Let’s be official for a minute:
Charity earned an MFA in creative writing from Oregon State University and a BA in English from Harvard College. Her first novel, Ten Girls to Watch, comes out this July. In 2007, she spent nine months reporting on the 50th Anniversary of Glamour’s “Top Ten College Women” contest, which served as the inspiration for her book. Her writing has appeared in that magazine and has also been published by Fitness, Ladies Home Journal, and Garden Design, among others. She lives with her husband in Brooklyn, New York.
Phew. Now that that’s done with, here’s a slightly less formal introduction. For a lot of my friends, reading Ten Girls to Watch is a fairly disorienting experience. You see, the narrator of the novel and I have a lot in common, and people who know me often come away confused by what happened in real life and what happened only in the novel.
Here’s a handy guide to our similarities and differences.
- Dawn is from a rectilinear western state. Me too! Though she’s from Oregon, and I’m from Utah.
- Dawn boggles her family by heading across the country for college instead of attending a totally reasonable state school. Me too!
- Dawn dates inappropriate people. Me too! Though in real life none of the people who were all wrong for me ever wrote about it in a national magazine, and in real life I went ahead and gave up on inappropriate people a couple of years ago and settled down with an amazingly funny, smart, handsome, reliable, charming devil of a man. Check out his blog! http://plaidliving.blogspot.com/
- Dawn has a tough time after graduation. Again, ditto. Though I actually let her off easy in the book. At one point, the number of jobs Dawn unsuccessfully applied for matched the number of jobs I unsuccessfully applied for in real life, and numerous readers informed me that the count seemed unrealistically high. So I cut Dawn’s agony roughly in half. I also spared Dawn the indignity of bunkbeds, something I endured for quite a while after graduation. Nothing makes you feel more awesome than being twenty-four and coming home from work to the squeaky bunkbeds you share with a roommate you haven’t talked to in months despite the fact that she hears you audibly sobbing every night. That got so dark so quickly! Sorry about that! See why I left it out of the book?
- Dawn works at Charm Magazine tracking down all the women who won the magazine’s Ten Girls to Watch contest. I worked at Glamour tracking down all the women who won the magazine’s Top Ten College Women contest. Though all the women who appear in the book are fictional characters, as in the book, in real life they were awesome.
- Dawn writes a lawn care column despite the fact that she knows nothing about lawns. I did that too! In fact, I only quit about six months ago. But along the way a surprising thing happened. I discovered I really loved lawn care. Gardening in general, actually. So I went ahead and got my certificate in horticulture at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and now I write about gardening using my real name and everything on a website called Spade & Spatula.
- Dawn’s parents are divorced. Mine too. Though they’re really very different from the parents in the book. I love you, Mom! I love you, Dad!
- Dawn has a sister. Me too. Though again, my fabulous real life sister doesn’t bear much resemblance to the sister in the book, and I have four wild and crazy brothers in the mix as well.
- Dawn does weird things for money. Me too. I more or less participated in the same sleep study as Dawn. My lab tech was also hot. In real life, maybe fortunately maybe unfortunately, we did not make out.
- I don’t want to spoil any plot points for folks who haven’t read the book yet, but Dawn has to call 9-1-1 for various apartment-related emergencies. In real life, my neighbors were the ones who called 9-1-1, and no actual fleeing was required.