She has been a staff writer at The New Yorker and Talk, autopsied the Enron scandal from the inside out in her 2003 book (co-authored with Sherron Watkins) Power Failure, and won a National Magazine Award for a piece on managed care. What’s Mimi Swartz’s secret? A big bag. She’s from Texas, after all. Swartz unpacked for Meghan Sikkel, and explained the bag’s allure: “I had a very strange interview with a woman politician the other day. She was really diverted by my bag. ‘Where’d you get it? How much did it cost?’ It was a distraction. A lot of women know it’s not the most beautiful bag they’ve ever seen, but if you’ve got a busy life it will hold things without hurting your shoulder.”


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(1) Wallet. Where the Texas Monthly credit card lives!

(2) Notebook & pen. But not just any notebook: a Cambridge writing pad. “I like that it’s very thick so you can do a lot of interviewing and don’t end up with eight notebooks …and that the back is hard so it won’t collapse when you’re writing.” Nor just any pen: “I’m persnickety about my pens. They can’t be too fat.” Her favorite, seen here, is the Pilot Precise Grip. Bold point. In blue. “It doesn’t have a very fine point, so it glides across the paper.”

(3) Makeup bag and lipstick

(4) Keys.

(5) Earpiece. “If I’m driving and talking to someone, it’s too distracting [and illegal in some places!] to hold the phone.”

(6) Toothbrush and toothpaste.

(7) Business cards.

(8) Sudafed. Allergy season in Houston can be brutal.

(9) Pens. Backups, but each has passed her persnickety test.
(10) iPhone 4S. She abandoned her BlackBerry a few months ago, and now relies on this for everything from recording interviews to finding her way to those interviews. “It’s become indispensible.”

(11) Socks. “Sometimes I go to exercise class right after an interview.”

(12) Reading glasses. “I like wearing contacts in interviews so people don’t think I’m their grandmother, but if I have to read something close up, I need these.”

(13) Small notebook. “I always carry an extra notebook, because you never know when you’re going to get another story idea, and if I write it in my big story notebook I’ll never find it again.”

 

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Meghan Sikkel is a recent journalism graduate of Southern Methodist University.