In Memory of Ned Vizzini

It is a very sad day in not only the young adult community, online but the writing community, diagnosis the television community…hell, rx the world as a community. I woke up this morning to the sad news that Ned Vizzini had died last night, at the age of 32, in an apparent suicide.


Ned Vizzini was the author of several books, most notably known for writing the semi-autobiographical novel, It’s Kind of a Funny Story. He’s also been penning a middle grade series, House of Secrets, with former Harry Potter director, Chris Columbus, and working on shows like Teen Wolf, and the yet to be released on TV, Believe, helmed by J.J. Abrams and Alfonso Cuaron. It’s Kind of a Funny Story chronicles the story of one boy dealing with depression and his decision to go to the hospital one night when his suicidal thoughts are too much for him to handle.

Ned himself dealt a lot with those kind of feelings, had his whole life and was incredibly outspoken about them, sharing his experiences. Teens all over the place looked up to him, and were changed by his novel and his voice.

Now, I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I knew him well. Because I most definitely didn’t. I had the honor of meeting him a few months ago at the Los Angeles Teen Book Fest, where I was blown away by his quirkiness, his humor and his ability to talk about the things that most people don’t. His book blew me away, and it will remain one of my favorites for a very long time. There is no sugarcoating the material in his book; he dives right in and its just beautifully written.

I did have the chance to interview Ned, before that Los Angeles Teen Book Fest. The lovely Mary McCoy at the library helped me to get interviews with several of the authors, which was awesome, and helpful for the blog. One of those authors was Ned Vizzini. After some serious email tag back and forth, we decided on a quick phone interview.

To say that I was nervous would have been an understatement. I had just begun reading It’s Kind of a Funny Story and I was already blown away by it. I think there are more and more teen books about suicide and depression but Ned did it in a way that didn’t soften the blows of it, but also made it relatable, familiar and had a dark sort of humor about it. I was INCREDIBLY nervous to interview an author like that, especially over the phone. I’m not known for my exemplary phone skills.

But it went SO well. He was an incredibly busy man, working on his new middle grade series with Chris Columbus. He also was doing a ton of TV writing as well, writing for episodes for shows like Teen Wolf. He was currently working on a new show with JJ Abrams and Alfonso Cuaron, called Believe. He told me he wouldn’t have much time, so we got down to business, and got through all my questions, with great answers, in no time at all. He was extremely apologetic when he had to get off the phone, because he was needed. I remember laughing, thinking “Um, I’m pretty sure JJ ABRAMS is a bit more important that a 25-year-old book blogger…”.

A few days later, I met him at the Teen Fest, and we talked in person. He was sweet, funny, and I felt incredibly lucky to have a chance to interview this amazing author. He also made me feel very good about myself. He told me I sounded incredibly professional, had great questions and did a great job with the interview. As a person who is just dipping her toes into this world, I felt extremely complimented and I felt honored that such a compliment came from such a worthy person.


He signed my book, thanked me again, and I went on my way.

So no, I didn’t know Ned personally. I had the chance to meet and interview him this year, along with countless other authors. But I’m a reader. Every book that I read, the ones that I like, the ones that touch me, stay with me. And when I meet an author and have a connection with him, have a story about them that I’ll remember, I do remember it. Meeting Ned and interviewing him this year was just another piece of an amazing year and I was incredibly heartbroken to hear about this man’s passing.

I know that this will pass under a lot of people’s radars. He wasn’t a huge revolutionary figure like Nelson Mandela or a well-known movie star like Paul Walker or Peter O’Toole. But he was important, as we are all important. And his death sends a message to us. His death made me sad, and nervous at the same time. So many teens have reached out to this book, and to Ned, as a safety net, as a life line during their own hard times. Ned had been outspoken about the seriousness of depression and suicidal thoughts for so long, and he himself eventually succumbed to it. I was nervous about the impact that this would have on his novel, and his books, but I’d like to think of it like this: the very tragic death of this wonderful author only shows us more the importance of his message. Always get help when you need it. Don’t be alone, reach out, and get help. Call a friend, a family member, call the hotlines. Always get help.

Ned Vizzini will definitely be missed, as a writer, as an advocate and as a person.

You can read my interview with Ned here.

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Los Angeles Teen Book Fest Recap!

On Saturday, no rx I had an absolutely fantastic day at the Los Angeles Public Library, page for their Teen Book Fest.


About a dozen young adult authors, and a handful of book bloggers, descended upon the library for a day full of discussion, book giveaways, and signings. It was pretty much heaven for me.

I went to the Ontario Teen Book Fest, my first teen book fest, back in May and honestly had an amazing time, discovering new authors and discussing books and writing with all of them. I was eager to attend this one in the hopes that I would have just as much fun as I did last time.

And I definitely did.

There were a TON of amazing authors in attendance, and I was super excited when I found out there was a blogging panel. I’ve been doing this for about a year and a half now, but I’m still new to the whole experience, when there are others who’ve been blogging for years.

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Gretchen McNeil, Francesca Lia Block, Josephine Angelini and Cornelia Funke

I attended three panels. The first panel was Classically Inspired, and it was with authors that I’ve all read and enjoyed: Gretchen McNeil, Francesca Lia Block, Josephine Angelini and Cornelia Funke. All of these authors have used old tales, or classic novels or stories, either as inspiration to their stories or have retold those stories. Francesca’s newer release, Love in the Time of Global Warming, parallels Homer’s the Odyssey, while Josephine’s Starcrossed trilogy is a retelling of his tale, The Iliad. Cornelia talks about the various folk tales and mythologies that she uses in her own stories.

They spent a lot of time discussing the way they go about their research, and the way they connect their stories and the stories told before. I got so much writing advice from it, and I’m in such a slump right now, so I was eagerly listening for all advice. Cornelia is a very seasoned author, and she says that she now handwrites all of her books. I used to do that, once upon a time, before my boyfriend bought me my first laptop a few years ago. I really took that advice to heart, because I’ve been struggling SO much, and I hand wrote last night, and I wrote about 1000 words, so good advice, Cornelia.

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The moderator, and bloggers Thuy, Maggie, Lee, Alyson and Alethea!

The next panel that I attended was all about blogging, and it featured Alethea Allarey from Read Now, Sleep Later, Alyson Beecher from Kid Lit Frenzy, Lee Wind from I’m Here, I’m Queer, What the Hell Do I Read?, Thuy Lam from Nite Lite Book Reviews, and Maggie Park from Young Adult Anonymous. I follow all of these blogs now, and you should DEFINITELY check them out.

This panel was AWESOME. Not only did I feel like I left with more insight on the world of blogging, but I also felt really…supported too. These are all adults, probably most of them older than me, though not necessarily, who have full time jobs, and they spend a lot of time and effort on this, and they don’t get paid for it. But they still do it because its fun, and its a hobby and a passion for them. Which is EXACTLY how I feel. I know that I spend SO many hours on this, and work my butt off on it, but its because I love it so much.

I also was stoked to meet them, and talk to them. Alyson gave me free books, which was super cool of her, and Alethea told me about a TEEN BOOK SWAP that is going on next weekend, which sounds superb. I also am really excited to check out all their blogs!

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Andrew Smith, Bill Konigsberg, Moderator, Ned Vizzini, Patricia McCormick and Maurene Goo

The next panel I went to was Keepin’ It Real with Ned Vizzini, Patrick McCormick, Maurene Goo, Andrew Smith, and Bill Konigsberg. I really was interested in this panel, because I’ve read books by Andrew and Ned, and because contemporary YA is what I tend to write. I am dabbling into zombie fiction right now but for the most part, its all contemporary. And all the authors really keep it real. They write fantastic realistic fiction about mental illness, and self harm, kids in Cambodia during Khmer Rouge, sexual identity and more. Such an inspiring panel, and also full of incredibly useful writing advice. Oh and I apologize for the not-so-good pictures. Poor Maurene was bending over when I took the picture. Oops! I will get better at the whole photography thing, I promise!

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Elana K. Arnold, Bill Konigsberg, and Josephine Angelini

The last panel I went to do was “What We Talk About When We Talk Love” with Elana K. Arnold, Josephine Angelini and Bill Konigsberg. This was was SUPER helpful because they talked about structuring romance, and how to write a good romance. I sometimes find that my romance starts to take over the story, and I lose my story so the panel was really great for that, and I got a TON of great advice there. I felt so much better about my characters, Katy and Lucas, and being able to tell their romance without ruining the whole awesome zombie part of my novel. And I also feel a little more confident to return to Evie and Alex in my baseball novel.

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After the panels, they had the signings and I was SO excited. I had been dying to meet Andrew Smith again. I met him back in May but I hadn’t read Winger yet, and now that I’ve read it, I NEEDED to get it signed and I need to tell him how amazing it is. So I did, so that was awesome :) I also was able to meet Francesca Lia Block and Cornelia Funke and tell them thank you SO much for doing interviews for this blog, along with Ned Vizzini, who was SO awesome. I was incredibly nervous doing his interview, so it felt AWESOME that he told me I did a great job :) I was also happy to meet Josephine Angelini, whose third book is right next to me, and I’m almost done with.

I am also excited to dive into the other authors like Bill Konigsberg, Patricia McCormick, Elana K. Arnold, Maurene Goo and more. I’m pretty sure my to-read list increased by at least 20 books. Easily.

So yeah, I had an AMAZING time, and I will definitely coming to this event in the future. I was able to meet some seriously cool authors, AND I feel like I gained a ton of writing advice from some talented and inspiring authors. It must have worked because I came home last night, and wrote 1000 words for my zombie novel, so that felt great!

One last thank you to Mary McCoy for putting on an awesome event, and helping to get me interviews for my blog. That was absolutely incredible and awesome. And thanks for the LA Public Library for bringing a great collection of authors together!

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LA Teen Book Fest Interview with Francesca Lia Block!

This weekend, nurse at the Los Angeles Central Branch Library, teen librarian and soon to be published author, Mary McCoy is hosting a ton of fantastic YA authors for the Los Angeles Teen Book Fest, which I wrote about yesterday. You can find out more information about the event here.

One of the authors that will be attending the event is Francesca Lia Block, a veteran author of more than a dozen books. She writes mostly in the YA genre, and writings reimaginings of fairy tales, and infuses fairy tales into her novels.


Her most recent novel, Love in the Time of Global Warming, tells the story of Pen, and her journey across post-apocalyptic Los Angeles, searching for her family, and a trusty copy of Homer’s The Odyssey in her back pocket to guide her.

Check out this awesome interview I was able to do with her . I can’t wait to meet her on Saturday!

Sara: Which book was easier to write: your first ever book, or the second one? 

Francesca: The first one! WEETZIE BAT pretty much wrote itself. WITCH BABY was a challenge and I had a lot of help from my editor at the time, Charlotte Zolotow. I had also written THE HANGED MAN before WITCH BABY but it wasn’t published until afterwards. That flowed pretty easily and is one of my favorites so I guess technically my second book was easier than my third.

Sara: You’ve written so many books, how do you keep yourself writing fresh and where do you get your inspiration from? 

Francesca: I look to my daily life and the lives of my friends. Human existence is full of love and pain so there is never really a shortage of inspiration if you stay open to it.

Sara: Was being an author something you always wanted to do or did you have other career aspirations? 

Francesca: I always wanted to be a writer. At first, it was poetry. I also wanted to be a fashion designer  or a modern dancer and am interested in psychotherapy, anthropology and art history.

Sara: What advice do you give to aspiring writers? What’s the best advice YOU’VE been given? 


Francesca: Read. Write. Find a mentor. Never give up. Dig deep. Express your truth from your heart and because you have to do so.

Once I called my dad from my dorm room at UC Berkeley. I was crying because my writing teacher didn’t like something I’d written. My dad practically shouted at me, “You’re a writer!” This stuck with me always. I think if you are compelled to write, you are a writer. You just need the tools to do so. What my dad said wasn’t advice but I try to remind my students (at UCLA Extension, Antioch University Los Angeles and in my private that if you feel that complusion to write you must honor it.

Sara: What are some of your favorite things to do outside of writing? 

Francesca: Yoga, movies, reading, running, walking, listening to music, taking photographs, looking at fashion, eating at vegan restaurants.

Sara: What are some of your favorite books or authors to read? 

Francesca: Anais Nin, Emily Dickinson, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, JD Salinger, Harper Lee, Colette, among many others.

Sara: What made you want to spin fairy tales, and use fairy tale feels, into your novels? 

Francesca: I have always loved dark fairy tales and myths. They inspire me and make me feel less alone in the world because the truths they tell are still so relevant. I like to mix these ancient tales with things that re happening in my own life.


Sara: What has been one of the best parts of being an author? 

Francesca: Meeting my readers!

Sara: Who is your fictional crush?

Francesca: Atticus [Finch] from To Kill a Mockingbird

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I hope you all enjoyed this interview with Francesca Lia Block, and are able to catch her at the Los Angeles Teen Book Fest this coming weekend! Check her out at the Classically Inspired panel with other awesome authors like Josephine Angelini, Gretchen McNeil and Cornelia Funke!

See you all there and Happy Reading!