[hear the deal from the esteemed John Strausbaugh]



Omaha World-Herald

By Lindsey Baker

"Vizzini Took Year Off to Launch Writing Career"

His voice sounds likes [sic] that of a typical 19-year-old, a boy who has passed over the hump of adolescence and entered into adulthood.

Its his voice on paper that makes him so special.

Ned Vizzini, author of "Teen Angst? Naaah," never expected the columns he wrote for the New York Press about his daily trials and tribulations of high school life to land him a book deal. Now, his "quasi-autobiography" is lining the shelves of bookstores on- and off-line, and Vizzini is fast becoming a rising star.

"People have their own lives," Vizzini said by telephone. "its pretentious of me to think that people walk around all day thinking about my life. Im just a tiny part of their entertainment for, like, a week."

But according to the reviews "Teen Angst? Naaah" has already received, it looks like Vizzinis life is more compelling than he imagined.

"Anytime anything interesting or funny happened, I put it down," he said. "I was writing for myself and keeping (my essays) in my backpack."

Vizzini read and admired the New York Press throughout his freshman year of high school; he began writing for the paper after sending in a somewhat lengthy essay detailing his thoughts on high school life.

Two months passed before he heard anything.

"I totally forgot about it."

Eventually his essay came back because of a lack of postage; he stuck on a few more stamps and waited another two months. Finally, a call came.

"I got a call from the editor," Vizzini said. "He told me to write shorter."

After writing a column for the New York Times Magazine about a year later, Vizzini caught the attention of Free Spirit Publishing, which approached him with the book idea.

"They said I could write for a teen-age guys," Vizzini said.

Drawn by the challenge ("Teen-age guys dont read"), Vizzini took a year off from school to put together his book.

"It was crazy and weird and scary at times. I came to the table with about 30 columns; some were too profane or too New York or too tied to an event. We cut maybe 12 or maybe more."

Vizzini wrote new columns to make up for the dropped pieces. He also added annotations, or "sidebars," as he was editing.

"Some (of the sidebars) were to be helpful, some to just rant. The whole thing was really revamped to make it flow together."

Now Vizzini is happy to know that both teens and adults are reading his stories and relating to his life.

"I get a big thrill when kids my age read it who dont really read much. I feel good when adults like it, too. I always hear [praise] from people much cooler than me," he said.

But it looks like kids are finding Vizzini and his book make for very cool subject matter, and when asked why, Vizzini had an answer.

"I am able to laugh at my own situation. I was brought up in a very sarcastic household and able to find humor in my situations. I see the irony in my own life."

When writing about this irony, however, Vizzini did have to bring family and friends into his stories to portray the full scope of humorous occasions, and the light cast on his characters was not always attractive.

"My family is really cautious about (the book). Theyre OK with everything, but it definitely makes them a bit uncomfortable. Basically, they dont want me to write another book like this."

And Vizzini doesnt want to, either.

"I did my memoir thing," he said. "Im not doing it again. Not necessarily because I dont want to, but because its a trap. You cant really write about anything else; people start doing really strange things so they can write about them. For now, Im just trying to write fiction or journalism stuff."

Vizzini is comfortable with his growing fameso much so that he doesnt even feel he is becoming famous.

"Of all the arts you can pursue, writing is one where you can sort of retain your privacy," he said.

Vizzini is returning to school this fall, to New Yorks Hunter College, a year behind, perhaps, but at least a year ahead of many kids in the writing world.

"I knew I really had something to do," he said.

And was it worth it?