Author Guest Post: Meredith Zeitlin


 

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.

“Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters” (Putnam, March 2012) is her first novel.


MY OWN FRESHMAN YEAR EXPERIENCE

I grew up in New Jersey, and I had a pretty typical high school experience: hanging out with friends, myriad after-school activities, parties my parents didn’t know I was going to, hanging out at the mall, doing piles of homework, working at local stores and babysitting, taking the train into the city and walking around the Village… that kind of stuff.

My freshman year was both really hard and ultimately really rewarding. I started at a brand new school that year – and it was an all-girls’ school, which I was NOT thrilled about. I had to maneuver my way around a totally unfamiliar campus (it was made up of many different buildings and not just one like my old school) and make all new friends, which was especially tricky because many of the girls had been going to school together since they were babies. Suffice it to say, there were rock-solid cliques that had existed for years. And of course I missed my friends from middle school. But I actually ended up loving it – I did make friends, and figure out where to sit at lunch, and got cast in lead roles in the school plays, and somehow ended up on the lacrosse team – a sport I’d never even heard of before. (In a related story, I was TERRIBLE at it. But I stuck it out, just like Kelsey does with soccer in the book.)

Of course, this is me as an adult looking back – at the time I know I was incredibly frustrated much of the time – it’s hard to be new. It took a long time for things to be mostly fun instead of mostly terrifying. And there was plenty of back and forth over the years, no question.

I’ve been asked a lot during this book tour what I’d say to myself if I could go back in time, and I’d definitely have lots of advice based on what I know now. But seriously – would fourteen-year-old YOU listen to some nosy old person who claimed to know all about her and how she should run her life? Fourteen-year-old me would probably roll her eyes and tell me I had no idea what I was talking about. But I’d give it a shot, anyway.

I’d tell her not to try so hard, and to trust that people will like her even if she isn’t always “on,” or cracking a joke, or proving she’s right about everything. I’d love to explain to her that all the other fourteen-year-olds are just as insecure about themselves as she is. I’d definitely inform her that the guys she agonizes over are not worth her agony, and that she doesn’t have anything to prove. But the truth is, there’s a good reason we can’t go back and reveal these things to ourselves – we have to learn the hard way. It’s what makes us the adults we become, I think.

Of course, being able to read a book about another girl whose life is a disaster doesn’t hurt. So that’s really why I wrote this one. For fourteen-year-old me… and all the real freshmen who are trying to figure it out right now.