How many professors need to call a babysitter to watch their kid while they attend the Grammy’s? Two-time Grammy nominee Holly George-Warren is known on the New Paltz campus as an excellent adjunct professor in the Department of Digital Media & Journalism, but some people are unaware of her plethora of successes over the years. From releasing over 18 books, being featured on a number of reputable talk shows and holding many positions of excellence throughout her career, George-Warren is unstoppable. The writer, editor and producer has been working closely on her upcoming project with Dolly Parton for the last year and a half.
Throughout her career, George-Warren has served as the editor of Rolling Stone Press where she oversaw the publication of over 40 books. She’s been a co-producer on many different box sets, including one that was nominated for a Grammy; as well as a consultant, writer and/or lecturer on popular music and Western wear at various universities.
When approached by Parton’s team with their concept for the book, George-Warren could not have been more ecstatic. Having a background in both fashion and music writing, this opportunity was perfectly crafted for George-Warren’s expertise. Typically, she takes three to five years to work on a book, but she remarked that working with Parton has been a breeze, making this process much quicker.
“I got to go to Nashville and meet with [Parton] and spend a day with her. I had a zillion interview questions for her,” George-Warren shared. “And then I got to go to her archive where all of her clothing from the 60’s to today is all organized and hanging and just look at all that stuff. [Finally,] I got to interact with her team … her niece is her archivist so [she] interviewed a bunch of the designers and makeup artists and all [those] people.”
The theme of the book came from Dolly’s consistent confidence and candor, as she’s been known to dress in elaborate costume pieces. In a preface about the upcoming release, it’s marketed as “an indispensable guide to forging your own path to beauty and confidence.”
“A message that clearly comes through in the book is how she’s really trying to empower people to be true to themselves and represent themselves the way they feel the most comfortable,” explained George-Warren. “[T]here’s no right way to look, you know, there’s no guide to look a certain way. It’s clearly about representing how you feel inside and what makes you feel good about yourself, whatever that look may be.”
From perceiving Parton first-hand, George-Warren was able to truly capture her essence for the book, sharing the detail that Parton changes her outfit nearly six times a day. Smaller details like this one are the root of any good project, and George-Warren is no exception to this standard.
Scheduled to be released on Oct. 17, the book “Behind the Seams: My Life in Rhinestones” is Parton’s second major book, focusing on her costumes and elaborate wardrobe throughout the years. The main focus of Parton’s first book was on her music career, which is why this next writing project is geared towards her iconic fashion choices.
When George-Warren first began her writing career, information wasn’t as easily accessible as a modern Google search, but this didn’t hinder her work. When embarking on a new project, she has quite meticulous standards for her creative process, which involves her favorite component: research. Rather than scratching the surface of content, she fully immerses herself in the person she’s focusing on, consuming all of the knowledge she can get her hands on.
“I love to just go down the rabbit hole and just learn everything there is to know about the person or whatever it is I’m working on, and that kind of just makes … the lightbulb go off and it brings more knowledge about the person and their work; so that I can ask them very detailed questions about some obscure things,” George-Warren stated.
To prepare for her book with Parton, she watched all of Parton’s movies as well as numerous episodes of her television series, read articles throughout the internet and ultimately made her visit to Nashville.
George-Warren’s life has been a series of full-circle moments. She received recognition for liner notes she had written for Janis Joplin’s album with a Grammy nomination. This positive event led to her opportunity 15 years later to write Joplin’s biography, which turned out to be a great success.
The biography, “Janis: Her Life and Music,” released in 2019 received a massive amount of positive feedback from readers all around the world. Named Best Nonfiction Book of 2019 by the Texas Institute of Letters, it also landed George-Warren with regular emails of praise in her inbox in regards to her work on this book. She claims that it’s such a gratifying feeling to be able to connect with people on this level and have them feel affected by her work.
To add to this chain reaction of positive events, at the ripe age of 16, she became enamored with Jack Kerouac and his works, creating an influence on her own career. Her last big release featured an anecdote influenced by this adoration that landed another project on her roster.
While researching Joplin’s life, she discovered that much of her career was also influenced by an adoration for Kerouac, which was included in the final print. Using this seemingly minuscule detail in her book has actually helped George-Warren discover her next project: a biography of Jack Kerouac.
“The executors read that in my book, and [were willing to grant] access to all of [Kerouac’s] archives & papers and give permission to quote whatever [I] want without any sort of controls over what’s [written]. So, I have complete freedom, autonomy to write whatever I want,” George-Warren shared. “So again, it’s just this weird journey that one thing can kind of lead to another but part of it going back to certain passions I had a long time ago, comes into my life again, so it’s pretty exciting.”
A truly enchanting individual, George-Warren continues to impress with her wide array of skills. Be sure to check out her newest release on Oct. 17 and stay tuned for her upcoming project on Jack Kerouac sometime in the near future.