Ned Vizzini, 1996 alumnus

Late last week we were all deeply saddened by the tragic news that Art & Writing Awards alum Ned Vizzini had passed away. Ned was honored with an Art & Writing Award in 1996, served as a National Writing juror for several years, and shared advice with young authors through our Ask a Writer blog series.

“The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards family has lost a good friend and a tireless supporter,” says Virginia McEnerney, executive director of the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. “His work was a true example of the fearlessness and originality that our program seeks to recognize. We will miss him greatly.”

Ned turned his experience of winning an Award into a short story, Honorable Mention, which was published in the New York Press. He then went on to publish his first book, Be More Chill, when he was just 19 years old. Ned knew firsthand the obstacles young writers encounter, from finding your voice to dating advice for writers, and shared with us not only practical advice, but also his sense of humor that was ever-present in his own work. In one of his Ask a Writer posts, Ned stated “Even in the most serious or scary story, a light moment makes things more real.”

The lightness we can bring to this moment is to offer a look back at Ned’s thoughtful, honest, and entertaining advice to writers, young and old.

Using life as humor:
The problem with humor is it’s like love, or success – it doesn’t just happen because you try really hard. You have to open your eyes to what’s around you. The power of humor to turn a negative into a positive isn’t just therapeutic; it’s an intrinsic part of humor.

Finding your voice as a writer:
To find your own voice, make sure that you are writing about characters you understand inside and out. A real character will make you adopt a unique voice.

Sharing your work with the world:
Does it entertain you? Does it make you feel? Is it pleasant to read over? If so, you’re entertaining yourself; this is the first test any of your writing has to pass. So if it passes, it’s good, end of story.

Dating advice for writers:
If you’re a great writer and you still find it difficult to meet women, join a rock band. It’s very easy to learn (especially bass guitar). If the rock band thing doesn’t work, I’m going to have to recommend that you form a hip-hop crew.

You can read more of Ned’s advice in our Ask a Writer series.  For more information on Ned’s passing, visit The New York Times, of which he was a contributor.

A note for readers — if you are facing suicidal thoughts, we urge you to reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline


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