Marian Miner Cook

A distinctive
feature of social and
cultural life at CMC


Remarkably Bright Creatures

Mon, October 2, 2023
Dinner Program
Shelby Van Pelt '02

A lonely older woman, an unmoored young man...and a snarky Giant Pacific Octopus. In Shelby Van Pelt's novel, REMARKABLY BRIGHT CREATURES (2022, HarperCollins), these characters come together to discover the power of finding friendship in unexpected places. An instant New York Times bestseller, Van Pelt's debut novel, called “memorable and tender” by the Washington Post, was a Today Show “Read With Jenna” book club pick and has sold over a million copies.

In her talk, Van Pelt will discuss the inspiration behind REMARKABLY BRIGHT CREATURES and its unconventional octopus narrator, her writing process, and the exhilaration of becoming a best-selling author overnight. She will also explore the value of keeping contact with one’s artistic side, even when life might demand otherwise, and reflect on how her CMC education helped her through a hairpin career turn from finance to the arts.

As a PPE major (CMC '02), Van Pelt loved writing, but never imagined she would write fiction. After graduation, she went into consulting, a career in which she flourished for nearly a decade. When a cross-country move brought an opportunity to press pause on that career, she realized she missed writing and decided to try fiction.

Born and raised in Tacoma, WA, Van Pelt graduated cum laude from Claremont McKenna College, where she studied Politics, Philosophy, and Economics. REMARKABLY BRIGHT CREATURES is her first novel. She lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband, Drew Van Pelt (CMC '02), and their two children.

Van Pelt is a member of the Board of Advisors of CMC's Gould Center for Humanistic Studies, which co-sponsors her visit to the Athenaeum. Van Pelt is also the first speaker in the Athenaeum's 40th Anniversary Series, which celebrates the achievements of CMC alumni from across the years and invites them to return home to Claremont.


Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum

Claremont McKenna College
385 E. Eighth Street
Claremont, CA 91711

Phone: (909) 607-8244


Phone: (909) 621-8244
Fax: (909) 621-8579