Four years ago, I was at a New Year's Day dinner with a lot of people I didn't know all that well. At one point, I mentioned to one of the guests that I was a children's librarian who loved Young Adult literature too, and she said, "Hey, my cousin has a YA book you should really check out. It's called Teen Angst? Naaah... by Ned Vizzini." I got the book from the library, read it, and enjoyed it. Then, I checked out Ned's website and sent him an email. We maintained an email correspondence through the publication of Be More Chill, and then after a hiatus, I finally got to meet Ned and his fiance at the Bumbershoot festival yesterday, where he was one of three YA authors on panel called "The Kids Are Alright: Ellen Hopkins, Francesca Lia Block, Ned Vizzini with Deb Caletti." Ned read from It's Kind of a Funny Story and talked about Angstpiration, i.e. "how you can use art to get out of the increasingly insane psycho-social academic climate that's sending more and more kids to doctors and hospitals."
Ned had kindly put me on his guest list, so I was able to get in for free (Thanks so much, Ned! I felt like a big-shot for 30 seconds), but I was a little bit shy about meeting him, as I usually am before meeting people who are, in essence, pen-pals.* When I introduced myself, he gave me a big hug, and after signing everyone's books, we got to hang out for a little while backstage. I was glad also to meet the lovely Sabra, Ned's fiance. Sabra took this photo:
In addition to enjoying Ned's painfully humorous talk, I also decided that I needed to read all of Ellen Hopkins' books and give Francesca Lia Block another chance. I'd read Weetzie Bat years ago without it making a strong impression on me one way or the other, but after Block read "Skin Art" from Blood Roses, I realized I'd been missing out all these years. I'd also been avoiding stories of drug use and novels in verse for awhile (yes, I'm a curmudgeon, what's it to you?), but after listening to Ellen Hopkins and a teen guest she'd invited to help read parts of Crank, I thought, "Okay, you've reeled me in."
By the way, Ned signed a copy of It's Kind of a Funny Story for the Second Annual Kidlitosphere Conference dinner raffle, and expressed interest in the conference in general. I hope he can show up for a future conference.
*I'm meeting Adrienne Furness next week for the first time, too. Yea rah!