Ned Vizzini, who died Thursday at the age of 32, was a successful YA author of books such as "It's Kind of a Funny Story" and "The Other Normals," who had recently expanded into Hollywood film and television. We asked a few writers who knew him to share their impressions and memories of him.
Chris Columbus, film director and co-author with Vizzini of "House of Secrets" and "House of Secrets: Battle of the Beasts"
I am stunned and deeply saddened by the death of Ned Vizzini. He was the perfect collaborator, with a brilliant imagination and a sharp sense of humor. I've spent nearly every day over the past two years working closely with him, and I can't fathom a world without him. He will be greatly missed and my prayers are with his wife Sabra, his son Felix, his parents and brother.
Margaret Stohl, co-author of the "Beautiful Creatures" novels
The last time I saw Ned Vizzini, he was the only person who bothered to come to a bookstore where I was signing alongside Melissa de la Cruz, in Studio City. Ned, who had his young son with him, seemed upbeat – more so than the two of us, who were suffering the ignominy of an empty bookstore. His latest novel had just hit the bestseller list, he had steady work in Hollywood, and he said he was grateful.
But that wasn’t my first encounter with Ned; like so many of us, I first met him on the page, when my daughter brought home "It’s Kind of a Funny Story" from the middle school library. It was, as I think back, one of the early tells in her subsequent battle with depression. She related to Ned’s voice. As did I; seeing the humanity and the humor in the struggle was Ned’s gift.
And what a gift it was — left on their own, even in our modern post-Lexapro world, people don’t want to hear about depression. I’ve had to coin the term “Big Feelings” as a euphemism about both myself and my characters. But what I admire about Ned is that he never backed away from the conversation. For a guy with Big Feelings, it might have been the easier thing to do. But Ned Vizzini showed up when no one else did. Ned Vizzini bothered.
Melissa de la Cruz, author of the "Blue Bloods" and "Witches of East End" series
I first met Ned when we were both journalists and troublemakers at the New York Press, a feisty independent newspaper in the early 1990s in New York City. He was a 15-year-old high school junior, with a sharp wit and a huge smile. He would attend the annual Christmas party in a flannel shirt, torn jeans and still carrying his large green school backpack. We "older" writers (we were in our 20s and thought ourselves so sophisticated) would tease him and he would tease us right back. "What's with the backpack?" I think our sex columnist offered to relieve him of his virginity as a joke, one that we always laugh about years later. I was really proud of our kid writer, he was so smart, and so nice, and so funny. His writing was honest and searing and hilarious.
We had lost touch over the years and our paths crossed again when Ned started writing YA novels. We reconnected in 2008 at the NCTE conference during a long and boozy publisher dinner, where I was happy to find the skinny, scrappy teenager I had known had grown into an affable, handsome gentleman. We reminisced about our times at the Press, and had a wonderful time getting to know each other again as grownups.
What can I say about Ned? He was one of the nicest and sweetest people, he understood pain, and he was a kind person because of it. He expressed joy and gratitude for the small things. He was earnest. It is such a great loss, especially to his lovely wife and his beautiful son.
Rest in peace Ned. You were such a loving person. You will be sorely missed. I'm still proud of you.
Rachel Cohn, author of "Beta" and co-author of "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist"
Read carefully. On the surface, Ned's writing seems pretty straightforward. He wrote with great accessibility in a fairly simple style (by which I don't mean dumb -- I mean, remarkably clean). But when you dig deeper, his work had exceptional depth of feeling and thought lurking within. When I read his work, I always thought I knew where he was going (as if I'm so jaded to know every writer's trick), and he never failed to surprise and delight. The simple style revealed sentence construction and layers of feeling that were as intense and intelligent as Ned was. How it hurts that he succumbed to the very disease he'd done so much to educate readers about, and help them through. He was truly a unique person and writer, but his books will live on to help generations.
Cecil Castellucci, author of "The Odd Duck" and Plain Janes"
Ned Vizzini was a talented, funny, brilliant, ambitious and generous guy. He talked about anything and everything, about process, about feelings, about demons. If he felt it or thought it, he talked about it.
That is his real legacy. If you ever saw him speak or read, you know that he could dig deep and mention dark things and he somehow made you feel OK about your own dark places. He could even make you laugh about them -- everyone in a room, laughing together. He was honest and he shared his vulnerability with the world. That was his gift to us.
Aaron Hartzler, author of "Rapture Practice"
The thing I'll remember most about Ned was his generosity, especially with the teens in any audience. We did several panels together at LA Times Festival of Books and watching him light up when a young person who'd read his work asked a question was a unique experience. He could talk about tough issues with a wry smile. He never underestimated or talked down to his teen readers. As a new writer I had many questions and Ned was also very generous with his time for me and his advice on publishing and TV alike. He had a way of treating other less-experienced writers as peers. He was one of the most approachable writers I have ever met. I will sorely miss the instant sense of pal-ship he brought to our every exchange.