Kelsey Timmerman is the man with the plan and his plan was to visit all of the countries where his clothes were made. He wrote his experiences down in his wickedly fun and incredibly provocative book, Where Am I Wearing? Mr. Timmerman is one of the funniest guys I have ever met and his humor comes across in his writing. It’s strange to be laughing so hard when considering important issues and learning about so compelling a subject, but he pulls it off. But no one can introduce him to you better than he can, so here’s an excerpt from the bio section of his webpage: “Whether laughing at the world with garment workers in Cambodia or talking with college students in Indiana, discussing SCUBA diving with lobster divers in Nicaragua or addressing a nonprofit in Florida, playing PlayStation with students in Kosovo or challenging high school students in the U.S. to see the world differently, I seek to connect people through words and pictures. I believe that if we reduce global issues to the stories of individual people, we can better see ourselves, our parents, our sons and daughters, and our hopes and struggles in one another. My writing has appeared in publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Condé Nast Portfolio and has aired on NPR. I’ve spoken on subjects such as globalization, travel, and social responsibility at places like Indiana University, Purdue University, The Palm Beach Democrats, Kiwanis clubs, Chambers of Commerce, book clubs and anywhere else that will let me blab.”
And now Kelsey Timmerman faces the 7 Questions:
Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?
That's a lot of pressure. Depending on what three books I pick, you and your readers will judge me. What if my choices aren't literary enough, will I seem stupid? If I list Dr. Seuss who is my favorite at the moment because I have an 8-month-old daughter, will you think I'm illiterate? If they are too literary, will I seem like a highbrow jackass?
Am I being profiled? Not like interviewing profiled, but like I might commit a crime profiled? Who do you work for? Who sent you?
I can't take it any more. You win. I'll tell you.
Anything by David Sedaris, Bill Bryson, Dave Eggers, etc.
Question Six: How much time do you spend each week writing? Reading?
I wish I could write more. Since my book came out much of my time is dedicated to promo stuff and diaper changing (my daughter was born a month after my book).
I had four months to write my book. During that time I spent 20-30 hours per week writing. I loved it. Now I¹m lucky if I get to write 5-10 hours per week. I¹ve got a new project on the table that I hope I can start working on soon.
I probably read 5-10 hours per week.
Question Five: What was the path that led you to publication?
My path to writing started with a love of travel. At first I traveled for traveling's sake. To experience the freedom of the open road and all that jazz. I was a bum. It was pure. It was beautiful. And then the writing bug bit me and now travel plays second fiddle to writing.
I can no longer bum. If I'm not working on a story, or what could become a story, I've got to move on to one or I'll go nuts. Damned writing anyhow, it had to go a screw with the bum gig.
While living in Key West I wrote a column about my travels for the local weekly paper. I got paid $0. I give any credit of what success I've had writing to the obligation of writing a weekly column. I probably wrote over 100 columns and I started to place them in a couple of other papers. During this period of time I emailed every paper in the country with a circulation over 50,000. I'm not kidding. It was a monumental waste of time, but it taught me a lot about marketing my work.
I met an editor of the Christian Science Monitor at a writing conference and landed several publications there. This led to some radio work and by far my most impressive writing clips.
The trip that would become Where am I wearing? was a leap of faith. I footed my own bill (go 2nd mortgage!). Right before I left on the trip an agent contacted me and asked if I had thought about writing a book about the trip to which I responded, "holy crap I just crapped myself." I'm eloquent like that.
When I returned, I went to the Midwest Writers Workshop in Muncie (where I met you this year) and met another agent, Caren. While I was asking her questions about how to work with the original agent, she asked me what my book was. A few months later she sold my book.
I wrote it. And now I'm one of the top ten living underwear journalists in Indiana. Living the dream, baby!
Question Four: Do you believe writers are born, taught or both? Which was true for you?
For the record, I wasn't born. Well, I was born, but I have no father unless you count the metachlorians. But I fear that I might be taking your question a bit to literally and this could endanger the life of my friends and family so please ignore it.
Anyhow, I've always enjoyed writing. In fourth grade I won an award for a story about flying shoes. (I'm afraid I peaked in fourth grade because I haven't won an award since. Unless you count a few best mental attitude awards and everyone knows that those are for people who stink and manage to remain good sports while stinking. For instance I was in a 3-on-3 basketball tournament and my team got beat by two guys. We didn't cry or throw a fit so we won the best mental attitude award. Losers!)
I remember those first pieces fondly. How writing them with my #2 pencil would leave my middle finger swollen; the redness masked by a layer of gray. I always dreaded sitting down to start them, but enjoyed the process once I dug in.
In college I wrote a paper for Religion 101 about Buddhism. I titled it "Quantum Leap of Faith" and it was largely based on the show Quantum Leap starring Scott Bakula. I got a C-, but never had so much fun on my way to such a subpar score. If you're going to be below average, at least have fun doing it.
What really brought out the writer in me was when I started penning my column about some of my travels and realized that I could take folks around the world 800 words at a time.
Is writing genetic? I don¹t think so, but I was born to a mother who read to me a lot, which got me off to a good start.
Can writing be taught? Probably to some extent, but the joy of writing has to be earned.
Question Three: What is your favorite thing about writing? What is your least favorite thing?
I write about people that I've met, experiences I¹ve had, and places I've visited. What I absolutely love is when writing and the opportunity to reflect that comes with it, brings clarity. When I visited a municipal dump in Cambodia where people picked through trash, or when I took 19 kids and an old man to an Amusement park in Bangladesh for the price of one ticket at Disney World, I couldn't immediately process the experiences. I could only feel and wasn't really sure what I was feeling.
Weeks, months, or years later when I sit down to write about something, it all clicks. That¹s why I felt that way. That¹s why he or she did that. That¹s why everybody in the village was laughing at me.
Writing helps me makes sense of the world and without it I would be lost.
My least favorite thing is the pitching and querying and the waiting. A lot of the stories I want to write require a lot of travel. I need someone to pick up the tab. I wish I was inherently wealthy and could just pursue any story I wanted to write.
I'm getting paid for this interview, right?
Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)
Write what you love. Love what you write.Here are some other bits that I expand on here:(http://thetravelersnotebook.com/photography-q-a/kelsey-timmerman-so-you-want-to-be-an-author/)
Your passion can't be a secret.The more you do something, the less you'll suck (except for golf). You get to do what you love a lot more if someone will pay you to do it. But be patient. Never stop wanting it.
Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?
Mark Twain because he is Mark Twain and would spout wisdoms and hilarities while I'd spit food and drink.
Actual Interview Date: 9/06/2009