A Woman Defined

Art & Culture by Mahvash Mossaed

A Conversation with Lilibet Snellings, the Author of “Box Girl”

March 23, 2014
lilibet-snellings-box-girlI had the opportunity to sit with Lilibet Snellings, the author of newly released book, Box Girl: My Part-Time Job as an Art Installation, for a Q&A . Here are some highlights from that session.

1. What were your dreams for yourself as an artist and a writer when you first came to L.A ?
I moved to LA the September after I graduated college and my dream job was to work at a magazine, which was sort of ironic because I had left New York—the center of the literary world—to move to LA, where there are very few magazines. Clearly I didn’t really think through the decision to move. It was the sort of impulsive, life-altering decision that I think I’d only have the guts to do when I was 22. Once I got to LA I would have taken any job to make the move work, and I ended up working as an assistant at a model and talent agency—a position that entailed absolutely no writing.

2. How did you come about writing Box Girl?
As soon as I got the job as a Box Girl, I started writing about it. Every time I was working in the box I was always taking notes, writing short scenes about what was happening around me, about what it was like to be in the box. I eventually strung those little snippets into an essay that I took to my MFA program at USC. That essay was work-shopped in several different classes and eventually grew into my thesis, which was 150 pages. That thesis eventually grew into the manuscript, which I sold to Soft Skull Press in the spring of last year.

3. What are the books we can find on your bookshelves these days?
I am always reading like three or four books at once. Right now it’s Mary Karr’s The Liars’ Club (I can’t believe I haven’t read it sooner), B.J. Novak’s book One More Thing, and The Best American Essays for 2013, edited by Cheryl Strayed. I just finished Another Bullshit Night In Suck City by Nick Flynn, which I also can’t believe I’d never read, because, despite its title, it’s a gorgeously written book. As far as bookshelf staples, anything by these people is good by me: Jo Ann Beard, Lydia Davis, Carson McCullers, Flannery O’Connor, John Jeremiah Sullivan, David Sedaris, Miranda July, Sloane Crosley, David Foster Wallace’s nonfiction, and though I’m pretty sure it’s not in vogue to say at the moment, Woody Allen’s essays.

4. What is your favorite book of all time?
John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces. I think it’s one of the saddest, funniest books of all time.

lilibet-snellings5. Who is Lilibet and how does she want us to be impacted by her writing in Box Girl?
Who is Lilibet? Hmm, not a question you get asked every day. Lilibet is someone who has not yet brushed her teeth today. (It should be noted this interview is being conducted via email, otherwise that would just be gross.) Less specifically, Lilibet is someone who loves to laugh. My idea of perfect happiness is sitting with someone you love, and just belly laughing. When I laugh I feel most myself, most at home, most happy. As far as being impacted by Box Girl, I certainly hope, at the very least, that I have made the reader laugh. Making someone laugh is a great service, I think. It can change the whole course of someone’s day. At least I know it can for me. In addition to laughing, I hope that I have perhaps helped someone reflect on their twenties, what it’s like to grow up, and moreover, growinto yourself. We try on so many different personas in our twenties, and eventually—hopefully—we emerge from that interminable—(and amazing, and exhausting)—decade with a somewhat solid sense of self.

6. What is next for Lilibet?
Eventually, I hope to write more books. I have a few ideas in the hopper. I’m also exploring some TV and film opportunities. And I’ve also always wanted to teach. So some combination therein should keep me fairly busy going forward.

7. What are some of your favorite bookstores in LA?
My all-time favorite bookstore was Equator Books on Abbot Kinney in Venice, but sadly it closed during the recession. Skylight Books in Los Feliz and The Last Bookstore in Downtown are also fantastic LA bookstores, they are just a bit farther from the beach.

8. Did you encounter anything unexpected, surprising, or interesting in the process of writing the book?
When I started writing the book I just thought it would be a funny book about a sufficiently strange situation—sitting inside a giant glass box for seven hours at a time wearing little more than my underwear. I thought writing about that, and all of the other ridiculous things I got myself roped into – going on Match.com auditions, becoming a hair model, posing as a dead person in a music video – would be it. That would be the book, those funny stories. But what I came to learn over the course of writing the book was that “The Box” was a perfect vehicle for exploring so much more about LA, and about myself—about the city’s, and my own contradictions. Here I was, “a writer” sitting in a hotel lobby wearing very little clothing on Sunset Boulevard, in the heart of a city that is entirely focused – or so everyone thinks – on external beauty, eternal youth, and so on. The concept of the box also allowed me to explore some of the tensions twenty-somethings face regarding identity in relation to social media—navigating between who we really are versus who we present ourselves to be on social media. In the box I was this pretty, tidy, put-together “model,” whereas in real life I was this sweat-panted, broke, slovenly “writer.” It’s the same thing with social media; we are simultaneously living two lives at once—that which we live in real time and that which we present online. In real life we might be covered in cat hair or baby vomit but on social media we are always doing really cool stuff in really cool outfits.

9. For the most part your dating life is absent from the book. What was the reason behind this decision?
I wanted this to be a coming-of-age story but not necessarily coming-of-age in relation to my relationship with men, but rather coming-of-age in relation to my relationship with myself.

10. Where or how do you get ideas for your writing?
From living them. And then—this is the tricky part—remembering to write them down.

11. Who is your ideal reader?
That girl who is just embarking on this exhilarating and terrifying adventure that is her post-collegiate twenties. That girl who I just want to grab and say, “It’s going to be okay! It’s all going to work out eventually!” That being said, this book is not just for people in their twenties, plenty of my parents’ friends have said they enjoyed it too. And it is also not just for women. Plenty of men have told me they were laughing out loud, and one even told me he peed his pants a little. If I have made you wet yourself, I have clearly done my job.

Purchase her book here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/159376541X/ref=s9_simh_gw_p14_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=16TF51G1T3SZY530HY11&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1688200382&pf_rd_i=507846

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