Rio Hondo College Newspaper

El Paisano

Jeff Garvin: Art Hurts

Jeff+Garvin+during+the+Q+%26+A+portion+of+his+panel%2C+pertaining+to+writing+and+dealing+with+self+doubt
Jeff Garvin during the Q & A portion of his panel, pertaining to writing and dealing with self doubt

Jeff Garvin during the Q & A portion of his panel, pertaining to writing and dealing with self doubt

Alex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez

Jeff Garvin during the Q & A portion of his panel, pertaining to writing and dealing with self doubt

Diego Crespo, Editor-in-Chief

It takes a moment for our interview to start as fans filter in and out, wanting to stop by for a quick chat with Garvin. He mentions having a cold but you wouldn’t be able to tell given the extensive appreciation he shares with everyone coming to his table.

On stage at Rio Hondo’s Wray Theater, Garvin strolls along engaging audiences with his analogies and personal experiences as a writer. Jeff Garvin is the type of artist whose excitement for his work is boisterous. There’s an infectious river of passion flowing from his language both spoken and physical.

Garvin comes across a man who has a life of experience. Not only in his career hopping adventures from actor to musician to salesman, but in his ability to empathize with experiences. He caters a remarkable ability to relate on a personal level.

His first published book, “Symptoms of Being Human” is a coming-of-age story of a gender fluid teen named Riley. It’s a story of identity as the young Riley finds their way through life in entering a new school, dealing with a conservative congressman father, and under pressure from the media as their anonymous blog goes viral.

“I think everything I ever write will be tied to the idea of identity. Not necessarily my gender identity but my creative identity has changed over time. You become apparent and that changes your identity. You graduate from college and you’re not a college student anymore. To the extent that your identity or your personality is malleable causes all sorts of interesting problems and solutions in your life. If you’re too rigid you’re going to face a lot of resistance and a lot of frustrations just trying to move on in your life, right? But if your identity is too fluid then people won’t be able to relate to you or know who you are or how to categorize you. Identity fascinates me because it’s completely constructed and yet…” Garvin struggles to remember the name of the doctors who conducted neurological studies. “If you look at the neurology… [Scientists] were MRI scanning people’s brains while talking to them about their political opinions. And when their political opinions were challenged the same part of their brain lit up as if a lion was trying to eat their arm. So your brain physically recognizes these things as part of yourself, which is why people become irate and unreasonable especially in the realm of politics. The politics and neurology of identity fascinate me.”

Garvin goes on to explain his educational foundation and how it can be necessary and optional. “I didn’t want to go to college I just wanted to be an actor. I thought it would delay. I sat down with a mentor and they told me I didn’t have to study. I don’t know if [college] is important. If you’re good at school that just means you’re good at school. It doesn’t necessarily reflect how successful you’re going to be. But there’s something about committing yourself to a course of study over a long period of time by choice. I think that has value. Even if you don’t do anything close to what you majored in, I think going to school has value. Free public, higher education… we have to continue to provide that. Think of the experience we just had these teachers who love books create this thing out of the blue and 15 years later there’s 200 kids in there having an experience because they chose to go to college. Those kinds of experiences aren’t available to you unless you opt in.” said Garvin.

Garvin’s writing endeavors began with NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month), a yearly event for writers in November to get together and form a community in writing their book. As Garvin finished his first book, he goes on to explain, candidly, “It sucked.” before going into detail about the second book which only “sucked about 70%” realizing if he can eyeball quality in the 30% then he could learn what obstacles to avoid as he wrote on. But as Garvin elaborates, the self-doubt never truly goes away.

“I think, creative doubt is just one form of a person confronting themselves. In that sense, every character in every book, if they change during the course of that book, if they have an arc, they have to confront something about themselves that’s not working and change it. Or abandon it. And I find that’s true in writing as well. When you get edits back and you’re writing a second draft, if you could have written a better book, you would have. So you have to become better.” said Garvin.

In looking to the future, Garvin ponders about writing adventures outside of the world of novels and his next book.

“It’s a contemporary ya and part of it takes place in Park Hills, which is the fictional town that ‘Symptoms’ takes place in.” says Garvin of his next story.

Garvin looks optimistic toward the future of a broader writing career, though his one true love is books. “I love movies. That’s what I studied when I went to film school. My dad always told me I was a storyteller whether I’m writing books or scripts. Whatever form it takes, I’m going to be a storyteller for the rest of my life. Right now, the career path for it is very clear. It’s very difficult to earn a living being an artist of any kind. The position that I’m at is I had a book that’s had x amount of success and it’s provided an opportunity to do the next book and the next book. I’m going to ride that train for a while. I need to get good at riding books, the book that’s going to come out next year is my fifth manuscript and that’s not a lot. I need to get good at this and I’m enjoying it. I think for the foreseeable future it’s going to be books. Definitely at some point I would not be surprised if it branches out into movies.” said Garvin.

“I would love to write a musical. I was in musicals as a kid so the ones that grab me are the classics like ‘Annie’ ‘Sound of Music’ but I also love Leslie Bricusse, who wrote ‘Scrooge.’ He also wrote music for ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ I love his stuff. I’m going to see ‘Hamilton’ in a couple months, which I’m very excited about, and Lin Manuel Miranda wrote [the music for] ‘Moana.’ This is a great age for musicals. Pop music and Broadway are merging in a big way that’s exciting for me.”

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Jeff Garvin: Art Hurts