Sofie Matson doesn’t hesitate to take on a challenge. She didn’t become one of Maine’s most accomplished long distance runners without a lot of discipline and focus.
On Thursday, the 18-year-old added another accolade to her already impressive resume: the author. Within months of his senior year at Falmouth High, Matson completed a novel that is part of a coming-of-age story, spy thriller, and most importantly an ironic and insightful look at the way social media creeps into every corner of life. .
Matson was one of four writers on The Telling Room’s annual Young Emerging Authors program. This is a one-year intensive scholarship for the purpose of producing a published book. On Thursday, Matson read the opening stanzas of his 265-page novel, “Amateurity,” at a small gathering of friends and family at The Telling Room in Portland’s Old Port.
She was joined by other members of the Young Emerging Authors program – Maya Denkmire, a recent Casco Bay High graduate, who wrote “Summer of Lost and Found”, Windham High senior Leigh Ellis, who read an excerpt from their book “Bach in the Barn” and Lerman Abdoulkader Waiss, student at Portland High, author of the next book, “Astur Unveiled”.
This was the eighth promotion of young emerging authors. The program has now produced 30 pounds.
Matson has won numerous Class A cross-country and track state titles, and at 16 she was the top Maine female at Beach to Beacon 2019. She will be heading to Columbia University this fall. , where she plans to continue competing as a long distance runner.
Matson said she has been interested in participating in the Young Emerging Authors program since arriving at the nonprofit’s offices as a college student to hear a reading.
“I went to the book launch of my friend’s older sister, Olivia Peelen, and I remember thinking, ‘I love writing. It’s really cool. I would really love to write a book someday, ”Matson said. “I always thought I would do it in high school, but second year was pretty busy for me, as was first year, and I hadn’t really picked a new idea that I was satisfied with and that I really wanted to continue with the depth level. what this program requires. ”This summer, before senior year, I kind of said I was writing and decided to go to The Telling Room and see what happened.
The plot of “Amateurity” points a satirical lens on the time-sucking social media.
Maggie, a 15-year-old girl, is recruited to participate in a CIA investigation. Previously a passive consumer of the “social media ice room,” Maggie was asked to start creating short videos to post to “ClickClock,” so the CIA could track her specially-chipped phone. The goal is to find evidence that the ClickClock app is secretly transferring personal information to Chinese agents. In no time, the mundane videos of Maggie’s daily life attracted over a quarter of a million followers.
“I was trying to explore how entertainment created by amateurs, just videos made by random people on their phones, kind of shapes the way we relate to each other and think about entertainment and art. “Matson said. “Does art imitate life, or does life imitate art? And what happens when this is done by ordinary people on their phones? What kind of culture is created by this?
Matson’s characters, particularly Maggie and Julia, a 43-year-old State Department bureaucrat who is also involved in the ClickClock investigation, are developed in insightful and nuanced ways.
“I was so impressed with her voice and especially the sophistication she brought to the character of Julia,” said Kathryn Williams, senior teacher of The Telling Room’s Young Emerging Authors program.
“I really wanted it to be nuanced because at the end of the day there are so many different things at play in the book and what the book tries to say about real life and how social media affects people differently.” , Matson said.
Matson had around 30 pages of her manuscript written when she applied for The Telling Room Fellowship. She wrote most of the time in late fall and early winter after the cross-country ski season had ended, writing the majority of the first draft by hand.
“I just found out that typing on the computer would make me rewrite the same sentence over and over again. The handwriting forced me to keep going, ”Matson said.
Among the small crowd at Thursday’s reading was Danny Paul, one of Matson’s cross-country coaches at Falmouth High and his teacher in a year-long honors literature class.
“What struck me about her as a writer is two things. One was her phenomenal vocabulary for someone 15 years old and most importantly her ability to write sophisticated sentences already,” said Paul. .
Paul said he believed there were connections between Matson’s racing and writing talent. There is the discipline to do the job, Paul said, but also a quiet knowledge that the process will work.
“She’s very confident in what she does and what she knows and that’s kind of what makes her who she is,” Paul said.
There is also a desire to improve.
“When Sofie was finishing this book, one of the comments she made to me was, ‘I’m curious to see how I grow up as a writer,’ Paul said. her age. She’s very determined to be as good as she can be, that’s the way I see it, and I don’t think that’s a burden on her.
When asked if she “writes while running,” Matson laughed softly.
“We had to write a one-page pitch for the application. I came up with this running, ”she said.
“Of course, when you run 6 to 10 or more than 10 miles, you get bored. You start to think about things, ”Matson said. “If you write a book, you tend to start thinking about what you wrote, what you plan to write that day. For me, I was running in the morning and brainstorming general ideas and themes. Maybe I would come up with a line or two that I thought was particularly concise or that I really liked, and I would think, OK, I want to work with that later today. But I wouldn’t really compose long prose while running, just basic ideas. “
Regarding his own social media habits, Matson said, “I’m not very active on social media. I guess I look a lot like my protagonist, Maggie, I’m more of an observer. Or at first as Maggie before she became very involved in her role in the CIA investigation.
In the book, Maggie begins as a mostly anonymous sophomore. As her followers grow, she learns to deal with comments from strangers, good and bad, regarding her videos. But those comments, and even his increased fame in high school, are still filtered through the ClickClock app and text messages. Maggie wonders how difficult communication would be if everyone’s phones, along with their attached photos, memes, and videos, were taken away.
“Maintaining a conversation without your phone for supporting evidence… seemed tedious. Maggie considered it impossible to get to know someone this way, ”Matson wrote.
For Matson, being in the public eye – and learning to communicate with strangers – became a reality when she was a freshman and dominating the fall cross country season. Now as a published author, Matson has added another reason for people to ask his opinion, to put a recording device or a camera in front of his face.
“I learned that this is part of being involved in sport. It’s just a fact of life that you have to be able to talk to people and be able to communicate.