What I’m Wearing

I am a shopaholic. There, I said it. Despite my impending foray into full time writing, I spend way too many hours browsing ModCloth’s seemingly endless supply of 60’s inspired fit and flares. I spend my precious weekend mornings at the mall, lamenting (or even worse, buying) items I can’t afford. I impulse buy, sliding a stack of items right from the racks onto the checkout counter without even trying them on. I mean, that’s why they invented returns, right?

In case you’re not sure whether you’re a shopaholic too, tell me if any of these sound familiar:

  1. You watch Confessions of a Shopaholic and your only response is “God, now I just really want to go shopping.”
  2. Your closet is full of unworn items with the tags still on.
  3. You regularly ask yourself “Why did I buy this?” or “What was I thinking?”
  4. You get depressed about how much you’ve spent and vow to sell all of your extra clothes on ebay, then either realize it’s way too much effort and you probably won’t make money selling them and go back to internet shopping.
  5. Your closet (only the visible half seen through the too-small door), looks like this:

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Shopping is everywhere. It’s in every magazine, it’s on every billboard, and it’s even in my inbox, taunting me with promises of new adventures in a certain summer frock that’s 50% off with free shipping. It’s impossible to ignore, yet equally impossible to sustain.

I thought my shopping habits were bad before; then I published my first few books.

In our modern day internet age, all of our friends see everything we do, all of the time. They see every family reunion, college graduation, first steps in a new house, and even picnic in the park. Back in the old days (think xanga), we shopaholics could cycle our cute clothes, being sure to only wear certain dresses around friends who hadn’t seen them before; now EVERYONE HAS SEEN EVERYTHING WE OWN on facebook/twitter/instagram/whatever else kids these days use to share their thoughts. And since I care so much about clothes, I can look at a profile picture of one of my friends and immediately remember every other time they wore that exact same outfit, even if I wasn’t there.

So what do you do as an author, when you need photos of you smiling at every book event to post on your site, your social media page, or your private facebook account? Even normal shopaholics worry that someone will recognize their dresses and think to themselves, “Didn’t she wear that at Jason’s party six months ago, right before that guy dumped her?” So then how can someone miss that I’m wearing my pale pink Zara hound’s-tooth sleeveless dress twice in a row in two of my author’s photos?

If my boyfriend read this post, he would say that I’m rationalizing what’s about to come next. Because I am. But really, how can I post photos from events in which I’m wearing the same three black dresses and not expect people to think they’re all photos of the same event? How can I indicate to a potential agent that I’m out in the literary world if they see ten identical photos of me in J. Crew sleeveless with green ivy down the front? (I just returned this, unfortunately…if only I didn’t have boy hips.) And if I do branch out and force myself to wear my nondescript pencil skirts and white satin tops from Banana, what will the repercussions be?

Because in the end, what we wear matters. What we look like matters. Sure, it’s important to know that if a kid reads the back of your YA novel about dragons at a book fair he or she will want to read it, but you need to look interesting or attractive or mysterious enough from afar that the parents of said child will let he or she get within ten feet of you and browse the back of Dreamweaver Road. Sure, you’ll be the one getting up on stage at your book launch, but you want people to look around the room and be able to identify you well before that. In an internet age, writers can no longer pull a Salinger; we are visible, and therefore what we wear is important.

So what am I wearing?

Currently, my favorite cream top with a lace front and a very low back from H&M and a pair of $11 Forever 21 jeans (did you know Forever 21 actually sells really great stretchy skinny jeans that ACTUALLY LAST? I have several pair and I’ve basically been wearing them for five years straight) with a pair of Converse. I mean, I’m still a writer after all, and when not in public I like to be comfortable.

Oh. You meant what am I wearing to author events?

When I asked Jennifer Tress, the incredible and inspiring author of You’re Not Pretty Enough (Jennifer generously led the event for me that night) what to wear to my first book launch for my literary novel Cairo in White, she told me, “a dress.” She told me a lot of other stuff too about necklaces and shoes and other accessories, but pretty much all I remember is her perfect, simple answer. A dress. Because really, when it comes down to it, all an author needs is a few absolutely amazing, colorful, or otherwise unique dresses—black for New York, and bright colors for pretty much everywhere else that’s not New York. On top of those dresses, you can pair blazers, chunky necklaces, artistic scarves, wraps, furs, or a billion other awesome accessories you really bought because it was cheaper than buying yet another item of clothing. But if you don’t have your base line of dresses, you’ll end up naked in front of your closet door, lamenting how you have nothing to wear five minutes before you’re supposed to leave to kiss the cheek of a new novelist or signing a cover that, every time you see it, makes you forget for a minute how much you’re dying to buy a new pair of pointy toed ankle boots.

Here are some photos of me at my recent readings. Spoiler alert: I may have worn one or two of them before these events, but I haven’t worn any of them since. At least if I’m going to buy a new dress for every event, I buy them on sale!

<3 K

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All of my lovely dresses, now relinquished to my dress cemetery :(. And my sneakers, to prove that really is what I’m wearing right this minute.

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Black dress rom H&M, on sale for $5!

 

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Blue dress from Urban Outfitter, on sale for some price that I forget but was very reasonable.

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Yet another black dress from H&M, also on sale. You can’t see it, but it’s half cloth, half leather.

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Love this one, though of course, I probably can’t ever bring myself to put it on a second time. Bar III black lace dress with tan underneath from Macy’s (on sale, of course).

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Destruction of Beauty by the Hands of Its Makers

The room, packed with thick black frames and flannel, swelled with heat, noise, and the smell of free beer wafting from hundreds of plastic cups. In the corner, writers posed in an old fashioned photo booth and waited the mandatory three minutes for their overexposed pictures. I was exhausted by a day of travel from Washington (city) to Washington (state) followed by AWP panels and eager writers whom I tried to convince to send me travel poetry—and yet, I rode a manic high. This was Tin House, a magazine that intimidated me so thoroughly that I didn’t even introduce myself to the editors, despite my recent book publication. Tonight I would finally get to see several writers who had “made it,” had earned their way to a slot reading at Chop Suey in front of a room full of envious colleagues. One of the editors, whom I didn’t know by name due to my aforementioned introduction awkwardness, took the stage to introduce the first reader, and my body tensed in anticipation.

Unfortunately, though the editor spoke into the microphone in a clear, loud voice, as did the writer who read after him, I couldn’t hear a word. All I could hear, assailing my ears like so many untuned instruments, were the voices of the disrespectful writers who talked over the man sharing a personal piece about his father, and over the next writer, and over the next writer after that.

I had never been so furious.

The next night, while waiting to enter a Henry at War concert, I went to the bathroom in a Seattle bar and saw this hung on the stall in front of me:

Painting

Though normally I might have overlooked the destruction (if you can’t tell, there’s a giant X keyed through that painting), that night it was all I could think about. Though the disrespectful audience at the Tin House reading and the woman who had keyed a beautiful painting in a bathroom stall shared a view of the world in which they could destroy, at their whim, a piece of art that someone had created, they differed in that the writers, without a doubt, knew better. These were writers who had travelled across the country and then across the city to rub shoulders with a group of editors they wanted to impress, yet even they could not give their fellow artists the little bit of recognition they desired.

It therefore did not surprise me when, later in the conference, publisher friends told me about their poor book sales. “No one is buying,” one of them told me, and he was right. Writers scoured the rooms for magazine editors and publishers they wanted to slip their business card or hound about a recent Submittable “in progress” switch, but they didn’t want to read the work of the men and women those editors and publishers enjoyed. If we, as artists, cannot support each other as we navigate the waters of conferences, submissions, and publications, how can we expect anyone else to do the same? If you’re reading this, and you’re a writer, please think about supporting an indie press by buying a book or an indie magazine by purchasing a subscription. Trust me, expanding your realm of knowledge will benefit you even more than it will benefit them. And maybe, in this ever-changing writing world, a little more knowledge is exactly what we need.