NWS Presents Bonnie Garmus and "Lessons in Chemistry"

National Writers Series
9 Jun 202374:56
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TLDRIn a lively and heartfelt discussion, author Bonnie Garmus shares insights into her journey to writing the New York Times bestseller 'Lessons in Chemistry'. She discusses the inspiration behind her strong female protagonist, Elizabeth Zott, and the challenges of accurately portraying 1950s and 60s sexism and scientific advancements. Garmus also touches on the adaptation of her book into a TV series, her experiences with rejection in the publishing industry, and the importance of persistence and continuous craft improvement for aspiring writers.

  • πŸŽ‰ Introductions and appreciations: The event begins with Ann Stanton, co-founder of NWS, welcoming everyone and acknowledging the indigenous people of the area, sponsors, donors, volunteers, and staff.
  • πŸ“š Author spotlight: Bonnie Garmus, the New York Times bestseller author, is introduced along with her accomplishments and the impact of her book, 'Lessons in Chemistry'.
  • 🌟 Recognition of contributors: The event acknowledges the support of various entities including the National Endowment for the Arts, Michigan Arts and Culture Council, and Cambian Analytica.
  • πŸ“– Book promotion: 'Lessons in Chemistry' is highlighted, with its impressive sales and its upcoming TV series adaptation featuring Brie Larson.
  • πŸ‘©β€πŸ’Ό Career transition: Bonnie Garmus shares her journey from being a copywriter and creative director to becoming a novelist, highlighting her diverse professional background.
  • πŸ’‘ Inspiration behind the novel: Bonnie discusses the real-life incident that inspired her to write 'Lessons in Chemistry', emphasizing the importance of women's voices and recognition in the workplace.
  • πŸ“š Writing process: The discussion delves into Bonnie's writing process, including her multiple revisions, the importance of reading aloud, and the challenges of writing about scientific topics accurately.
  • πŸŽ₯ Adaptation experience: Bonnie shares her experience with the adaptation of her book into a TV series, including her involvement and the changes that occur during the adaptation process.
  • 🌍 Global impact: The event highlights the international appeal of 'Lessons in Chemistry', with Bonnie sharing how the book resonates with readers from different cultures and backgrounds.
  • 🐢 Character focus: The beloved character 6 30 from the book is discussed, revealing how the dog's role in the story serves as a commentary on societal limitations and personal growth.
  • πŸ“– Future projects: Bonnie hints at her next book, which is set in the 1980s and is a work in progress, showcasing her continued commitment to storytelling and writing.
Q & A
  • What is the significance of the event taking place on lands cherished and maintained by the indigenous people?

    -The significance lies in acknowledging the history and the contributions of the indigenous people, specifically the Grand Traverse band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, and expressing gratitude for their stewardship of the land where the event is held.

  • Who is Bonnie Garmus and why is she significant at this event?

    -Bonnie Garmus is a New York Times bestseller author and the guest of honor at the event. She is significant because her work, particularly her book 'Lessons in Chemistry', has garnered widespread acclaim and is central to the event's celebrations.

  • What role does the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) play in the event?

    -The NEA, along with the Michigan Arts and Culture Council, provides partial funding for the event, enabling it to take place and support the raising writers program, which offers free creative writing classes.

  • What is the significance of the literary journal published by NWS?

    -The literary journal is significant as it showcases the work of student writers, providing them with a platform to share their creativity and talent. It also represents the educational outcomes of the NWS's writing programs.

  • How did Bonnie Garmus get the idea for her novel 'Lessons in Chemistry'?

    -Bonnie Garmus was inspired to write 'Lessons in Chemistry' after experiencing a situation at work where her ideas were ignored and then repeated by a male colleague who received credit for them. This led her to create the character of Elizabeth Zott, a chemist facing similar challenges.

  • What was Bonnie Garmus's background before becoming a novelist?

    -Before becoming a novelist, Bonnie Garmus worked as a copywriter and creative director, primarily in the fields of technology, medicine, and education. She also had experience as a publicist and an author of non-fiction pieces.

  • What is the role of the character 6 30 in 'Lessons in Chemistry'?

    -6 30 is a dog in the book 'Lessons in Chemistry', who serves as a unique narrative device. The character provides a perspective that adds humor and depth to the story, acting as a sort of Greek chorus with his own Instagram page.

  • How did Bonnie Garmus ensure the scientific accuracy in 'Lessons in Chemistry'?

    -Bonnie Garmus ensured the scientific accuracy in 'Lessons in Chemistry' by purchasing an old textbook from the 1950s, teaching herself chemistry, and conducting experiments at home. She also consulted with experts and made sure the book was reviewed by PhD chemists.

  • What was the process like for Bonnie Garmus when her book was being adapted for a TV series?

    -The process for Bonnie Garmus involved multiple studios competing for the rights to adapt her book. She had to talk to each studio via Zoom and eventually chose one. Although she was not directly involved in writing the script, she was a co-executive producer and had the opportunity to read the scripts and provide notes.

  • What is Bonnie Garmus's advice for aspiring writers?

    -Bonnie Garmus advises aspiring writers to read broadly, practice their craft, and not to give up despite inevitable rejections. She emphasizes the importance of persistence and resilience in the publishing industry.

  • What are Bonnie Garmus's thoughts on the book's reception and its impact on readers?

    -Bonnie Garmus has been surprised and delighted by the global resonance of her book. She has heard from readers around the world who relate to the themes and characters, and she finds it particularly rewarding that the book has been adopted by educational institutions for various courses.

🎀 Introduction and Acknowledgements

The video script begins with Ann Stanton, the executive director and co-founder of NWS, warmly welcoming the audience to an event honoring Bonnie Garmus, a New York Times bestseller author. Ann expresses gratitude to the indigenous people of the area, sponsors, donors, volunteers, and staff, highlighting the importance of their collective efforts. She also acknowledges the presence of Cynthia Canty, the guest host, and Bonnie Garmus, the celebrated author. Ann mentions the support from Doubleday for Bonnie's book tour and introduces Todd, Bonnie's publicist. The event is also supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Michigan Arts and Culture Council, with a special mention of Cambian Analytica, a bioscience analytical firm.

πŸ“š Bonnie Garmus and 'Lessons in Chemistry'

Bonnie Garmus is introduced by Cynthia Canty, highlighting Bonnie's background as a copywriter and creative director who has now become a successful novelist. 'Lessons in Chemistry' is Bonnie's first published book, which has sold two million copies. The discussion includes a video of the upcoming TV series adaptation and Bonnie's personal experiences with sexism in the workplace, which inspired her to write the book. The story is set in the late 50s and early 60s, focusing on Elizabeth Zott, a chemist who becomes a reluctant TV cooking show host and uses the platform to teach chemistry, challenging societal norms.

πŸ–‹οΈ The Journey to Becoming an Author

Bonnie shares her journey from being a copywriter to becoming an author, discussing the creative aspects of her previous job and the moment of frustration that led her to write the first chapter of 'Lessons in Chemistry.' She talks about her experiences with gender bias in the tech industry and how she channeled this into her novel. Bonnie also mentions her participation in writing classes and her discovery of her agent, Felicity Blunt, in one of these classes. The conversation touches on the importance of writing groups and the challenges of balancing creative writing with critiques from peers.

🍹 The Story Behind the Cocktail

Bonnie shares a humorous anecdote about creating a cocktail recipe for her book's reader's guide and the involvement of Felicity Blunt's husband, Stanley Tucci. The story highlights the personal connections and support Bonnie received during her writing journey. The discussion also delves into the different generations' perspectives on Bonnie's book, showing how it resonates with a wide range of readers, from young mothers to accomplished professionals like attorney Angie Pohlitis.

🌐 Global Impact and Personal Reflections

Bonnie reflects on the global impact of her book, sharing how it has been translated into 40 languages and her experiences traveling and connecting with readers around the world. She discusses the universal desires for productivity, recognition, and safety, and the ongoing struggles for women's rights. Bonnie also contemplates the sacrifices and talents of previous generations of women, including her own mother, and the progress that still needs to be made in terms of gender equity and societal expectations.

πŸš£β€β™€οΈ The Significance of Rowing in 'Lessons in Chemistry'

Bonnie explains why she chose rowing as Elizabeth Zott's passion in 'Lessons in Chemistry.' She discusses her own experience as a rower and how the sport's theme of balance and imbalance aligns with the book's central themes. Bonnie also talks about the importance of adding personal experiences to her writing and the research she undertook to ensure the scientific accuracy of her story.

✍️ The Writing Process and Publishing Journey

Bonnie dives into her writing process, revealing that she rewrites each chapter multiple times until she is satisfied. She discusses the challenges of writing scientific content and her efforts to ensure accuracy, including teaching herself chemistry from old textbooks and conducting experiments. Bonnie shares her experience of finishing the book during the COVID-19 pandemic and her agent's role in pushing her to complete it. She also talks about the book's success, its sales worldwide, and the surprising decision to turn down an opportunity to appear in the TV series adaptation.

πŸ“Ί Adaptation into a TV Series

Bonnie talks about the process of adapting 'Lessons in Chemistry' into a TV series, including the selection of production studios and the challenges of scriptwriting. She mentions the involvement of Brie Larson and other key figures in the project, as well as her own role as a co-executive producer. Bonnie shares her excitement about the series and her interactions with the cast, including Jennifer Garner's impromptu book club with her co-stars and director.

🐾 The Inspiration Behind 6 30, the Dog Character

Bonnie shares the inspiration behind the character of 6 30, the dog in her book. She reveals that 6 30 is based on her own dog, Friday, who was rescued from an abusive situation and displayed remarkable intelligence. Bonnie recounts anecdotes that showcase Friday's abilities, including learning German when Bonnie's family moved to Switzerland. The discussion also touches on the naming of Bonnie's current dog, 99, in honor of her late friend and the TV show 'Get Smart.'

πŸ“– Current Projects and Future Plans

Bonnie discusses her current writing projects, mentioning that she is working on a new book set in the 1980s, which she describes as historical fiction. She shares her excitement about the project and her ongoing commitment to the craft of writing. Bonnie also reflects on the value of age and experience in her writing journey, emphasizing that she believes her older age has contributed to her success as an author.

πŸ€” Audience Questions and Bonnie's Insights

The script concludes with Bonnie answering questions from the audience, covering topics such as the scientific accuracy in her book, the inspiration behind Elizabeth's relationship with her brother, and the impact of her family setting on her character development. Bonnie also addresses the issue of sexism in academia, sharing her experiences and the continued relevance of these issues today. She provides advice to aspiring writers in the audience, emphasizing the importance of reading widely, practicing the craft of writing, and persevering through rejection.

🌟 Final Thoughts and Gratitude

The event wraps up with Bonnie expressing her gratitude for the audience's engagement and the support she has received from her readers. She shares a light-hearted story about a librarian's misunderstanding of her book and encourages everyone to bring their books for a group photo. Bonnie's genuine appreciation for her readers and the impact of her work is evident as she thanks everyone for their participation and presence at the event.

πŸ’‘New York Times bestseller
The term 'New York Times bestseller' refers to a book that has achieved a high level of sales and popularity, as recognized by the New York Times Best Seller list. In the context of the video, it highlights the success of author Bonnie Garmus and her book 'Lessons in Chemistry', which has garnered significant acclaim and readership.
πŸ’‘Indigenous people
The term 'indigenous people' refers to the original inhabitants of a particular land or region. In the video, the acknowledgment of the indigenous people of the area where the event is taking place shows respect for their historical and cultural significance. It also emphasizes the importance of recognizing and honoring the land's original stewards.
Sponsorship refers to the support provided by individuals or organizations to events, causes, or individuals, often in exchange for recognition or benefits. In the video, the speaker expresses gratitude to sponsors, donors, and volunteers, highlighting the collaborative nature of hosting an event and the importance of financial and logistical support in making it possible.
πŸ’‘Creative writing classes
Creative writing classes are educational programs focused on teaching the craft of writing fiction, poetry, or other forms of imaginative literature. In the video, the speaker mentions free creative writing classes as part of their organization's offerings, emphasizing the value of fostering literary talent and providing opportunities for artistic expression.
A publicist is a professional who manages public perception and promotes their clients, typically in the media. In the context of the video, Todd Doub, the author's publicist, is praised for his grace and professionalism, illustrating the important role publicists play in an author's career and public image.
πŸ’‘TV series adaptation
A TV series adaptation refers to the process of transforming a book, movie, or other form of media into a television series. In the video, the mention of a TV series based on Bonnie Garmus's book 'Lessons in Chemistry' indicates the book's popularity and the potential for reaching a wider audience through this new medium.
πŸ’‘Open Water swimmer
An open water swimmer is someone who participates in swimming events that take place in natural bodies of water, such as oceans, lakes, or rivers, rather than in pools. In the video, Bonnie Garmus's mention of being an open water swimmer provides insight into her personal interests and hobbies, adding depth to her character beyond her professional achievements as an author.
πŸ’‘Cultural resonance
Cultural resonance refers to the ability of a work of art, literature, or other media to evoke a strong emotional or intellectual response from a wide range of people, often due to shared experiences or values. In the video, the author's book 'Lessons in Chemistry' is said to have cultural resonance, indicating that its themes and messages connect with readers across different backgrounds and cultures.
πŸ’‘Historical fiction
Historical fiction is a genre of literature in which the story is set in a historical period and often features real historical events, characters, or settings. In the video, the author's book is referred to as historical fiction, emphasizing the setting in the late 50s and early 60s and its exploration of societal issues of that time.
πŸ’‘Writing process
The writing process refers to the series of steps a writer goes through to create a piece of work, from initial idea generation to final revision and publication. In the video, the author discusses her writing process, including the number of drafts and rewrites, illustrating the effort and dedication required to produce a polished manuscript.

Ann Stanton expresses gratitude for the turnout at the event and introduces herself as the executive director and co-founder of NWS.

The event takes place on lands maintained by indigenous people, and Ann Stanton acknowledges the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.

Sponsors, donors, volunteers, and staff are thanked for their support, which makes the event possible and funds the raising writers program.

Doubleday is acknowledged for including Traverse City in Bonnie's author tour, and Bonnie's publicist, Todd, is praised for his work.

Bonnie Garmus, the author of the book being discussed, is introduced with her impressive background in copywriting and creative direction.

Bonnie's book, 'Lessons in Chemistry', has sold two million copies and is being adapted into a TV series on Apple Plus.

The story of 'Lessons in Chemistry' is set in the late 50s and early 60s, featuring a female chemist who becomes a TV cooking show host teaching chemistry instead of cooking.

Bonnie shares her personal experience of being ignored in a meeting, which inspired her to write the first chapter of her novel.

Bonnie's mother's story is highlighted, showing a generation of wasted talent and the struggles women faced in the past.

Bonnie discusses the universal themes of her book, which resonate with readers across different countries and cultures.

The impact of 'Lessons in Chemistry' on its male readers is discussed, showing the book's wide appeal.

Bonnie's writing process is shared, including her habit of rewriting chapters multiple times until she is satisfied.

The challenges of adapting 'Lessons in Chemistry' for the screen are mentioned, including the involvement of Brie Larson and the changes made during production.

Bonnie's next book project is teased, indicating a continuation of her writing career beyond 'Lessons in Chemistry'.

The character of 6 30, the dog in 'Lessons in Chemistry', is discussed as a beloved element of the story.

Bonnie's personal connection to the character 6 30 is revealed, as he is based on her own dog, Friday.

The significance of the book's title and cover art is explained, including the input from Bonnie's agent and publisher.

Bonnie's advice to aspiring writers is to read broadly, practice the craft of writing, and not to give up despite inevitable rejection.

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