D’OH! — Elissa Schappell & Jennifer Close at Greenlight (sort of)

1. Elissa Schapell with after-reading drink. In addition to all her other goings-on, she gives great interviews — including this one on drinking. 2. Rebecca Lang’s husband was able to hold down the fort at home so she could attend the reading; David Shoemaker designs book covers at Henry Holt and Company. The photo isn’t blurry, the camera was just covered in sweat.

I considered lying in this entry and saying I’d been there all along, but the truth is, I kind of already got busted by Rob Spillman of Tin House. So I’ll just fess up: I really did try, but I’ve been out of town, so work ran late, then the trains ran late too, blah blah blah, and as I sprinted up Fulton to Greenlight Bookstore, I expected the worst. And that’s what I got. The event — Elissa Schappell in conversation with Jennifer Close — was over.

Epic fail, my co-worker Charlie would say. Yes, this was an epic fail. I was depressed about it, and considered heading to 67 Burger to wash down my failure with a Pesto Burger. But then I scooped the sweat out of my eyes, and I noticed the audience was still milling around, and they looked friendly, and relaxed in that good-reading afterglow kind of way. So I made a decision. Even though I was totally drenched with sweat, disgustingly so (like huge patches of moisture blotched my shirt), and I probably smelled like a horse after the Derby, I would pull myself together, pretend I knew what I was talking about, and grab some interviews.

Luckily, I’d done my research on Schapell and Close beforehand, so I felt mildly confident in my ability to wing it. The first duo I met was Rebecca Lang, who works in publicity for Viking, and her friend David Shoemaker. Lang had read a review of Schappell’s book online and was intrigued, while Shoemaker was a former student of Schappell’s. “So how did you like the reading?” I asked. “It was great, I really really loved it,” Lang said, and contrary to many people I’ve interviewed at these events, she sounded sincere.

I wandered around, trying to look nonchalant, and decided to wait in line to meet Schappell and Close, who were at the signing table. They were otherwise occupied, so I settled on a trio by the bookshelves as my next victims. They turned out to be Jennifer Gilmore, Susan Choi and Rob Spillman, who have all done events at Greenlight Bookstore before and had come out to support Schappell. Naturally enough, this is when I got busted.

1. Writers Rob Spillman (Tin House), Susan Choi (A Person of Interest), and Jennifer Gilmore (Something Red), came out to support Schappell. 2. Greenlight, already glowing in the dark when I arrived.

“I’m from Electric Literature,” I said to Spillman.

“Oh, you got us last week,” he returned. I’d spent the last week in California with my family, largely internet-free, so now, to top off my lateness and lameness, I hadn’t realized we’d already pictured him. I stupidly tried to play it off.


“At McNally-Jackson.”

“Oh, yeah!” I said brightly, now acting as though I remembered, though I clearly had no idea.

“Is it all coming back?”

“Yeah.” I jived with embarrassment.

“So…the book is getting great reviews,” I tried.

“It is,” Spillman answered politely. For his part, Spillman, who is married to Schapell, was very gracious and nice to a perfect stranger who came off as a complete idiot.

Idiot trudged back to New Jersey. Now Idiot was sweaty, depressed and embarrassed. I’d obviously forgotten my Homer (Simpson): “Trying is the first step towards failure.” Truth is, Idiot had really been looking forward to the event, which was billed as “two authors who map the experiences of women in contemporary America talk about life and fiction.” Hell, I could use some insight, since my own life seemed to have temporarily gone off the tracks while Elissa Schappell seems to have found some loophole in the space-time continuum. In addition to writing Blueprints for Building Better Girls, the book we’re here to celebrate, turns out she is also the editor of Vanity Fair’s “Hot Type” page and co-founder and editor-at-large of Tin House. Oh, and she’s a mom too, meaning somewhere in between sifting through hundreds of books and hundreds of articles and thousands of words, she found time to get it on.

Thanks to Amazon, I read some of Schappell and Close’s words when I got home (or at least parts of their first chapters) and I loved what I’d read. Close must have been sitting at lunch with me the other day while I lamented my empty bank account, because she so perfectly captures the drain, both financially and emotionally, that weddings are on women in their twenties in her book Girls in White Dresses. Schappell, meanwhile, snapped me right back to the awkward, exciting but ultimately unfulfilling experience that is the early boyfriend:

From the beginning, he told me he liked my eyes. He said he’d never seen anyone with gray eyes before. He’d thought they were blue until he got up close. “I didn’t even know they existed,” he said, running his fingers around my sockets, like he discovered something amazing.

I failed miserably in my task of attending the event, but I did come away from the reading -and my own reading- admiring both of these fine writers. I’m not lying when I say I’m excited to recommend their books to my friends. Is that what this is all about anyway? And what are you gonna do? Sick your dogs on me? Or your bees? Or dogs with bees in their mouth so when they bark they shoot bees at me? (Sorry, I really am being an idiot today).

Blueprints for Building Better Girls: Fiction

by Elissa Schappell


Girls in White Dresses

by Jennifer Close


— Cassie Hay is a regular contributor to The Dish.

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