It's a new year, so I thought I'd start by introducing a new feature I'm calling Creatively Speaking, in which I interview all sorts of artists for a first-hand look at how they go about creating their work.
Let's kick it off here with Isobella Jade, who is getting national attention these days as the model who wrote a memoir without the use of computer. (Let me clarify: without the use of her own computer.) Her new book, Almost 5'4", which chronicles her experiences as a short woman trying to break into the modeling business, was written almost entirely in an Apple store in—where else?—the Big Apple.
It may very well be the start of a new breed: books written in public spaces on public computers. Follow the jump for my exclusive interview with Jade and find out exactly how she did it. And watch for the next installment of Creatively Speaking coming real soon.
DI: So now that Almost 5'4" is out there have you made enough off of it to buy your own computer?
IJ: Not yet, but I am making enough to pay the bills and hopefully by 2009 I can get an iMac or a MacBook. I wrote my book on a 17inch iMac so maybe getting one of those would be symbolic and fun and I like how Apple has made the iMac, and i-products about the inner potential and creative in all of us.
DI: When you were writing the book at Apple, how did you save your files?
IJ: I saved the files each day to my Yahoo account, email form. I still have most of them saved.
The Apple store did bring some tragic moments though while writing the book...I did have a moment when the Internet froze on the iMac I was working on while writing. Which meant I couldn't save my document to my email and I thought about saving it to a folder on the desktop or making one somewhere discreet so no one would take it. After I pouted to a store employee about my catastrophe he told me I could buy a CD at the store and then download it, but my funds were limited at the time. So instead I called a film director I knew who lived in SoHo and even with a broken leg, in his crutches he brought me a CD and I was able to burn my document on the disk and save one of the best parts of my book. I believe once you write something, you can never fully write it again the same, so I wasn't going to leave the store without it. And yes I did cry, stomp my foot, and swear a few times over it. It was extremely dramatic at the time because I also realized at that moment how much the store meant to me, what I was doing, and that even if the store didn't know it, the store was my means to survival sort of, and it was like I saw my desperation on the computer screen waiting for the Internet to be turned on.
DI: Are you a MAC person or was it that the Apple store was just close to your apartment?
IJ: I grew up on an Apple II, well, only in the summers. My mother, a teacher, raised us the best she could with spaghetti O's and garage sale clothes and summer felt more like Christmas when she would bring home a barrowed Apple computer. I loved to play the program called StickyBear and Oregon Trail on it. Also during my freshman year at college I was studying advertising and graphic design and I used an iMac a lot, and I think Apple gives off an artistic feeling of chance, it is for the daring, the serious, the bold, the dreamers.
I discovered the Apple Store while walking around SoHo in mid February 2005, and started writing my book in early November 2005 when my apartment lease ended and I was couch hoping and living with what I could carry. So I didn't exactly have a stable home while I started writing the book. Since the store was where I went to check my email, submitted to electronic modeling jobs, it made sense to start writing there.
I felt comfortable being there. It became a reason to get up in the morning, my first daily stop, an office, with coffee in hand while using the computers for hours on end, because no one ever kicked you out. It was a gift. I even considered the computer I worked on most often "mine." I finished writing the book in late February 2006.
DI: I've always found it easier to write in public places, like on the subway, longhand. Did you find the noise in the store a help or a hindrance?
IJ: Yes most definitely a help. I don't think writing it in a library would have been the same. Right now my book is in raw format, I did have an editor but what you would read if you bought the book today is my Apple store version of the book; it is very lively, and probably contains a typo or two. It is as alive as the day I wrote it in the store.
DI: I think it would be awesome if Apple featured you in one of their commercials. Has anyone approached you yet?
IJ: Not yet, but that would be really fun and I would love to be a spokesmodel for Apple or the Apple Stores especially since I love the products, and the mindset of the social store, and the net connected products helped to make my biggest dream come true. I would love to share my story in a commercial form with a "create your own story with an Apple," edge to it.
DI: After you finished the book, I hear you gave a reading at the Apple store. Probably the first-ever reading of a manuscript at one of their stores -- more proof that it's becoming a hangout/meeting place. What was that whole experience like?
IJ: That was on April 15th 2006, and I wasn't totally sure about publishing the book yet, what to do next or how to do it, so the reading was also proof that people would be interested in my story because some were asking for it after the reading. When you write a book about yourself, there is always that awkward question: "Are my personal life stories able to affect someone else?" I found the answer to be yes after the reading. The book is more about my modeling experiences than the Apple Store, but telling pieces of my tale to about 30 strangers at the store, (where I wrote it) proved that I had a story worth publishing. I started the reading with a 2 minute video I created that summed up the book and it was a unique innovative way to enter my reading and I spoke and read for a whole hour.
DI: What was the strangest thing that happened to you while you were working on the book there?
IJ: In mid-type a kid next to me spilled his soda and I saved the spill from hitting the keyboard. That, and before my reading a couple of teenage girls were next to me talking about a model who was going to be doing a reading at the store, not knowing I was standing next to them.
DI: What do you have coming up next?
IJ: I'll be featured in next month's Mac Directory Magazine, posing with an iMac. After self publishing Almost 5'4", the book's world rights have been signed to The Friday Project in the U.K and a commercial version will be available in 2009.