Interview with Scripps alum, author of “Semi-Charmed Life”

By Michelle No '12 Contributing Writer

Nora Zelevansky (’99) is a self-declared slob with a penchant for chronic tardiness. At 35 years old, however, her professional portfolio reflects none of the unemployable qualities she attributes to herself. After signing a two-book contract with St. Martin’s Press, Nora published her first novel, “Semi-Charmed Life,” early this summer. The novel’s protagonist gets swept up in the life of a twenty-something socialite while ghost writing her blog.

While continuing to pen for the likes of the Los Angeles Times, Town & Country, and Elle, her short-term agenda includes an executive editorial role for a forthcoming wellness website, a second book, and a potential screen adaption of “Semi-Charmed Life.”

She returns to her alma mater on Thursday, Nov. 1 to lead a writing workshop in commemoration of the National Day on Writing.

This workshop is sponsored by the Scripps College Writing Program and the Alexa Fullerton Hampton Endowed Speaker Series. For more information about the Scripps College Gallery or the National Day of Writing Celebration, please contact Rosann Simeroth at RSimerot@scrippscollege.edu or Kimberly Drake at KDrake@scrippscollege.edu. For more information on the National Day of Writing or the National Gallery of Writing, please see http://www.gal leryofwriting.org.

Zelevansky spoke to The Scripps Voice about directionless starts, National Novel Writing Month, and the impracticability of pleasing everyone.

Did your immediate post-graduate life resemble anything of your protagonist’s (directionless, emotionally conflicted)? I felt a tug-of-war between the flashier world I had come from in New York and the more engaged one I had developed in college. I was confused about where I fit and I definitely, definitely wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. And I came from a family where everyone had a very specific direction. I remember that being very difficult. [After graduating] I interned at George Clooney’s company, several film companies, and at VH1 for a hot second. I also worked in politics for a little while, at a company that ran democratic campaigns. As passionate as I am about politics, I was not very happy at that job.  I think what happened was, I really needed a creative outlet. I decided to take a personal essay class at UCLA, and it was a fantastic experience.

So how did the book happen following this beginning? When you’re a freelance journalist, you’re at the mercy of someone else’s deadlines and needs. I decided to write a novel but wasn’t sure at all that I was cut out to write fiction. I did National Novel Writing Month—which is every Nov. actually, sign up now!—and I loved every minute of the process. And when I was done, I had a draft. When I read it, I guess I felt, “There’s something in this.” What’s funny is, I’ve never been a structured or disciplined person. I am disorganized, I am late all the time, I am a mess. But when it comes to writing, I never have trouble sitting myself down and doing the work. It’s an escape from real life. Writing fiction is like reading. You get to immerse yourself in another world.

What has been the most challenging step of the creative process? A lesson everyone needs to learn as an author, or any kind of creator actually, is there’s no such thing as something everybody likes. One thing that made me feel better actually is, I looked up ratings for some of my favorite classics like “Catcher in the Rye,” and they all had really low ratings. What's next?

To me, the great thing about writing is that there’s all these different realms in which you can do it. I am actually a huge TV junkie and I’ve always had this fantasy of writing for TV. I would also love at some point to write a book of humorous essays. Personal essays are kind of my first love. I never really thought of myself as a humor writer, but the response that almost everyone had about “Semi-Charmed Life” was that it was funny. So I think maybe I am a little bit of a humor writer.