The Chronicles of Quinoa
By Kerigan Butt
Courtesy photo Tiffany Beveridge, the author of the soon-to-be-published "How to Quinoa: Life Lessons From My Imaginary Well-Dressed Daughter."
By Richard L. Gaw
Perhaps the largest news in the world right now, apart from America's grappling to comprehend its place in the world economy and the widening tension between the U.S. and Russia is that 6-year-old Suri Cruise, the daughter of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, has informed her parents that she wants her ears pierced. It's time, she said.
At magazine racks in grocery store checkout lines all across America -- in fashion slicks and on the internet -- our celebrity culture has attempted to expose us as a nation of voyeurs, living vicariously through the lifestyles of the rich and famous. It's no longer just models, movie stars and rock stars we're ogling; now it's their kids. This fascination with fashion-conscious youngsters has now drawn an audience of millions on the internet, and the photographs of children posing in the latest designs are often bold, sometimes shocking, utterly pretensious to many ... and we're watching.
About two years ago, Tiffany Beveridge happened upon some of these photos while she was scanning through Pinterest, largely to stimulate ideas for a blog she writes for Mrs. Fields, where she works as a copywriter. There they were, one by one, elaborately attired kids plopped in the middle of stunningly designed sets and posing in the latest fashions.
"Pinterest is an interesting form of social media, and you come across a lot of photos that people would pin to their own boards," said Beveridge, who lives with her husband and two sons in Landenberg. "It becomes this curation of fantasyland, photos of the homes and kitchens they wish they had, the places they wish they could visit."
As an afterthought, she wrote the title, “My Imaginary Well-Dressed Toddler Daughter,” and began pinning the photos to her Pinterest board. Attached to each, she wrote brief captions that described the photos.
It was a toss-away exercise, merely a 10-minute warm-up to get her into the writing mindset for her job. After seeing countless recipes about the trendy new grain, she invented a name for the imaginary girl -- Quinoa -- and soon after, Chevron, named for her BFF. She continued to post the little stories. Beneath a photo of a well-dressed girl holding a puppy, she wrote, "The only thing Quinoa likes to rescue more than puppies are children that shop for clothes at Wal-Mart."
In another photo, a young girl is dressed in hotpants, waistcoat and beanie hat, in what appears to be a railway station. The caption reads, "One time when Quinoa and I got separated in a busy train station, she thankfully remembered our safety training: Stay in one place, look spectacular, and don't talk to poor people."
Beneath another photo, of two girls in sunglasses posed beside an old VW microbus, she wrote, "Quinoa and her BFF Chevron like to drive in vintage cars out to the desert, park them, and take a bunch of pictures lookng pissed off."
"This was such a product of my subconscious, that when when I look at the captions, I don't remember what I was thinking when I wrote them," Beveridge said. "I know I have opinions about these things, but I don't have an agenda. I'm not trying to change anyone's opinions, but I think it's a reflection of our times, the idea of parents wanting their child to stand out.
"Sometimes, our celebrity culture feeds into the notion that the adorable little child is another great accessory for the adult, like a designer handbag."
One night this past June, Beveridge went to sleep with a little more than 100 followers on Pinterest. When she awoke the next morning and turned on her computer, she found that the number had grown well into the thousands. Author and well-known blogger Jenny Lawson had come across Beveridge's Pinterest pins, shared them with her tens of thousands of followers, and the stories of Quinoa had become an overnight sensation.
"I've been surprised that people got the joke so quickly," she said. "It has been really flattering."
Now, what began as merely a creative exercise is now a book. “How to Quinoa: Life Lessons From My Imaginary Well-Dressed Daughter,” scheduled to be published this June by Running Press, will be an accumulation of 100 children's fashion images and captions, as well as amusing chapters written in Quinoa's voice that give advice on parenting, traveling, food, preschool and play dates. Some of the photos in the book are fan favorites from the Pinterest board, but most are new images from some of the best children's fashion photographers in the world.
"I keep saying that creating this book has felt like a pregnancy," she said. "At first, I was excited about it. The process, in the beginning, felt slow, and by the end, I knew I had to do anything I could to get the thing out of me."
Although Beveridge said that there have been early discussions that could tie the promotion of the book to fashion shows, she will not commit to predicting where the stories of Quinoa will eventually lead, nor whether their reach will extend to stationery items such as calendars and note cards. For now, she's still adjusting to the fact that she is a published author.
"I used to think that writing and publishing a book was for other people, and that it couldn't happen to me, but this has made me feel that maybe I really could," Beveridge said. "I love Quinoa and will run with this character as much as I can. She cracked the door open to everything I could ever hope for."
For more about Tiffany Beveridge and her work, visit her on Facebook: Facebook.com/my imaginarywelldressedtoddlerdaughter, or on Twitter, at @tiffanywbwg and @ImaginaryQuinoa.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .