Creatively Speaking: Hillary Carlip


Creatively Speaking continues today with Hillary Carlip. Longtime readers of this blog might recall my review of her hilarious memoir, Queen of the Oddballs. Now she's got another book out called À la Cart, a collection of curious, but very real shopping lists she's found over the last decades. Check out my interview with her below, as well as the very cool trailer she's put together for the book. And be sure to tune in tomorrow to enter our Famous Historical Figure Shopping List Contest to win a FREE copy of À la Cart. Hillary will be helping us pick the finalists!

DI: Amy Sedaris says she wishes she came up with the idea for this book first. I'd have to agree with her. So tell us: How did you come up with the idea?

HC: I've been collecting found grocery shopping lists for years "“ decades, really. I've always been fascinated by how much you can tell about a person from their abandoned list. To me, shopping lists are the new memoir.

DI: Was there ever the temptation to fictionalize some of the lists to make them even funnier?

HC: Totally no need to. There are some that I don't think I could ever have come up with: "Mouse Traps. Cheese. Mouse." (Yeah, for real!) or "Whole Milk. Heavy Cream. Ice Cream. String Cheese. Gas-Ex (!!!)" (Complete with the three exclamation points!). To me, the humor comes in the quirkiness of these real people showing their humanity.

DI: Where'd you get the wonderful idea to dress up and impersonate the characters you imagined wrote these things?

HC: Whenever I find a shopping list, I immediately imagine who it is that goes with the list. I have a background in performance art and doing characters (in fact two of the personas I created once ended up on Entertainment Tonight in the same week, without anyone ever knowing they were both me), so it was only natural to take it to the next step and BECOME the shoppers. Also in À la Cart I wrote stories about each, delving even further into their psyches and lives.

DI: I loved the flash presentation you put together to promote the book. I understand you made it all by yourself. For the design-savvy in the blog, how did you make it?

HC: Thanks! Since À la Cart is a little offbeat, I found myself explaining the premise a lot. So I decided to just make a short film explaining it all. I first wrote out the script, then collected or created all the images in Photoshop, storyboarding it. I have a busy web design biz, so I had one of my brilliant programmers put it all into flash. After that, we scored it with music and that was that.

DI: I hear you've been around the country on book tour recently. Is it true you're not just doing bookstores, but also supermarkets? Really? Supermarkets???

HC: That was my plan, but it didn't quite work out logistically. But I HAVE been doing quite a bit of press in the supermarkets. I took a reporter from Entertainment Weekly grocery shopping (and dumpster diving for lists!) and also one from Wall Street Journal "“ which was filmed and included on the WSJ website. (You can see the video on my site at:

DI: What's going on with Fresh Yarn? I know we have a lot of creative writers reading our blog. Can they still submit? Is the Web site still up and running?

HC: YES!! I recently celebrated the 4th anniversary of FRESH YARN, my literary site devoted to personal essays. I am still doing it all, though more sporadically (I started out featuring new installments of 6 personal essays every other week, then went to every three weeks, once a month, and now when time allows!) It's been such a pleasure to be able to share the talents of established writers (novelists, screenwriters, journalists, etc) as well as previously unpublished writers. I just launched installment #52 last week so there are FRESH essays up now (plus 4 years of archived pieces)!

DI: What are you working on these days?

HC: Mostly promoting A la Cart right now. I'm finishing up a tour, still doing interviews, radio and TV appearances, etc. Also doing FRESH YARN and Fly HC, and daydreaming about the next book!

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