Anna Leader is Princeton’s international author

Award-winning poet/novelist, Forbesian, and Tab writer from Luxembourg

I spent the better part of my freshman move-in day wandering around campus with my roommate, searching for Dillon Gym.

Somewhere near Blair Arch, I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see a tall girl with a friendly smile and bright blue eyes. She held a paper map of campus and spoke with an accent I couldn’t quite place: “Hi, em, my name’s Anna, d’you know where the gym is? I think it starts with a D?” Equally clueless freshmen make for fast friends, and the rest is history.

There’s nothing stranger than interviewing someone you know way too much about. Anna is an objectively interesting human: she’s traveled to more than 50 countries and holds numerous accolades for her literary and poetic works (all achieved before graduating from high school). Even though we’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time together in the past year and a half, she still manages to surprise me.

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So Anna, what are you studying?

I’m a comp-lit major, my languages are French and German.

You’ve published a few novels, can you speak about that?

When I was 15, I wrote Tentative, a teen fiction novel. I published it on CreateSpace through Amazon just for fun and did the same with this collection of poetry called Squeaks Like Dolls. Then I wrote another novel; however, to this day it remains in my computer and no one has read it.

What? Why? What’s the title?

It’s called Dyspepsia. It’s my favorite novel that I’ve ever written but-

Why don’t you want to publish it?

Haha well, it would make me very uncomfortable, maybe I’ll have it published as a posthumous thing. I haven’t gone back and read it since I finished writing it the winter of my senior year, I’m afraid of what I’ll find.

Would you ever publish it anonymously?

Maybe! Maybe… A different book, A Several World Vienna, I wrote in the two months before I graduated high school, and it ended up winning the national literary prize in Luxembourg for the under-25 category.

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Anna with friends on the golf course

You’ve won quite a few prizes.

Yeah, Tentative also won a prize given out by Malorie Blackman, who wrote Noughts and and Crosses. She’s a really cool author, I loved her when I was in middle school.

Who’s your favorite author right now?

My favorite author at the moment is Amélie Nothomb. She’s a Belgian author who writes these very short serious novels in French. They’re all gold, pure gold, fantastic, very weird.

But my favorite book is The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, and my other favorite book is probably A Room With a View by E.M. Forester. Oh, and Middlemarch by George Eliot!

Are you working on something currently?

I’m working on a children’s book in French. It’s about two Syrian refugee children who come to Luxembourg and meet two French children, and they solve mysteries together. It’s aimed for kids ages 10-12. I also have a Princeton novel in mind, but I have to finish the children’s book first.

You also write poetry.

Yes! I’ve published stuff in a bunch of magazines, and my poetry collection won a national prize in Luxembourg last year, A Lifetime Lies (mostly teen angsty poetry).

Novel writing is a mental game for me, but poetry is very much a day-to-day therapy, sort of. If something is confusing me, I’ll just write a poem. It’s the perfect medium for expression.

You’ve been to so many countries, what’s your favorite place?

Israel was my favorite! This sounds so cliché, but it’s a fascinating intermix of cultures. It’s divided into several parts, the Jewish section, the Muslim section, the Christian section… Also they have really great orange juice.

Anna and friends in Dubai

Anna and friends in Dubai

Is that something you’d ever consider writing about, a place you’ve traveled to?

Well, my novel A Several World was set in Vienna, I just loved the art. Klimt and Schiele are two of my favorite painters, I grew up with art basically.

Do you paint? 

I draw, I haven’t done anything since I came to Princeton, but I was very into the arts in high school.

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One of Anna’s drawings, based off a photograph

Your parents are involved in the literary world, right?

My dad also writes novels and poems. He has definitely been an influence on me. We would read poetry together when I was younger. My first poem was first published when I was five years old actually.

Can you recite it for me, please, please?

Haha, sure: Sun shines, wind blows, crickets chirp, and the river flows…Clouds are white, sailing high in the sky, promising a nice day, they never lie.

That’s so adorable! What do you want to do after graduation?

I see myself definitely going into something education related. Both my parents and three of my grandparents are teachers. It runs in our blood!

Anna's father and grandfather In front of her home in Luxembourg

Anna’s father and grandfather In front of her home in Luxembourg

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