Horror in Pink, by Barbara Silkstone

Horror in Pink, by Barbara Silkstone

I began to write in my teen years. I was enamored with horror. I never outgrew my love for the chilling tales spun by Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft.

Once my daughter left the single mom nest, it was my turn to realize my dreams. I would become a horror writer—an author with a capital A. Barely able to contain my excitement I looked forward to The World Horror and Fantasy Conference to be held in Providence, Rhode Island on Halloween weekend. The list of speakers read like an invitation to a roasting for Stephen King.

What to wear?

The first question any woman asks herself. My closet held nothing I deemed suitable for a horror conference, despite the fact that most of my wardrobe was black; I felt I needed something really edgy. I had attended one horror conference and knew the acceptable colors were black or black. I grabbed by purse and went in hunt of an outfit that would say mysterious lady.

Somewhere between my house and the dress shop, the strangest thing happened, I began to channel Barbara Cartland. By the time I reached my favorite boutique I had a craving for a pink dress!

I had never owned a single pink garment. I am not a pink. I am a black or a turquoise. And yet I asked the saleswoman to show me something in pink. Knowing me from my previous shopping jaunts she stepped away, perhaps fearing I had developed a case of the pink flu. Within minutes I had purchased a dress that resembled a birthday cake.

I returned home in a trance, completely enchanted by my frilly pink dress with its big lace collar. The real me would never have chosen this walking slipcover. It clearly had to be the spirit of Barbara Cartland who carefully packed the dress for the trip to Providence.

 Cue the theme from The Twilight Zone.


I checked into my room at The World Horror and Fantasy Conference hotel, eager to mix and meet my fellow horror writers. I changed into the pink dress and sashayed down to the main ballroom that possessed the atmosphere of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. The guests were all dressed in black, not a pastel among them except for yours truly.

The first panel discussion had just begun when I took a seat in the front row. A well-known horror author sat high on the dais chairing the panel. He began to play eye-hockey with me. I was a lone wishy-washy in an inky dark sea. When the panel was over, he rushed to my side. Perhaps there was something magical about pink?

Horror guy invited me to the hotel lounge, where for over two hours, he peppered me with questions about my life. He listened intently as if I was Elizabeth Bennet and he was Darcy. Had I left my charm dial on high? I was flattered.

No sooner had I freed myself from my new admirer than another author grabbed me for a little one-on-one. He questioned me and then listened intently to the minutest details of my life while artfully dodging questions about his own.


Pink— the new black?

Was I experiencing that one day each woman is granted once in her life? You know the one I’m talking about—the twenty-four hours between that last acne pimple and the first wrinkle, when your weight is perfect and your hair doesn’t frizz. Was this my day?

Never had so many men been interested in the infinitesimal details of my life. I returned to my hotel room and collapsed on the bed. A soft knock on the door roused me from the first wisps of sleep.

Two female horror groupies pushed their way into my room before I could rally and slam the door in their faces. One groupie placed a crumpled paper tiara on my head. The other handed me a homemade trophy.

I stood there dumbfounded, wearing the crown and clutching the trophy that appeared to be a winged Barbie doll painted in silver glitter.

“We have declared you the “Honorary B–ch” of the conference. “If you weren’t so nice, we’d hate you. Every guy here wants to spend time with you. How dare you wear pink to a writers’ conference?”

“I didn’t know. I’m sorry!” I said. “What is it about pink?”

The groupies shared a look and then studied me for long minutes. It was clear I was a newbie.

“Pink screams normal,” said the first groupie.

I cut her a blank look.

“She still doesn’t get it,” said the second. “Authors need your normalness to flesh-out their characters. Bits and pieces of your life will show up in their stories. You’ll probably be killed off in a dozen tales.”

The first groupie adjusted my tipping tiara. “You, my dear, are delicious details for these dudes.”

 My pink dress had marked me as a hot new source of normal.

My lesson for the day: No matter the genre, authors are constantly on the hunt for the details of a normal life that they can weave into their stories. I took this lesson to heart as I spent years rambling through England with a notebook and a tape recorder.


I learned to button my lip and open my ears. Being a horror in pink taught me about the fine art of listening.

With love & laughter!



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Sheila L. M.
Sheila L. M.
May 11, 2015 2:19 PM

Interesting. As a child, growing up, my mother despaired of getting me to buy anything that was not pink. As a senior citizen I wear purple, black and gray…that old stand-by poem…”Warning, When I Am An Old Woman, I Shall Wear Purple” by Jenny Joseph…is my stanza. I HATE to shop now and do much via the Internet – hate to look at myself in mirrors in stores.

Sharon Lathan
April 8, 2015 6:38 PM

Oh my, oh my!! I sure am glad it was you, Barbara, and not me! I am SO not an in-the-spotlight kind of gal. I would have locked myself into a closet to avoid the attention. LOL!

I sure can see it though. You, in pink, and with your reddish hair (yes?), alone in a sea of black. No wonder you were the star!

I have a sneaking suspicion that we shall be entertained regularly here on Austen Authors with the wild tales of Ms. Silkstone. 😉

Rose Fairbanks
April 7, 2015 9:10 PM

Aw, sorry to laugh at your pain! It’s so true though! Authors are on the hunt for details! 10 hours in the emergency room the other week and I’ve got a lot of ways to flesh out a few characters at some point. I’m sorry the interest wasn’t authentic, though. You deserve *many* perfect days. Although I’m still getting zits, ridiculous hormones.

April 7, 2015 9:21 PM
Reply to  Rose Fairbanks

Rose, So sorry about the zits. Hang on for a bit—your perfect hour is on the way.

P.S. The ER is a great place to flesh out characters. 🙂 Hope all turned out well.

Stephanie L
April 7, 2015 6:04 PM

Oh that’s funny. I can’t even imagine the Barbie pink ruffly dress. You were the flame that night. Did you ever try to find yourself in any of their books?

It’s amazing what your clothing choices can (unintentionally) say to those around you. I have one of those moments too, but it’s a lot less dramatic I think LOL. I was a senior in high school and I was a member of DECA. I was going to the state convention as my chapters president (not a big deal) and I was determined to look the part. I went to a thrift shop and picked up a great 2 piece skirt suit for $7. Violet tweed with lovely buttons and pleats on the bottom of the skirt. I was thrilled I could look pulled together and ladylike. I go to the conference and stand up and introduce myself. Shortly after in the “meet and greet” I had all these people coming up to me and inviting me to this panel and that panel and such. I was even nominated to run for state treasurer (which I did, and lost). I found out later that I was wearing a CHANEL suit and people assumed I had money. *facepalm* Well, that was a short lived illusion. I didn’t even know who Coco Chanel was at that point in my life. At least I can say I once rocked a Chanel? LOL

April 7, 2015 9:18 PM
Reply to  Stephanie L

Stephanie, What a cute story. Clothes do make the woman—as I sit here in my penguin pajamas. 🙂

April 7, 2015 12:14 PM

Now I’m wondering what to wear to my next writing conference. So far, I have tried animal print, stripes, and black. None of those worked as well as your frilly pink dress. I used to love reading horror too. I think perhaps I’ve seen too much bad stuff in real life to ever want to write it now. Humor and romance all the way.

April 7, 2015 9:16 PM
Reply to  rebeccajamison

Rebecca, The old psychological horror was enjoyable…. Hitchcock and company. I don’t enjoy the new material. All shock—no substance. And I would much rather play with Darcy. 🙂 I can recommend a shop for frilly pink dresses if you would like. 🙂

Linda A.
Linda A.
April 7, 2015 10:22 AM

wow. Talk about brave …
And it begs the question “What IS ‘normal’?”

April 7, 2015 12:00 PM
Reply to  Linda A.

Linda, That is a good question. What is normal? Is it the opposite of how eccentrics see themselves?

April 7, 2015 10:03 AM

Barbara, “Pink screams normal.” Oh dear! I am more romantic than horror, but black is my comfort color. I cannot imagine wearing a pink dress. I love your story. Thank you for sharing.

April 7, 2015 11:59 AM
Reply to  BeckyC

BeckyC, I felt a bit like a heroine in a kid’s cartoon. 🙂

April 7, 2015 9:52 AM

What a delightful story. Too many women are dressed in black and are all the same. What a bore. You made my day.

April 7, 2015 11:58 AM
Reply to  anne

Thank you, Anne! I guess I did stand out like a sore pink thumb!

Elizabeth Ann West
April 7, 2015 9:29 AM

My “pink” moment was my freshman year of college. I was invited as one of 4 students to an amabassador dinner with the South Korean ambassador to the US. A US Senator would be there, too. I found an outfit on clearance at Sears that was THE little black dress with a black cape jacket that went to my ankles and burgundy snake skin on the collar and lapels. I felt and looked like a superhero, ready to go out into the night and kick some major vampire @ss.

Everyone else at the dinner was hum-drum, boring suit and tie, and boring pant suits for the women. But there I was, channeling my inner Jamie Lee Curtis from True Lies like I had been invited to some significant international soiree and not a dinner in the banquet hall of the student union. LOL.

After dinner, the Ambassador and the US Senator both spoke with me. The US Senator made sure to give me his card and invited me to apply for an internship. Yeah. I know, I really wish THAT hadn’t happened, and him being old and decrepit looking, don’t worry, I didn’t apply. I was young . . . I wasn’t stupid.

But apparently I was hot enough that the school newspaper took MY picture with Ambassador, so the night is chronicled with the caption “Freshman Elizabeth Schilling greets and welcomes the South Korean Ambassador to CNU.”

April 7, 2015 9:38 AM

Elizabeth, Who says clothes don’t make the woman? People do judge you or at least horror writers do. Now I shall pull on some black slacks and a black top and head out to eavesdrop.

Brenda Webb
Brenda Webb
April 7, 2015 9:28 AM

You brightened my day! Who would have thought to wear pink to a horror writer’s convention! YOU that’s who. So funny! 🙂

I can just imagine that with your hair color and the pink you did stand out a bit. Normal? I think not!

April 7, 2015 9:33 AM
Reply to  Brenda Webb

Brenda, I am blaming it all on Reese Witherspoon. 🙂

Jennifer Redlarczyk
Jennifer Redlarczyk
April 7, 2015 9:14 AM

Barbara, you are so funny! I love it! That means you open for just about anything and what a way to brighten up our JAFF lives! ~Jen Red~

April 7, 2015 9:35 AM

Jen, I just always seem to be in the wrong place at the right time. 🙂

Wendy Roberts
April 7, 2015 9:00 AM

Great story! A wonderful learning experience to help you grow as an author, and as a person!!!

April 7, 2015 9:31 AM
Reply to  Wendy Roberts

Wendy, It is funny where you learn your lessons as a writer. I almost always restaurant dine alone as I can overhear the most fascinating conversations. Not that I copy them, but the topics are hysterical. I was at lunch in a Chinese restaurant recently and overheard two young business men discussing their baby daughters and all the “work” that went with being a new father. They then skipped to ESPN..boring.. Then they began to discuss where a guy could still get a good lap dance for under $100. I almost choked on my egg roll.

Sarah Price
April 7, 2015 8:47 AM

Adorable blog! See what happens when you step outside of your (black) comfort zone? The paper tiera…I hope that’s on your bookshelf at home. <3

April 7, 2015 9:26 AM
Reply to  Sarah Price

Sarah, That tiara was such a mess. But the Barbie doll painted in silver glitter was creepy. Yes, going forward I stick to wearing black and lots of aqua. But no pink. I wonder if Jane Austen wore pink?

April 7, 2015 8:36 AM

Barb, I enjoyed your post! Thank you for pointing out that normal is needed. 🙂

April 7, 2015 9:24 AM
Reply to  carylkane

Carylkane, Just remember as you go about your day… act normal. You will attract a lot of unwanted attention.:)

charlene capodice
charlene capodice
April 7, 2015 7:52 AM

that was a wonderful thing to read this morning! wow Barbara! love the story! <3 thanks for sharing!

April 7, 2015 8:12 AM

Charlene, I am glad you enjoyed it. Just remember…only wear pink when you are prepared to share the most intimate details of your life.:)

April 7, 2015 6:09 AM

Hahaha. Loved this who new pink was normal. I always thought it made you the sicky sweet person like the Reese Witherspoon movie. Thanks Barbara

April 7, 2015 6:31 AM
Reply to  chatty1082

Chatty, I like to think it wasn’t the ghost of Barbara Cartland who made me buy that pink dress. Perhaps it was Reese Witherspoon. Thank you! I feel better already. That was pretty scary.

Deborah Fortin
April 7, 2015 6:01 AM

What a funny story. The normal among the horror writers and for you this was not normal…..too funny. Thank you for sharing.

April 7, 2015 6:29 AM
Reply to  Deborah Fortin

Deborah, Thank you! I still cannot believe I walked out of a dress shop with a pink dress. I was as if I were under a spell. A pink spell….:)

April 7, 2015 2:39 AM

What a wonderful post! This really made me smile, firstly the fact that you wouldn’t conform even though it was your usual style, then you looked like a walking slipcover (LOL!) and were irresistible to the whole room in your normality. So funny! Thank you for sharing 🙂

April 7, 2015 5:16 AM
Reply to  Ceri

Ceri, Thank you. It was one of those times in life when a do-over was greatly desired.:)

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