Deb Kelly wants a bigger closet in which to store her pajama pants

When I lived in NYC lo these not so many years ago, I had one of those rent-stabilized apartments that you normally only hear about in myth and Nora Ephron movies. It had a teeny tiny galley kitchen but a full-sized fridge, an honest-to-goodness bedroom with room for my entire bed–unfolded– and a living room with not one but two windows on the airshaft. And here’s the kicker: It had TWO closets. Not one closet, not no closets, but two closets. One was even big enough to fit my bike, folded in half. We had a few rager parties there, and there were times where I would see our guests looking longingly at those closets and find myself wondering if a person would do murder for those closets. Like, should I have sniffed my drink for the vague scent of almonds every time that so-called friend of mine living in the 6th floor walk-up studio who used her oven to store her shoes offered me a refill?Cover of I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Still, as enviable as my apartment may have been, it wasn’t enough for me. I longed for something more. A view out the windows, say, or a square of grass that only belonged to me. And certainly I wanted more closets. A closet just for yarn, a closet just for shoes, a closet that stood empty just so I would never have to worry about closet space ever again.

And feeding into that longing was HGTV, a television network entirely devoted to an emotion my friend KOM has sagely named “wantiness.” At the time, HGTV was giving away a Dream Home once a year or so. These places were spectacular in every way, fully tricked out with the latest and greatest home furnishings and appliances, lovingly decorated by HGTV celebs, and located in the most gorgeous, tempting, drool-worthy settings like Stowe, and Sonoma, and Jackson Hole. And the homes were huge. To say there were closets inside closets would be only a small exaggeration.

And all you had to do was be the lucky winner, and it would all be yours.

Every time I saw those Dream Home giveaway commercials I was filled with intense, overpowering wantiness. I raced to my computer twice a day and entered in first my name and email and then my husband’s too, just to double my odds. And as the weeks of the sweepstakes went on, I started to think I might actually win the damn house. I mean, someone had to, right? I had always been a reasonably lucky person, but never won a sweepstakes before, so I pretty much had it coming to me.

In fact, my little brain was so locked on the idea that I might/would win that I started to wonder if I actually wanted to. The Dream House that year was in Florida, which, for better or worse, has never really tempted me as a home state. (I wish the Seminoles would get rid of the tomahawk business and I would never get anything done if I lived within driving range of Harry Potter World.) And I wondered how I would pay the taxes on such a place, seeing as I would have to give up my job to move there. And wouldn’t I need a car? I had lived in the city so long that having a car seemed like some kind of insurmountable obstacle. Maybe I didn’t even want that stupid Dream House. Geez, HGTV, stop trying to give me a free house, would you?*

And then, just like that, there was a loud pop in my brain and the book was born. One half of me wanted that house more than I wanted anything. The other half of me thought it sounded like a big hassle. And neither half had ACTUALLY WON the stupid house in the first place. What if those halves of me were two people? And what if they both thought they had won the house? Because they had the exact same name as the announced winner and lived in the same small little remote and unlikely town just a few miles from each other? And what if they had to relocate, and scrabble over the ownership, and learn to live with each other, and what if, just maybe, there was a dreamy farmer who looked a teeny bit like Luke from Stars Hollow?

What about that?

And just like that, The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane was born.

*It should be noted here that I did not win. Which was, I think, pretty rude.

10 Replies to “Deb Kelly wants a bigger closet in which to store her pajama pants”

  1. I think about that all the time, and then don’t bother to enter. Because to the places I’d want to live — I probably can’t even afford the airfare. OK, I’ve also contemplated how I could own the house, rent it out, share it with friends (who’d pay the taxes) etc. But still, I don’t enter. Cannot wait to read this. Tapping fingers…

  2. My mom LOVES those HGTV giveaway contests. She forwards them to my brother and I every year to enter, on the off chance one of us would win (none of us ever has). But it sounds like your creative process worked similarly to mine — thinking through “How would that actually work?” and “What could go wrong?” The “what could go wrong?” is always the most fun part ;-). I cannot wait to read this — and to recommend it to my mom!

  3. I am loving reading about how the book ideas were born. This is a brilliant idea and I can’t wait to read the book! By the way – my house? NO closets. But I have 40 acres of trees and mountains and wild deer & turkeys. It was a trade off.

  4. As a HGTV junkie I see the dream home contests and my brain is not evolved enough to say “what a hassle”! I’m so looking forward to reading the Good Luck Girls… and wondering which lucky winner I’ll identify with more. Until then, it’s more TV and HGTV magazine (which is pretty great too)!

  5. Great premise. I’ve wondered about the people who win those homes – how they pay the taxes and how they manage having to move. It’s a fantastic premise for a novel.

    I particularly like that you’re essentially telling the fairy tale starting at “Ever after” – the part that everyone assumes would just be all wine and roses.

    Seriously, I can’t wait to read this.

  6. Kelly, as a fellow NYC-based HGTV obsessive (who regularly goes to open houses for fun — a habit my husband finds really annoying), I can not wait to read your book. It is going to be so awesome. Also, how weird is it to move away from the city and actually have like multiple closets and a backyard and stuff? A girl can dream.

    1. Sona, when you stalk open houses, do the realtors spot you a mile away? I totally want to spend my Sundays in strangers’ homes but am terrified of being found out. what’s your secret? Trench coat and funny mustache? Or is it all about the big city being the greatest disguise?

      PS: The backyard is amazing. The closets are still pretty small. I just wasn’t emotionally up for suburbia so gave up closet space for an easy bike ride to the good bars… Cause you can take a girl out of Manhattan but you can’t take the Manhattan out of her hand when she’s thirsty! Give NYC a big smooch for me–but use lots of purell!

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