Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Guest Post: Meredith Zeitlin

Meredith Zeitlin

-Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters

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Meredith Zeitlin is a writer and voiceover artist who lives in Brooklyn with two adorable feline roommates. She also writes a column for Ladygunn Magazine, changes her hair color every few months, and has many fancy pairs of spectacles.

In case you're wondering whether any of Kelsey's experiences are based on Meredith's own, the answer is NO WAY. When she was fourteen, Meredith looked and behaved perfectly at all times, was never in a single embarrassing situation, and always rode to school on her very own unicorn.

When I first moved to Brooklyn, I babysat for an awesome little girl... who is now taller than I am, by the way. (Why?!?) Anyway, I would read her YA books while she did her homework, and with few exceptions, I found myself very bummed out by them. I thought they seemed cookie-cutter and not very well-written and, most importantly, not at all the sources of comfort I grew up with, which were filled with relatable characters who were awkward and desperately trying to figure things out. Instead these were all about super rich and sophisticated kids, the likes of which I certainly never met when I was fourteen.
Since then, I've been turned on to lots of amazing contemporary YA writers – they are definitely out there! But at the time, I was so disappointed. I thought, maybe I'll write something myself.

I had been writing a personal blog for a few years at that point (mostly to keep the creative juices flowing while I bartended and babysat and temped), which was basically an account of all the ridiculous things that always seem to happen to me. Of course, since I was a so-called adult, some of the recent adventures were a bit on the racy side, but I thought: What if I wrote a story that's about the disastrous things that happened when I was growing up? After all, I've almost completely recovered!

See, my own freshman year was a lot like Kelsey's. I started at a new school that year – an all girls' school, mind you – and had to deal with all the usual stuff plus not knowing anyone. I was a mess, naturally, and had all my I HAVE A GREAT PERSONALITY, CAN'T YOU TELL?! defense shields up from the moment I walked through the door. (Of course, I say that now, looking back from a distance of many years. At the time, I thought I was fooling everyone into seeing a totally confident and awesome gal who hardly minded her horrible bangs, braces, and the nose she hadn't grown into yet. Oh, the magic of hindsight.)

Like Kelsey, I did make friends and do interesting school things and have lots of fun. I also pissed off a scary junior who tortured me for the next two years (not to mention a REALLY mean teacher who held a grudge against me for four). I was in plays where insane things happened, and thought playing a sport I'd never heard of called lacrosse was a good idea, and went to a prom with a guy I barely knew who got kicked out for smoking pot and left me totally stranded. There were misunderstandings with friends and boys I agonized over and all the wrong ones who liked me and one mess after another. I figured I had more than enough material for a book.

So I came home one afternoon and sat down in my living room and wrote the first sentence – the same first sentence that you'll see in the finished version. I wrote a few pages and closed the computer. Then I watched a bunch of TV and ate some ice cream and thought: “I should really work on that some more.” Then the Procrastination Monster and I did everything BUT write for a while. And that was how the book got written, over about six months. When inspiration struck, I'd write something – for five minutes, or thirty – and then I'd do something else. And eventually... it was finished.

And there you have it: the book about a catastrophe-prone fourteen-year-old is actually about a slightly older (yep, that's what I'm going with) Brooklynite who loves candy and TV. And sometimes pulls it together long enough to write a book that she hopes kids (and their babysitters!) will relate to and love.

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