[Note from Frolic: Today, we welcome author Shannon Myers to the site. Take it away, Shannon!]
It will be work! Totally fun, but work. Be prepared.
I read the message, fighting a small smile.
I grew up on a farm and knew how to drive a tractor by the time I reached middle school. There were plenty of late nights spent doing homework inside the cabin of a module builder during cotton ginning season, and summers spent mindlessly driving a spray-rig through the fields.
On top of that, I was a complete pantser who set unrealistic writing deadlines. I was no stranger to working long hours and surviving on caffeine and dry shampoo to complete a book.
What could be harder than that?
In the writing world that’s known as foreshadowing, kids.
Until now, my experience with modeling had been strictly limited to working with photographers to find my next book cover. Never in a million years did I ever see myself stepping out of the comfort zone of my office and in front of a camera lens.
It was to me, for lack of a better term, the opportunity of a lifetime.
Lest anyone think I was suffering from delusions of grandeur; I was fully aware that I wasn’t what many in the industry would deem ‘modeling material.’ For one thing, I missed the average height requirement by seven inches, and the preferred 34-24-34 standard on Victoria’s Secret models?
Well, let’s just say that I’m a bit of an overachiever in that department.
You might be asking yourself, “Self, if she knew all of this, why would she commit to a week-long shoot with professionals?”
In Operation Fit-ish, my superhero-laden romantic comedy, the curvy heroine, Dakota, is dumped by her fiancé just weeks before their wedding because she doesn’t live up to his family’s standards. Growing up in the shadow of a sister who seemed to excel at everything, Dakota’s life is spent trying to become who people expect her to be.
I sacrificed so much of myself, trying to please those around me, and it was never enough. I never reached a point where everyone was happy, least of all me. No, I never hated my sister, but I did envy her. I envied her ability to pretend to be what everyone wanted while never losing herself in the process. I allowed myself to be fed by compliments and then starved by criticism until I was nothing more than a vessel—emptied and filled on a whim.
Simply put, Dakota was me.
I’ve never seen myself as ‘the pretty girl.’ I don’t say that to garner sympathy or anything silly like that. I say it because I know I’m not the only one. I grew up being ‘the smart one.’ In the world I was raised in, you were either pretty or smart, but never both. I remember wishing I looked like the girls on television in junior high and high school, wondering if boys would notice me then. While I tried not to dwell on it, my worth was very much tied up in whether I was considered attractive or not.
It wasn’t until recently that I stopped hating the woman in the mirror. I didn’t waste time focusing on the large upper arms, courtesy of my German heritage, or the thighs that tend to rub together when I wear dresses or shorts. It’s been a process, and some days are better than others, but I’m learning to embrace my curves and the body that carried two children.
Do I still wish my breasts looked like they did before nursing two babies? Absolutely. But it doesn’t define me. It doesn’t make me any less worthy of love because my body is a work in progress.
A year ago, I never would’ve agreed to a photo shoot. I would’ve told myself that I’d do it when…
When the scale showed a number that society deemed acceptable for my height…
When I had a breast reduction…
When my thighs were their own separate entities…
When Chris Hemsworth asked me to run away with him—ahem, I digress.
I could’ve spent my entire life waiting for when, but after a family tragedy earlier this year, I realized that tomorrow is never promised, and life can change in an instant. So, I stopped hiding. I quit shrinking myself down to fit in someone else’s box and got comfortable in my own.
The next step was putting myself out there… go big or go home, right?
I purchased the plane ticket before I could change my mind.
I’d never been to the Pacific Northwest. In my head, I imagined shots along the beach in Washington, wrapped in a shawl with the ocean breeze lifting my hair gracefully behind me, or traipsing across the high desert in Oregon like a modern-day Josephine Sarah Marcus in search of Wyatt Earp. The romance writer in me was already getting lost in the endless possibilities.
Obviously, you’ll need roller skates…
Okay, not a problem. I’d just order a pair and zip around the neighborhood a couple of times to practice. After all, I used to rollerblade every day as a kid. It wasn’t as if I’d forgotten how to do it. As it turns out, roller-skating is nothing like riding a bike, and after several falls in the driveway, I decided that I’d just wait until I got to the boardwalk and improvise with a fake sprain or something.
The months ticked by. Clothing was purchased, and I was feeling pretty confident that I knew what I’d signed up for as I boarded the plane. After sharing that she’d lived in Portland and worked in broadcasting for a time, the woman in the seat next to mine asked what I planned on doing in the city. As I excitedly chattered away about my unique opportunity to work with a well-known photographer whom I’d never met, the smile on her face began to fade.
“You’ve never met the photographer?” she practically spluttered.
I admitted that I hadn’t but explained my connection to one of the other models, not realizing until much later that I’d made it sound as if I was being lured into some dark underworld where I’d been promised the world in exchange for a few ‘portfolio-building’ photographs.
To the woman in seat 22A: I’m still alive and have not been sold into a sex trafficking ring.
After being retrieved from the airport and shuttled toward Mt. Hood, the stirrings of nervousness began to take root, leaving me wondering what on earth had possessed me to take such a risk. After being talked off the ledge and reassured that I wasn’t a fraud by both the photographer and the model who’d been gracious enough to allow me to tag along, we set off for the studio.
This was it.
I was ready for my closeup.
Makeup had been applied. Clothes had been changed. Something you should know about me, I’m an eternal student. When I committed to shooting with Jean Woodfin, I immediately went to her website and scoured image after image, studying facial expressions and head tilts until they were ingrained in my memory. The ‘smolder’ had been practiced—both in front of the mirror and before the close friends and family that I knew would wait until I was out of the room before laughing.
I assumed that I’d be shooting with the male model who’d invited me at some point during the week; you know, once I’d gotten completely comfortable in front of the lens. Perhaps, instead of wasting time on hair and makeup, I should’ve mentally prepared myself for the possibility that we’d be starting with couple’s images.
Lesson number one: Assume nothing.
As his hands slipped around my waist and his mouth hovered mere inches from mine, I thought back to my days in drama class, fighting to ignore my clammy palms and the line of sweat slowly making its way down my spine.
Surely modeling and acting were one and the same.
We were selling an idea, a story.
Only, instead of three acts to convince our audience, we had one take in front of the camera.
And the award for best actress goes to…
“Don’t pull back,” Jean noted, a measly three seconds into my modeling debut. “You’re tucking your chin toward your neck, which makes it look as if you have more than one of them.”
Okay, so maybe it wasn’t the glowing words of praise I’d been hoping for, but still, it was something that was easily corrected.
We’d just sell the idea to them in two takes…
“Can you soften your mouth? You seem angry at him.”
In case you’re wondering, softening one’s mouth is not as easy a task as it may seem. I could take two characters and lead them through the pitfalls of life before finding love in each other’s arms, but despite all of my studying, I couldn’t make my face convey anything other than murderous rage.
Instead of telling me to pack my things and go, I was instructed to part my lips ever so slightly and inhale through my mouth just before Jean began snapping.
In one breath, I went from serial killer to supermodel.
Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite that drastic. It wasn’t as if people were suddenly going to confuse me with Kate Upton, but it was a marked improvement. Think Charlize Theron playing Aileen Wuornos in Monster.
Lesson number two: When all else fails, take a breath.
That’s what we in the modeling biz like to call a little trick of the trade, and by ‘we,’ I mean actual models. That being said, I’d wager that behind all of those sexy book covers is a female model entirely focused on her breathing and where to direct her eyes.
Jean arranged a large group shoot over the next several days as a way of helping me get my feet wet. I brought along my laptop; assuming I’d have plenty of downtime to work on the novel that was fast approaching its deadline. I imagined I’d pop in for a couple of shots before disappearing under an umbrella to hammer out my story.
If Morgan Freeman were narrating my life, this would’ve been the moment that he calmly observed, “Shannon would, in fact, do no such thing.”
Our first day was spent at Battery Russell near the Oregon coast. After unloading the camera equipment and carrying it up a steep flight of concrete stairs that left me completely winded, we were instructed to get changed. Some stripped down in the parking lot, while others slipped inside a nearby ammunition bunker. I stood with a bundle of clothing in my arms, shooting wary glances toward the small outhouse before deciding that when in Rome…
Lesson number three: The world is your changing room.
We arrived at the beach early the next morning, and I quickly realized that the only part of my fantasy coming true was the shawl wrapped around my shoulders to ward off the cold. The sky was gray, and the wind wasn’t exactly lifting my hair gracefully as much as it was swirling it around my face like a tornado. Those not in front of the camera huddled together in small groups for warmth. When it was my turn, I reluctantly stripped off the shawl and waded into the icy surf, fighting to keep my teeth from chattering. To make matters worse, the wind had caught the long flowy sundress that I’d been convinced would look stunning on the beach, sending it billowing out in front of me.
I gave up any pretense of channeling my inner heroine, scanning the horizon for a lover who’d been lost at sea. It appeared that the only arrival I’d be expecting were the twins I suddenly seemed to be carrying. Between that, and a rogue wave that drenched me from the hips down, I was ready to admit defeat and hide out in the car until it was time for dinner.
The cold and damp had pierced through my sturdy southern exterior, leaving me irritated and maybe in need of a snack or seven. It was then that I noticed Jean, down on her knees in the sand with the tide rushing in around her, not letting a little cold stop her from capturing someone’s next book cover.
Lesson number four: You will want to quit long before your photographer does.
Until this point, the work that went into getting ‘the shot’ was a vague concept, at best. Whoever purchases the image of my model friend, Rob, emerging from the waves won’t see anything but the story they’re writing. They won’t know that Jean risked her lens and a bad knee to get it. If someone sees my images from the desert, they won’t realize that directly off-camera, Jean’s son-in-law was holding up a shade to shield me from the sun, or that her pregnant daughter was constantly on her feet to ensure that we had some semblance of privacy while changing outfits.
I’d imagined myself sitting back and writing in between shots. In reality, we worked nonstop as a unit, fetching clothing, or holding reflectors. When the wind pulled my hair across my face, there was always someone standing nearby, ready to tuck it back behind my ear.
When Jean tried to warn me what I was getting into, I thought I knew.
Not really, anyway.
It was work in the sense that I was asleep before my head hit the pillow most nights, but it was also so much more than that. It was finding a group of people and developing such a strong sense of camaraderie that I left Portland feeling as though I’d been welcomed into another family.
Jean is a wonder behind the lens and provided fantastic direction for someone whose camera knowledge consisted of don’t blink. She gently guided me every step of the way, leaving me feeling as though I was ready to strut the runway at New York Fashion Week.
Robert Kelly, my model friend, has the patience of a saint. He may have teased me for just about everything, like an annoying older brother, but his instruction made each shot easier than the last. He’s also the one who convinced me that behind every female model is a man doing his best to make her laugh.
Will any of the images end up on a book cover?
Maybe. Maybe not.
It doesn’t matter.
I took a risk and fell in love with someone in the process…
About the Author:
Shannon Myers is a born and raised Texan. She grew up inventing clever stories, usually to get herself out of trouble. Her mother was not amused. In junior high, she began writing fractured fairy tales from the villain’s point of view and that was the moment she knew that she was going to use her powers for evil instead of good.
In 2003, she moved to Denver and met the love of her life. After some relentless stalking and a few well-timed sarcastic remarks, the man eventually gave in to her charms and wifed her so hard. They welcomed a son in 2007 that they named after their favorite Marvel superhero, Spiderman.
Sick of seeing beautiful mountains through their window every day, the three escaped back to the desolate landscape of the west Texas desert in 2009. She welcomed her second son not long after and soon realized that being surrounded by three men was nothing at all like she’d imagined in her fantasies.
After an unplanned surgery in 2014 and a long pity party, she decided to pen a novel about the worst thing that could happen to a person in order to cheer herself up. She’s twisted like that. Thus, From This Day Forward was born and the rest, as they say, is history.
Not only does Shannon enjoy stalking people, she also has a fondness for being stalked. Find her on your favorite social media site to keep up with the latest schemes and shenanigans. Find her here: https://www.shannonshaemyers.com/
Through the Water (Fairest Book 2), out Feb. 2020!
Ten years ago, I saved his life.
The daughter of a megachurch pastor, I always assumed that the walls were there to protect me. Now, I see that they’re meant to hold me captive. My father’s followers were my family, his church my home, and his teachings my law.
When Killian re-entered my life, I was nineteen. A lost soul in need of a savior. He started out as a distraction. A distraction that quickly grew into compulsion. I tried to stay away, but he stirred up something within me that was more real than anything I ever experienced inside the church.
What happens when a girl from the inside falls in love with a boy on the outside?
He’s a baseball player, known around the entire world, and I’m—well, I’m nothing more than a hostage of my faith.
Perhaps it’s fitting that his name means church as he is my sanctuary.
Ten years ago, I saved his life. If only he could save mine.