Sunday, January 17, 2010


ROBERTA: If anyone is worse than me at spotting trends early--fashion or otherwise--I'd like to know her. Even if I see a fashion trend coming, the wagon will have left the station by the time I considering piling on. Let's take leggings for example; I've waited so long to embrace this trend that I think it may be coming around for the third or fourth time before I ever try a pair on. Facebook? I protested this as a useless time sink for years before I finally signed up--one of the last holdouts I suspect. Trends in publishing? Don't I wish I'd thought of writing about vampires in the early days along with Charlaine Harris. Or at least piled on while the idea was still catching fire. But no, I study my daily Publishers Marketplace emails, in awe of all the high concepts that wouldn't have occurred to me in a million years.

So what's the secret to spotting trends Jungle Red Writers? Are you good at it? Can you give me some tips? If not, tell us a story about what you missed!

HALLIE: Don't ask me! Three years ago I was telling people to forget about writing vampire mysteries. It would be so passe a few years hence. Not.

RHYS: I think some people are born with the trend gene. My daughter was one step ahead of fashion all the way through high school. When I was in London in the swinging sixties (doesn't that date me?) I was right up there with Mary Quant--dress up to my thighs like a British flag and white plastic boots with windows in the side. Since I left the entertainment biz and got married I've never tried to keep up and frankly I don't miss it. I know what suits me and am content. Funnily enough my daughters look at pictures of me and can't believe that I threw away clothes that are now fashionable again!

ROBERTA: OH man, Rhys, wish we could have seen you in the British flag and those boots!

HANK: Pleeeze. In 1980, I got a phone call from a guy who was working on a start up company. At the time,I was the anchor of the weekend news for the NBC affiliate and thought I was hot stuff. This guy showed me the new offices, and told me he wanted me to be the Los Angeles bureau chief of this new news organization they were putting together. But I was truly a trendspotter,so I knew it was doomed to failure.
No thanks,I said. Miss Know It All.
Afterwards I said to a pal--can you imagine? They think they can show news for 24 hours a day? No way. They're nuts.
Yup, CNN.

ROBERTA: Ouch, that one hurts, Hank. But just think, maybe you wouldn't have met Jonathan, nor would you know all of us:).

HANK: Oh, exactly! NO regrets. More hilarious, I had a news director who came into the office in 1975 with a yellow plastic thing. I said--what's that? He said--"It's called a 'videocassette.' They say videotape is going to replace film. But don't worry. It'll never last."

JAN: I actually think I'm a pretty good trend spotter. I picked up that Financial News was going to become big, back in late 1970s. So I jumped in. The bad news was that I got bored and jumped out in 1986 (Okay to have a baby) just when financial news really took off.

I find that a lot. I spot a trend, but too early. And then if you want to jump back in, it's too late.

But I think all of us spot a trend from time to time, just not ALL the TIME, or the EXACT right trend that would profit us best at the moment.

RO: Clueless when it comes to trends, especially clothing. If I'm wearing something that's in fashion it's probably an accident. I realized in the fourth grade that I'd never be fast enough to keep up with them so I took a pass. I see pictures of myself from high school or my twenties and think...I would still wear that - and sometimes do! That doesn't keep me from buying InStyle magazine, my favorite guilty pleasure airport magazine to which I now subscribe. I like knowing what the trends are but rarely want to wear them myself.

My notable non-fashion, clueless moment was when my former boss told me he'd forged a relationship with the WWF, the World Wrestling Federation, to distribute their videos. I thought, jeez, wrestling? That'll last a year and he'll be stuck with videos of Hillbilly Jim and Junkyard Dog. He made a ton of dough, wrestling is still going strong, and Hillbilly Jim was one of the nicest guys I met in the video business. What do I know?

ROBERTA: Okay Jungle Red readers, do you have the trend-spotting gene? And what have you missed?

Don't forget to come back often this week--we'll have three visitors: a comic strip artist/writer, the author of TRUE CONFECTIONS, and advice for empowering creativity. And we'll be talking books, books, books...


  1. In the late 70's my boss gave me a "prototype" he was very proud to have received from 3M--a pad of small pieces of yellow paper held together by impermanent adhesive--and I said "What the heck would you do with these?"

    Actually, it was a good lesson. Now I always try to step back and open my mind to other possibilities--though there are some other boats I've missed since then anyway.


  2. I haven't caught up with a single trend, much less spotted one. Usually, I don't like the changes (I remember going back to school and everyone's page boy hairdos were going the other direction. Or the perm trend. By the time I break down and join in, it's out.

    About the only thing I seemed to be ahead of was arugula. It used to be a specialty item. So was balsamic vinegar.

    I just bought my first new pair of jeans in over 10 years. Are they 'trendy' -- probably not. I got them at the discount store.

  3. Love your story, Barb -
    I remember in school there were those odd have-to-haves. Some kind of candy (one year it was Fire Sticks...anyone remember them?). Or the year of the pale blue cable knit angora sweater worn with same color T-strap flats. Of course I grew up in Beverly Hills where the clothing trends were so upscale -- have always been grateful for the low key neighborhood where we raised our kids and the most upscale clothing trends were from The Gap.

  4. That is a good lesson Barb! And Terry, arugula is a good thing to be ahead of the curve on. Yum, yum.

    Hallie, in my high school days it was the Villager clothing--matching yellow or pink skirts and sweaters--that all had to be shortened to ridiculous lengths of course! Roberta

  5. In New Jersey, it was fishnet stockings in THIRD GRADE. I swear this is true. I remember having about half a dozen pairs, all in different colors. And my mother found a place to buy them cheap. Great Eastern, which was like a Walmart.

    Even that young, we were trying to look like hookers.....

  6. ..of course you were in New Jersey so that explains it! You guys were cool when the rest of us were mere children.

  7. Ro, I was a Jersey girl too and we certainly weren't wearing fishnet stockings. And believe me when I say my mother wouldn't have been buying them even if they WERE the fashion! Roberta

  8. Fishnet stockings? Whoa. When I was in high school (picture me wagging a finger) we wore loafers and white socks, carefully rolled down, if that's how Linda Kaatzenberger dictated, or all pushed down and slouchy, if that was Linda's decree.

    Fishnets. Back then,I'm not even sure I knew they existed. Seriously.

    And speaking of trends, did you read there's going to be Android Karenina? Am I terrible that I think that's HILARIOUS?

  9. Yes, I had fishnet stockings in New Jersey (those bleeping things really dug into your feet!).

    But my biggest miss? I can remember in the late '70s visualizing how someday books and articles and research materials would be available through your computers, so you could work anywhere. Did I invest in the Internet? Google? Of course not.