International bestselling author Jodi Picoult was the first female to receive the 2014 Mason Award on Friday, Sept. 12.
The Mason Award is given annually by the Fall for the Book board of directors. It is awarded to an author who has made extraordinary contributions to bringing literature to a wide reading public.
Picoult was selected for the award due to her ability to reach and entertain an audience of exceptional geographic and demographic breadth.
“This isn’t a literary popularity contest,” Art Taylor, the marketing director for FFTB, said. “We look for authors who excite readers while reaching a broad number of readers.”
A crowd of hundreds eagerly awaited Picoult’s presentation and the opportunity to purchase novels and have them signed. It was clear that Picoult had done more than enough to warrant recognition from the Mason community.
“After I read The Pact, I was inspired to love reading for pleasure,” Mason sophomore Brittany Reid said.
Picoult herself stated that she never expected to reach such a wide audience when she first began her career as an author.
“I was too delighted at the thought of being published to think ‘who’s going to read the book?’” Picoul said. “When I first started, I was sure no one was reading my books except my mother and her friends. Then one day I realized that more books were being sold than the number of my mother’s friends.”
Picoult said that she owes her wide audience to readers who told others about her books via word-of-mouth. She also sits as inspiration for some students for their own potential careers as writers.
“The only reason I can feasibly hope to make something of myself as a writer is because of authors like her,” junior Alicia Hayes said.
When asked if she followed her own advice to aspiring writers to write for twenty minutes every day, Picoult answered with an immediate yes. She said that someone who continues to write is her definition of a writer.
She did not deny, however, the pressures she frequently faces to produce a certain type of novel.
Picoult also acknowledged that there is a huge gender bias in the world of writing and publishing, stating that for a woman to write about relationships and family is “women’s fiction,” and for a man to do the same is considered a masterpiece.
Picoult firmly maintains her love of all literature.
“A good book is a good book,” Picoult said.
When confronted with heavy criticism for her novels and with the banning of her books, like her 2004 novel My Sister’s Keeper, Picoult merely stressed the sentiment that angry readers were usually the ones in whom a nerve had been struck.
The more explicit details of her novels, she explained, were never included merely to shock or to be obscene. Instead, every moment, she said, is “endemic to the story [she] is trying to tell.”
Photos by Amy Podraza