Bestselling Author Kelly Oxford on Being a Forever Teen
Her story is the stuff of legends: Kelly Oxford was a sharp-tongued Canadian housewife when her 140-character quips on Twitter got the attention of Hollywood (and a couple million people). Suddenly, she was moving to California with a book deal in hand and film producers on speed-dial. She wrote a few TV pilots, published a semi-autobiographical New York Times bestseller, and then became a social media sensation—once again—when a tweet about her sexual assault garnered hundreds of thousands (!) of responses from fellow victims sharing their own stories.
Now she's back with another book, hilariously titled When You Find Out the World is Against You: And Other Funny Memories About Awful Moments. It contains some of those heartbreaking tweets, along with dozens of confessional, highly relatable short stories. We talked to the two-time author (and one-time James Franco collaborator!) about finding your voice and embracing the weirdness.
What were you like as a teen?
Basically exactly the way I am now...except I run a household. That’s what I’ve been told by several people in the last few months. "You’re like a teenager who runs a household." So, I'm the exact same: A little bit rebellious, a little bit scared, willing to try new things, willing to call people out if I think they're wrong, but also open for them to change my mind. So...basically a teenager.
A teenager raising a teenager! How is your life different than what you imagined as a kid?
I have exactly what I wanted when I was 16, but the path to get here wasn’t what I ever thought it’d be. The thing with the dream is that you have to put in the work, and you have to work at it every single day. A lot of people gained a lot of attention on the internet around the same time I did, and maybe two or three of us lasted because we were actually doing a ton of work. To get where you want to go when you have that dream, 100% [of success] is actually putting the work in.
Speaking of, the internet is full of noise. How did you find your own voice?
I think everybody kind of knows what makes them different from everyone else. The second you figure it out, that puts you into a place of fear. But rather than being scared, embrace it. For me, it was my anxiety and being a loudmouth that set me apart, which did me zero favors in middle school and high school.
The part of you—that real individual part that freaks you out—is the part you need to investigate more, because it’s what really makes you unique from everybody else. Just jump in there and be yourself. There’s a lot of emulation that goes on online, but that’s never in a million years going to work. They’re just going to listen to the person with 250,000 followers who’s doing it.
My favorite chapter of your book is an excerpt from your adolescent diary. How do you think technology has changed the coming-of-age experience?
My daughter, who’s turning 16, is always like, "Man, were you guys angsty in the ‘90s." I really think technology—being able to communicate with your friends and always feeling like you always have them with you—makes kids actually happier. I know a lot of adults say, "Oh, there’s way too much technology." I have a teenager brain, and I think teens are a lot happier and a lot smarter because they have access to all the information, they have access to their friends 24/7.
Your next project is a screenplay about virginity with James Franco and Seth Rogen. What inspired that?
We’ve seen how boys act towards sex so many times that we think that’s how everyone acts towards sex. North America is super sexually repressed, and as a mom and a woman, I wish a lot of topics about sex had been brought up to me. I wanted to write about four friends and their different experiences as they decide to lose their virginity and how they really feel about it.