A speaker last week jokingly said to my class, “Always tell writers you admire that you admire them, they like that”.
And then I remembered something— a longstanding regret.
For those who are unaware of who Ned Vizzini is, he wrote many quirky takes on sci-fi, such as the Other Normals and Be More Chill, but is most well known for his novel, It’s Kind of A Funny Story, originally published in 2006, and made in to a movie in 2010 starring Ema Roberts.
The book was about a teen who commits himself to a hospital after phoning a suicide hotline and his interactions and reflections with and about the people he encounters. Vizzini was very open about the fact that the book was inspired by his own hospitalization for depression in 2004.
I read this book when I was 16, when I was battling my own demons along with the other side effects of my high school career. It felt like fate. I became engrossed in the novel, sitting on that last page and sobbing like I was saying goodbye to a person who really understood me. Afterwards, I took to the library and was thrilled to find Vizzini’s autobiography entitled Teen Angst, Naaah.
I had expected to find a dreary, self-deprecating man, instead I found a charming, awkward individual. I am fully aware, as a writer, that we don’t always tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth when it comes to stories about ourselves. But since he was so open about his mental health, it was surprising to me to find such a wonderful voice within. I found myself at times commenting on how normal he seemed.
In the back of his autobiography there was a link to his website where he encouraged people to email him about writing, books, and their lives. I wrote four drafts of an email but never sent it. I convinced myself that even if he did read it I would get the generic, “just keep writing”, or “it’s so nice to hear you say that”. Even though I had spent so much time with this voice, I didn’t think I could connect the way I’d wanted to.
And honestly, I still don’t know if I would’ve. Authors are busy after all. But when I found out that his demons had gotten the better of him in 2013, there was nothing I had wished for more. Even if he didn’t respond— even if he didn’t read it, I wish I had emailed him to tell him how impressed I was with his storytelling, his character development— how much I wanted to mirror that skill in my own writing. I wish I had told him how much he had meant to me as a person when I read about his teenage years, his awkward but entertaining thought processes; how well spoken, and witty he was in interviews.
I admired him for all he was, and still cherish what he’s left behind on the page.
With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, I encourage you all to tell those whom you admire— that you do. I bet they’ll like that.
You can see his website here
To read more about National Mental Awareness month, see here