Skip to main content
Publish date:

Sallie Tisdale: On the Power of Pop Culture

Author Sallie Tisdale discusses her deep dive into reality television to observe the power of pop culture for her new book, The Lie About the Truck.

Sallie Tisdale is the author of several books, including Advice for Future Corpses (and Those Who Love them), Violation, Talk Dirty to Me, Stepping Westward, and Women of the Way. She has received a Pushcart Prize, an NEA Fellowship, the James D. Phelan Literary Award, and was selected for the Shoenfeldt Distinguished Visiting Writer Series. Her work has appeared in Harper’s, The New Yorker, The Threepenny Review, The Antioch Review, Conjunctions, and Tricycle. She lives in Portland, Ore. Visit her online at SallieTisdale.com.

Sallie Tisdale: On the Power of Pop Culture

Sallie Tisdale

In this post, Sallie discusses her deep dive into reality television to observe the power of pop culture for her new book, The Lie About the Truck: Survivor, Reality TV, and the Endless Gaze, how she found the writing process fun, and more!

Name: Sallie Tisdale
Literary agent: Kimberly Witherspoon, InkWell Management
Book title: The Lie About the Truck: Survivor, Reality TV, and the Endless Gaze
Publisher: Gallery Books
Release date: October 26, 2021
Genre/category: Pop culture criticism
Previous titles: Nine previous books, including Advice for Future Corpses, Talk Dirty to Me, and Violation: Collected Essays
Elevator pitch for the book: Reality television is one of the most popular and influential entertainments in the world—and ours is a world of cameras. Why are we so interested in each other and so willing to pretend that what we see is actually real? Survivor, in particular, has perfected this equation.

the_lie_about_the_truck_survivor_reality_tv_and_the_endless_gaze_by_sallie_tisdale_book_cover_image

IndieBound | Bookshop | Amazon
[WD uses affiliate links.]

What prompted you to write this book?

I was embarrassed that I liked watching Survivor, and I was struck by how easily people dismissed its influence. I'm a jealous guard of my own privacy and fascinated by how easily so many people give theirs up.

I have long been interested in the question of whether we are ever truly authentic with each other or always behind a mask. I decided to investigate Survivor and reality television as a microcosm of that question.

Also, I could then binge-watch television and call it work.

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?

I've worked on material about appearance and presentation for many years. I started writing about Survivor about five years ago, starting with an essay. But the essay kept growing until it just needed to become a book.

What changed as I wrote was taking an ever-deeper dive into the show, becoming granular in my description as I parsed out themes; I was binge-watching whole seasons at the same time that I was reading philosophy and media studies.

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?

I included the very long essay on Survivor in a proposal for a book of essays. In the course of conversations with my editor, we realized at about the same time that we wanted to make that the next book.

Sallie Tisdale: On the Power of Pop Culture

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

Not a surprise for me, but maybe for people familiar with some of my earlier work—I had a great time letting my sense of humor loose. The subject matter let me stretch into a more casual and snarky style with the chance for a lot of sotto voce commentary. Writing this book was really a lot of fun.

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

If you like Survivor, I hope you will be nodding along and maybe arguing. If you don't like Survivor, I hope you will be nodding along and maybe arguing! If you've never watched it or decided a long time ago that reality television is trash, I hope you'll read along at least to the point where I explain why it matters.

If you're interested in our surveillance culture and the nature of the self's knowledge of itself, see what happens when I try to fit that into a show about fake castaways. And I hope everyone gets some laughs along the way.

If you could share one piece of advice with other writers, what would it be?

Stop worrying about what the reader might think. Just write what you need to write.

Throughout this 12-week workshop, you will get step-by-step instruction on how to write nonfiction, read Philip Gerard's Creative Nonfiction: Researching and Crafting Stories of Real Life, and write articles, essays, or a few chapters of your book. Register for this workshop and discover how fun writing nonfiction can be.

Throughout this 12-week workshop, you will get step-by-step instruction on how to write nonfiction, read Philip Gerard's Creative Nonfiction: Researching and Crafting Stories of Real Life, and write articles, essays, or a few chapters of your book. Register for this workshop and discover how fun writing nonfiction can be.

Click to continue.

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Ending Your Story Too Soon

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Ending Your Story Too Soon

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is ending your story too soon.

FightWrite™: Fight Scenes with Magic

FightWrite™: Fight Scenes With Magic

In this post, trained fighter and author Carla Hoch explores the process of writing fight scenes with magic—how to make the unbelievable believable, how limitations bring us closer to our characters, and more.

Invoice Template for Freelance Writers

Invoice Template for Freelance Writers

If you're a freelance writer who is able to secure assignments, an essential tool you'll need is an invoice. In this post, Writer's Digest Senior Editor Robert Lee Brewer shares a very basic and easy invoice template for freelance writers to get the job done (and get paid).

3 Things Being a Broadway Wig Master Taught Me About Storytelling

3 Things Being a Broadway Wig Master Taught Me About Storytelling

A career behind the curtain helped Amy Neswald in creating her own stories. Here, the author shares 3 things being a broadway wig master taught her about storytelling.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Out of Control

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Out of Control

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let things get a little out of control.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2021 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Next Steps

Here are the final steps for the 14th annual November PAD Chapbook Challenge! Use December and the beginning of January to revise and collect your poems into a chapbook manuscript. Here are some tips and guidelines.

NaNoWriMo’s Over … Now What?

NaNoWriMo’s Over … Now What?

After an intense writing challenge, you might feel a little lost. Here are some tips from Managing Editor and fellow Wrimo Moriah Richard for capitalizing on your momentum.

Ian Douglas: On Telling the Truth in Science Fiction

Ian Douglas: On Telling the Truth in Science Fiction

New York Times bestselling author Ian Douglas discusses how he incorporated implausible conspiracy theories to uncover the truth in his new science fiction novel, Alien Hostiles.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 589

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a yesterday poem.