Lisa Birnbach


You don’t have to be inexperienced to have your work rejected.  Just today I was turned down twice, by two editors.  In fact, it was worse.  I had one proposal rejected — no reason given, and a written and scheduled piece killed by an editor — no reason given.  

I’m sure there’s some explanation for the editors’ decisions, but I would like to know what it is.  Is this the new trend to simply reject without explanation?  How sloppy.  I think anyone who works on a project — even a proposal for a project — deserves that much information, that much respect.

I’m going to tell you that rejection still stings, 32 years after my first book was published.  (How is that possible?  Don’t do the math.)


So rather than punching a pillow or pouring a stiff drink (the news all filtered in before 11 am), I went to the gym and walk-ran the treadmill for 33 minutes (but who’s counting), listening to my iPod shuffle.  Funnily enough, it shuffled straight into melancholia.  Why did you leave me?  Please stay with me.  How blue are you?  It was perfect. I wonder if my wallowing burned extra calories?  By the time I finished and headed to the mat, it shuffled upwards to some perky jazz.

Work is hard.  I don’t mind that at all.  Sometimes it’s so hard my head hurts, which isn’t a bad feeling.  Finding le mot juste is worth the struggle.  My work is hard too, because my industry is going through enormous shrinking pains, and editors are scared to invest in writers.


We all have bad days and good days.  I’m hoping this day turns itself around.  And I’m hoping all of you have a fruitful day.


Thinking about Not Thinking

For me, the pleasure of writing — which is different from writing — has much more to do with finding the precise way of expressing what I feel I want to express.  To be candid, it has very little, if nothing to do with the reader; if I’m faithful to my intentions, I hope readers will follow along.  

Over the years I have heard from more of you than I would have ever expected.  In the “olden days,” I received many letters, cards, thank you’s, why didn’t you’s, and could you’s.  

Now with all the accessibility of the www, it is not a big deal to communicate with anyone anymore.  Most writers have websites, Facebook accounts, blogs, Twiiter, Instagrams, Pinterest accounts, and so on.  

And over the last few years my inboxes are filled with questions about what to wear to an afternoon wedding in a pasture, questions about shoes, questions about colleges, and so on.  It is fun to receive them, and I enjoy answering them.

I rarely hear from anyone from outside the preppy realm.  (Look, I get that I’m writing this on a blog entitled True Prep.) Duh.

But I did get a note from someone who found a copy of True Prep at his military base in the Gulf and felt like writing.  Really?  How did it get there? What would make my book appealing to someone fighting in a war?  (I didn’t address the notion of camouflage — which I should if I ever update it, and there’s little time for squash or apres ski in Islamabad.)  In other words, I appreciated his note, and I was a little embarrassed about it as well.  Frequently I just feel like a goofball, doing my goofball thing.  

I enjoyed it, thank you for writing it.”

He didn’t have to say that.  He didn’t have to do that.

My response:

"I was moved to read that you found one of my books while serving our country. Thank you for that. I hope it took you out of the grit and grind of what you were doing, even for a few moments. "

I love hearing from all of you.  In a way, I wish all of my writing could be a dialogue instead of the monologue it is.  

Thank you all for writing.  We need one another.





2013: To Be Determined

Hi Again,

I had written a better post (how defensive is that?) a little while ago, and it disappeared into the ether.  So this post may be inferior.  You’ve been warned.

Regarding New Year’s Resolutions.  This year I experienced my personal best, and didn’t break a resolution until January 6th.  I feel pretty good about that.  

I want to show you my favorite photograph of the month (I say “show” not “share.”)  I posted this on my twitter account @LisaBirnbach and on the True Prep page on Facebook, so if you’re not sick of them  already familiar with either of those, here it is for your enjoyment.


Yes, it’s cold for us chickens (when it’s not unseasonably warm).

In  any case, a few housekeeping notes.  Very very soon, this blog is going to undergo a serious upgrade.  In fact, you could say it’s going into rehab, (the preppiest kind of time-out).  I hope you will like the new and improved 

Speaking of all things preppy — including rehab — look what I read today online at the Los Angeles Times’ dot com.  This is a paper that takes its real estate reporting seriously.  F. Scott Fitzgerald’s house in Baltimore is for sale.,0,4281960.story


Tempted?  Baltimore is an interesting city, not to mention the home of crabs, the worldwide center of Lacrosse, and the residence of living artists like Anne Tyler and John Waters.  

Finally, in the End Of Civilization As We Know It Dept.:  I wanted to look up Emily Dickinson, to make sure her last name wasn’t spelled with an ‘e’.  When one Googles Emily, I shudder to say, the first one that comes up is someone called “Emily Maynard,” a former contestant on “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette.”  Or maybe both.

Emily Dickinson, poet

(December 10, 1830 – May 15, 1886)

Never married.

Emily Maynard, Professional um…Bachelorette

(February 1, 1986 -     )

Probably has not read any poetry.

Am I a snob?  I think so.


Fresh Wishes for a New Year December 31, 2012

As 2012 stumbles to its demise, I think we were taught lessons that we cannot ignore (and couldn’t if we wanted to).

     Nature is powerful.  It can be harnessed, but it cannot truly be controlled.  

     When one is feeling upset, it is wise not to have a loaded gun at hand.

     The less attention we pay the Kardashians, the less attention they will get.  (Unheeded.)

     As our privacies are being eroded and lost, we learn to value them. 

     Since we must all share the same planet, we might as well try to get along with one    another.

     For the money, nothing beats a book for sheer entertainment value.

     Still boyish Paul McCartney gets to close the show.

Soon my daughters and I will be writing down our New Year’s Resolutions, as we do every December 31st.  (My son, Exhibit A is away with friends, so he’s off the hook this year.)  We seal them in an envelope and then open last year’s resolution envelope to see how we’ve done and to see how we’re doing.  I know I can do better, and I want to do better.  I think I will learn how to be a better grown up in 2013.  I probably say that every year, but I actually mean it now, in the final hours of a truly difficult and yucky 12 months.

Like many of you, who have found your talents less relevant to the way business is conducted these days, reinvention is part of my mission too.  I can’t wait to see how it shakes down for me.  In fact, I’m chomping at the bit.  

I send you all my wishes:  Good health, a strong core, a lucky break.  I hope you find your good scissors that must be in the den and spare reading glasses you had in the car, I hope your stock splits, your child graduates, you get the promotion, your handicap goes down and your popularity goes up.  

Happy New Year,


Love, Lisa



chienneangeliques asked: In your opinion, what is the preppiest girls' college?

Do not look outside the Commonwealth of Virginia, if you are interested in a preppy women’s college.  There reside both Hollins and  Sweet Briar Colleges, in addition to Mary Baldwin.  (Sweet Briar’s colors are pink and green.)

szshap asked: Hi I looove your blog :) I have a discount code for The Frat Collection and I wanted to share it with you. The code is URI and it gets you 10% off every item in your order. Plus, 10% of your purchase goes towards a charity of your choice! I hope you find this useful! Also, could you maybe share it with your followers? Thanks!

Thanks, Szshaps!  Hope all the followers will avail themselves of it.

Happy holidays!

Oh my aching bach (intentional bad pun), but enough about me.

Actually, my pain is a bit lower than that, but this photograph gives you the idea of what’s new in my life.

That’s why I haven’t been here on Tumblr for a while.  It’s a big pain and a big bore.  Complaining doesn’t help in the slightest.  It’s just a bummer for everyone around me.  And by not complaining (too much) I’m trying to set an example for my science experiments.  Of course, if they are not feeling well they must tell me.  But if we’ve established that they have a tummy ache because of something they ate, or they have a headache but haven’t taken any Advil or Tylenol — the actual complaint itself won’t lessen the discomfort.

Enough with today’s science lesson.

Let’s review the last few weeks:  Reherniated a disc, “Frankenstorm” Sandy, Election Season comes to an end at last, Nor’Easter, the PetWell scandal (my nickname for Petraeus-Broadwell affair), the BBC scandal,  and the Les Miserables trailers which — once you’ve heard them, stick like SuperGlue to the inside of your brain, which in my case is full of mind-numbing painkillers, so it cannot put up much of a fight.

(Action shot)

Let me just say that like many of you, I am particularly grateful for all the hard work of the first responders, New York’s MTA, Governors Cuomo & Christie, Mayor Bloomberg, Occupy Sandy, etc. for helping those in need through nature’s temper tantrums.  

Also thankful that the “Mean Season” of politics is over.  During it I felt like I was stuck.  Until the election was over — really over, including recounts, etc. — I wouldn’t be able to go on with the rest of my life.  It just consumed me; and since I was lying in bed, I had plenty of time to read and read and read about the candidates, the campaign strategies, the lies, etc.

So I am shocked by how many conversations have already begun about 2016.  I can’t believe there are so many people who are ready for it.  Haven’t we decided that election seasons are too long as they are?  (Maybe that was just my decision.)

It is Sunday, November 11th at 2 in the afternoon, eastern time.  It is Veteran’s Day.

I want to thank everyone who has dedicated him or herself to serving our country.  Service comes in many guises — teachers, doctors & nurses, social workers, the military, and volunteers.  As even my youngest Exhibit figured out when she was in Lower School, helping others feels so good it doesn’t always seem hard.



preppymav asked: Dear Lisa, I have just started reading True Prep. I am a die-hard preppy, having grown-up during The Official Preppy Handbook years. One thing I have noticed in your new book is the absence of the beloved Tretorn sneaker, which, as you know, was THE staple in every girls wardrobe. Why the absence of such a beloved preppy item? Are they not considered preppy anymore? Are they not cool? I still buy/wear mine...

Oh Preppymav I feel terrible about this!  I wear Tretorns too — still — other than the ugly things I wear for working out, Tretorns are our sneakers.  Maybe I just presumed that everyone knew that.

Phew.  Supergas and Sperry’s are fine, but Tretorns are the ones.



ylhollander asked: Dear Lisa, Notwithstanding the oppressive Missouri heat, I'm preparing to update my Fall/Winter wardrobe. The seasons will be highlighted by two business retreats - a four day cruise from Vancouver to San Francisco in late September and a six day winter sports junket to Squaw Valley, California in early February. Meetings will take up about 40% of the waking hours and the attire is business casual. I'd be most grateful for your advice on single-suitcase (+ a carry-on) clothing options.

Oh Yale, Yale, Yale —

I blew your late Sept. question, though I sense you did fine with your wardrobe for the Vancouver-San Francisco cruise.  (I suspect a Barbour made the journey with you.)  For Squaw Valley, enjoy your wide-wale corduroys (some plain; some embellished) and crew necks, a tweed or plaid sport coat, and let me think some more when I’m in a wintry state of mind.

Your tardy friend,


somethingsweetqndbright asked: Hi Lisa, i was wondering how I could convince my parents to send me to prep school? It is not the money I know that and if it was my grandparents would be very willing to pay for it. I don't see why they are so hesitant. Right now I am going to a university model school and like it. I just think I could do better somewhere else.(and a lot of my friends go to prep schools)

This is no simple question you have posed.  Where do you live?  What grade are you?  Where do you want to go to school?  Do you want to board?  Are there any good day schools within commuting distance to your house?  Do you have siblings at home?  

In other words, as a mummy, I see that a gazillion other factors will go into making this decision — not just money, which is a biggie in its own right.  If you are doing super well at your school right now and your teachers think you would succeed at a private school, that would be more persuasive than anything else.  See if you can get a teacher or dean’s point of view.  And good luck!