Article Archive: November 2011

Ruby Jean’s bag of tricks

It was such a pleasure to meet British transplant Ruby Jean Wilson during London Fashion Week. As I drooled over her bag and we chatted, I thought of Karl Lagerfeld’s words… “I don’t like standard beauty, there is no beauty without strangeness.” Ruby Jean was born in Scotland “in the hospital in the overdose scene in Trainspotting.” and subsequently both it and ‘This is England’ are her favourite movies. “I miss Scotland and England” she explained “I moved to England when I was five and then to New South Wales when I was fourteen.” Now at eighteen, she’s constantly on the move. So hence that big bag! I love its oversizedness.

Taking these photos on the street in London was fun but I wasn’t about to ask Ruby Jean to pour her life onto the pavement so we peaked inside instead. “Anything head-to-toe is not in my vocabulary” she laughed even though on this occasion both her grey sweater and black trousers are both from Uniqlo. And the Alexander Wang bag? “I carry my life around in it,” she says, pulling out two jackets rolled into one. “To be worn together, layered,” she specified. Her Alexander Wang bag also held Rescue Remedy Pastilles, her model portfolio, many books and bags of products which is a whole other post soon. We talked about the nutrition books she hauls around and then she told me that a book that she thinks everyone should read is “Journey of Souls by Dr. Michael Newton. It’s not to everyone’s taste, but it’s fascinating. I love reading.” So do I.

And there’s something else I have in common with Ruby Jean, her love for high street labels… her American Apparel micro mesh top for example which is a micro-mesh dress. We agreed that we love AA because it always has pieces that are hard to find in other stores. As for her simple socks and these Doc Marten 1461 shoes. “Anyone can wear these,” she says. I will have to try a pair soon.

Meanwhile she’s an anomaly to the fashion mold because she just so humble. You’d never guess that Stefano Pilati chose her as an Yves Saint Lauren exclusive model to open the Autumn/Winter Yves Saint Laurent show in Paris last March. “I only realised a few minutes before I was about to step onto the catwalk that I was opening the show,” she said. No surprise then that she modeled at Paul Smith’s Spring/Summer2012 show in September at London Fashion Week. See my shot from the show frow above. (Thanks Mr. Smith). Oh and good timing to maybe mention this, as it was announced today… Sir Paul Smith @PaulSmithDesign is to receive this year’s British Fashion Award for Outstanding Achievement on November 28th. I filmed this little movie with him here a little while ago and if you haven’t seen it, he’s so lovely. Today’s news makes me so happy. It’s nice to see lovely people in fashion being honoured. Speaking of which to see more of Ruby Jean Wilson’s style you might like to look at this tumblr a super-fan of hers set up here.
I think my next fashion challenge should be to fill an Alexander Wang bag like this one and see how long I can survive marooned in a city Bear Grylls style.

I’m an open book

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It’s taken me a bit to muster up the courage to post this blog post. Last week I was asked some questions here and it was beyond my ability then to reply. Not because I didn’t have the answers, no it’s more complicated than that. I had to work through the questions properly, let them occupy my mind.

I went to bed and wrestled with the pillows and these questions, lying awake, looking up into the darkness in figuring out mode (one hand tucked under a pillow or slipped behind my head) scrunching my face up and trying to come up with suitable replies. Each morning, I’d be none the wiser than the night before.

Then today, finally some answers. You asked “where/how do you write your Goddess Guide books?” and “what are the secrets of your writing success?” (an absurd idea, that last one everyone, but the way a writer’s life works these days…. I don’t know how many readers need to buy a book for one to be automatically labelled “a hit”. None bought my first book in the beginning. People just told each other and it just kind of grew). So what follows is my honest account of how I take the contents of my brain and tip them onto paper. The books section on this blog shows the process in pictures but this is more about what goes on behind the closed door.

Anyone who has ever told you writing is easy was fibbing. Some days it involves sitting in front of a blank page and waiting for the muse to descend. After five minutes, if nothing’s happened, undeterred, I start anyway. Most days bring elation and as many bring complete and utter despair. While most of you might not even be aware of this, I have recently adopted a secret weapon, her name is Fraidy. (She’s my cat).

Two years ago on new years eve I had a bright idea. “Why don’t we”, I suggested to my boyfriend, “let this stray little black and white kitten come in from the snow for a bit?” Thin, lonely, scared, surely she could do no harm. She wasn’t having any if it; thought it was her duty to create a feral scene for months, hiding under our couch she would try to bite every time we came near.

“Come on Peter”, I urged my boyfriend, “don’t be squeamish, it’s nature’s way, you don’t like her at the moment any more than I do, we could bet on which one survives the longest with her???”,  (my money was on me, because I’d had a cat when I was a seven. I knew they liked to head butt and be ‘spoken to’ in a high pitched voice and maybe she’d come round).

“No, I don’t think we can do it,” I said to Peter after eight weeks. “Besides, he was funny about cats.” “OK”, I said, remembering hearing him become upset about some stray kittens he’d seen walking to and from work, “let’s cut her some slack. Let’s give her a break”. It took Fraidy a full six human months to stop using our couch as an escape hatch, a further six to let us even rub her head, last January she progressed  to sitting on a chair next to Peter (ahem) and only recently she’s become a cuddly ball of loving roll over and rub my fluffy tummy please. She’s a lot like the writer bit of me, when I read my work, in all honesty, I want to hide under the couch like Fraidy cat. I’m afraid to let anyone near.

And so Fraidy made me question my fears as a book writer. You could be forgiven for thinking that I’m brave (yes maybe while I’m traveling and blogging ). I can blog from almost anywhere. It’s portable, more casual. But when it comes to book writing, it’s a different ask. Book writing  and illustrating is so much more of a solitary task; researching, scribbling and honing behind a closed door on your own. I won’t say book writing doesn’t change me sometimes, ‘cos it does, I tend to get quiet and am at my most vulnerable. It’s the rawest time; first draft, you can show no-one because if they make the tiniest remark it kills you dead. The general advice is to put first draft in a drawer and return to it six weeks later. I’ll let you know how I’m doing when I get to that part.

Very early one morning last week, rushing for the airport, with no time for a proper breakfast, I grabbed a book from my shelves to take with me while the house slept. A couple of hours later on the flight I felt its weight drag a bit on my arm. I was holding nearly a pound’s weight of another author’s writing in my arms and I thought “gosh the time a writer has had to put in to create that weight of work. Time the author had most likely spent on his or her own with a door closed to the outside world.” In turn I the reader was about to invest time and commitment on my own absorbing it. And say what you like about flights but I tend to do some of my best thinking at 30,000 feet. Out of a clear blue sky, came “the bond that ties a solitary writer to a solitary reader is the book.” I know (it was very early).

But you gotta be your own person, haven’t you when it comes to trying to find satisfaction in your work, which is why to be any sort of a competent writer I have to read and write constantly. Two thousand words a day. There’s no way around this. No back door. And as for reading, every book I pick up is a learning tool, good or bad. When someone sweeps me away with the beauty and cleverness of his/her writing, it’s like looking at a beautiful painting or standing and gazing into a vista, the Grand Canyon say. I’ll be honest here, to any writer wanting to improve, reading is essential. Reading also creates an ease and an intimacy with words.

So when I’m asked how/where I get inspiration from I try to limit my answer. There is no magic place. I don’t know about other writers but I write my way towards inspiration. When I’m asked that question by interviewers I tell them these three things: I stay physically healthy by running, I read alot and try to tell stories like my Irish ancestors before me and oh, I have a good muse/friend in Fraidy my cat. It’s a good answer because it makes the question go away, and because it is in fact the truth. The combination of a healthy body and a loving cat behind the writer’s closed door has made my writing life better.

Oh and as for personally judging whether a book is good or bad? I believe a good book will always eventually find an appreciative audience. In saying that, I also realised a very long time ago that I was lucky. I am nothing more than a fortunate freak as a writer, not too different to an obscure model who had the good fortune, luck and right timing one day to get plucked from a bunch of girls at the zoo or while waiting for a bus on the street. I caught a lucky break and ever day since I write to try and become better as a writer. So I face my Mac book air again tomorrow and whether it’s to work on the book or to blog, either way I don’t ever write just for the heck of it. I’m only ever brave enough to publish my words when I’ve something meaningful to say.

P.S.
“I would like to see anyone, prophet, king or God, convince a thousand cats to do the same thing at the same time.” — Neil Gaiman