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Jennette McCurdy Talks ‘I’m Glad My Mom Died’ Memoir In SPA Lecture

Former actress and author Jennette McCurdy spoke to a crowd of Penn State students on Thursday night in a sold-out Schwab Auditorium as part of Penn State’s Student Programming Association (SPA) guest lecture series.

McCurdy is famous for her roles as Sam Puckett on Nickelodeon’s “iCarly” and “Sam and Cat.” McCurdy’s recently published memoir, “I’m Glad My Mom Died,” offers insight into the abuse that she endured as a young adult and why she stepped away from acting.

McCurdy began the evening by reading a chapter of her New York Times bestselling novel to the crowd. The excerpt she chose described a scene where her mother was dying her hair, entwined with memories of constant criticism that her mother offered about her “natural beauty.”

McCurdy then discussed the process of writing “I’m Glad My Mom Died,” which she said spanned about 18 months. She described the experience as “fulfilling,” explaining that since she had already completed several years of therapy, she didn’t want to just trauma dump on readers.

In writing the memoir, McCurdy divulged that she aimed to “explore difficult subject matter with humor.” She explained that it felt more realistic since events in life are never black and white and there are always moments of humor intertwined with the darker parts.

McCurdy struggled to pick a favorite chapter from her memoir but eventually settled on two that she felt best encapsulated the entirety of her journey. In the first half of the novel, McCurdy pointed to the scene where she was being taught calorie restriction by her mother when she was only 11 years old. From the second half, she chose the chapter in which she brought her therapist to the Teen Choice Awards.

McCurdy also addressed the title of her memoir, which shocked many people upon its announcement.

“It’s direct,” McCurdy said. “I mean it. It’s honest. If I called [the book] anything else, it would detract from what I was trying to say.”

Today, McCurdy no longer acts and looks back on her acting days with bittersweet emotions.

“I felt like a puppet,” McCurdy said.

She was required to follow other people’s instructions and took the form of whatever character she was playing at the time. In her current role as a writer, she has the ability to write about whatever she wants. McCurdy described it as a more truthful and more fun creative outlet.

However, McCurdy is aware that her current career might not be possible without her tumultuous years as a child actor.

“I do wonder if this path would be possible without the other one,” McCurdy said.

Throughout the evening, McCurdy told audience members that she was currently working on her first fiction novel, as well as her first screenplay for a feature film that she would also be directing. McCurdy also indicated the release of a second nonfiction book a few years down the line.

Several students then had the opportunity to ask McCurdy questions. One asked how she knew that writing a memoir was in the cards.

McCurdy explained that after going to therapy for several years and processing all of her emotions, she looked at everything she had experienced and realized that “there’s some value here for other people.”

A few students asked for advice on writer’s block and the process of writing in general, especially professionally. McCurdy shared that it was important to focus on finding your own voice and the themes that you want to write about, or else it’s easy to lose direction. McCurdy also recommended finding time to write as often as possible.

Regarding writer’s block, McCurdy expressed the importance of trying to find inspiration wherever you look, whether that be through other forms of writing, or, in her case, maybe even TED Talks.

McCurdy did admit that her least favorite part of writing was reviewing the final drafts of her own work.

“I was so fucking sick of this [book],” McCurdy laughed.

She also confessed that with her fame, she misses out on the opportunity to be an observer — something that she has done since she was a child. McCurdy does enjoy the fact that wearing masks is now commonplace, as she is able to get away with living a “normal” life slightly more easily.

In some more lighthearted questions, McCurdy shared her current favorite television show (“The White Lotus”), along with some of her other hobbies which include reading and watching Disney vlogs.

Perhaps one of the most notable moments of the night was when asked what advice she would give to those in their late teens and early twenties, as many of the audience fell into that age range. McCurdy took a moment to think about her own experiences at that age before offering two pieces of wisdom.

“It gets better. It gets a lot better. Also, if it’s not a ‘hell yes,’ then it’s a ‘no.’ The more I said no to things, the better my life got.”

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About the Author

Haylee Yocum

Haylee is a junior in the Schreyer Honors College studying immunology and infectious disease. She is from Mifflintown, PA, a tiny town south of State College. She is a coffee addict, loves Taylor Swift, and can't wait to go to a concert again. Any questions can be directed to @hayleeq8 on Twitter or emailed to [email protected]

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