“Growing Up and Other Natural Disasters” featured authors Jennifer Mathieu (The Truth About Alice), Andrew Smith (100 Sideways Miles), Julie Murphy (Side Affects May Vary), and Jandy Nelson (I’ll Give You The Sun). The panel covered the origins of their novels, suggestions about their writing, the hardest and best thing about being a teen, writing role models, and more.
As for the origin of their most recent books, Jennifer Mathieu always wanted to set a book in a small town, and one of her favorite books from high school The Spoon River Anthology which was told from thirty+ perspectives influenced the multiple perspectives of The Truth About Alice. Julie Murphy always wanted to have the last word with her childhood bullies, and in Side Affects May Vary she gives her characters that opportunity. For Jandy Nelson, her characters “arrive” in her head, and in the situation of the main characters in I’ll Give You The Sun, Noah arrived at age 13, and Jude at age 16. When writing, she wrote in a pitch black room where the only light was from her computer screen, earplugs in, and a sound machine on full blast. 100 Sideways Miles was Andrew Smith’s first under contract book, and during the writing process his son was leaving for college at UC Berkley. Smith was always curious about how his son felt about his novels, and this inspired his main character’s questions about his father’s novels.
The incredible “magic and joy” of the things that happen for the 1st time was both the best thing about being a teen in Jandy Nelson’s opinion, and Julie Murphy saw social media as the best and worst of her teenage years. For aspiring writers, Andrew Smith suggested “unplugging and going out and bumping into people” and experience life around us, and Jandy Nelson simply said to “be yourself”.
One attendee asked why the panelists wrote, and Mathieu said if there’s a voice telling you you need to write, write. Julie Murphy said, “I write for money because I like to have champagne with my cereal,” eliciting rousing laughter from the other panelists and the attendees. Andrew Smith said simply, “I love words.