I’d like to thank the academy

From the desk of Kitty Winn

Dear Kitty Winn,
In a few weeks I’ll be graduating from college. Normally, I skip tiresome ceremonies, but my own dear

school has sweetened the pot by offering a nice cash prize to the graduating senior with “the best literary

instincts.” Naturally, the winner is announced at the very end of graduation, so there’s no sneaking out the back if one doesn’t get it.

It’s a small class, and while I’m no Eudora Welty, I’ve written a thing or two in my day, and there’s maybe a

20% chance I’ll win. Every year, camera crews descend on the winner. Mostly, they’re from no-account local papers, but depending on what else is going on in the world that day, wire services and sometimes even TV networks pick up the story. I’m nervous, Kitty. I’ve never dealt with the papparazzi before. Please give me some pointers on how to display a heartfelt and photogenic reaction to good news, should

I receive it.

-Inkstained and eager on the Eastern Shore.

Dear Eager Beaver,

Kitty has cracked this nut wide open: you must repeat to yourself “What would Anna Wintour do?” Make sure you get your hair blown out, and wear large dark glasses. That way, even if you have to fake a smile, no one will see that the muscles around your eyes are not crinkling appropriately. And really, even if one is overjoyed, why court premature aging?

Kitty assumes that wardrobe is not an issue because you will be wearing some sort of cap and gown ensemble? In that case, focus on selecting a good pair of shoes. If they are open-toed, be sure to get a pedicure. Of course you will want a manicure, the better to grasp your oversized novelty check. You’ll want to wear a spot of makeup, to look fresh and vibrant, baptized with the dew of youth. But too much makeup could indicate you whorishly slept your way to the prize! Remove the foolish hat before being photographed.

Take a lesson from the recent Nicole Kidman Oscar speech fumbling: prepare a few gracious remarks in advance. Something along the lines of “I lead a charmed life, this is to be expected.” Or “I always knew I was better than everyone else; vindication, at last!”

All kidding aside, it is sometimes a good ruse to pretend to be choked up. You can dab daintily at imaginary tears, press your palm to your chest, and whisper “I am so touched! Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart. This award truly belongs to all of my fellow contenders, who inspired me greatly.” Note that you should not actually give them a damn cent. Also, don’t forget to thank the faculty, unless you’ve already paid them off. Should the press continue to hound you, you must smile wanly and say “Thank you again for your kind interest, but I must celebrate with my family now.” Your family will want to dump a cooler of literary Gatorade on you at that time. This could affect your blow out, but could make for a good human interest shot.

In case you don’t win, the pressure is still not off! Try not to let your face freeze into a rictus of horror at whatever illiterate cretin is selected. This is also where the dark glasses come in handy. You’ll want to give an awkward little hug. Again, don’t waste an eye crinkle on this person.

Finally, you will want to review Kitty’s Victim Tribute Photo Tips:

Kitty suggest a 3/4 view for a head shot, as it is most flattering. You should also tip your chin down, while tightening the muscles beneath it, and look upward just a bit — never directly at the camera. Kitty learned this from Princess Di, and it never fails.

Onwards and upwards,


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