VU graduate and author Mattigan Riley expresses her writing through the fragrance of storytelling - External Relations
VU graduate and author Mattigan Riley expresses her writing through the fragrance of storytelling
November 18, 2021
By University Relations Student Journalist Braydyn Lents
The sights, fragrances, and sounds seem centered when Vincennes University alumna Mattigan Riley sipped on freshly-brewed coffee at the Shake Learning Resource Center with VU English Professor Adam Moore.
The two chatted about their days of meticulous writing and mapping through her first book. She sat in the LRC on the Vincennes Campus and shared her findings from two years of work.
With the frostbite of late fall air and the crackles of coffee beans whirling in a blender at the nearby Starbucks counter, the sound effects divided Riley by two cacophonies. A study space inside the University of Pittsburgh’s Hillman Library, and the ambiance of an Indianapolis research gala.
Riley standing in front of George Rogers Clark Memorial
An expression from her creative imagery to writing her book brought her back to the basic being of when she was a student again.
When librarians snapped photos with her and students packed into the presentation space for her recent book reading, the smell was still there. Riley seemed enchanted by her rural Indiana roots. The sound of working Steeler country was delighted by a Trailblazer whiff. The smell was still there even when she breathed through her mask. Like her book, she discusses areas of simple detail of everything in the room.
Riley is a native of Gary, Indiana. She majored in Precision Machining at VU. Riley graduated in 2021 and wrote "Worldly Lives" as an ongoing English 101 research project.
"My book is a historical fiction novel, and it is a collection of short stories where each chapter follows a sibling through a big life event,” Riley said. "It takes place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the 1930s and 40s.”
Her book chronicles the life of a family that transitions from Indiana to Pennsylvania. Sparking a creative joy as Riley thought back to the memories of visiting her great grandmother in the suburb of Millville, Pennsylvania. When she wrote the short stories inspired by her time in the two states, her professors gave her an extra pointer addressing her book.
"In the English 101 class, you write five papers, and for the last research paper," she said. "I really enjoyed writing about a topic that I actually got to pick [and research] about, and I wanted to continue to do that. Professor Moore helped turn my nonfiction writing into fiction writing.”
For Riley, Moore not only ignited her spark. He encouraged her to express her fullest creativity.
"He just really helped organize my ideas," she said. "He was a really good person that helped organize my thoughts into a straight line, especially with writing, but then I carry that over into my career. I am a Precision Machinist, and it has helped with my creativity I still use to this day in the field."
Riley during a live reading of her book at the Shake LRC
Riley works as an independent writer at her home in Illinois.Her most important advice for beginning writers and even VU English majors is to “try some of everything.”
“I thought I liked more nonfiction writing," she said. "I didn’t think I could do fiction writing. I started fiction writing. Then, within fiction writing, I was not good at doing conversations between characters. Something I could say to people is to start small. Stick with something like a short story, stick to something that is like six to ten pages, and just write scenes. Write characters, write dialogues, and practice those things. Find a person on campus whether that would be a professor or another student that can help critique your work and be willing to take that critique. Whether that would be good criticism or bad criticism and continue to use it to shape your work.”
Not only did she receive experience in English and machining, but she also used her knowledge to enhance one area of her work to another.
"I had a good experience at VU as far as my career path goes,” she said. “Vincennes University has a really good precision machining program. The professors are super helpful. We also participate in the CNC Machining Club. It was super helpful because we actually got to take a lot of what you were learning in class and gear it to real-world experiences or getting to use a bit of your own creativity.”
"I think it was the best program that I went to. I was glad that I was able to stay and do that because it really hones a lot of your talents. It really shows you a lot of what you can do.”
During the day in October, the smells and sights of library fragrance led Riley to thank the people closest to her. The people helped her fume her senses. When Riley shared her book in front of 40 students and to media at the LRC, the coffee smells from Starbucks, the ambient discussions of other students about her book, and lots of careful writing through her expressions helped her spiritually follow her path to this day.
Riley's book is available for print on Google Books and Kindle purchase on Amazon.