What could possibly be better than reading one woman’s confessions about her most ridiculous gaffes, goofs, slip-ups and snafus? How about reading 40 women’s most hilariously uncomfortable and embarrassing and intimate moments? Leslie Marinelli, editor-in-chief of the website, In The Powder Room, recently published just that kind of anthology. Released August 8, You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth: And Other Things You’ll Only Hear from Your Friends In The Powder Room immediately shot to the top of Amazon’s Hot New Releases list for Kindle Humor Essays and is currently camped out as the number one-ranked book on Amazon’s list of Top-Rated Humor Essays.
Norine and Jessica sat down with Leslie to talk about what makes her laugh, how 39 became one of her favorite numbers, working in PJs and why she thinks that whole “work-life balance” ideal is total bullshit. And, oh yeah … she might have mentioned something about editing a best-selling anthology, too.
Science Of Parenthood: We love In The Powder Room. That’s where we discovered some of our very favorite bloggers. Every time we pop in, something makes us laugh. So, for anyone who hasn’t yet found their way into In The Powder Room, why don’t you tell us what’s going on in there.
Leslie Marinelli: In The Powder Room is a global online community for women. We’ve been around since 2009. I work in our Atlanta office — otherwise known as “that messy corner of my family room.” But we also have offices in New York City and London. We post two articles a day about pop culture, entertainment, news, parenting. The thing that sets us apart from other online communities for women is that our content tends to be on the edgier side. We don’t have any filters for language, and we tackle topics that others might shy away from. Our articles are either very funny, or they have that raw, uncensored honesty that you don’t always find elsewhere.
Recently, we ran a post about home-schooling, which is such a hot button topic. I think it’s sort of an extension of the Mommy Wars. The stereotype about home-schooled children, of course, is that they’re socially awkward because they’re not getting those life lessons in the classroom that kids get in traditional school settings. The writer, Lori Wescott, who’s also one of the 40 authors in You Have Lipstick On Your Teeth, is telling a story about interviewing a babysitter and recognizing that this girl had what she calls “Terminal Home-schooling Syndrome” because she was so socially awkward. Lori’s not just someone who doesn’t like home-schooling. She was home-schooled herself and knows how socially awkward and challenging it can be. I knew it could be a controversial post, but I liked her personal take on it.
It sounds like your new anthology, You Have Lipstick On Your Teeth, is a natural extension of In The Powder Room, taking it offline and onto the page … or the e-reader.
That’s it, exactly. It’s a natural progression from what we’ve been doing on our site. One of the overriding themes of our website is women helping other women. And the way we do that is through honest connections, trying to relate to each other so people don’t feel so alone. We want people to go, Me too! Thank Gawd I’m not the only one who thinks that!
We started planning this book more than a year ago, and when we were thinking about a theme that would tie all of the essays together, we wanted something that would maintain that intimate “in the powder room” feel. So that’s how we came up with the idea of having lipstick on your teeth. Because that’s really the kind of thing only a true friend would tell you. And that was how we approached the people we wanted to contribute to this book. We invited close to a hundred humorists who’d either already written for us at In The Powder Room or were people we enjoyed reading, and we asked them to give us a story they would only tell their best girlfriends. Then we chose the 39 essays we thought best fit together into a cohesive book.
Thirty-nine? That’s an odd number. Why did you aim for 39?
[Laughing] We were shooting for 38. We felt like that would be a good-sized book. It became 39 because—and this is a true story; anyone who knows me will vouch for how deplorable my email situation is—two weeks after we’d chosen the 38 authors, I got an email from someone we had originally invited to submit, saying, Hey, I never heard back from you. Did you like my story? I was like Oh, shit! I had to go clawing back through my In Box to find it. And when I found it, the story was awesome.
A prime example of why you should ALWAYS send a follow-up email.
I was so glad she had followed up because if I had missed out on that story, I would have kicked myself. And that’s how we got 39. Though it was very upsetting to a few of our writers who have severe OCD. They really wanted an even number. But I like to say we have 40 authors because one of the stories is written by a pair of writers— Ellen Gale Williams and Erin Dwyer Dymowski of Sisterhood Of The Sensible Moms. There are 39 stories by 40 authors. So we do have that even number in there.
How did you choose the essays? What made you go Wow! This has to be in the book!?
My partner, Diane Hayman, who’s in In The Powder Room’s London office, she and I edited the book together. She is my favorite audience, ever. She’s really funny and loves to laugh and has one of those loud, boisterous laughs that’s just contagious. If you hear her laughing, you want to know what she’s laughing about. I’m not as easy to entertain. I’m bitter and mean. I’m jaded. So there were some moments when I was like Eh … I don’t know … Is this funny? And Diane would go, OMG! I love it! So if she loved something, it was going in the book.
When you read so much, it does raise the bar.
I think you’re right. I feel like, especially after being editor-in-chief for a year, I have read so many funny things every week, it really takes a lot to make me laugh out loud. So that was another bar I set for this book. If it could make ME laugh out loud, then I thought it could really entertain other people.
Let’s talk about being editor-in-chief for a moment. How did you come to be In The Powder Room?
I started my blog, The Bearded Iris, in 2008 as a hobby because I was home with a toddler, and I desperately needed a way to connect with the world that didn’t involve my nipples.
Ahhh …. So stripping was out?
LM: Stripping was out for a number of reasons! I’d probably step on my boobs more often than anything else, and that would be embarrassing and painful. So, I started my blog instead. And in 2012, I made the Babble Top 100 Mom Blog list. That’s what got me noticed by the people of In The Powder Room. It really was a match made in heaven. They were looking for someone like me, an edgier blogger who wasn’t beholden to any particular brand, who wasn’t afraid to say outrageous things. And I wanted a place to work. It was a perfect combination.
Many bloggers blog at home, at their kitchen tables, on their couches, on their patios—Tumblr has a whole feed of great photos of where bloggers like to work. In fact, you can see Science Of Parenthood’s Denver office featured there]. But the point is, many bloggers are squeezing in their writing on their free time, when their kids are napping or in school or on the soccer field or basketball court, which can be a tricky balance to maintain. How do you balance your job and kids and family life?
I have three kids, ages 13, 10 and 6. And they are doing a really good job of thriving in spite of my parenting. How I balance is … I don’t balance. That question—how do you balance?—always makes me queasy inside because it’s like Honey! Balance? Balance? I have no balance. I have no time for exercise or a social life. I’m still in my pajamas. (Actually, can my clothes be considered pajamas if I wore them yesterday, then took off the pants, slept in the T-shirt and then woke up today and pulled the pants back on?) Seriously. The people who look like they are doing it all, most certainly are not.
They’re either drinking in the closet or they have a staff.
And I don’t drink, nor do I have a staff. So, I try to get as much done during the day while the kids are in school. But the thing I’ve chosen to completely let go of is —
Sex with your husband?!?
Not sex with my husband. Though if you ask him, I’m sure his answer would be different. I do have sex with my husband, so there’s that. It’s tough to work that into my work life though. Hard as it might be to believe, I do have some boundaries with what I blog and don’t blog. But no. What I’ve let go of is the maintenance on the inside of my home. My house is a hovel. It’s like something out of the TV show Hoarders. And actually I was on Oprah’s Clean Up Your Messy House tour in 2008.
Sounds like THAT could have been an essay in You Have Lipstick On Your Teeth! So, you self-published this anthology. Interesting. You probably could have found a traditional publisher for this book. Why go the self-publishing route?
This is a great book. We are incredibly proud of it. And we could have chosen to shop it around. But we made a conscious choice to publish our book ourselves. We have a team of editors. We have media experience and a background in online publishing. We thought if anyone could self-publish an anthology, it would be us. One of the benefits of doing it yourself is that you have 100 percent control. You’re not turning over your “baby” to someone else and hoping that they uphold your vision. We worked so hard for the past six months to get this together, and we wanted to maintain control over it. And there’s also profitability. If you turn it over to one of the big publishing houses, your profit margin really whittles down. Since In The Powder Room is a small business, we wanted to try to maximize our profitability.
Of course, the advantage of traditional publishing is that there’s cache in “being published.” And you have the larger distribution. I’m actually having a hard time getting my book into stores. I’ve approached two independently owned bookstores in my town, and neither one has embraced me with open arms. They’ve been like Come over here and see our WALL of local authors. You’re welcome to put two of your books on the shelf. And we’ll split it with you 60/40. So, that’s been an eye-opener.
The beauty of self-publishing is that anyone can do it. But because anyone can self-publish, the quality of self-published work out there spans the gamut. I’m assuming bookstore owners believe that if something has made it through all of the publishing house’s flaming hoops, it’s probably safe to put on their shelves. So that’s another benefit of going with one of the traditional publishing houses. Because there’s no way I’m ever going to get this book on the table at Costco or Target.
Fortunately, Science Of Parenthood readers won’t have to hunt through Costco or Target — you can get your copy of You Have Lipstick On Your Teeth right here. One of the things that is so engaging about this anthology is that you have 40 different women writers sharing their stories, but together they reflect some universal truths about our experiences as Women.
It really does span the gamut of life experiences. We have women in this book of different colors and different backgrounds and a variety of ages. Some are moms, some are not. Some work, some don’t. Some are married, some are single. Our writers come from the United States, Britain, Canada, Saudi Arabia. But at the core, this book shows how our experiences as Women transcends everything.
That is one of the distinct benefits that comes with an anthology. I could write my own funny book about my boobs. But, really, it would be kind of limited. However, if I combine my boob story with the stories of 39 other women and their unique perspectives and voices and topics and experiences, now my story is part of this larger collection. And as with any collection, it becomes engaging in new ways because of how the items relate to each other. The whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.
I’ve read You Have Lipstick On Your Teeth many times at this point, and the message I get overall is that with a good friend by your side, or someone you can confide in, you can do anything. Today, in particular, people have the tendency to feel so alone, which is ironic because we’re more connected than ever with all of our devices and social media. Still, we can feel very isolated. But when I read this book, I can hear myself in every single story, and I say Wow, me too! I’ve felt that way. Or OMG that is the worst. Or That is the best! I love when that happens. This book is just a collection of and a reflection of solidarity.
Leslie Marinelli is the editor in chief of In The Powder Room. Her new book, with 39 other women bloggers, is You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth: And Other Things You’ll Only Hear from Your Friends In The Powder Room