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Sugar House Journal

Author combines mental illness awareness and humor in her novels

Aug 31, 2017 17h32 ● By Jana Klopsch

Jacquie Telonidis recounts how she and Ann met. (Kayla Lien/City Journals)

By Kayla Lien | [email protected]

On Aug. 11, Ann Garvin was at The King’s English Bookshop to read from and sign her newest novel, “I Like You Just Fine When You’re Not Around.” 

Garvin’s earlier books, “The Dog Year” and “On Maggie’s Watch” have the same themes as this new addition to the family. Her novels all dabble with mental health as Garvin teaches health education and psychology at the University of Wisconsin. She wanted a larger audience than just her college students. 

“I wanted to start talking about psychological issues and things like that in a way that people would understand it and sort of get involved in it through story rather than through, you know, educational lectures,” she said. 

Garvin likes to write because it connects her with people, shows them that though you may be struggling in your life, things will work out okay. Originally, she just wanted to be a comic writer, but once she started writing she understood what her voice was. 

“I think I thought I was just gonna write funny. But then as I sorta started getting deeper into the characters, I realized that funny and sad is my niche,” she said. Garvin’s books are mainly that— funny and sad, and all of them (so far) follow a female protagonist in a trying time of her life. 

Starting the event, Jacquie Telonidis regaled the audience with the tale of how she and Ann met. After that, Garvin read a short passage from her book, giving the audience insight to her characters and the plot of the story. 

Garvin explained that the protagonist, Tig Monahan, had a mom with Alzheimer’s and a family atmosphere falling apart, along with a job in peril. Plot from the novel is somewhat influenced by Garvin’s own life, as her mother also has Alzheimer’s, and said the novel was a way to deal with the sadness of it. She talked about working as a college professor, about how hard it is to write novels that aren’t educational when you’re in a line of work where they’re supposed to be. 

Garvin related that she never knew she could write or make a life out of it. After entering a 24-hour writing contest in her town of Madison, Wis. and winning second place, she realized that telling stories was something that was possible. 

Taking questions from the audience, Garvin answered inquiries about her novel titles, the editing process and publishing. 

Garvin has two more novels in the works, one is already finished and the other is almost done. One of them, “Bummer Camp” (which is its unofficial title), also deals with mental illness and getting through that, so it’s safe to assume the other is following that trend. 

Garvin said, “After my kids leave I wanna be able to [write], like, as much as I can. It kinda opened up a whole new world for me.” 

She relates writing to be like finding a superhero cape in a closet you’ve never opened, suddenly you’re able to do something that you would have never thought possible. 

“I think [publishing “The Dog Year” and “On Maggie’s Watch”] changed me as a writer—it sorta set me on my path of wanting to do this as a career.”