Sometimes you just know you’re destined for great things. In Forsooth thirteen-year-old theater kid Calvin knows he’s going to be a star. All he has to do is prove himself as an actor and fix the awkwardness with his friends that started after the play where he got stuck on a single line. But nothing’s going according to plan. His parents don’t get his love of performing. His best friend is moving on without him. And he might have a crush that could change everything.
Today author Jimmy Matejek-Morris joins us to discuss his inspiration for this middle grade novel, his favorite musicals, and so much more. Read on to download the free discussion guide!
Where did you get the idea for this book?
I grew up in a traditional Catholic household where being gay was unheard of. Literally. I did not know what it meant to be gay until I was older, after I had already experienced crushes that I was not able to describe or understand. In writing Forsooth, I wanted to create a kid like me, who was a little naïve/less aware of the world, but who starts to understand who he is over the course of the book.
Are there other similarities between you and Calvin?
Yes, definitely. I started acting in school shows in the fifth grade. I really loved theater, especially musicals, and thought at one point that I was destined for a life on the stage or screen. Being fairly shy, I could never quite get over the butterflies in the stomach that arose for every performance. Finally my anxiety decided that maybe I was not meant to be on stage after all. In high school, I transferred to the off-stage roles of stage crew and program designer, though I was always envious of my friends who stayed in the spotlight. Now, I am a frequent attendee at the theater.
What are some of your favorite musicals?
So many! The first show I acted in was Bye Bye Birdie and the first show I ever saw on Broadway was Footloose, so those musicals have very special spots in my heart. As a big Muppets fan, I love shows that feature puppetry, so I really enjoyed Avenue Q and the 2022 revival of Into the Woods. The show Next to Normal has stuck with me over the years for its exploration of mental health, and Something Rotten! for its hilarious musical parodying. Dreamgirls (the film version) and Wicked were the soundtracks to my college years. I could go on and on. Musicals are great.
Have you ever fallen off a stage?
No, thankfully not, though I was a clumsy kid and did (still do) my fair share of falling down everywhere else.
Calvin and his friends also spend a lot of time making a movie for Kennedy. Did you do anything like that growing up?
Absolutely. One of my closest friends had a camera and we would spend hours making ridiculous films about inside jokes that nobody but us found funny.
What was the most challenging part of the story to write?
The fear of homophobia. This is all too familiar to many members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and I found it a challenge to work through Calvin’s anxiety as he worried whether he would be accepted or rejected by his family, friends, and church. On that note, I struggled to write Calvin’s parents. I wanted to create a strict but loving home environment for Calvin that would partially contribute to his anxiety but ultimately provide him with the love and acceptance he deserves. I hope I achieved that balance in the final version.
What was the most fun part to write?
It had to be his mishap at the church. That plot point was not included in my original outline, but when I started to write the chapter, Calvin got so fully into his head that he wrote the scene for me. I can certainly relate to this stream-of-consciousness anxiety and the resulting clumsiness as the thoughts take over.
What would you like readers to take away from this novel?
Self-compassion and self-acceptance. Calvin is so hard on himself after making one embarrassing misstep, but despite what he initially believes, it is not the end of the world. In fact, it opens him up to new friendships, new adventures, and new possibilities. Forsooth!
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Praise for Forsooth
“Gives serious treatment to mental health and the challenges of coming out in a religiously restrictive community. Adorkable Calvin makes impressive growth in self-acceptance, and that plot-driving process benefits from supportive characters working through their own challenges. With casual Broadway references and theater as a dominant theme, readers with an existing interest in the performing arts will delight in the story, while those less comfortable in the spotlight will enjoy watching Calvin shine. Forsooth!” — Booklist
“A funny and thoughtful exploration of middle school relationships.” — Kirkus Reviews
“A dramatic second-person prologue gives way to Calvin’s sensitive and enthusiastic first-person POV in this funny and joyous ode to creative expression. Matejek-Morris (My Ex-Imaginary Friend) delves into adolescent friendship drama and Calvin’s challenges growing up queer in a religious family, as well as issues of internalized racism, via theatrical hijinks that add levity to the weighty themes.” — Publishers Weekly
“Calvin’s panicky narration is easy to empathize with, giving the reader a front-row seat to his anxiety. Heavier themes are balanced with lightheartedness and references that will delight any theater kid. The topic of religion, in particular—Catholicism and Judaism, as experienced via a friend’s bar mitzvah—is approached with both humor and thoughtfulness. Calvin’s first attempts at romance and sometimes toxic friendships result in a lot of drama, but his showstopping antics are a joy throughout.” — The Horn Book Magazine
Connect with the Author
Jimmy Matejek-Morris is an author and screenwriter. His first novel, My Ex-Imaginary Friend, was named a Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year. He lives in Massachusetts with his husband and their dog, Rudy.