I wrote my first book when I was 5 years old. But my first book was published when I was 26. That book was Prozac Nation, which went on to be critically acclaimed, both thoroughly hated and loved. I would love to say I'm a victim of "love at first sight" but actually I'm a volunteer. My last book was published in 2001 but I am writing another one now. Sometimes I practice law (I graduated from Yale Law School in 2008) and I work for David Boies. I write columns now and again, but my speciality is memoirs, so ask me anything.

tweet: https://twitter.com/LizzieWurtzel/status/365135304534921216

edit: talking about grilled cheese has made me hungry. I will be back to answer more questions.

Comments: 146 • Responses: 23  • Date: 

pafmaster20 karma

I absolutely love Prozac Nation and Bitch, but neither one is available in e-reader format. I own physical copies of each, but I was wondering why you wouldn't also have them available for purchase digitally?

The other thing I wanted to say, was what kind of things do you see from people you meet who've read your books and their reactions?

prozacnation20 karma

I will look into that. I signed contracts for ebooks, so they should be available, but I will check.

prozacnation6 karma

I will look into that. I signed contracts for ebooks, so they should be available, but I will check.

lil_morbid_girl12 karma

wow, i read your book when i was 14 years old. No questions just a thank you for the help it gave me :)

prozacnation11 karma

I hope you are doing well.

prozacnation12 karma

and here is the full article that appears in part on Dazed Digital:

I did not have a mobile phone in 1993. No one did, except the occasional banker or Hollywood star seeming smart, or the main character in American Psycho. Remember how smart he was? He dreamed in color of bright red murders of women. That was what would lead you to a carry-around device back then. Maybe now, as well? In 1993, every day was let's get lost. I could walk the streets of Greenwich Village for hours and not be found. But of course, I had my close friends whom I spoke to--had conversations with, not emails or texts--every day at some point, so I knew who I loved and who loved me. Life was more genuine and intimate. Of course, also more lonely, if it happened that I was upset and no one--no one--was at her desk or in his bedroom near what would not be called a landline. I would often say to my best friend's secretary, Let her know it's an emergency. Because it was, it always was. Life was one long emergency. I was not ashamed.

In 1993 I was 25 which is a year of constant disaster. The only thing worse is being 26, and I turned 26 that July. Anyone that age should not wonder what is wrong, because it is just a living hell. I found a boyfriend in a bar on Ludlow Street on the Lower East Side, where a band I adored treated Mondays as a kind of bowling night with friends, and for hours they would play whatever. Really whatever: the Sex Pistols, Merle Haggard, Arthur Alexander. When I met my one true love, his wife had just thrown him out of the house, hours before. "That's great," I said. "You can move in with me." And so we embarked on our first date.

In fairness to me, Chris--as I'll call him, because that was his name--was an amazing Texas guitar player, the kind they only make in the Great State of Texas, and he was signed to the same label as Bob Dylan and Bille Holiday. I first saw him play his National steel at the Bell Cafe in Soho, and he was shockingly talented. He wasn't going to be a rock star; he was a rock star. He was born that way. It was an amazing thing to behold someone so gifted. It was hard to imagine what he did in his spare time. I could not figure out why he talked or walked--it seemed like he ought to just fly around. He was that super-duper. Have you ever seen a bald eagle fly with nine feet of wing span? It's something that shouldn't exist in nature, and it barely exists on a Boeing, and yet: it flies. There it is in the sky. Wow! That is how good he was.

Anyway, to quote Steve Earle: You know the rest. I would never flatter myself by saying I was a groupie. No, I was nothing quite that awesome. I was just plain crazy. And I somehow learned to live with the way Chris drank Old Granddad Kentucky whiskey by the bottle-after-bottle and picked fights with the lamps in the living room. I don't know if he liked to toss them around because they were bright, because they were slender, because they reminded him of someone he used to love--or simply because they did not punch back. After a few months of boxing with all things illuminating, he blessedly moved on, and I cried night and day.

"I cannot believe he left me," I sobbed to my best friend Heather. "He was perfect."

"I will never fall in love again," I cried to my other best friend Jody.

"I am going to kill myself," I promised my roommate Jason.

"I hate myself and I want to die," I yelled at strangers on the subway, who looked away.

Somehow, I wrote a book and turned it in, as tears rolled by. I don't write because I feel like it or because I have something to say: I write because it is what I do. I always feel like it and always have something to say, because it is what I do. I made Prozac Nation necessary reading because I write necessarily. No one should take on a task as difficult and absurd as a book without making a covenant of absolute necessity. What a waste of time and of life. I tell my story because it is about everyone else: in 1993, people took pills to relieve the pain just like now, but it scared them; it doesn't anymore, because talk is not cheap at all--it is tender. I fell in love at least 63 more times in the course of writing that book. My heart was broken just as often. Every one-night stand I have ever had has been true love. Back then, when only nerds consulted their computers for any reason besides work--maybe still?--the world was a place bullied by emotion. My heart had a black eye all the time. How I long for such beauty. I would kill for a pain so pure.

All past human progress, no matter how miserable at first, has of course come to be beloved. But I am sure at the advent of electricity, all were quite cross that suddenly the night went on too long. Bloody hell, people must have thought, when will it be dark enough for talk of the war the war the war to end?! The telephone must have seemed like a terrible intrusion on an intimate dinner, even if you had a butler to intervene with the ring as they do on Downton Abbey. And to quote Henry Ford, "If I had asked the people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." If Steve Jobs had asked us what we wanted, we would have said happiness, which is not the same as iHappiness.

In every lease and every contract for a land transfer, a standard clause is a covenant of quiet enjoyment. A property owner or renter has a right to live in peace. That is all. That is what we have come to expect. As if we were put here to be bored. And that is not right at all. We are here to have fun. Life is short, and it is all we get. Life is not virtual; it is alive and it must be fun, or it is not life.

I am not a nostalgic person. I liked life before these tele-electronic innovations because I knew who mattered. It was easy: they were the people I spoke to on the telephone everyday, tethered to the coiled Slinky lines tethered to the walls. We talked for minutes, we talked for hours. Sometimes it was really annoying, like when someone would go on and on about some boring obsession and you could not hang up except by actually hanging up. (Most of the time I would have had to slam the phone on myself.) If I'd had a choice to text them and be done with it, of course I would have. That is such an easy way out.

When there is no way out, when the doorjambs and window locks are stuck and we are left to cope, we become the people we are meant to be. I am the same now as then, but all that was so difficult about life and love is instead great fun. What is the opposite of an emergency? I don't know. A party? A cruise? A slow ride? Whatever it is, that is how things have turned out. It's true: 45 is lovely. I had no idea this would happen to me. None at all. For reasons I cannot explain and don't want to, I am very happy. And still wild.

I must've done something very wrong when I was young. Just lucky, I guess.

wiwille8 karma

What was your opinion of the movie based on your book?

prozacnation40 karma

I really did not like it. But lots of people seem to have liked it. The performances were excellent. The book has a lot of humor in it, and the movie just didn't. That bothered me a lot. It felt like a generic movie about depression. And the way that something becomes universally meaningful is by specificity. Both the divine and the devil are in the details.

makingwarjustforfun8 karma

Hi Elizabeth! Thanks for doing this AMA:)

What advice would you give to 25 year old women currently living in NYC?

prozacnation21 karma

I think it is important to have a plan. I am 46 and not married, and I am happy, but I don't recommend this. My life is this way because I am pretty crazy and very intense, which is not good for marriage and family, but I think that is mostly what works. I also think having a career that is on track is what works. Having an orderly life is a good thing. In truth, my life is quite orderly in its way. I work very hard at writing, and I am a devoted friend, and when I am in a relationship, I am a devoted girlfriend. It is shocking how much time I spend with my crazy mother. And I have a dog, which is a huge responsibility. But I am carefree compared to people with families. And I think that weight probably feels good. In any case, I would say at 25, you should figure out what it is you want out of life in the long run, and make plans to make it happen. In terms of men, it is a great time to be fucking around and having a lot of fun, but I would start thinking about what looks good for the long run. I am really glad that I was incredibly promiscuous when I was 25. I am also really glad I did a lot of writing. I am really glad that I eventually turned 30.

dadsecondfuze8 karma

What kinds of things do you deal with working in law? Any crazy stories?

Loved Prozac Nation, by the way!

prozacnation24 karma

We are suing China, or actually the Bank of China, because they launder money from Iran and Syria to terrorist organizations in Palestine. Turns out the Chinese do not like being sued in US court. Who knew?! :-) It has been an amazing mess.

mbsibs7 karma

In One Sentence or Less. Why should I read Prozac Nation?

prozacnation18 karma

It is funny.

superfrogpoke6 karma

I used to be a writer, but I got a science degree and feel like I kind of lost touch with my creativity and that part of myself. Do you have any advice for someone who wants to start writing but has no idea where to begin?

prozacnation13 karma

Sit down and write. Like the Nike ad says: just do it. Science provides so much to work with.

KKitty5 karma

How do you feel about the comparisons that NY writers keep making about you and Cat Marnell? And about how your lives are similar?

prozacnation1 karma

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the great senator and thinker and really just the great man, invented the idea of defining deviancy down. He was using the term to describe a much bigger social phenomenon, and inner-city poverty. But it's a good way to describe how over time, everything degenerates. Centuries ago, Saint Augustine wrote The Confessions, which was a memoir, and now anyone who has survived the common cold thinks it is worth a blog post. Really a memoir is no different from any other type of book--a novel or a work of journalism or whatever--in that what matters is that it is well written. A great story does not make someone a great writer--talent and hard work do. As for Cat Marnell, I have never read anything she has written, so I have no idea. But I assume she is doing something right, or people would not be reading.

pearlbones4 karma

Hi Elizabeth, I am a writer living in NYC trying to make it as a freelancer. However, publications are less and less likely to pay all the time – even my big-name clients who do pay often take weeks at the least to send me a cheque, even if my editors consistently commend and encourage my work.

Writing is what I do. I have years of experience and a portfolio to match, and I feel like I don't have any other option but to keep going, despite my total lack of a wellspring to cushion potential failure. I've had decently-paid staff editor jobs and I've worked in the service industry, but neither are really for me. Every time I try to work a job to help make ends meet I find myself floundering (partly due to my own struggles with mental health). Do you have any advice for how to survive as a writer in this position? How to keep doing what I do best but make sure the money comes in?

Thank you for doing this AMA. I just read your new column on Dazed Digital today. Loved it.

prozacnation21 karma

Being a writer is extremely hard. This has always been true. It was true for Chaucer. It was true for Shakespeare, who wrote plays to please the queen. No one cares if you write. It has to matter to you so enormously much that you visit your ego upon the world and give it no choice except to care. I agree that this is harder now, not just because there are all these outlets that don't pay, but also because there are ALL THESE OUTLETS. Because of the Internet, there is too much content and not enough audience. It is so hard to distinguish oneself. Here is the trick, I think: You have to be brave as a writer. You have to write in a pure voice that is distinct and rare. It really is not hard. That does not require facility with words so much as it requires lack of fear. Of course, that is hard. Fear is the thing that gets in the way of everything: love, happiness, success.

I happen to think there were many more opportunities twenty years ago to get a job as an editorial assistant at a magazine and write little articles until you could get assigned bigger pieces. But in terms of becoming an author of a book, the odds are as stacked against you or for you as ever. It is really difficult. But I think if you are sure this is what you must do, you need to be fearless and proceed. It really only works if it is a matter of no other choice.

hatesdefaultfrontpag4 karma


prozacnation14 karma

I have been lucky to have met some very interesting people. I knew David Foster Wallace quite well for a little while, during the time he was writing Infinite Jest. He was INTENSE. But I think what really has meant the most to me are the friends I made in college in who I am still close with, who are smart and solid people and have kept me stable even though I really am not so stable. I have been lucky enough to meet Bruce Springsteen, who I have idolized for most of my life. And I think I have been lucky in lots of ways that have surprised me.

I listen to the strangest array of things. I rediscovered the Beastie Boys album Check Your Head, which is awesome. I also really love to put albums from long ago, and try to pretend that it is actually that year and really feel what it must have felt like to hear those songs for the first time. I listen to Jimi Hendrix's Are You Experienced? and think about how people heard him ask who in their measly little world were they trying to prove that they were made out of gold and couldn't be sold, and that in 1967 it scared people into leaving home and changing their lives completely. That makes me happy. "Light My Fire" was the number one song when I was born. It is so tedious now, but it must have been incredible to hear the first time.

I listen to a lot of country music. I like to warn people that sooner or later they will be 40 and listen to country music. I love Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams. I listen to Dylan and Bruce. I do love the Black Keys. They rock.

HighFiveYourFace3 karma

Just wanted to say I love your books. I read both Prozac Nation and Bitch over the course of two days.

prozacnation7 karma

Thank you!

Kr00ned3 karma

What is your favorite food?

prozacnation9 karma

I love Mister Softee chocolate ice cream. I love Cambodian sandwiches. I love pasta. I cook amazing basil and cheese omelets. It is very important to be able to make a great omelet for someone you have just slept with. Also: I love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. What is more wonderful than really cheesy grilled cheese.

georgegsmithjr3 karma

If you could rewrite any of your books - which one would you and why?

prozacnation5 karma

All of them could be much better, but I think it is wiser to do the next thing. Really everything is a rewriting of the last project. Norman Mailer is a genius, but he really only had one thing to say, and he said it many different ways, fiction and journalism and non-fiction, over a lifetime. Philip Roth has one thing to say. Same with Joan Didion. And these are our best writers. So I think everyone is slouching toward perfection with one book over and over again.

uberlad2 karma


prozacnation19 karma

Don't worry. Don't worry about anything. It doesn't help. I have spent a lot of time believing that I could control the outcome of events by worrying about them. I think that is what therapists call magical thinking. But your thoughts don't make a difference. All that matters is what you do. So I would say my best advice is do the best you can and assume the result will be good. I wish I had been enjoying myself all the times I was anxious and not.

McKennaJames2 karma

Do you have a set schedule for your writing every day?

prozacnation1 karma

If only.

nonnahs872 karma

What is your new book about? Is it the same writing approach as your other work?

prozacnation8 karma

My new book is partly based off of an article I wrote for New York Magazine that was published this past January (http://nymag.com/thecut/2013/01/elizabeth-wurtzel-on-self-help.html). It is hard to say what the piece was about exactly, but it was a reckoning with life, after many things went wrong in 2012. The book is going to be a history of love at first sight in New York City. It will also be a history of New York City. I am a fifth-generation Manhattanite. My great-great grandparents lived on 8th Street, between B and C, which was not the East Village; it was just where immigrants lived. My grandmother grew up on Hester Street, on the Lower East Side. I am the only one of my friends who has not succumbed to the charms of Brooklyn, but Manhattan is home. And I have not succumbed to the charms of marriage, because I love falling in love. Right now I am taking a break from emotional engagement and trying to be serious about work. And I actually think I may yet get married - statistically 90% of people get married at some point. But I would say that love and craziness has overwhelmed my life, and I am trying to write about it, and at the same time tell the story of New York City from 1609 to the present.

kelseyrj2 karma

I joined Reddit just to drop you a comment (so that's how much I love you - another social networking password to add to the list)... :)

Prozac Nation was one of the first mental health memoirs I read after I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality at fifteen (I'm nineteen now) and I cannot even begin to explain how much it has gotten me through. I've always been a writer (I'm majoring in Journalism and wish to pursue writing my own memoir one day), but your honesty has truly inspired me to be more open about my own disorders - which is something I strive and push myself to do on a daily basis. Needless to say, you're like my idol.

Anyway, how long did it take you to write PN? Being your first book and all, I have always been curious!

(More, Now, Again is still my favourite that you have written though, my copy is in such poor shape by this point that I may have to order another!)

Looking forward to your next masterpiece!

prozacnation3 karma

I did this q&a several days ago, but I did not want to not respond to you, with tour new password to add to the list. But I think there is much to like about Reddit. Anyway, I worked on Prozac Nation on and off for years, through many versions and drafts. It was going to be something else entirely at some point. It went through a few publishers and more than one agent. But the actual text of the book that was published only took a few months of intense work. However, had I not been completely committed to being a writer--and a writer of books--I would have given up after many false starts. Which is why I don't think it is harder now than it has ever been, but people have less grit. And to achieve even a little success in a creative endeavor takes enormous talent, extreme grit and very hard work. These are not easy to acquire at all. No one should feel bad about not having any or all of them. Luck is part of it, but people get lucky the more they knock on doors. And that too is hard to do.

But it is all pretty difficult. Whatever anyone does that makes life meaningful and pays the rent is plenty. Life is complicated, and that is if you are lucky - I do think luck plays a part in that. People ask me why I have not written a book in more than a decade, and it's because life is complicated. I am looking forward to writing a lot more. My life is maybe half over--that's all. I have tons of time. And all the while I have squandered opportunities that were really just a big huge waste of time. All the three-day conferences I have missed, all the meetings I have not taken--lucky me, I could have been sitting on panels about the future of media with a bunch of idiots called experts. Instead I was enjoying life. The better to write more. And it takes time, because it is very difficult. Also worth it. I am extremely grateful that people like you make it possible for me to do this with my life.

georgegsmithjr1 karma

Would you ever meet up with a fan in NYC for coffee to talk music for an hour?

prozacnation6 karma


shooting-stars1 karma

Dear Elizabeth, I've much admired you and your writing, and I guess this is the closest to actually meeting you. How do you deal with having a writer's block and how do you deal with it if you ever get the feeling that nothing you write is good enough? Do you think that frustration is a part of the writing process or should it feel much more effortless? Lots of love.

prozacnation6 karma

Writing is really difficult. I always say it is the hardest thing to do sitting down. I have to force myself to do it. I have found the Notes app on my iPhone to be a boon, because I write a lot of little things down when I am on the subway. Over time, they add up. But there is no substitute for just sitting in front of your computer and forcing yourself to write any old anything until something happens that is good. I really treat it like a job, because it is. If I waited to be inspired, nothing would ever happen, and usually inspiration comes by sitting there and forcing myself to work.

The truth is I am basically an excellent CPA. I take an excellent inventory of everything around me, and that is how I write: I am big on observations and details. That is hard work. That does not require creativity at all, but it comes across as exactly that. I always tell writing students not to overlook the obvious. People always think the answer is hidden, which is dumb. Smart people see what is right in front of them while everyone else is squinting. Good writing is mostly about trusting what you see. Which is very hard.

[deleted]0 karma


prozacnation2 karma

I was a writer first. I went to law school when I was 37 and graduated at 40. So I really am more a writer than lawyer.

Waxy_Gordon-17 karma

You're a shameless narcissist. You disgust me.

prozacnation13 karma

that is not very nice, is it?