May 22, 2009

Ned Vizzini is the author of It's Kind of a Funny Story, Be More Chill, and Teen Angst? Naaah.... He speaks at schools, universities, and libraries across the US about writing and mental health, he reviews young adult books for the New York Times Book Review, and he lives in Brooklyn, NY. His work has been has been translated into seven languages.
Ned Vizzini | FAQ
FAQ - Last Updated 5/22/09
    General Questions
  1. Can I have information about you for a report?
  2. Can you come and visit my school/organization?
  3. Can you sign my book?
  4. How can I be a writer? (skill)
  5. How can I be a writer? (business)
  6. Can you help me get published?
  7. What is your address?
  8. Isn't it hard to write about your family and friends? Do they get offended?
  9. Are you writing a new book?
  10. Who are your favorite authors? / What authors inspired you?
  11. What is your favorite book of the ones you've written?

  12. It's Kind of A Funny Story Questions
  13. How much of IKOAFS is true?
  14. Are they making an IKOAFS movie?
  15. Did it really take you like a month to write?
  16. Are the characters real?
  17. How does Craig get better so quickly in IKOAFS?
  18. In what year did the events that IKOAFS is based on take place?

  19. Be More Chill Questions
  20. Is there going to be a Be More Chill movie?
  21. Where did you get the idea for the squip?
  22. At the end of Be More Chill, do Christine and Jeremy hook up?
  23. Is the squip real?
  24. Is there going to be a Be More Chill sequel?
  25. How much of Be More Chill is based on your real life?

  26. Teen Angst? Naaah... Questions
  27. How much of Teen Angst is real?
  28. Can I have a Wormwhole demo?
  29. Did you ever meet the girl who kicked your backpack down the stairs?
  30. Are you still with Judith?
  31. Teen Angst? Naaah... comes in two editions -- a black one and a yellow one. What is the difference between the two editions?
  32. Did you do the pictures in Teen Angst?
  33. Regarding the footnote about Rude Boys: did you ever figure that out?

  34. Reader-Submitted Questions (note: if you don't see your question elsewhere, it may be here!)
  35. Why do you like writing so much?
  36. What obstacles did you have to overcome to write your books?
  37. What is your favorite thing to do other than writing and reading?
  38. Your birth place and date?
  39. Do you have siblings?
  40. What college did you go to?
  41. When did you write your books?
  42. What would you say is your style/type of writing?
  43. Have you been given any awards?
  44. Where are you currently living?

1. Can I have information on you for a report?

Yes, there is lots of information in three places:

  • this FAQ!

  • my bio is on the front page (on the left, under my picture)

  • Wikipedia

  • the the reader-submitted questions section of the FAQ -- these contain answers to questions that I have been asked for reports over the years

Here is everything else you might need:

  • I was born 4/4/81.

  • I went to Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan (1995-1999).

  • In 1996, I started writing for New York Press, a local alternative paper. I wrote stories for them about my high school experiences that they printed every month or so.

  • In 1998 I wrote something for the New York Times Magazine.

  • That essay caught the eye of Free Spirit Publishing in Minnesota. In 2000, they put out my first book Teen Angst? Naaah..., a collection of stories from New York Press with some new ones added in.

  • In 2000 I had my first speaking engagement at a high school in New York City. Since then, I have spoken at high schools, colleges, and symposiums about writing, gifted education and mental health.

  • In 2002, Random House bought the mass-market rights to Teen Angst and put out a the mass-market paperback edition.

  • I entered Hunter College in Manhattan in 2000 and graduated in 2003 with a computer science degree and an English minor, honors, Phi Beta Kappa. I got the computer science degree because I never thought writing would make me any money.

  • While in college, I wrote my second book and first novel, Be More Chill.

  • I first explored the idea of the book with a short story about a man who gets a radio installed in his shoe to tell him how to be cool all the time. I wrote this story for a class; the instructor was the writer Regina McBride.

  • In 2003 BMC was sold to Hyperion/Miramax books.

  • In 2004 the Be More Chill hardcover edition was published.

  • In the fall of 2004, suicidal with a lot of stress and depression that was later diagnosed and treated as manic depression, I spent a few days in the psych unit at Methodist Hospital, Park Slope, Brooklyn.

  • In late 2004/early 2005 I wrote a book based on my hospital experience called It's Kind of a Funny Story. This was convenient, because the pressure that got me into the hospital in the first place was the pressure to write a follow-up to Be More Chill.

  • IKOAFS was released in spring 2006 in hardcover.

  • IKOAFS was released in spring 2007 in paperback.

  • The jobs that I have had that I can remember include:

    1. dirt-bagger at a plant store

    2. apprentice house painter

    3. all-purpose gofer at my parents' company

    4. ColdFusion programmer for an internet startup

    5. founder of a internet firm that resists simple description

    6. 9-5er at Computer Associates (more specifically, the Computer Associates headquarters in Islandia, Long Island, which bears a striking resemblance to the psych unit at Methodist )

    7. bike messenger

    8. food service

  • As of April 2009, I have completed a new manuscript, a novel. It has not been put out for sale yet.


2. Can you come and visit my school/organization?

Yes, of course! If you are interested in a workshop or presentation/lecture, please contact my speaking agency:

"Your Source for Lectures with Impact"

call 800-743-9182; more info here


3. Can you sign/autograph my book?

Yes I can sign your book! Here's what to do:

simple version
  • Put the book, plus an envelope with 6 stamps on it, into an envelope with 7 stamps on it. Address the envelope with 7 stamps on it to me:

    Ned Vizzini
    285 5th Ave. Suite #405
    Brooklyn, NY 11215

    Be sure to put your return address on this envelope or I won't know who to send it back to. Also write MEDIA MAIL on this envelope in 2-3 places or it won't come to me.

detailed version
  1. Make sure you have TWO envelopes that the book will fit in. (Manila envelopes work fine.) (If you want multiple books signed, please send each in a different package according to instructions below.)

  2. Look at the following chart to determine how many stamps you will need.

    Book (US editions only) # of stamps
    It's Kind of a Funny Story paperback6
    It's Kind of a Funny Story hardcover6
    Be More Chill paperback6
    Be More Chill hardcover6
    Teen Angst? Naaah... red cover6
    Teen Angst? Naaah... yellow cover 6

    (Books listed differently in case prices change in the future.)
    (If you're from outside the US, email me and we'll make arrangements.)

  3. Put this many stamps on one of the envelopes.

  4. Put this many stamps plus one on another envelope and address that envelope to me:
    Ned Vizzini
    285 5th Ave. Suite #405
    Brooklyn, NY 11215

    Be sure to put your return address or I won't know where to send the book back!

  5. Put the blank envelope (with the stamps) into the addressed envelope.

  6. Pop the book into the addressed envelope. Seal it up.

  7. Final, important step: write "MEDIA MAIL" on the addressed envelope in 2 or 3 places. The book will not get to me unless you write "MEDIA MAIL". (Media mail is a special rate for books.)

  8. Send it off!

Thanks, I know it's complicated.


4. How can I be a writer? (skill)

I have put up many answers to this question, but none of them are as good as the advice in these sources:

  1. "kill your darlings"

  2. Stephen King, On Writing

  3. George Orwell, "Why I Write" essay

  4. Lucas, Spielberg, and Kasdan "Raiders of the Lost Art Story Transcripts"
    [unbelievable and artistically inspiring: watch these guys come up with Raiders of the Lost Ark in a few days!]
    [warning: big file]

Buy these books/read this stuff and you will be a better writer!


5. How can I be a writer? (business)

Here comes some ridiculously lengthy advice.

  1. Don't try to write a book.
    Many people want to start writing by writing a book. Not a good idea. Especially if you're young, you're not going to have the discipline to follow through on a complete work of fiction, which has to be on your mind all the time for months. Start small.

  2. Figure out your market.
    Who are you trying to write for? Are you trying to write stories about gardening to help people garden better? Or stories about vampires for people who need an introduction to vampires? It doesn't matter, so long as you know.

  3. Know the potential of your market.
    Once you know the kind of writing you want to do, check it out below:
    • Poetry
      There's not really a market for poetry outside of academia. Poetry books sell very little and poems appear in magazines rarely. If you want to be a poet, you have to stay in school indefinitely, writing your poetry while teaching poetry classes at a university. It's not a bad life by any means. Just know that's what you're getting into. You have to LOVE books. Unless... you want to risk it and try to be a kick-ass non-academic dangerous rock-star poet like Poe or Bukowski. In that case you shouldn't even be reading this; you should be out causing trouble.

    • Funny Little Stories
      Times have changed. If you're reading this, then maybe you know that this is how I got started: by sending my funny stories to a local newspaper. Unfortunately, that doesn't work any more. Now, if you want to write funny, observant, witty, biting stories about your life, you have to put them on a blog--no one will pay for them. Therefore you have to be a blogger and figure out how to make money off of the ads. People do it. No reason you can't. Here is the breakdown:

    • Magazine Stuff
      Here, I don't just mean journalism. I mean everything from investigative war coverage to the captions under the items in Maxim. They all appear in magazines, and magazines are still alive. If you want to write for them, check it out: at the front of every newspaper and magazine (sometimes on page 2 or 3) is something called a masthead.

      The masthead lists the names and occupations of all the writers and editors who work for the paper. At the bottom of the masthead is an address called the "slush mail" address. You will probably see it in tiny letters down there and really have to struggle to read it. This is the address that unknown writers can send their work to.

      You know what? It's not like trying to be a model or a rock star. You don't have to sleep with anybody.

      Newspapers/magazines need to run copy every month/week/day so they eventually read the slush mail because hey, if there's talent in there, they want to use it for copy. Send your articles and essays again and again and again.

      Be specialized. Whatever you enjoy reading, you should send your writing to. If you like cars, send to Road and Track. If you've got a crazy story about homeless people or music, look for a local alternative paper in your city (like New York Press, it'll come out every week and have listings for all the concerts/parties going on); you will, at least, get a response and get an idea how good your stuff is.

    • Novels
      Now, if you want to tackle the big fish and write books, first, like we said, start small. Start with stories, personal essays, a seriously updated blog that you treat like a job. Once you've gotten yourself to the point where you think you have the discipline to write a novel, you have two choices:

      1. Go and get a degree in creative writing after college.

      2. Get a job and experience "real life" and try to write based on that.

      The purpose of #1 is to, after you're done with school, have an agent. And a book. Then the agent can try and sell your book. However, an MFA costs--you know what, by the time I write it, the cost will have gone up, so I'll just say it's "market price." Even if you get an agent and sell a book, you might be in the red. (However, you can teach creative writing courses and workshops, which brings in some money.)

      With #2, you're going to have to do it yourself. You won't be taken seriously by any of the #1 people until you get something published. Get a copy of THIS BOOK:

      Writer's Market 2009

      It's like the yellow pages for writers. It'll list every agent and publisher you can imagine.

      So if you're with option #2, you need to finish your book (FINISH it, don't write 2/3) and then look in Writer's Market for an agent who will be interested in it (say, the guy who specializes in mermaid romance tales). Send him the manuscript, properly formatted, with a nice cover letter, and do that over and over and over again until you hear something back.

      People who go through #1 should have an easier time of this--their years in graduate school should have given them the connections to get an agent. (By the way, an agent is optional for independent publishers but necessary for major publishers.)

      Ultimately, what's better, #1 or #2? I say #2, but that's just me.

  4. Wait! There's more!

  5. Make a database of everyone you know in publishing and watch it grow.
    You probably know someone, somehow, who is connected with the writing world. So start a database or a spreadsheet and put in their information: name, position, when you last talked to them, what happened the last time you talked to them... Ask them if they know anyone else in the writing world--editors, freelance journalists, people who put out small poetry chapbooks--and get their asses into the chart.

    At all stages of the game, be honest. Don't pretend that you're not trying to get a leg up on things when you talk to a person who can help you. Tell them: "I wrote this article that I really want to get published, can you help me?" And just keep watching that chart grow.

  6. Finally, if you're in high school, check out the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers. These are the folks who do the Scholastic Writing Awards. They are dedicated to and serious about helping young writers.

    WRITE IT program (<-- go here first)

    application for the Scholastic Writing Awards (applications close in fall--March for novels)


6. Can you help me get published?

Sorry, no. Not any more than with the business and artistic advice.


7. What is your address?

Ned Vizzini
285 5th Ave. Suite #405
Brooklyn, NY 11215


8. Isn't it hard to write about your family and friends? Do they get offended?

They can be, absolutely. The best way to deal with this is to write fiction and BASE your characters on real people instead of straight-up STEALING from them.


9. Are you writing more books?

I have finished writing my fourth book. Right now it has been sent to my agent; hopefully we will sell it soon and I will make an announcement.

For more details, I posted about it here.


10. Who are your favorite authors / What authors inspired you ?

I like literary fiction and biographies.

My favorite authors change month to month, but one amazing book I can mention I read lately was Tom Wolfe, A Man in Full. Right up off the top of my head right now, books that pop into mind are Jonathan Ames' Wake Up, Sir and Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children. I really like reading musician biographies, i.e. Slash, Heavier Than Heaven, Nirvana, Miles.

When I was young and just starting out, my favorites were George Orwell, Michael Crichton, and Stephen King. Later I was exposed to the people who were writing for the New York Press in the late 1990s (Jim Knipfel, Amy Sohn, George Tabb), and they introduced me to the confessional essay format that I used in Teen Angst? Naah..., which set the stage for the kind of writing I do now.


11. What is your favorite book of the ones you've written?

My favorite book of mine is It's Kind of A Funny Story. It's the most personal, and I think it has the best lines.


12. How much of It's Kind of a Funny Story is true?

85%. What I did:

  1. change the names of the characters

  2. change the age of Craig, who is 15 when he goes into the hospital (I was 23)

  3. add the love triangle


13. Are they making an It's Kind of a Funny Story movie?

Paramount has optioned IKOAFS for a feature film. The script is being developed by Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, who wrote and directed the films Half Nelson and Sugar. No financing or release date yet.


14. Did IKOAFS really take you like a month to write?



15. Are the characters in the hospital real?

Yes, they were based on real people. In some cases I changed races around, or combined two people into one character.


16. How does Craig get better so quickly?

This is everyone's chief criticism of It's Kind of A Funny Story; they feel that the ending is too tidy.

My argument is that Craig didn't get "better" as in "better--his depression is cured." He got better as in "better--I'm not going to consider suicide again." He sorted out some things in his life like I did.


17. In what year did the events that IKOAFS is based on take place?

Late 2004.


18. Is there going to be a Be More Chill movie?

Not right now, but there is potential in the future. The movie was optioned and released; at this point I'm deciding where to go next.


19. Where did you get the idea for the squip?

I saw so many products being advertised around me that promised to make you cool. So I thought, "What if there were just the ultimate? What if there were a pill?"

Also, there is a band called Drunk Horse that has a song called "AM/FM Shoes" about a guy who feels like a loser, except when he puts his special AM/FM shoes on. That helped give me the idea too.


20. At the end of Be More Chill, do Christine and Jeremy hook up?

It's an implied resolution, the idea being that you as a reader must decide!

(In my own mind, they probably get together but end up breaking up ultimately. But that's just me.)


21. Is the squip real?

No. You might be thinking of the "Squip? Google It" campaign.

When BMC came out, we ran a fairly insane publicity campaign where we invented a whole universe of websites that made it seem as if the squip were real. (Link leads to Flash movie; please allow time to load, it's worth it!)

The websites, which included and, were coupled with "Squip? Google It" stickers that we gave away. Readers put these stickers up and took pictures of them.

The squip campaign ran into some problems:

  1. people criticized us for exploiting kids, because in many cases the people signing up for squips on websites thought they were real

  2. managing the "Squip? Google It" t-shirts and stickers and the large amount of email proved very difficult

  3. we didn't really understand the government COPPA laws when we launched, and so we misstepped, missing the chance to get thousands of people on board with the campaign because we couldn't legally ask for their email addresses

  4. I got very depressed (this was the summer before I went into the hospital)

For those reasons, and maybe more, the squip campaign never quite "tipped" into the phenomenon we hoped it would be and closed in 2005.

However, it had some positive results:

  • we were featured in this New York Times article

  • we compiled this great video of the campaign highlights, with many of the early adopters and loyal squippers

  • on the message boards, a vibrant and unique community grew up around the Squip Campaign; the highest-posting members are given the status "Squip Sherrif":


22. Is there going to be a Be More Chill sequel?



23. How much of Be More Chill is based on your real life?

65%. The infected nipple-ring incident happened to me.


24. How much of Teen Angst is real?

95%. I just changed some names, dates.


25. Can I have a Wormwhole demo?

No need to ask. Both Wormwhole songs are available for download:


26. Did you ever meet the girl who kicked your backpack down the stairs? Did she read the book?



27. Are you still with Judith from Teen Angst? Naaah...?



28. Teen Angst? Naaah... comes in two editions -- a black one and a yellow one. What is the difference between the two editions?

Black one (guy with a box on his head)

  • published by Random House

  • mass-market paperback

  • published in 2002

  • footnotes are on the bottom of each page

Yellow one

  • original version

  • published by Free Spirit Publishing

  • published in 2000

  • trade paperback

  • larger

  • footnotes on the sides of the pages

  • no longer in print


29. Did you do the pictures in Teen Angst?

No, the cartoons were done by talented artist named Christopher Schons.


30. Regarding the footnote about Rude Boys: did you ever figure that out?

During the 1970s 2 Tone ska revival in England, the terms rude boy and rude girl were often used to describe fans of that genre.


31. (reader submitted) Why do you like writing so much?

Sometimes I don't like writing at all. It is incredibly frustrating when you are trying to write but it isn't coming out correctly. Your brain spins and you sit at the computer and go numb. So the rewards have to be great. Fortunately they are.

For the reasons why I enjoy writing, I defer to George Orwell, who wrote the following reasons for writing in his essay "Why I Write" (1946):

(i) Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc.

(ii) Aesthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement. Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story.

(iii) Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.

(iv) Political purpose.

Only for me me, (ii) is more important than (i). When I get a sentence right, or when my writing is going well, it feels better than anything on Earth. And I have another reason:

(v) Connecting with readers. To know through letters and emails that I have had experiences similar to other people, and to thank them for their support and kindness.


32. (reader submitted) What obstacles did you have to overcome to write your books?

I was very lucky in that I did not face that many of the professional obstacles that many authors face while getting their books published. I started writing young (for New York Press), this writing was seen by Free Spirit Publishing, and they put out Teen Angst? Naaah... in 2000. At that point I began carrying flyers around everywhere to tell people about my books and I handed one to a person at a wedding and it turned out that they knew an agent and that is how I got my agent.

The obstacles I had to overcome were personal ones.

Specifically I wasn't able to write a very good book after Be More Chill. I tried and tried, and it drove me crazy, and that's how I ended up in the hospital as described in It's Kind of A Funny Story. So my obstacles have been personal and artistic.


33. (reader submitted) What is your favorite thing to do other than writing and reading?

Errands. Seriously, a lot of the rest of my time is spent up in mundane aspects of life--finding out why Amazon owes me money, cleaning trying to get a new water heater, watching Scwab's little business webcasts...

When I'm not doing that stuff, I am a big Nirvana fan, and so I enjoy cataloging my shows and listening to them.

I also keep myself busy with various small projects, like, for example, finding and editing my "Attack of the Killer Turtle" movie. I am working on a graphic audio play right now, similar to the GraphicAudio CDs.

I am a fan of the website Bookmooch, where I give and receive books.

I enjoy going out to readings in New York. Now that I am done with my fourth book, I can go out more.


34. (reader submitted) Your birth place and date?

I was born in New York on April 4, 1981.


35. (reader submitted) Do you have siblings?

Yes, a brother and sister, both younger.


36. (reader submitted) What college did you go to?

Hunter College in New York City.


37. (reader submitted) When did you write your books?

  • I wrote the essays in Teen Angst? Naaah... over a period of 3 years while in high school (1996-1999). I spent about a year with Free Spirit Publishing compiling and editing them before publication (2000).

  • I wrote Be More Chill in 2002, in a 9-month period between roughly March and November.

  • I wrote It's Kind of A Funny Story during a very intense month in December of 2004.

  • I completed my as-yet-unpublished fourth book in April, 2009. It took me 22 months to write.


38. (reader submitted) What would you say is your style/type of writing?

Realistic, humorous young-adult fiction.


39. (reader submitted) Have you been given any awards?

Yes, here is a list.


40. (reader submitted) Where are you currently living?

Brooklyn, NY.

Thank you!

Awards my books have received:
award award.

2007 Best Books for Young Adults

Junior Library Guild
award award.gif

award award_icon.

Teen Angst? Naaah... - A BookSense 76 Selection

Illinois School Library Media Association
award award.

Abe Lincoln Award Master List

Austrian JugendLITERAturpreis
award award.

Winner -- Literature for Young People, 2008 [was supposed to come with award, now there is a lawsuit]

Lufti Prize (Germany)
award award.

Mecklenburgische Literaturgesellschaft (i.e. "Golden Lufti")

New York Public Library
award award.1.2.gif

University of Madison Wisconsin
award award.1.gif

Michigan Library Association
award award.1.2.3.gif

MLA Thumbs Up Reading List

Chicago Public Library
award award_icon.1.2_rs1.1.gif

Chicago Public Library Best of the Best List

© Ned Vizzini 2000-2009