Monday, June 6, 2016

Meeting Morgan Matson!

Morgan Matson is one of my all-time favorite contemporary authors. I never thought I’d get to meet her because she lives in California, so when I found out she was coming to Princeton for a signing, I flipped! She’s one of the most genuine writers I’ve ever met, and her event was the best author signing I’ve been to so far. Want to know why? Read on…
1.       She loves Twitter like the rest of us! Before the signing, I tweeted her this picture:
And she immediately tweeted back, prompting a discussion about soy milk in lattes (more on that later). During her talk about THE UNEXPECTED EVERYTHING, she said she came up with the idea for the book when Twitter went down for two hours and she was forced to go outside and walk around (“I kept trying to go on Twitter to complain about Twitter being down…”).

2.      She’s obsessed with Starbucks. The reason I drank the latte was because Morgan Instagrammed her usual Starbucks order, and I wanted to try it. It was delicious, of course, and Morgan talked me through the particulars (how many espresso shots for each beverage size, how the soy milk makes it sweeter...girl knows her Starbucks! I told her she’s now my Starbucks guru, and she said she was happy to take on that role) when we talked at the signing.

3.      She brought presents and prizes and Polaroids. She raffled off t-shirts and mix CDs and posters, gave everyone an UNEXPECTED EVERYTHING pouch, and took Polaroids with anyone who wanted one. You can tell she had SO MUCH FUN every second of her book tour.
4.      She took TONS of questions. “Guys, it’s my last stop! You guys probably have places to be, and I’m like ‘no!’” I asked her which item on the SYBG list would be the most difficult for her (“Kiss a stranger is a really bad idea! Like, I put that in the book so blithely, and I’m like, I really hope people aren’t going around doing this. You could get yourself in trouble! Or stealing something. I probably should’ve said that first.”) and the easiest (“Riding a horse would be easy for me, I used to ride horses.), and her top road trip tips (A solid playlist, the right kind of snacks—nothing that makes you sleepy-full, like donuts—and the right route. The drive needs to be nice to look at, or you’ll be miserable).  
5.      She was super honest about how tough it was to write children’s/YA in an MFA program. The New School, where she did her Master’s (and met Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian), has a great reputation for launching successful YA authors, but Morgan said the children’s writing program was not well-respected—or even acknowledged—by the fiction students.  I ran into the whole issue of genre snobbery during my MFA as well, and even though I’m a year out from the program, it still makes me doubt myself sometimes.
6.      She treated me like a real author. When I told her about my MFA, she kept saying, “That’s amazing! Congrats!” and asking what I’m writing now. We had a moment of appreciation for writing that “palate-cleanser” book, where you write it for yourself and then realize it might not be publishable. Morgan actually talks more about this in her episode of First Draft with Sarah Enni (an AMAZING YA writer podcast). She also told me to enjoy the writing process for my first book, because after you publish, you can’t get that back. Readers and editors and reviewers will always expect something from you after that. With your first book, she said, you can take your time and write it just for yourself. I respect Morgan so much as an author, and for her to treat me like a writing peer felt incredible. <3  

Other fun things I learned during the Q&A:

The girls on the cover of SINCE YOU’VE BEEN GONE are wearing Morgan’s actual clothes! She sent the cover designer a box of her stuff to show the vibe she was hoping for, and then they wound up wearing them for the shoot! The heart sunglasses, friendship bracelets, the shirt she “borrowed” from her grad school bestie and still hasn’t returned…guess the secret’s out! “When you’ve stolen something and it’s on a book cover, you really can’t pretend you lost it, like I’ve been pretending for the last two years…”

During her AMY & ROGER research road trip, she went to Graceland (by herself), and she said it’s like Disneyland—they make you pose for a picture on your way in. “But it was just me, so I’m standing by myself in front of this picture of the Graceland gates.” But she bought the deluxe pack and now has her solo Graceland picture on magnets, a postcard, and a ton of different sizes.
Morgan asked if she could take pictures of my annotated SYBG!
I had the best time at the signing. If you ever have the opportunity to see Morgan, go! You’ll leave with the biggest smile on your face and an overwhelming desire to take a road trip!

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