Weaving a Message in Your Writing by Meredith Zeitlin

Today I have Meredith Zeitlin on the blog.  She’s the author of the brilliant young adult contemporary, Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters.  This is one of the few books that as soon as I finished I wanted to turn it over and start reading it all over again.  It’s fun, hilarious and has one of the best characters I’ve ever read about.  Please be sure to check out my review, which I posted yesterday HERE.

About the book:

Kelsey Finkelstein is fourteen and FRUSTRATED. Every time she tries to live up to her awesome potential, her plans are foiled – by her impossible parents, her annoying little sister, and life in general. But with her first day of high school coming up, Kelsey is positive that things are going to change. Enlisting the help of her three best friends — sweet and quiet Em, theatrical Cass, and wild JoJo — Kelsey gets ready to rebrand herself and make the kind of mark she knows is her destiny.

Things start out great – her arch-nemesis has moved across the country, giving Kelsey the perfect opportunity to stand out on the soccer team and finally catch the eye of her long-time crush. But soon enough, an evil junior’s thirst for revenge, a mysterious photographer, and a series of other catastrophes make it clear that just because KELSEY has a plan for greatness… it doesn’t mean the rest of the world is in on it.

Kelsey’s hilarious commentary throughout her disastrous freshman year will have you laughing out loud—while being thankful that you’re not in her shoes, of course…

Weaving a Message in Your Writing

I’ll be honest: I didn’t think at all about weaving a specific message into my book. Anytime I’ve consciously tried to do that, the story – or article, or whatever – has ended up seeming contrived and preachy. (Shockingly, no one really seems to be into that stuff. Hmm.) I think the work that’s most successful has messages that end up in there by accident… messages that boldly sneak in when the author isn’t paying attention.

When I set out to write Freshman Year… I mainly wanted to create characters that were more relatable than those I’d seen recently in YA books. Girls who weren’t necessarily polished, or uber-fashionable, or the prettiest in school, or rich… girls who were, well, normal.

I felt like there was a major dearth of normal girls having normal experiences, and instead a whole lot of battles with supernatural creatures in suburban backyards and six-figure shopping sprees at Bergdorf Goodman’s. Sometimes simultaneously. Which is fine, and even awesome… but certainly not normal fourteen-year-old behavior.

At least, it wasn’t when I was fourteen. Or thirty. (But I digress.)

I think the message that snuck up on me – which I was happy to discover, and one I’m really passionate about sharing – is that it’s okay, and even fantastic and funny and exciting (though sometimes exhausting and excruciating), to just be yourself. And that it’s okay to screw up and not be perfect – all the time, or even EVER. It’s something I have to remind myself every day, and something I treasured reading between the lines of my favorite YA books growing up. Not the world’s most original message, to be sure, but such an important one. (It takes Kelsey awhile to get it, to be sure.) And I think what makes that message successful (I hope!) is that readers will be too caught up in Kelsey’s and her friends’ adventures to wonder what I’m REALLY trying to tell them about, like, life and stuff.

Ultimately, my sage advice on the matter would have to be: don’t think about the message too much. If you have one, it’ll come through your characters and what happens to them over the course of your story. THAT’S the part to focus on – the world you’re creating.

You might even be surprised to find out what your message is – maybe it’s totally different than what you initially started out thinking it would be. And different readers might have wildly varied opinions about it. Which, in my opinion, anyway, is how you know you’ve succeeded.

What do YOU think?

About the Author: 
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. In case you’re wondering whether any of Kelsey’s experiences are based on Meredith’s own, the answer is NO WAY. When she was fourteen, Meredith looked and behaved perfectly at all times, was never in a single embarrassing situation, and always rode to school on her very own unicorn.

Author’s Websites:
Meredith Zeitlin’s Twitter:

Meredith Zeitlin’s Facebook:

Meredith Zeitlin’s website:

Meredith Zeitlin’s blog:

FRESHMAN YEAR AND OTHER UNNATURAL DISASTERS by Meredith Zeitlin from Anne Walls on Vimeo.

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  1. Awesome post I can’t wait to read this one. I never really look for messages in books at all. I read them for pleasure and entertainment, not really to see the “point” behind it all. But I agree that if the author doesn’t force a message, the ones that appear will be more natural. I really look forward to reading this I’ve heard great things about it!

  2. This is the second interview I have read by this author, she is terrific! Her books sounds like so much fun! I am definitely adding it to my list! Have a great Wednesday Candace, it sure is a bit dreary here today!

  3. Oh my gosh, what an AMAZING guest post! I just recently decided (thanks to your review, Candace!) that this book was going to be a must-read, and it makes me even happier that the message inside it is to be yourself. I can’t think of any better advice to give! <3 But I also love that you’re not forcing a message on the readers because, as nice as it can be sometimes, it definitely feels more infectious if we just find these things for ourselves! Who knows? Like you said, maybe someone will find a different message in the story, and that’s okay too! :)

    Can’t wait to get my hands on your book, Meredith!

  4. I think this is an important message regardless of how many books it pops up in. Each book/story brings to you a message in a different way. :)

    I am really looking forward to reading this one soon too. :)

  5. Now I’m going to have to read this book! I love that the author decided to try something different, to leave paranormal behind. Sure paranormal/fantasy adventures are great but they are not normal for teens and sometimes we need to remind ourselves that it is perfectly find to be normal.

    Great message!

  6. I just love Meredith and FY&OUD was fantastic! I love this guest post and perfectly agree. As a Reader I don’t look for messages and such – I want to be entertained and I want to love the story.

    And the way to describe Kelsey was just perfect! She was the typical normal Teenager where everything felt more intense, where nothing else mattered than the right crowd and the right boys. So, tif there is a message here it is definitely to be yourself and be real.


  7. I love posts like these–and it’s funny how sometimes there’s a theme in your writing and you don’t even realize it until you’re done or someone else points it out! I had a similar conversation with Cynthia Hand about that recently, hah.

    Enjoyed the interview–the book looks very cute, too!

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  8. “is that it’s okay, and even fantastic and funny and exciting (though sometimes exhausting and excruciating), to just be yourself.”

    LOVE IT! I know I often thoroughly exhaust myself just trying to get through my day, and there’s nary a supernatural creature in sight:) Loved your review for this one Candace, and this was such a great guest post. I can’t get my hands on this book fast enough now! SHIP FASTER AMAZON!

  9. You gave a very good and valuable recommendation and now I’m looking forward to reading Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin.
    Thank you so much, I was just looking for some good read.

    MP4 to AVI

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