Every reader is my co-author

This morning I caught author Katherine Paterson on the Bob Edwards Show.  She lived in Japan and talked about the use of white space by Japanese artists.  The artist intends the viewer to fill in the space with their own imagination.

Patterson told Bob that she incorporates this into her writing and said something that really resonated with me…

“Every reader is my co-author.”

I’ve come to appreciate this because a funny thing happens when you write a book…someone reads it (hopefully). And when they read it and then they tell you about it, sometimes you’re left wondering if they read the same book that you wrote.

Awhile back two interviews of me came out on the same day.  One was in Ball State’s newspaper and the other was in a newspaper in Amherst, Ohio. (You might recall that I got pulled over on my trip to Amherst and eventually tried to friend the cop on Facebook. He hasn’t accepted…yet.)

One article painted me as an anti-sweatshop activist and the other as someone who thought that the apparel industry would save the world.

Yes, I explore both sides of the issue, but it seems that the author of each article brought their own baggage to the table and use my exploration of the issues to support their own opinions. (Or perhaps they didn’t read the book at all and I should just shut-up now.)

In a way, I’m honored to get such different takes on the book, but the last thing I want is for someone to have the takeaway be: the worker’s lives are tough, they need these jobs, so I’ll continue to mindlessly buy stuff regardless of the brand or country of origin.

So regardless of where readers fall on the larger debate, I hope to get them caring about the people who make our clothes. My message is simple and I hope it comes through to all. It can be summed up in three words…


After that I’m happy to let my co-authors make the book whatever they want to make it.

John says:

Hi Kelsey –
I bought your book and enjoyed reading it. On a different note, did you see the article in last month’s Harper’s about 3rd world garment manufacturing? I thought you had written it. Anyway, it was an interesting read and was similar to your experience. Perhaps the author copied your idea. If nothing else, hopefully it spreads the message and brings about more awareness. Just wanted to share. Take care!

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Kelsey says:


Thank, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I did read the Harper’s article. I found the view of the author to be oversimplified. He should have visited the dump!

I’ve had other people talk about writers who’ve written similar things, namely Nicholas Kristof who did go to the dump in order to write about garment workers. My stance is that I’m more than happy to have others build on my ideas to raise awareness. However, I do wish they would take a more mature look at the situation other than the garment industry is good or the garment industry is bad.

I’ve been meaning to post a response to that article and have considered writing into Harper’s.

Thanks for sharing.

Let your voice be heard!