My friend Cassie and I talk about something all the time: we’re way more likely to pick up a book once we’ve made some sort of connection with an author. Whether it’s hearing them speak at a book event or meeting them at a book signing, or simply via social media, some books just don’t hit the top of my TBR (to be read) list until I’m face to face with its creator.
I thought I’d do a write up of my hour-long experience with Jennifer Mathieu at my local library, in hopes that you find it interesting and can learn from a really great artist.
Jennifer Mathieu’s Books
pitched as The Scarlet Letter meets Friday Night Lights.
According to Mathieu, she hadn’t even watched the series and she isn’t that big of a fan of Hawthorne’s book! I really appreciated the honesty of that, and the fact that she could create something she’s hugely proud of despite the influences.
One of my favorite topics she touched on was about the translations to different languages. She spoke about minor changes she had to make – one being the character’s name in the translation to German! In Mexico, this book was sold in Costco alongside a promo – if you bought this book you got a free hot dog and soda!
Mathieu pulled inspiration for this book from the Duggars, and the structure of a very large (and devout) household.
She touched on cover changes from hard- to soft-cover, depending on how well the book does at the beginning. As this book has had a “softer” response than her others, the book cover changed from a girl in a windowsill to a brighter and more colorful head shot of a girl not making eye contact.
She said that is has helped sales, too! Isn’t that interesting?
This book tells the tale of a child coming straight out of an abductors household, after many years under their control.
As a huge fan of Elizabeth Smart’s book, I can’t wait to check this out!
She pulled this from the headlines (like all of her ideas), but I appreciated her approach to the research she used. She focused on interviewing professionals in the field, not the actual victims for the sake of their privacy and intent against exploitation. She even spoke to Dugard’s therapist (not about her case, of course).
Taken from a combination of the Riot Girl era of the ’90s and Mathieu (+company)’s experiences, Moxie is a book that makes you want to both stand up and sit down (to keep reading).
Moxie follows a girl living on the coast of Texas, who is absolutely sick of the way that the girls are being treated at her high school. The football team rules the school, the dress codes are strict, the boys have made a game of groping the girls in the halls, and there is a March Madness to find the “hottest” girl. This really brought me back to my high school days, where each of these things were seen to a varying degree.
Vivian starts up a zine, creating a call to action for the girls in her school to stand up for what they deserve. I don’t want to give away anything for fear of ruining things for you, but I’d love to discuss it with you if you’ve picked it up! Viv made me proud, and shows the deep struggles of finding your way in high school that I appreciated.
I’ve only read Moxie, but I can’t wait to pick up more (because Moxie Girls Fight Back).
When she touched on finding creativity and (per my question) taking an idea and running with it, she said my favorite quote of the night:
Which outlet helps you be the best you?
I loved her touching on different aspects of creativity and how she has been writing from the start of her life. She told the story of how writing helped her get through her touch high school years, and gave her the confidence to put herself out there. She is a wife, mother, and full-time teacher, so she takes the time each day to do what makes her better – which in turn helps all other parts of her life.
Mathieu’s Pieces of Advice
- Read what you want – no apologies.
- She says that too often she meets people justifying what they’re reading or feeling guilty for not reading what they should read. She encouraged us to just read, no matter what it is.
- Don’t let school books ruin reading for you.
- Give school books a chance.
- I really liked her perspective, begging the question, “who is the intended audience?” The Great Gatsby, while taught in high schools around the country (and in her own English class) seems to demand an older audience.
- She recommended giving them a second look later in life, something that I’ve already found in my life to be helpful.
- Keep a journal.
- Her big takeaway was – don’t rush completion. It doesn’t matter if you finish anything great (or even at all); the purpose of writing is to write.
- Put your phone away & spy on the world – get “bored.”
- Mathieu says that many of her (and likely our) most creative moments happen when we actually let our mind wander.
- Think about what you’re good at now – it might be a clue to what you can develop and get better at.
- Success rarely happens that first time.
- *Insert statistic about how many times J.K. Rowling was rejected* Lol.
- It’s harder to be mean than nice.
Overall, Mathieu was poised, approachable and gracious. She made me laugh with her self-reflection, and it all drew me in even more. If you haven’t read any of her books, I would definitely recommend doing so – I know I will!
Here’s another write up from the High School’s newspaper (and is where the picture of me comes from).