The Top 10 Costumes for Writers in 2020

Photo via Ryan Miguel Capili

You've been wearing a mask for a while, I know, but now you get to wear one for fun, like you used to. I have no idea what Halloween is going to look like this year, but Halloween is my favorite time of the year and I will be celebrating even if it means getting together with friends over Zoom. In any case, Halloween time means it's costume time. Three years ago I wrote about costumes for writers, but times change and the longer I spend in publishing, the more I learn about the monsters that hide in its shadows, the ghosts of ideas we never wrote down, and the plethora of characters that make writing one of the weirdest gigs ever. In any case, here are the hottest costumes for writers this year.

1. Writer who says they only care about the quality of the story and not the sex, gender, sexual orientation, or race of the writer

Put on a Confederate Flag t-shirt, some jeans, and carry around half a dozen books by straight white dudes. Make sure they're books you can grab at the nearest grocery store or pharmacy. Whenever someone says "Read diverse books," or "We need more diversity in publishing," start screaming about how LGBTQ+ writers, poor writers, and writers of color just need to write better stories if they want more attention. Tell everyone what they did to Otto Penzler was bullshit and you will never read that series again.

2. A sad tweet from an author who's doing it wrong

You've been wearing a mask for a while, I know, but now you get to wear one for fun.

Dress up in the ugliest thing you have (you know, because their covers always suck). Cover yourself in stars and quotes with no attribution (saying things like "Outstanding!" and "Riveting!"). When no pays attention to you, get angry and leave.

3. An MFA instructor who doesn't sleep with his students

Dress as yourself and be a decent human being.

4. A writer on a Zoom reading/meeting/interview

Take a photo of your bookshelves, blow it up, and print it out. Attach it to a stick and then put the stick on a harness so that the image is always your background. Smile sadly, nod from time to time, do your thing, and be grateful that you can still do shit, even if it's from home.

5. J.K. Rowling apologist

Tape together two black trash bags, cut holes for your head and arms, and wear them as a plastic poncho. Roll around in dumpster juice before heading out.

6. A famous contemporary writer

We've seen folks rocking the shorts, socks, hats, and cigarettes of Hunter S. Thompson, the DFW bandana, and Tom Wolfe's white suits. Now it's time to innovate and dress up like a famous contemporary writer. Roxane Gay's hair and tattoos make her instantly recognizable. The same can be said of Josh Malerman's suit and hat or Paul Tremblay's glasses. You can rock a flowery shirt like Jonathan Maberry or get a wig and a cigarette and be Joan Didion. Ursula K. Le Guin also had awesome, instantly recognizable hair, so you can go with her. In any case, the challenge here it to find a contemporary writer that has something distinctive, and then build your costume around that. Keep it respectful and, for the love of not getting your face punched, don't go for something like Marlon James's hair if you're not black.

7. An acceptance, a glorious, beautiful acceptance 

Rejections are common, but acceptances are special. Dress up in silver or gold. Wear a nice perfume. Smile a lot. Make someone's day. Say positive things like "I like you!" and "You did an awesome job of leaving behind the constant ennui of our times to explore the human ability to enjoy free candy even in dark times."

8. A writer's insecurities

Visual representations are tricky. For this one, we can go with something most people see as "evil": the devil. Get a Satan costume and be incredibly negative toward people. Tell them how much they suck. See a good looking person? Tell them they're ugly. See someone in shape? Call them obese. Hear someone speaking eloquently about something they obviously know a lot about? Get close to their ear and scream "You don't know what you're talking about, you idiot!" Disregard the truth and try your best to make everyone around you feel insecure.

9. The ghost of a dead manuscript

The idea seemed good, but it wasn't. You started writing...and soon saw the holes, the weaknesses, the chasms too wide to cross. The manuscript died. The story ceased to be. Oh, but its ghost lingers. You think about it from time to time. The promise of what could've been haunts you. Now you can be it. All you need is a white sheet. Cut holes for the eyes. Make sure the top falls over your head. If there's anything resembling a point, iron it out. This isn't the time for unclear messages.

10. Cheesy author photo

Grab a fedora and stand in front of a wall of bricks. Wear a suit and sit with an arm in front of you like they used to tell you to do when you were in school and it was picture day. Use makeup until you're unrecognizable, in the same way some filters make you unrecognizable. Carry your cat around or have your dog at your feet. Smile like you're in a photo shoot for a catalog. Go through your shelves and find the worst author photo you can and then try to recreate its vibe with whatever you have at home. Please send photos.

I'd love to see what you end up looking like this Halloween. Feel free to post a pic on Twitter and tag LitReactor (@LitReactor) and me (@gabino_iglesias). Maybe we'll do a contest or something...

Say Cheese!

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Gabino Iglesias

Column by Gabino Iglesias

Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author of ZERO SAINTS, HUNGRY DARKNESS, and GUTMOUTH. His reviews have appeared in Electric Literature, The Rumpus, 3AM Magazine, Marginalia, The Collagist, Heavy Feather Review, Crimespree, Out of the Gutter, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, HorrorTalk, Verbicide, and many other print and online venues. 

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