Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Adventures of Quinoa: An Interview with Tiffany Beveridge

Last Thursday, I was puttering around the internet, pausing in my search for a new title for the book (more on that later), when I clicked on New York Magazine ‘s link “Imaginary Stylish Toddler Sweeps Pinterest.”

Originally envisioning a strange, pre-school Catfish-type situation, I was delighted to discover instead Tiffany Beveridge’s Pinterest board, entitled “My Imaginary Well-Dressed Toddler Daughter.”

After plenty of internet exploration – not just the board, but also Tiffany’s quippy, succinct blog – I was intrigued. So I’m beyond delighted to host the author of “My Imaginary Well-Dressed Toddler Daughter,” Tiffany Beveridge, here on the blog!

Hillary: Tiffany - tell us about your inspiration for the “My Imaginary Well-Dressed Toddler Daughter” board. How did it start? When did it take off? What precipitated the creation of Quinoa as a character?

Tiffany: It actually started very organically over a year and a half ago. I kept seeing cute things on Pinterest for girls, but felt I had no claim to them since I only have boys. Then I thought, why not? After all, Pinterest is really just an adult Fantasy Land. So I named the board for my imaginary daughter and started re-pinning clothes from friends that I thought were cute and fun. It was when I went out searching for little girl clothes on Pinterest myself that I found the over-the-top photos and looks. And then I guess my sense of humor got the better of me. I mean, come on, if I'm going to spend time dressing an imaginary daughter on Pinterest, why not go all the way?

It was also around the time that quinoa (the grain) was all over Pinterest. I felt I could barely scroll through a page without several new quinoa recipes being shared, and I remember thinking how funny it was that a grain had become trendy. Like, so trendy somebody was probably going to name their kid Quinoa. And then I realized that person would be me.

So, the story lines began in the captions and Quinoa became this little running joke among my friends and family. Then last Monday night, as I was plugging my phone in to charge before bed, I noticed a bunch of notifications from Pinterest about new followers on that board. Things have been snowballing since then.

Hillary: How do you feel about Pinterest as a platform for character and story? Do you think other writers will follow suit?

Tiffany: I think Pinterest has always been about story telling, just maybe not in the way that I’ve done. Take a look at someone’s Pinterest boards and you’ll get a good idea about who they are, about their dreams and wishes—it tells a story about them. I hadn’t realized at the time that what I was doing was such a new concept, but judging from the response, I think it’s shown to be a great medium for creating a story.

Hillary: One of the things I love the most about the board are the character names – not just Quinoa, but all of her various companions. To paraphrase Austen, do they proceed from the impulse of the moment, or are they the result of previous study?

Tiffany:The names are completely an impulse of the moment! People are getting a kick out of them, and while they are meant to be ridiculous, I’ll admit that I actually like a few of them.

Hillary: Obviously, the demand for Quinoa pins has grown. Do you wait for that perfect/perfectly ridiculous image, or do you go looking for something that speaks to you? How do you choose what to caption?

Tiffany: I do searches to find the right pictures most of the time. The one I wrote recently about Quinoa in the train station is an image I’ve seen for months and wanted to use but didn’t have the right story yet. Then it just clicked.

Hillary: In the past few years, we’ve seen social media streams leaving the internet and crossing over into both print and television. Do you see Quinoa making that leap? Are there other projects of yours that you would rather see in the spotlight?

Tiffany: I would love to see Quinoa find new platforms and ways to entertain people. She’s a very fun character, so we’ll see where she can go from here. I do have other projects, but they aren’t ready for the spotlight yet, so I’ll let Quinoa lead the way for now. She certainly loves the attention.

Hillary: If Quinoa were to cross over into another medium, what do you think that might be?

Tiffany: Of course as a writer, a book is the first thing that comes to mind, but if I've learned anything from Quinoa, it's to never underestimate the options.

Hillary: One of the great things about “Well-Dressed Toddler” is that there’s a very specific voice and point of view. How is that voice/POV compare to your voice when you’re blogging or working on your novel?

Tiffany: I think my blogging and writing style has always used humor to deliver my ideas, though the “Quinoa’s Mom” voice has developed into a style all its own. The novel ideas I’m working on are not parody, not quite as silly, but hopefully still engaging. I think they both have a lot of heart.

Hillary: Speaking of the novel-writing, how’s that going? What genre/s are you interested in? Do you see the success of “Well-Dressed Toddler” informing your future projects?

Tiffany: Novel writing for me has been a huge challenge, partly because I’m busy as a copywriter with an already busy family, but it’s that mountain I’ll always want to climb. I’m interested in adult fiction, contemporary stories about navigating the ups and downs of life and relationships.

I do think this experience with "My Imaginary Well-Dressed Toddler Daughter" will inform everything I do in the future.

A couple of months ago, I did a little writing workshop with my son’s fourth grade class. I told them how important it is to write all of your ideas down, because it’s hard to tell your bad ideas from your good ones when they are all sitting around inside your head. I said, get them all written down and eventually you’ll recognize the good ones. Those words have been echoing in my head this week. I had no idea Quinoa was my best idea. No idea at all.

Hillary: Which authors do you enjoy reading?

Tiffany: Lately I’m obsessed with Miriam Toews. Her novel, A Complicated Kindness is unbelievably beautiful. Barbara Kingsolver has been a longtime favorite, and Judy Blume was probably my first love.

Hillary: How does your family feel about Quinoa?

Tiffany:I have to thank my sister Leslie for being Quinoa’s biggest fan. She’s continually asked for Quinoa updates from the beginning, which has kept me more motivated to write them. My husband and sons didn’t really know much about her until this week, but I think they are coping well with this new addition to our family.

Hillary: As Quinoa's audience has grown, which responses have you enjoyed the most? Which have surprised you most?

Tiffany: I'm overwhelmed with the kind responses, both in comments and what's being written about the board around the Internet. My favorite thing to see is how much people understand the character. I have a feeling it's going to make me step up my game!

Hillary: So, which of the Quinoa pins are you proudest of?

Tiffany: I think I will always love "Quinoa farts glitter" most. Maybe it's the copywriter in me, but I feel like there's a lot of story in those three words.

Hillary: Thanks so much for coming by, Tiffany! Best of luck with your work and all things Quinoa!

In the past we've seen all kinds of creativity spring from the structure of social media - whether it's 120 characters on Twitter, image-based feeds such as Tumblr and Instagram, or the bottomless-pit of blogging. While there are some individuals who clutch their pearls over emerging media and the death of the book, I don't really worry about it. Because people are creative, and stories will find a way to be told.

What do you think about Pinterest and other social media platforms as a home for plot and character? Do you see the constrictions as a fun challenge or a hindrance? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Tiffany Beveridge is a freelance writer living in the Philadelphia area with her husband and two average-dressed, but wonderful sons. She's a kitchen dancer, cookie maker, funny-in-person, funnier in print, middle child with an urge to travel. She is the creator of the Pinterest board, "My Imaginary Well-Dressed Toddler Daughter."


  1. Thank you for this interview. I finally took time to follow the breadcrumbs to the Pinterest board, and it was gratifying to see someone really "play" with the site. It was great to find this interview and read up on how it came to be.


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