Semi-Charmed and Highly Inspiring

Stephanie Hunt

I can’t wait to meet Nora Zelevansky.


Not only is she hilarious, accomplished, and incredibly courteous in her spunky and prompt replies to my emails, she’s ventured into the vast and daunting territory that I and so many non-fiction writers say we’d like to explore one day. She’s embraced the f-word—fiction. And had her first effort, Semi-Charmed Life, published. By a real publishing house. She’s semi-charmed, or rather, very charmed, indeed.

Nora Zelevansky is not a novice—she’s a working freelance journalist whose articles appear in notable outlets like ElleSelfInStyle, the Los Angeles Times and, but for her first foray into fiction, she needed a little nudge, a support system, a boost. And so she tapped, or typed, her charms through NaNoWriMo.

Sound like an “abracadabra” incantation for writers? It may be, but NaNoWriMo is also shorthand for National Novel Writing Month, an annual fiction frenzy in which the month of November becomes “30 days and nights of literary abandon.” NaNoWriMoers commit to cranking out 50,000 words in one month, or about 1,700 words a day in Nora’s case (during November 2009), and at the end, voila!, a novel. That beats thawing the Thanksgiving turkey, if you ask me.

“I was nervous, but I just sort of launched into it and, as with a lot of things in life, the anticipation was more stressful than the actuality,” says Zelevansky, who wove her familiarity with fashion, style, and Manhattan celebrity culture into her story but otherwise, did not do any plot outlining or story-mapping. She just sketched out a few of the major characters (Upper West Sider/ college student Beatrice Bernstein and Veruca Pfeffernoose, her “famous-for-nothing socialite” dorm room neighbor), scheduled her writing time, stocked up on Cherry Coke Zero, then dove in.

Granted, 99 percent of NaNoWriMo finished products are more like 50,000 words of valiant effort than anything remotely publishable, but Zelevansky’s satiric comedic mystery and delightfully quirky romp through coming-of-age dramas caught the eye of St. Martin’s Press and garnered her a two-book contract. Semi-Charmed Life hit bookstores this July, and she’s been off to the races ever since, with excellent reviews including those from Publishers Weekly and ElleToday, at 5 p.m., she gives a reading at Blue Bicycle Books.

“I would absolutely recommend the NaNo experience, and not just to professional writers. This is a process, definitely in the vein of starting an exercise regimen, that makes you feel good and accomplished everyday. It offers an outlet that’s separate from your daily life and, because it’s practically about free-associating, it also offers you a release. And, it’s only for a month, so it’s doable!” says Zelevansky. “Can you already hear ‘Eye of the Tiger’ playing?  Are you pumped?

Come join me in meeting Nora and welcoming her to Charleston. Pick up a copy of Semi-Charmed Life; you’ll laugh out loud at her characters’ antics, and maybe get some encouragement for unleashing your own novel as NaNoWriMo rolls around again in T-minus 71 days.

You can find/follow Nora on Facebook and Twitter: Twitter handle is @missnoraz

Nora is also more than happy to talk to book clubs; contact her via her website or at