Chelsea Fagan‘s musings on the Real Housewives, boys in briefs, and Election Day drinking games have made the writer and editor a favorite on ThoughtCatalog, the popular and ever-so-slightly infamous site of self-dubbed relevant and relatable writing. Now, with the advent of TC’s new eBook imprint, the comedically-gifted 23-year-old has published her first eBook, Take Out Your Earrings Before You Fight (and other things I learned in public school). Here, Fagan talks about all those lovely TC critics, the effects of leading a Parisian life, and what her 13-year-old self would think of her literary offerings.
Take Out Your Earrings Before You Fight sounds hilarious. Why did you go with the public school system as your first book subject?
We definitely have an interest right now as a culture in prep schools and private schools. We like the sort of hidden-away, juicy aspects of this pampered life that we can’t necessarily imagine—but I actually find public school, especially a run-of-the mill one where pretty salty things are still going on, to be much more compelling.
Where did you go to public school?
In Charlotte, North Carolina, and Annapolis, Maryland. I mostly discuss middle and high school, though, which were Annapolis Middle School and Annapolis high school, respectively.
Public or private for your future progeny?
Public. Definitely. I think it teaches you a lot about how the real world works and can provide a really god education if you’re willing to work for it. There are kids who went to Ivy Leagues from our school, and kids who didn’t graduate. I think public school is definitely sink-or-swim, but so is life.
Were you throwing around any other ideas for your first eBook? Your TC writing covers so much: pimples, being 13, romcoms, being boring.
I knew I wanted to talk about public school right from the get-go, just because I think it’s such an interesting topic that one can really cover at-length without getting tedious. And I usually stay away from it in articles, because I don’t want to just scratch the surface without really getting into detail.
How often will TC be putting out eBooks?
We are still determining the rhythm right now, but expect a new title bi-weekly.
The Internet seems to be on a bit of a visual streak with Tumblr, instagram, Pinterest. Why has TC instead gone deeper into the print world?
Because I feel we are fairly good proof that people still love to read, they know that text-based content can be just as fun and creative as image-based. They will read if the writing is compelling or funny or intelligent. It can be exhausting to be looking at images all the time—and this is coming from someone who is addicted to Tumblr. It can be nice to really bite into something more in-depth from time to time.
How do you see the book imprint expanding or adding on TC’s online form and subject matter?
I think it’s more for everyone. Readers get more in-depth, creative content on certain subjects, and get to read their favorite authors for longer, and we get to give more freedom to writers who want to say something with us that might not necessarily be right for a shorter article format. On all sides, we have more of an opportunity to let people have fun and explore.
TC has been called indulgent and unaware by its harshest critics. What do you say to that?
There is plenty of very serious, well-researched content on our site—or even more esoteric humor pieces—but it’s simply the truth that lists and other, more “light” content is what is popular. And that is what’s easiest to attack. To insult it, though, is to insult our readers, to say that their tastes and what they relate to is inherently less worthy, and it seems the ultimate snobbery to me. If someone can relate to another human being talking about getting a zit before a date, why shame them for it? There is a place in life for academia and journalism and philosophy, and there is a place in life for lighthearted comedy or confessionals. I think we, and our readers, are intelligent enough to enjoy both.
Do you feel the format of TC has affected your writing style?
I definitely think it puts a high premium on a good economy of words and a more biting, concise style. I have always enjoyed writing like that, for a more rapid consumption, and having to please in 1,000-ish words really hones that skill. I’d say I’ve become more concise, if anything.
What writers, bloggers, or websites have influenced your work and your voice?
I love a lot of humor writers like Bill Bryson, Julie Klausner, or David Sedaris. I read The Onion all the time. And I have tons of smaller blogs that I follow for different kinds of content. I also love Rue 89, which is a very hip and well-written online magazine here in France.
What do you read on a regular basis?
As much good internet-based writing as I can get my hands on. I love Grantland, The Onion, NYMag, etc. I am not in the States, so it’s harder to get print stuff—I suppose I hate the people who don’t make their content available online out of some misguided belief that they owe it to me, but it’s still frustrating not to get it.
You’re an American in Paris. Did you ever worry that living in France would affect your subject matter and the ability for American audiences to connect to it?
If I’ve learned one thing living outside the States, it’s that everyone’s problems are the same.
If your 13-year-old self read your TC writing, what do you think she’d say?
YOU ARE GETTING PAID TO WRITE HOLY SHIT OH MY GOD.
What about your 80-year-old self?
I would like to think that it would be nice to have such a clear little window into my soul at 23, but I most likely will probably just think I was an asshole.
What do you think would happen if you didn’t have TC as an outlet to release your encyclopedic pop-culture knowledge and musings on life?
I think I would still be that person who calls my friends and family for four hours a day to talk about inane things with them, because I just feel I have to confirm that someone else knows what I’m talking about. I think they’re all fairly relieved that I can now talk to the Internet about my thoughts on Scott Disick.