I was supposed to be born on Hitler’s birthday. To my mother’s great relief, I arrived late and was born on Freud’s birthday instead. My parents wanted to name me Max, but my grandfather, a Holocaust refugee, strenuously objected, saying the name sounded too German. My original birth certificate read Baby Boy Wizner.
My mother was a college dean, and I spent the first ten years of my life living in a dormitory. I ate meals in the college dining hall, explored the campus tunnels, and became a foosball prodigy, sharpening my skills against opponents more than twice my age. Occasionally, I would sleepwalk around the dormitory at night, and be picked up by drunk students returning from parties in the early morning hours.
I went to Wesleyan University, and it was in one of my English classes that I made my first serious attempt at writing fiction. I was immensely proud of the piece I had submitted and remember smiling confidently at the student next to me as our professor returned our work. He got an A. I got a B-. After college, he dubbed himself Lemony Snicket and became the second most famous children’s book author in the world. I moved to New Orleans to teach public school, dubbed myself the Phantom Bard, and chronicled my experiences in the local Teach for America newsletter.
Since 1996, I have been an eighth grade teacher at a public middle school in New York City. I live in Manhattan with my wife and children.