New York Times best-selling author Veronica Roth visits Mt. Pleasant

When New York Times best-selling author Veronica Roth, well known for the “Divergent” series, came to the campus of Central Michigan University Oct. 27, it’s no surprise a crowd accrued in Plachta Auditorium to hear about her creativity and personal experiences. 

At the CMU Speaker Series event, Roth addressed the enthusiastic crowd in a keynote presentation followed by a discussion lead by Dr. Anne Alton, a question-and-answer period with the audience, and a book signing directly after. 

Veronica Roth is a New York Times best-selling author and keynote speaker for a Central Michigan University Speaker Series event on October 27, 2022. (Photo Courtesy of Nelson Fitch)A large focus of the evening revolved around creativity and how technology plays a role in creative endeavors – fitting well with the theme of her latest “Poster Girl” novel, a haunting dystopian mystery that explores surveillance and its expanding role in society.

To set the stage for the discussion, Roth shared experiences and pivotal points in her life that lead her to recognizing room for personal and professional growth. She not only shared those experiences, but gave recommendations to the audience on how to be resilient like her characters, and create spaces that are safe and conducive for advancement, privacy, and sanity. 

For Roth, writing was a solution to her stress relief in her youth as she confessed encounters with her family. 

Fast forward to her college years, Roth reached a pivotal point during a writing class workshop, when she experienced unfamiliar harsh criticism to a piece she wrote. She rethought her original story based on classmates’ critiques, and recognized she was capable of learning and growing, noting “a room of strangers acts as a mirror.”

It wasn’t long after that Roth began researching how to get published. After numerous rejections and thorough revision work with her literary agent, Roth was picked up by HarperCollins. 

Roth started to find success in the young adult genre as the New York Times best-selling author of “Chosen Ones”; the short story collection “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 keynote, the Chicago resident shared a second turning point in her career and “one of the hardest periods of my life” – the reaction that came from the public to her final “Divergent” series book: “Allegiant.”

Due to the nature of harmful remarks and death threats made towards her on social media, Roth felt her “safety of creativity was destroyed.” She went dark on digital and took the time she needed to feel secure.

She also took that time to reflect. 

Now, she shares advice to others on how to “create a self not everyone needs 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 moderator and audience ranged from behind-the-scenes insight to some of her popular characters, to her writing process and book inspiration. 

Roth was also asked for her recommendations on how to bring creativity into the classroom, creating that safe space for learning. Roth suggested allowing students options of what to write, accommodating different types of learners, while mentioning her past instructors’ assignments and openness to not shaming books she chose to reflect on.

“It was interesting to hear how her childhood and personality shaped who she is as an author throughout the night,” shares event attendee, Alysha Pasquali. “And furthermore, how the publishing of her first series and public critique impacted her mental health, which in turn shaped future books and her professional development.”

Following the Q&A, many from the audience remained to have their books signed by Roth in Warriner Hall. Copies of Roth’s latest novel “Poster Girl” were available for purchase and signing thanks to local Mt. Pleasant downtown bookstore, Sleeping Bear Books.

Read more articles by Courtney Jerome.

With 15 years of professional media experience, Courtney Jerome has found a passion for storytelling and showcasing our region in a positive light. She's written stories for television broadcasts, numerous magazines, and digital publications. In addition, she owns a boutique creative marketing agency that focuses on social media, photo, and video storytelling for small businesses across Michigan and the county. Contact Courtney via courtney@courtneyjeromemedia.com.