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#118 Allie Rowbottom

118 - Rowbottom Headshot.jpg

When Allie Rowbottom lost her mother to cancer, she dove headfirst into writing. 

Having already completed an MFA and a Ph.D. in Creative Writing, Allie was no stranger to writing but something changed after her mother died. She felt an increased urgency to tell the story her mother had invested many years of her own life writing: the story of the women and generations impacted by the money made from an icon of mid-century America: Jell-O. 

The story that is ultimately told in Rowbottom's book is multifaceted: it's her grandmother's story, her mother's, and her own, but it's also the story of Jell-O and how this product came to represent a particular kind of femininity that all these women felt pressured to mold themselves into, much like Jell-O itself. We dive in deep to what it felt like to write this story so soon after losing her mother and what it's like now as the book comes out and so many more people are reading and reacting to the book. 

This was such an inspiring interview, both because Allie was so open about her feelings and experience, but also because we haven't touched on writing and grief with this kind of depth, and it's a topic I think deserves much attention. I'm very grateful to have had this conversation and look forward to discussing this topic more in the future. 

Discussed in Episode 118 with Allie Rowbottom:

  • “I became sort of a manic writer.”
    On diving into the book in the immediate wake of her mother’s death.
  • “The book has been a vessel for me to grieve through.”
    How writing carried her through her mother‘s death.
  • “I feel the imperative to assure everyone that I’m very grateful in this moment.”
    Mixed emotions as the book encounters readers.
  • "I don‘t think that being an artist, or art making, allows you to lambast people in your work.“
    On the responsibilities in writing from real life.
  • "It‘s not repetitive or unimaginative. It‘s just what‘s stoking our fire.“
    On returning to a topic or theme.
  • "It feels so easy, looking back.“
    How completing a book always feels easier after it‘s finished.
  • "Nothing‘s really worth it unless it‘s painful and hard to get.“
    On having to write the first drafts and second drafts, and more, to get to the final book.
  • "The win is sweeter for having worked for it.“
    Why we sometimes make things hard on ourselves.
  • "I was really worried how this book would define me as a writer.“
    What one book means in a writer's career.

This episode sponsored by listeners like you via the Secret Library Podcast Patreon