Kelsey Timmerman on Where Am I Wearing?

Kelsey Timmerman, of Where Am I Wearing? fame has been featured on Vagablogging a time or two before. Now, he has a new book scheduled to be published on December 1 (available for pre-order on Amazon), a new wife, and a baby on the way. Despite his busy schedule, Vagablogging was able to track him down for a few questions.

How is the book publishing process coming along?

Nicely. So far there have been surprisingly few glitches. I’m not sure what I expected.

As a first-time author it really helps to have people walking you through the process step by step. What’s cool is that so many people jump on board behind your idea. I have an editor, assistant editor, agent, marketing guru, publicity guru, production guru, copy editor, etc., and we are all working to get the story out about the people that make our clothes. It’s a lot of fun.

Is the process of writing and publishing a book different than you expected or surprising in some way?

It’s different in that I never knew I could write a book so fast. Before Wiley bought my book, they asked if I could have it done by mid-April so they could publish it in the fall of ‘08. It was January.

To myself: Is 3.5 months enough time to write a book? What if something goes wrong? What if that something is my brain?

To Wiley: Only one book? Sure, I can have it to you by mid-April. No problem.

I had written the first chapter already, which was included with my book proposal, but I still had to write the remaining 3/4ths. It’s amazing how much you can get done if you put in 3 to 7, 8-hour days per week.

It helped having major motivation.

In the book I meet the people who made my clothes and I learn about their lives. If they hadn’t opened-up to me, there wouldn’t be a book. I feel that I kind of owe them to tell their stories to as many people as possible. That’s motivation #1.

Motivation #2 is the book contract. I think they haul authors who can’t meet their obligations away to a labor camp to write instruction manuals for IKEA (if not the author themselves, at the very least, their career).

What advice would you give to a traveler who wants to publish a book?

Love to write as much if not more than you love to travel. I used to be a traveler that wrote, now I’m a writer that travels. There’s a big difference. I don’t book tickets to destinations, I book tickets to (what I hope to be) stories that will grab me, slap me in the face and scream, “Tell me! Tell me!”

In a way, writing has kind of ruined my traveling. If I go a day or two without uncovering a bit more of the story I’m after or if I spend all day in a bungalow swinging in a hammock, I go nuts.

The hakuna matata, living-on-island-time lifestyle that I had on my early trips is gone. To write a book, sooner or later, I think this line has to be crossed.

Write for an audience. In order to get your book published you have to write something that a host of someone-else’s thinks an even larger pool of someone-else’s will be interested in reading. That’s not an easy something to accomplish. Write for your local paper or on your blog or wherever, just write to be read. By writing for an audience you’ll hold yourself to a higher standard.

Go to writer’s conferences and make contacts. I’ve only been to a few, but all of my “breaks” (first story in nationally recognized publication, first major assignment, and landing my agent) have resulted from writer’s conferences.

Be completely indifferent to rejection. When I submit something I make sure that it’s my best work, but once it is out of my hands, I don’t expect anything to come of it. I call this being cautiously pessimistic. I have stacks of paper rejections and megabytes worth of email rejections.

Don’t do it for the money. I do it because I love telling stories. I’ve always had other work and still do. If I would have taken a year off to make a go at the writing thing back when I dubbed it my career of choice six years ago, I probably would have said “screw it” a long time ago.

Patience is required.

And most importantly, don’t put too much value in other people’s advice.

How did you get an agent and a book deal?


I met my agent, Caren, at a writing conference in Indiana . I sat at a table with agent-hungry writers and asked her, “I have a couple of agents interested in my book and I’m not sure what to do. Any thoughts?” To which the agent-hungry writers rolled their eyes and said a version of “Oh, you poor thing.”

Yes, it was a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless. Caren asked me what my book was and she said something like, “There aren’t that many original ideas out there, but this is one.”

She had me at “original.” A few weeks later I sent her my book proposal, she liked it, and offered me representation.

Book Deal:

Caren should get much of the credit for this. She helped tweak my proposal and then sent it to 20 or so publishers. As it turned out Wiley was re-releasing Travels of a T-shirt by Pietra Rivoli, in which the author follows her T-shirt from Texas cotton field to Chinese factory to Florida T-shirt shop, and my book that focuses less on the economics and politics and more on the people and lives of the garment industry would make a nice (step-) sister to Rivoli’s. Ironically, when I first had the idea of Where am I Wearing? and started vetting the idea, Travels of a T-shirt was the first place I turned.

Long story short: Right time. Right editor. Right publisher.

What is the next step in this process?

I turned over my most recent version of the manuscript last month and I’m waiting to hear back from the copy editor. Hopefully it isn’t too mistake-ridden. After that I guess the next stage of the book will be talking about it. Until then, I’ve got another book idea that I’m raring to get started on.

Congratulations on expecting a child! What would you like your child to learn from your writing?

Wow! That’s a tough question.

I heard on the radio the other day that Randy Pausch of “Last Lecture” fame died. In his last lecture he mentions brick walls: “The brick walls are there for a reason. Right? The brick walls are not there to keep us out, the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.” In general, that seems to be pretty awesome advice.

Mostly, I would tell him or her, “When I was 20, looking back to when I was 15 I saw how foolish I was. Now that I’m 30 I see how foolish I was when I was 20. So if you really want some wise advice, check back in about 60 years.”

Posted by | Comments (2)  | August 21, 2008
Category: Travel Writing

2 Responses to “Kelsey Timmerman on Where Am I Wearing?

  1. NewssyLee Says:

    Thanks to you