Let's give a warm welcome to Theresa Milstein. Theresa writes children's books. Most of her manuscripts are YA, but she's written for middle grade as well. She's a member of SCBWI and active in the New England SCBWI branch. You can follow Theresa's blog here.
Thanks for having me on your blog!
My short story “My Moment” is included in the anthology From Stage Door Shadows. The stories in this book deal with the darker side of performing. It was easy for me to find inspiration.
Ever see the television show Toddlers and Tiaras?
Pint-sized kids compete in beauty pageants. Like passing by a car crash, I found it hard to look at, but couldn’t look away. Everything about their appearance screams WRONG. They’re too tan. Their hair is too high. They’re wearing too much makeup, and makeup on a kid just looks odd. And don’t even get me started on those frozen faux smiles… for a preview click here.
They’re made to look like adults, but it doesn’t work on cherub faces and tiny-toothed grins.
But it’s the story behind the pageants that really intrigued me. The clothes cost a fortune. So do the pageant coaches. Then there’s the spray tan expense. And if the poor child is in that cute “I lost my front teeth” phase, they must wear fake teeth, so they can look…. creepy instead of like children. Sometimes the little contestants have problems with the teeth onstage, like old ladies dealing with ill-fitting dentures.
Then some mothers go a step further and hire someone to do hair at the show, which requires hours of prep, elaborate hairpieces, and enough hairspray to give the children asthma.
It’s not all about “looks”. There’s the talent portion too. If my stomach hadn’t curdled before, it did during the routine practices. If you have or deal with children, you know they don’t always cooperate when you want them to do your bidding. So the children have meltdowns during rehearsals, while the mortified mothers coerce with bribes and/or threats. The editors like to cut to a previously recorded interview where the mothers say how their children really “want” to be in pageants.
Then there are the routines that cross the line from something a child should do, to something you might see in a Vegas performance.
It made me wonder, what if pageants had more significance? What if, way in the future, pageants become vehicles for females to succeed in society? What if “success” means to marry well? I wrote a short story where women’s brains count for little, but it’s their ability to look good and use their talents to impress the husband’s guests at dinner parties. It’s a Victorian or 1950s society meets 2313.
Dystopian pieces always stick a lens into our contemporary society and show what the likely outcome if some sinister aspect were able to run amok. In the short story “My Moment”, it was children’s beauty pageants.
Twenty-six authors trade Tiny Dancer's California-blessed lyrics for the shadowed recesses of stages large and small in From Stage Door Shadows, a speculative fiction homage to the darkness just beyond the limelight of the entertainment industry.
The stories re-introduce the women Benny Taupin wrote about and Elton John sang about: blue jean baby, LA lady, the band's seamstress, the music man's wife and the girl dancing in the sand, along with a stellar cast of musicians, singers, thespians, fans, managers, dancers, DJs, magicians, talent show contestants, stars and has-beens.
From vaudeville to opera, piano bar and street corner, hotel suite and beauty pageant, From Stage Door Shadows is a backstage pass to where dreams of fame, fortune and fulfillment live and die in a heartbeat.
The anthology retails for $19.99, except at The Book Depository, which is listing the book for $12.97
On the emergent site, the book is $19.99 and the ebook formats are $4.95.
Thanks Theresa! And congrats on your release!