Random Chitchats

Shop Talk Tuesday with Ellen Wittlinger

How awesome is this? Today we have Ellen Wittlinger joining us in the shop! Ellen is the author of twelve (twelve!) novels for teenagers, including the recently released Parrotfish which is about a transgendered sixteen-year-old.


Welcome, Ellen! Grab some coffee, get comfy in the beautician’s chair, and let’s get down to the gossip.

First, have you ever had a major hair or salon disaster?

In high school my friend Patty and I decided to put a new product called Summer Blonde on our hair. Pat’s hair was a sort of dark blonde to begin with so it looked okay afterwards. However, my almost black hair turned GREEN. It was quite horrifying, and clashed terribly with my orange legs (due to the application of some kind of magical tanning formula.) Quite the looker.

Ellen, I do believe you are referring to Coppertone’s QT. Remember the commercial? “You get a quick tan with QT, a double tan, you see.” Eww, horrible stuff. Okay, how long have you been with your current stylist and what are your appointment conversations like—chatty and personal, or quiet and professional?

I LOVE my stylist. We talk about everything from our mothers to our daughters to her girlfriends. And she gives clients shoulder massages before she starts which turn you to butter.

Nice! What kind of hairstyle did you have in high school?

The worst was my sophomore year—I call it my helmet-head period. Parted in the middle and poofed up on either side, ending at my cheekbones. I hope all the photos have been destroyed.

In my novel, the ladies have fun with the “Hypothetical Questions of the Week” from their favorite tabloid. So here are some for you:

HQ #1: If you could hit the rewind button, which book published by another author do you wish you could have written?

Either The Little Disturbances of Man or Enormous Changes at the Last Minute, both by Grace Paley. Screenplay… maybe Capote… or something by David Mamet.

HQ #2: You magically find a $100.00 bill in your box of cereal. In what frivolous way would you spend it?

Oh, I hate to say on shoes, that’s so predictable, but also likely the truth. But maybe I’d buy a new tree for my yard!

HQ #3: TV execs are offering you a spot on a new reality show for writers. Do you say yes? If so, how would you be portrayed? (i.e. the boss, whiner, bore, paranoid-wreck, etc.?)

Of course! I would be the wise, but crabby old lady who kept telling the rest of them to “Grow up!”

HQ #4: You’re a big-time celebrity who just had a baby. If you were competing for the most bizarre celebrity baby name, what would it be?

Tinkerbell and Gooseberry (the twins.)

HQ #5: If you followed the career path you chose for yourself in high school, what would you be doing for a living now?

I would be a painter—of pictures, not houses.

The Lightening Round—no more than two words per answer!

Do you . . .
Outline or wing it?
Wing it.
Talk about works-in-progress, or keep your trap shut? Yak, yak
Sell by proposal or completed draft? Depends
Love to edit or cringe at the thought? Enjoy it
Prefer writing a new book or marketing the old? Writing!
Write better at home or in a coffee shop? Depends
Read your released book or no thanks, I’ve read it enough? Enough already!

And finally, what’s your favorite . . .

Time to write? Late in the day
Movie? Nashville
Book? Celine by Brock Cole
Author? Grace Paley
Song? “When I Was a Boy” by Dar Williams
Pair of shoes? Mary Jane sneakers
Guiltiest pleasure? Cheese and petfinder.com
Line from a movie? Oh God, I’m blanking. Probably something from “Priscilla Queen of the Desert”

Thanks for stopping by, Ellen. Grace Paley’s books are now on my to-read list and it’s cool finding out we’re both Dar Williams fans! (My favorite Dar song is Your Fire, Your Soul.) Best of luck with Parrotfish and have a great Thanksgiving!

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