Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Writing La La Land

Life has been pretty crazy for this aspiring fashion writer of late. So today, I'd thought a share a little of my latest project with you all... I'm working on a novel (November is National Novel Writing Month, after all!) that could accurately be categorized as "chick lit," or even its subcategory, "shoe lit," though I prefer to think of it as a screwball comedy in the vain of a Doris Day/Rock Hudson film featuring a plucky female lead and dashing leading man... yes, I picture it as more of a film. Maybe I will turn it into a screenplay, eventually. For now, I've got a first chapter that's rife with fashion cliches and vapidity, but still a lot of fun. So, I thought why not post an excerpt here and see what you think? Then tell me, what creative pursuits have you been working on lately?

I’ve been working at Star Tracker since my 24th birthday. After surviving various retail jobs around Los Angeles, including, but not limited to, a year and a half as a Coffee Bean barista and one epic day as a shoe saleswoman, landing an administrative assistant position at Star Tracker made me feel like I’d struck gold. Sure, I was a mere receptionist, quickly relegated to 'coffee slave' status, but still, I was overjoyed— I earned twice as much fetching coffee as I did slinging it.

I stuck out the position for over two years, gradually piping up to Gloria Bishop, editor-in-chief, that I could write and edit, too. After all, I did have a communications degree, along with a few decent newspaper and publishing internships. I took on as many editing projects as possible while sitting at the front desk, and maintained my own fashion blog on the side (which, ahem, I never updated on the job). Impressed with my work ethic, Gloria promoted me to editorial assistant when there was an opening. I worked primarily in the news room, though I was ultimately aiming for the fashion department. Imagine my surprise when, a year later, I was promoted to assistant beauty editor. And that’s the title I’ve held ever since. If I stick around, there’s a chance I could become the beauty editor, but I’m not holding my breath. “Fashion Editor” is all I’ve ever wanted, but that job belongs to the fierce Vanessa Cane. And she’s not letting it go anytime soon, no more than she would drop an Alexander McQueen clutch at a sample sale.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t volunteer to pick up her slack, when needed. Truth be told, I can be a bit of kiss-up at work. It’s not like I love my job to death and want to stay here forever; but I do like my job, and wouldn’t mind advancing as much as I can and getting a solid recommendation before I attempt to work at another magazine. And, just between you and me, I’m really sick of beauty. I know many women, especially L.A. ones, live and die by their beauty products, but it’s never really been my thing. I mean, it’s been three years since I started working in beauty editorial, and I still haven’t got a clue how to keep my self-tanner from streaking. And I swear by drugstore brands, which most of the other girls find deplorable. Sure, I like Nars the Multiple too, but not when I have to pay for it myself; and why spend a week’s worth of groceries when blush by Maybelline works just as well? But, then, whenever I receive a high-end beauty sample, I’m as giddy as any other girl.

So today I’m planning to stage a little coup d'état in the fashion department. There’s a big shoot coming up next week with some major film stars, and I desperately want to pull some of the looks for the spread. It’s a major opportunity because Star Tracker usually relies on paparazzi photos of celebrities and rarely stages its own fashion shoots; this one is unique because it’s for our holiday fashion issue (which was mainly my idea, though no one will give me credit for it; no one “remembers” that I started pitching it back in July). Anyway, I’ve offered my assistance for the past few months, but no one is biting. Now that I’ve learned that Lucy and Vanessa are swamped, however, I feel like there’s a very good chance that Gloria will delegate some tasks to me. I hope.

I take a deep breath and approach her office door, knocking cautiously.

“Gloria, could I have a moment?”

“Yes,” she clips in her British accent, “only very briefly, as I’m trying to concentrate.”

I venture in and see she’s clutching the latest People StyleWatch.

“Ah, StyleWatch,” I point out, attempting a joke. “I hear there are some pretty good 'articles' this month.”

“It’s all right,” Gloria muses, flipping a page. “A tad wordy for my tastes, though. So what can I do for you?”

Oh, boy. I’m tempted to rub my clammy palms on my J. Crew skirt, but Gloria would notice. Instead I clasp them in front of me.

“Well,” I begin. “I know we’re all gearing up for the holiday issue, and it’s come to my attention that Lucy and Vanessa seem a bit… overwhelmed. I was wondering if I might take on a few extra projects to relieve the fashion department next week.”

There, I’ve said it. Gloria arches one perfectly shaped brow, pondering.

“I see.” She closes her magazine and sets it down, then looks up at me. “Amy, do you know why I hired you as assistant beauty editor?”

Other than throwing me a bone with a promotion after three years of enslaved drudgery, I couldn’t say. I just shake my head “no.”

“I was impressed with your adherence to deadlines and overall tenacity. But mainly, I gave you the job because you have flawless skin.”

My hand flies to my cheek, self-consciously. Really? I’m flattered, as superficial as it sounds, and can feel my face getting hot.

“This shows that you care about beauty. Plus you always recommend pharmacy brands; readers really like that.”

Well, gee, I want to say, shocking that stay-at-home moms in the Midwest and college students can’t afford to run out and buy La Mer. This assistant beauty editor in L.A. can’t afford it, either! Why would I recommend anything I wouldn’t use myself? But there’s no point in bringing this up to Gloria.

“So while I would like to see you in fashion, I really would, I can’t help but think that you simply belong in beauty. Fashion is a great place to work, but let’s be honest, Amy. You’ve never shown much initiative there.”

What?!? I want to scream. I’ve shown plenty of freaking initiative over the years! What about all the looks I’ve pulled, the stories I’ve pitched, the way I’ve pushed the holiday fashion issue? Does all of that count for nothing?

“I mean, look at Vanessa,” Gloria is still talking, somehow. I swivel a glance over my shoulder at the fashion editor, who is prancing around in a curve-hugging Louis Vuitton sheath with sleek Louboutins, accessorized with a Chanel bag. Of course. Just another day at the office for her. I want to mention to Gloria that Vanessa has maxed out fifteen credit cards and lives off celery, but manage to hold my tongue.

“Vanessa,” Gloria continues, “brings her dedication and expertly-honed fashion sense into work every day.” She gives me a disapproving once-over. “I’m afraid I can’t say the same for you.”

I glance down at my floral Anthropologie cardigan, which wasn’t cheap, mind you, and J. Crew brocade skirt, paired with chic, and affordable, nude pumps from Aldo. It’s one of my favorite outfits. It’s comfortable, polished and office-appropriate. Is Gloria telling me that the only way I can work in fashion is by going into serious debt wearing haute couture? To the office?

Ah. She’s read my mind. “I do like your mish-mash of H&M and Target clothes, dear, but it’s rather dowdy, I’m afraid. I would think if you were so interested in fashion, you’d try something a little more… edgy.” Dismissively, she picks up her StyleWatch again. “So until I see some more initiative from you, I’m afraid you’ll have to stay right where you are. Besides, I still need you to submit your selections for next week’s beauty editorial. And if I don’t see Chanel’s holiday nail polish collection, we’re going to have a serious problem.”

Bam. Gloria’s written me off, just like that. Still, my foot is in the door, literally, so I’m not about to give up that easily.

“I understand, Gloria,” I say sweetly. “I’ll try to make more of an effort. But in the meantime, I think the fashion department could really use a few extra hands on this shoot. And,” I can’t resist adding, “My editorial is nearly finished. I’ll have it to you this afternoon.”

“Well…” Gloria doesn’t bother looking up from her magazine. “Let’s see what Vanessa thinks, shall we? Vanessa!”

Great. Not Vanessa. The whole point of approaching Gloria was so I could go over Vanessa’s head, and my assistance would be an order from above that she couldn’t refuse. Now Gloria is giving her a choice. And Vanessa doesn’t like doing anyone any favors.

She comes bounding over, her long, silky blonde waves making her look like an eager golden retriever. “Yes, Gloria?”

Gloria, still pretending to be immersed in StyleWatch, simply says, “Amy would like to help with the fashion editorial for next week’s shoot. Could you see if there’s some little task she could do?”

Vanessa, too, gives my outfit a once-over, and seems to curl her lips in disgust. Nice.

“I suppose she could help with the steaming,” Vanessa sniffs. She? Vanessa is looking right at me as she says this, but can’t be bothered to address me herself.

“Very good.” Gloria waves her hand. “Off you go, then.”

Vanessa smirks at me as she slinks back to her desk.

Steaming? I want to scream. I haven’t steamed garments since I worked retail. That’s something interns do, and they work for free. What about the editorial? I’m opening my mouth to protest when Lucy cuts in.

“Gloria, really. Can’t we just get the interns to do it? We’ve got, like, twenty more looks to pull, and I think we could really use Amy’s eye. She’d make a killer stylist, you know.” She gives me a wink, then turns a hopeful face to Gloria. Vanessa, meanwhile, is shooting her assistant a death glare.

I can see Gloria considering this. Lucy is awesome. She’s never afraid to stick her neck out for someone else. She doesn’t even care if she gets reprimanded, since she only took this job so she could one day start her own styling business. She vows she’ll quit the minute she has enough money saved up. Only problem is, to look the part of an on-trend stylist, Lucy has to stay in fashion… and spend a lot of money trying. Every time she drains her savings account for great vintage, she swears it’s a business investment. Fashion is full of double-edged swords like this. But Lucy promises to hire me as her assistant once business is booming. This is why she’s my best friend in the office, even if her job is way cooler than mine and I secretly hate her for it.

© Erin C. Dale 2010

And there you have it. Thanks for reading if you got to the end of this scene! I'll keep you posted on any future developments. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving! I'll be in New York for the weekend and hope to have some fun photos to share when I get back.


Emily, Resplendent Tranquility said...

I always love reading your stuff! I was curious whether you were doing Nanowrimo this year or not. Glad to see you are. More importantly, thank you for sharing!

Oh, and there's one little line in the first paragraph that, upon being read, was followed by a very loud laugh on my part. Can you guess which one? ;)

Erin Cathleen said...

Hmm, I'm guessing it was the bit about being a shoe saleswoman? Ah, yes. Neither of us know a thing about that. ;) Well, I probably know a little bit less, anyway. I can barely remember my day at DSW, long ago... only that it was heinous, and I am obviously still tortured. Perhaps one day I'll write a short story just about that. :P Thanks for reading! I'm glad to know I managed to make you giggle. ^_^

And Nanowrimo is fun! I've only just started and there are but a few days left, but whatever. You should try it, too! :D

Emily, Ruby Slipper Traveller said...

Ooh, it's fun! I've never read many of that kind of book,but I will read yours if you finish it. And am loving to hate the fashion editor... ; )

My one tiny recommendation would be to jump straight into the action and slot some of the build-up that you have in the first page into strategic inserts as the scene develops. Just my meddling opinion! ; )

I was writing a children's novel this summer, which I loved, but now I'm stuck in essaydom... My sister gave me the NaNoWriMo book last Christmas though, so maybe I'll give the novel-in-a-month thing a go when I have some time!