When New York Times Best-selling author Veronica Roth, best known for the “Divergent” series, came to the campus of Central Michigan University on October 27, it’s no surprise that a crowd gathered at Plachta Auditorium for hear about his creativity and personal experiences.
At the CMU Speaker Series event, Roth addressed the enthusiastic crowd during a keynote presentation followed by a discussion led by Dr. Anne Alton, a question-and-answer period with the audience and a a book signing right after.
Veronica Roth is a New York Times bestselling author and keynote speaker for a Central Michigan University Speaker Series event on October 27, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Nelson Fitch)Much of the evening revolved around creativity and how technology plays a role in creative endeavors – fitting well with the theme of her latest novel ‘Poster Girl’, a haunting dystopian mystery that explores surveillance and its growing role in society.
To set the stage for the discussion, Roth shared experiences and pivotal moments in her life that led her to recognize room for personal and professional growth. She not only shared these experiences, but gave audiences recommendations on how to be resilient like her characters and how to create safe, nurturing spaces for advancement, intimacy, and sanity.
For Roth, writing was a solution to her stress relief in her youth as she confessed to encounters with her family.
Fast forward to her college years, Roth reached a turning point during a writing class workshop, when she faced harsh and unknown criticism for an article she wrote. She revamped her original story based on criticism from classmates and acknowledged that she was able to learn and grow, noting that “a room of strangers acts like a mirror”.
Soon after, Roth began researching how to get published. After numerous rejections and extensive editing work with her literary agent, Roth was picked up by HarperCollins.
Roth began to find success in the young adult genre as New York Times best-selling author of “Chosen Ones”; the collection of short stories “The End” and “Other Beginnings”; the “Divergent” series; and the “Carve the Mark” duology. Additionally, Roth is the guest editor of the most recent “The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2021”.
During her opening speech, the Chicago resident shared a second turning point in her career and “one of the most difficult times of my life” – the public reaction to her latest book in the “Divergent” series: “Allegiant”.
Due to the nature of the hurtful remarks and death threats made against him on social media, Roth felt that his “creative security was destroyed”. She got dark on digital and took the time she needed to feel safe.
She also took this time to reflect.
Now she’s sharing tips with others on how to “create a self that everyone doesn’t need to know” on social media.
“Your creativity is something you can preserve and protect,” she said.
During the Q&A portion of the evening, questions from the host and audience ranged from behind-the-scenes insight to some of her popular characters, her writing process, and her book inspiration.
Roth was also asked to share her recommendations on how to bring creativity into the classroom, creating that safe space for learning. Roth suggested letting students choose what to write, accommodating different types of learners, while mentioning her former instructors’ assignments and her openness to not shaming the books she chooses to reflect on. .
“It was interesting to hear how her childhood and her personality shaped who she is as an author throughout the night,” shares event attendee Alysha Pasquali. “And further, how the publication of his first series and his public criticism impacted his mental health, which in turn shaped future books and his professional development.”
After the Q&A, many viewers stayed to have their books signed by Roth at Warriner Hall. Copies of Roth’s latest novel, “Poster Girl,” were available for purchase and signing through local downtown Mt. Pleasant bookstore, Sleeping Bear Books.