R.I.P. Ned Vizzini

Ned Vizzini made me cry twice, the second time was today, when I read that he’d died at the young age of 32. That he was in such pain that he felt there was no other way out breaks my heart so, for his wife, for his son, and for anyone who has lost someone to depression.
I cry for my friend David Kahn. He committed suicide a few years ago, too. I think about him so often it surprises me. He had a sweet, sweet smile and when I think of him, he always has that smile going on.
I didn’t know Ned, but he was on my podcast once, on an episode called Library Love. We were at a book festival together, and I asked him for a childhood memory about libraries. This is what he told me, transcribed from the podcast.
“When I was about 13, I became very focused on getting into a specialized high school in Manhattan called Stuyvesant High School. I used to study for the Stuyvesant test at the Brooklyn Public Library, neared Grand Army Plaza in Park Slope. As I walked into the library, I saw inscribed in stone on the wall a poem: Here are enshrined the longing of great hearts and noble things that tower above the tide. The magic word that winged wonder starts, the garnered wisdom that never dies. I kept studying math and science to try to past this test, but every time I passed the poem, I would read it, and it would make me really want to read a great book or write a good book. In the years since, it’s one of the only poems I’ve ever memorized. I just find it really inspiring to think of what’s inside a library as the magic word that winged wonder starts. It’s not the words that create the wonder; it’s the wonder that creates the words. I’ve tried to look it up and see who wrote it, and it’s only accredited to the Brooklyn Public Library. So, that apparently is the entity behind it and I’m very thankful for them in helping inspire me to become a writer.”
When he was done, I had a hard time speaking due to the lump in my throat. I thought it was so beautiful, that he was  moved by this poem he’d memorized and became a writer because of it. That was the first time I met him and he made me cry.
He made me cry again today. You will be missed, Ned Vizzini. But you won’t be forgotten.

Recent Comments

  • Taurean Watkins
    December 21, 2013 - 12:59 am · Reply

    My condolences, Katie, and to those who knew Ned personally, or only from his books.
    I felt a similar pain when I learned Bernard Waber died earlier this year in May (What is it with May and author deaths lately? First Maurice Sendak in May 2012 and now Waber in 2013, my birthday is in May, which makes that particularly poignant for me).
    Thankfully he had a larger oeuvre to share with us before his time came, but all the same, I just DISCOVERED him three years ago and in that time own every book in the Lyle series.
    I recently acquired a signed copy of “Lyle and the Birthday Party” via my local (Local in terms of being in my STATE, mind you) indie bookstore
    Which is a bargain considering the value will go up over time, and I will NEVER sell my copy unless I absolutely have to, and I’ll entrust to someone who will cherish it when I write my will, not to worry those who know me, but you know…
    I didn’t have the privilege of being read to as many authors (Especially Picture book authors) often chronicle, so most of my reading of picture books has been as an adult, and only now in the past decade do I feel brave enough to write them myself, as I read far more novels growing up, and they’ll always be my first love, but I long to one day have a picture book in my back-list of books I’ve written, that made it to publication.
    We’ve lost so many authors and/or illustrators this year, and while I don’t mean to sound overly morbid or self-absorbed when I say this, but it does motivate me in a hard to explain way (Without sounding vain) to keep at writing myself.
    Like biological families, writers are generational, and a new generation has to step up when the seasoned pros sadly leave this world in the mortal sense.
    No one can truly replace those we’ve lost since we’re all our own unique person, but (egomaniac semantics aside) my main point is that the “Brand Names” of today were once the underdogs of tomorrow, and I like many new authors, strive to have such readers who will love our work, too.
    It also further drives me to find ways to meet my favorite authors and get my books signed while they’re still mortal.
    Take care, Katie, and Happy Holidays
    P.S., You might want to check out this video, it’s helped me after a hard couple of weeks recently-
    It’s long, but (And I’m no expert since my own videos fight length a lot) this conversation couldn’t be less than 1 min and give me the solace it has when I first saw it earlier this week and I’m about to watch it again!

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