Life with Kelly Oxford: The Edmonton-born, best-selling author on being blunt and vulnerable — at once

“I get to cut to the chase quickly with people... but also... I wear my heart on my sleeve…”

“I get to cut to the chase quickly with people... but also... I wear my heart on my sleeve…”

(Source: Photography by Blake Little)

This article was originally published June 20, 2017

Kelly Oxford likes poodles and PBS. She wears big glasses, cannot get enough Oprah and has three kids. She is also a bestselling author and is currently working on a "'90's high school drama" series with James Franco and Seth Rogen.

You may have come across her candid tweets or were awakened by her hashtag #notokay movement on sexual assault. Perhaps you read her first book or maybe you're one of the boys that teased her when she was young. Or, maybe you don't know her at all. Yet.

The Edmonton-born writer has found a way to mix humour with candor and continues to do just this in her newest book, When You Find Out The World Is Against You: And Other Funny Memories About Awful Moments. The book comes with a new wave of Oxford-ized personalization, you know, stories and essays about summer camp, pop culture, her struggle with anxiety, "powder balls" and so on. It is this flux of experiences that grabs you and her shredding bluntness that keeps you.

(Source: Harper Collins)

"I honestly don't know any other way to be," Oxford tells CBC Life. "I don't consciously choose to be like this. I think there are both strengths and weaknesses to being blunt."

Her approach to writing seemingly co-exists with her own inner dialogue, and whether you're laughing or feeling gutted at her stories, you get a sense that she values being honest, even if her anxious side tries to stop it.

"I get to cut to the chase quickly with people, which is efficient, but also, due to not being candid, I wear my heart on my sleeve and can feel vulnerable," says Oxford.

Kids are born with their own personalities, let them be. You're just there to keep them alive and love them.- Kelly Oxford

After reading her new book you may get the sense that all those stories you keep hidden, or those everyday musings you laugh at to yourself, or those childhood memories you can still taste… are exactly what Oxford's tapped into chapter after chapter.  You may pause and recollect your own parents' words, your groaning car rides, that sibling angst or what happens as you get older and have kids of your own. What about accidently ripping your eyebrows out? Or trying to dispose of a hamster? Oxford talks about embarrassing moments and sly strategizing schemes; it's hard not to snicker.

But for every hilarious story exposed, so too, comes Oxford's assessment of her anxiety in social situations. She wants you to be "happy to read about anxiety in a humourous way."

Her humour is part of the motivation and she doesn't want it to fall on deaf ears. "Motivation for me comes from feedback from others. As long as I know I'm creating something that others are interested in, I find it easy," says Oxford.

As much as she writes for herself, Oxford says it would be "much harder without some sort of audience."

Speaking of audience, Oxford's online presence is undeniably popular. Sure you'll see a ton of tweets like this one, but she's also the woman behind last year's #NotOkay sexual assault conversation online. The conversation was sparked after now U.S. president Donald Trump was heard referring to a woman's private parts. This prompted Oxford to speak up against sexual assault comments (and actions), and asked her followers to also speak up. By the end of the first week over 40 million women and men had shared their personal stories on sexual assault, according to Oxford.

Oxford documents this movement in the final chapter of the book entitled "#NotOkay: The Day My Outrage Went Viral," even listing 20 tweets such as "Dad didn't believe me. #notokay" and "At my gram's funeral my 90 year old uncle says he wants to f*** me. His wife laughs it off."

Her Twitter account quickly became a forum for a global conversation.

However, this is just one of Kelly Oxford's discourses. While some of her advice may be as simple as saving more money when you have it or getting a business manager because she feels she "only has ADD when it comes to the red tape of money," Oxford also doesn't shy from saying what not to worry about, too. Take her perspective on kids and parenting for example. "Don't listen to anyone," she says. "Kids are born with their own personalities, let them be. You're just there to keep them alive and love them."

Want to not take yourself too seriously? "Have kids." 

Want to keep it interesting sexually? "Live out your fantasies."

But wait, there's more.

Check out our rapid fire questions with Kelly below, and make sure to grab the new book here.

Life with Kelly Oxford

What's your spirit animal? Sophia Petrillo

Secret internet obsession? Zillow

What's your biggest fear? Sharing something personal and getting no response.

If you could be any age for a week, what age would it be? 20. For the body.

Favourite swear word? Fuck

What is the best compliment you've ever received? That I act like I'm 16.

What's something the internet doesn't know about you? That I act like I'm 16.

Best thing you ate in recent memory? Maltesers

What's your poison? Tequila

Favourite family recipe? Anchovy & parsley pasta

What's your desert island beauty product? SPF 150

What's the biggest splurge you've ever made? Probably a Prada handbag?

How would you describe your look? Busy

What posters did you have in your childhood or teenage bedroom? The Cure, a stolen bus stop Calvin Klein ad with Kate Moss and a bunch of models.

What's your favourite possession of all time? I don't have one because I'm superstitious about choosing favourite personal objects.

Your first kiss? Mike

Nicest thing your kid ever said to you? I was really old but still looked younger than the other moms.

Words to live by? Just do your thing and your people will find you.

The one book you'd recommend to everyone: "The Year of Magical Thinking"

Where is your favourite place on earth? My bed

You have entire weekend to binge watch stuff – what's it going to be? A Handmaid's Tale

What's your biggest success? My family

What drives you? My family

What time of day are you most productive? 8am

What's your secret for good health right now – activities or products? Eating clean foods.