,
that you belong in this box. Listen to them, but make
your own labels and your own box, and believe it first. Because that’s the label
you have to live with. You have to live with that label. A little less than 12 minutes ago, I said I was going to talk about
how bad teens become famous people. And this is my answer: I think that sometimes, most of the times, they are the same thing. Thank you. (Applause)

28 Replies to “TEDxNASA – Maggie Stiefvater – How Bad Teens Become Famous People”

  • MsBandana1 says:

    Yay! Maggie, i missed your speech cause of a dr appointment but i watched all day, the comments in the screen shot that got posted of you speaking a few weeks ago had the some of the best comments I'd read all day about the speakers, and finally i got to see it! They were right! you were great and beyond profound!

  • Jocelyn Curley says:

    haha Maggie you were so very profound. and the chair was just the cherry on top. i loved the whole "I'm mourning the death of modern society" and "Weird people are next". you are right. being "inside the box" is boring and i dont like being labeled. i know who i am and no one can "label" me. very empowering.

  • baroqueCacophony says:

    COME TO MY SCHOOL!!!! <33333 Most speeches are sooo STUPID! But this one actually grabbed my attention!! ^-^

  • mannlaura says:

    Great talk! I'm thankful I don't wear my label from high school!

  • Bluebell says:

    The most surprising thing for her was being invited to come to Lithuania? Why??? I'm honestly curious now!!! XD Why's that so surprising??? XD
    It's not like lithuanians don't read books >_< lol

  • Sophie Elizabeth says:

    "Well, basically, the jist of it is… if you're a werewolf, and you're looking for a cure… don't try this at home (It's kinda crappy science" Hahahahahahahaha… I love Her sooooo much!!!!!

  • MissFancyPants256 says:

    You're always YOU and that's why I like you.Becouse you're Unique!

  • AwesomelyAwsome says:

    If you must insult someone, at least spell it correctly.

  • Gina H says:

    I woke up this morning to find this link on my Facebook. I watched it and I was really moved by it because you really make me feel like I'm not the only one. What I mean is that I was one of those teens put into a box by my parents and as a 27 year old woman now I realize that I want to be a writer. I want to be labeled as something else. I admire you and I love your books. So I thank you for being an inspiration for me.

  • Lizzie Scribhneoir 7 says:

    Very inspirational! Thank you Maggie! =)

  • StudioGhibliRocks says:

    awesome talk from an awesome author. 🙂
    I just have one problem, and not really with this, but with motivational talks in general. They always seek to empower the "bad" teen. While its just a silly label, sometimes the labeled "smart" kids are seen as if they already know what to do with life, so they don't need motivation. We do. People think we are destined to become something "smart" like a brain surgeon. Well this valedictorian wants to be an artist. It gets looked on as a waste. 🙁

  • StudioGhibliRocks says:

    Haha, thanks Maggie! 🙂 That's my plan, I just feel a little concerned sometimes. Your talk was much better than this one guy who came to my college. I felt excluded with his. In yours, I didn't feel that way, but I get scared that others like me might, if that makes any sense.

    And I smiled insanely when I saw you had replied to this . 😀 Thanks for being so awesome, and writing about scientific werewolves! XD

  • Armis Game says:

    A students are usually those who know how to know (KH2K) and apply it
    B students are generally those who KH2K but don't consistently advance it
    C students often don't KH2K, they do great in certain areas but not in other areas
    D students often don't KH2K, get confused and frustrated leading to disinterest
    F students often don't care to know

  • Amateur Ambassador says:

    It's tough for me to take anyone who writes fiction seriously

  • Mance Rayder says:

    In fairness, it's tough for me to take anyone who doesn't see the value of fiction seriously.

  • Joyce Chua says:

    "Reject your labels. Reject the authority that tells you that you are something and that you belong in this box. Listen to them, but make your own labels and your own box and believe it first because that's the label you have to live with."

    Maggie is such an inspiration.

  • Alex K. says:

    Stiefvater??? What is her real name?

  • Michael Bruce says:

    Really interesting and inspiring – thank you.  By the way, for those of you who just have to know the outcome of the Jaffa Cake court case, the court decided they were cakes, not biscuits (cookies).  The decision hinged on the fact that when biscuits (cookies) go stale they get softer and when cakes go stale they get harder.  When Jaffa cakes go stale they go harder, so they're cakes.  (It's important because in the UK chocolate covered biscuits are taxed, but cakes aren't…..or perhaps it isn't important at all).

  • Zehra Irfan says:


  • Katarina Blume says:

    my book club went to see her at a book signing a few weeks ago. shes a very interesting person. this was very insightful. i liked it

  • Radvile Skrinskaite says:

    Whaaaaaat???? She was in Lithuania?? Aw man, I missed it, i wish she would come after the raven king is out. :(((

  • Gabriele Juskeviciute says:

    I always seem to hear Lithuania mentioned in the most random of places…

  • Mei Zuch says:

    my queennnnnnn

  • hannah ! says:

    god I love her

  • Zoe Estes says:

    She is Ronan Lynch

  • Clarice St says:

    Shes so cool…

  • tiredegg says:

    Irony is she was talking about getting outside of the box while standing in one lmao

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