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For New York Times bestselling author Meg Wolitzer's debut young adult novel, Belzhar, there wasn't much of a difference between writing for adults and teenagers. Save for shorter paragraphs and fewer tangents. "You have to be the writer that you always are," she explained to Ask Me Another host Ophira Eisenberg.
Similar to some of her previous work (The Ten-Year Nap, The Uncoupling, and The Interestings), Wolitzer introduces yet another complex heroine. Except this time around, Belzhar (whose title is a nod to a certain Sylvia Plath work that Wolitzer deems is "catnip" to a certain type of bookish teenager) invokes the voice of a young, breathless girl, living at a boarding school for "highly-intelligent, emotionally-fragile teens," and who "desperately" needs to tell her story. Belzhar's characters record their thoughts in special journals that help them deal with their respective traumas.
When asked whether or not she was a big on journaling herself, Wolitzer replied – "No, I was not, I am not. I always wanted to write fiction". However, she does admit there was one summer when she fancied herself a lesser member of the Bloomsbury Group, and kept a journal for a mere three days.
Beyond being an accomplished novelist, Wolitzer is a word maven, having published a book of cryptic crosswords. So for her Ask Me Another Challenge, Wolitzer deciphered anagrams of the titles of famous literary works. Though we tried to stump her, she easily identified the Hemingway classic that anagrams to "Earth's Lousiness."
On trying her hand at journaling
No, I was not, I am not. I always wanted to write fiction. But for one summer I had a diary, a journal, and I started off thinking, "Oh, this is going to be really good." And I wrote in it, "Today I watched Bewitched," and I thought I was, you know, a lesser member of the Bloomsbury Group, and one day I'd be really famous and my journals would be published. But I stopped writing in the journals after about three days, and I felt so guilty I went back and on every page I wrote "Nothing happened ... nothing happened," so that when they were found some day, it would like like I really was trying.
This episode originally aired on February 5, 2015.