In Your Next Beach Read, we want to introduce you to a new author every day in June in the hopes that you’ll find the next book you want to take with you to the beach, the pool, or the comforts of air conditioning.
Today’s author is Leslie Halpern, author of Scantily Clad Truths: Essays on Life with Clothes (and without).
What’s your name and where are you from?
Leslie C. Halpern, Oviedo, Florida
How long have you been writing? How did you start?
My first poem was published when I was in the third grade, and I have been writing ever since. I still write poetry, but my published work expanded to include essays, articles, reviews, and books.
Who are some of your influences?
One of the most important influences on my writing is O. Henry (William Sydney Porter). I admire his wit, playfulness, and plot twist endings. Many of my poems and essays are playful and feature a plot twist ending. I’ll leave it to my readers to determine whether or not my writing is witty. Poems and stories by Edgar Allan Poe also influenced my work.
What is your book about?
Scantily Clad Truths: Essays on Life with Clothes (and without) is a collection of humorous personal essays about strange experiences I’ve had in my personal life and in my professional career as an entertainment journalist. Though each story has a different focus, they all unite through the element of clothing, which helps establish time, place, and state of mind.
Where did you get the idea?
People are always amused when I share stories from my past with them, so I decided to compile some of the most bizarre experiences into a book.
How long did it take you to finish it?
It depends on how you look at it. Because these are stories from parts of my life, you could say the book took 35 years to create. However, the actual writing took about six months.
Is this your first book, or have you written more than one?
I have 12 published books, and my poetry appears in dozens of anthologies.
We all like to write about people we know, even if we never name them. Who are some people who inspired characters or situations?
All the personal essays in my book are true, so every character is real. I name the celebrities (including Kurt Vonnegut, Bill Cosby, Betty White, Francis Ford Coppola, and Al Gore) in my stories because these are public people whom I met in a professional capacity as an entertainment journalist. I changed the names of some of the private people mentioned (especially those who engaged in embarrassing or illegal activities).
What’s your favorite scene in the book?
My favorite scene is when I mistakenly walked down the celebrity red carpet at Walt Disney World.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you ever got?
“Write what you know.” It’s the most authentic way to write poetry and personal essays.
What’s the worst?
“Write what you know.” It’s limiting when writing nonfiction, which ideally involves lots of research and analysis as the writer explores new connections between ideas.
Where can we buy your book?
Leslie C. Halpern is a poet and author of 12 books. Her poetry, articles, essays, and reviews have been published in hundreds of publications. Leslie won the Gwendolyn Brooks Writers Association Editor’s Award for Poetry, was awarded the first place prize for humorous poetry in the National Federation of State Poetry Societies, and her book Scantily Clad Truths was recently named a Finalist in the 2019 President’s Book Awards, sponsored by Florida Authors and Publishers Association.
Leslie earned a Master’s Degree in Liberal Arts from Rollins College and a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from University of Kentucky.