Update for 2016

April 30, 2016

It’s been awhile since I made a post, because clearly I suck. I’ll spare the excuses, because it’s a little exhausting just thinking of how much shit I try to pile into a single week. #humblebrag

I have been working on Scurvytown things, however. I have an episode and a half written for a new podcast. I’d like to get at least a handful written before I start the production process. I red-lined what I had so far, and have a lot of changes to incorporate, which is actually more encouraging than the opposite. Most of my notes are like, “change this, omit that, re-tool this scene, and damn it, Lauren, that’s not how dialogue works.”

The semester is winding down, which means I have a week to chill before the next one begins. This spring semester, I taught English 102, which meant grading 4 research papers for 15-20 students, depending on how many were actually turned in. It was a lot more intense than English 101, for sure, and thankfully, this summer, I’m back in a 101 classroom. If certain things improve, I’d love to be able to take a semester off, but who knows what the future holds? My immediate future holds grading 16 research papers, and a cookie when I’m on the other side of that pile of work.

One thing I worry about with the new project is running out of ideas for it, so I have to really set the focus of my brainstorm sessions on broadening the scope of the project. I tend to schedule my brainstorming to coincide with going for walks/hikes, and as the spring gives way to summer, my productivity tends to flourish.

I guess rather than being vague, I can at least explain generally what my idea is. Scurvytown character Magby Aarhus has a local radio show and is offering up free advice to people who call in. Now, Magby does not have any kind of expertise relevant to advice-giving, which makes it kind of funny, because things don’t really go the way she wants or expects. It’s kind of the idea of being bad at a thing, thinking you’re awesome at it, and not really getting that you’re awful. Not sure if that works, yet. I am also trying to figure out a way to incorporate music kinda like how they do on Night Vale, because that’s really fun, and the only thing my original idea from back in 2010 didn’t have.

And I guess at some point, I really do need to revisit my thesis, revise it much in the same way I’ve learned to do for this new project, and produce that damn thing already. I made a list of all my creative projects this past Monday night, and I was pretty much like, “Damn, girl. Pick one and focus that shit.” My inner voice may be a little harsh, but she’s right.


September 27, 2015

A recurring theme in my art is “overcoming my own gravity.” It’s probably the reason I enjoy writing space fiction so much. The dual meaning of it hits all the right notes in my head.

Writing-wise, things have been a bit bleak lately. I’ve attempted to write some short fiction (2000 words) and had a fun idea, but couldn’t make it work. I think I’ve been out of practice with fiction, and I feel the need to change that. The last song I have written and enjoyed was called “Gravity.” And this was about a month ago. The prompt for it was “Circus Style,” probably because the coffee shop where songwriter’s group is held is next door to a Circus Mojo. I decided to write it about the my longest running fiction work-in-progress, my space circus fiction, which had the first words thrown at it in roughly 2001. Back then, it was called “Jane of the Waking Universe,” which is a Guided By Voices song. That’s still its working title, though I have some other ideas of where I might take it.

I decided I was going to record a new version of the song, since the one I recorded a few weeks back is a little rough, mostly because I was at the first stages of a nasty lingering sinus infection. Turns out, writer’s block and the goob are excellent partners in crime when it comes to halting progress on a songwriting project. But clearly, I need to quit moping, shake off this sad-sackitude, and get some words out, even if the next thing is awful. Because maybe the thing after that will be awesome. That’s always the hope anyway.

But then I realized, nope, I’m totally going to post the shaky version of the song. One of those reasons might be laziness, but moreso it’s because of the lessons you learn from seeing your mistakes on camera. Shaky parts of the song that didn’t need to be, notes missed, places where the song drags. It’s always worth it, to some extent, to the end goal of making it better. Clearly, I need to overcome my own gravity, which is the line that earned this song its title.

And so without further ado, here is a rough and shaky version of “Gravity:”

Where’s your joy?

March 26, 2015

There was a fire drill or an unexpected fire alarm at work on Tuesday morning. I finished up the thing I was doing, grabbed my coat, and headed outside with the rest of the building.

When I got outside, it was like a rush of freedom. We were outside, even if only briefly, and our time was our own, until the call came to return indoors. I noticed the magnolia tree on the front lawn was starting to bloom, which is exciting, because it means the cherry blossoms will be in full force at Ault Park very soon. I was happy and bouncy and excited to be outside and away from anything work related, even if just for ten minutes. Not that I hate work or my job, quite the opposite, I was just reveling in the oddity of the unexpected.

And it seemed to me that a lot of people were looking at me like I was crazy to be so filled with joy and delight. And it seemed to me that, in contrast, some people were acting like they were at a funeral, instead of happy to have been given an opportunity to get up and walk around for a bit. To me, it wasn’t an annoyance so much as a chance for a change of scenery and some fresh air.

I guess it got me thinking a bit about perceptions. I mean, I guess you don’t really know from someone’s blank stare what they are thinking. Maybe that I was clearly insane, or off my meds, or maybe that they wished they could act less rigidly and structured? Not really sure, but it left me with a feeling like, “Hey y’all, where is your joy?”

It made me want to infect people with my own joy, to rain delight down onto them until they felt it, too. To let them know, you don’t have to stand in the yard all sad and deflated looking, or act any kind of way that is expected of you, or look at me sideways when I spin around in a circle, because “Yay, we’re outside and it’s impromptu recess!” I mean, do those things if they make you happy, I freaking guess.

The other thing about perception it got me thinking about is how when you make art, you often don’t really know what people think of it. But then, you don’t really know what people think of you unless you tell them, or unless they’ve been talking about you behind your back and word gets back to you. I suppose. I think back to February, when I went to an Emily Dickinson read-a-thon, and the people I respected most in the room stopped their conversations and sat down to listen to me read. Me, specifically. And one of them told me later it was because I infuse such joy and personality into her verse. I was so moved and humbled by this, and I wouldn’t have known, I wouldn’t have even considered that anyone specifically wanted to hear me. But Dickinson loved words and toying with them, and I shine a light through that lens when I read her. I can’t help it. I suppose I just can’t help myself.

I think that’s the core of me during the fire drill. People see me just being myself, because I give zero craps what anyone thinks. ‘Cept when I find out someone respects and appreciates my work, or the way I read a poem, and then it turns out, I give quite a few cares after all. And it makes being that kind of joyful, free-spirited person all the more important to me.

52 Weeks

March 8, 2015

52 weeks is a lot of writing. I think I want to qualify that with an “especially,” even though it doesn’t need to be done. I know from a lot of writing. I did NaNoWriMo for 10 years until it seemed to outlive its usefulness to me as a writing exercise, and after the passing of a dear friend and writing buddy. It lost a lot of its charm and fun after that. And besides, once you’ve written over half a million words and done next to frak-all with them, there comes some time to start working harder on revisions, if these things are salvageable to begin with. Or to pick some shorter writing forms for some instant gratification, maybe? Also, there is a lot of value in the experience of writing for its own sake. The more you write, the better you get.

In 2008, when I moved back to Cincinnati after my marriage imploded, I picked my guitar back up and tried to turn some of my poems into songs. It was weird, because the breakup was difficult, as you would imagine, but it was also an incredibly positive driving force that was about to lead me to awesome changes I could have never foreseen. But those changes were still a few years away.

In 2008/2009, inspired by an open mic called “Creativa” that I started attending, I wrote a poetry project called “Seven Deadly Sundays,” where I wrote poems mostly on Sundays, when I actually had free time to write. Now, I think I approach writing a bit differently, as I tend to make time for it rather than penciling it in as a maybe. But the songs I was trying to make happen never manifested. I tried and tried, but I couldn’t make it happen. I wasn’t ready for it, yet, I suppose. Then I broke my arm in 2009 and that set me back. And then I moved again, and started grad school, and moved again, and then life took what might sound like an awful turn… but all was very much for the best.

The first song I have really liked that I have written since I started going to the 52-week songwriters group is about this major shift that happened back in 2010. It was essentially about this one day where everything changed. The prompt was “bridge,” and I used to have these epiphanies while driving home from grad school, and they would usually hit me as I drove over the Big Mac bridge, so I felt compelled to write about that. On this particular day, November 11, 2010, to be exact, I lost my job that I despised, made some new friends, and made some serious decisions about my future. I remember driving across the bridge and suddenly realizing that everything I was before that day was dead, and that someone had essentially killed me, and that I was grateful for it. I could leave behind all those pieces of myself that I hadn’t much liked anyway, and learn to love myself, and be this totally new person who other people enjoyed to be around, and just let go of all the bullshit that I had let drag me down before. It was incredibly liberating, and I have to confess, I broke down and sobbed as I crossed that bridge that night, and it was such a lovely, happy cry.

I remember driving past my exit, and to a little bar in Silverton, because it was NaNoWriMo season and there was a write-in there that night. I met up with my now departed friend, and she said, “Okay, we’re going to your place, dropping off your car and I’m taking you to karaoke.” So we went to the Northside Tavern and I got stupid drunk and sang Doris Day’s “Que Sera Sera,” appropriately. I picked the song for a few reasons, one being that it was the song I heard right before I got proposed to, just randomly, and how I remember hearing it and thinking, “I am about to make such a big mistake.” Funny how sometimes you know a mistake even when you’re in it, and you’re the kind of person who goes through the motions anyway. After that fateful day in November, I decided I wasn’t going to willfully make those kinds of life choices, not anymore.

Anyway, enough stalling. Here’s the song. There’s some audio issues that I didn’t notice til I uploaded it (oops), my camera is a fan of auto-focusing to hell and back, and my hair looks like I haven’t brushed it all day (spoiler: I brushed it half-assedly), but I don’t really guess I care about any of that, even though I took the time to mention them (more stalling, perhaps?). I’ve said I would share my art, bad or not, and I’m nervous about it, but I’m sharing it anyway. Also, I am still learning about this whole singing thing, so if you want to see the lyrics, click on the link, as they’re posted on youtube. Oh! And also also, I stole the line, “Where were you the day you died?” from my friend Eric Adams’ comic book Lackluster World. Just to point to where I did my thieving.


February 28, 2015

I moved almost a month ago. Unpacking came in bursts on the weekends, until almost an entire week of snow days happened and there was plenty of time to get more organized.

Migraines have escalated, to a point I had been hoping they wouldn’t reach. But they achieved a feat not many can claim, and that is finding my breaking point. I am not sure what has been worse: the pain or trying to find a doctor to help without just throwing nasty meds at it that I don’t want in my life. As of today, three days into the second medication they have prescribed, after the first one managed to increase the pain to a crippling amount, help seems more promising. I probably don’t have to explain to anyone how hard it is to function when all you want to do is curl up into a ball in a dark, quiet room, and cry until the relief of unconsciousness.

If that was my mid-week, today is better by far. The headache is still trying to catch my attention, but the meds seem to be trying to mask it, at the very least. So I can function, which is great, because I have been so behind on grading for my classes, I hate myself a little for it. I got caught up to a manageable point earlier this afternoon, and will easily be able to get all the way up to date tomorrow.

Writing-wise: In late December, I finished preliminary revisions for the piece I wrote last summer. I will probably start looking into the next phase of re-writing that soon. It’s a fun, weird little thing, that most likely I will just post on this website, or maybe try to get published as a chapbook somewhere.

Also in late December, I started going to a songwriting group in Ludlow, KY. The place that hosts it is Folk School Coffee Parlor, and it’s a really lovely space. The first time I walked into it, I thought, “Oh holy shit, this place has a really nice creative vibe about it.” It reminded me of writing with my friend Sherry, back when we were doing NaNoWriMo, before she fell ill in 2010 and was eventually lost to this world. Anyway, since I started going to the 52-week songwriter’s group, I have written 5 songs, and 2 of them I kind of like a lot. The next post I want to make here will be one of those songs. I just have some more practicing to do before then, and also to decide which song I want to post here first.

There’s a lot going on right now. I am still settling into the new place. Unpacking was one thing, but getting organized is quite another. I keep finding more things I just need to get rid of for good, which is lovely, because having less clutter around is always a positive. Working 40 hours, teaching 7 credit hours (3 classes), working on the lit mag, and writing songs. It doesn’t really leave a lot of time for other things, but this is how I have to face the winter, anymore: make myself so busy I don’t have time to let the SAD get the best of me. I’d rather put the best into my writing anyway.

This year, I have faced the winter in a few other ways. Sometimes, I have gone outside and spun around as the snow fell, pretending this world is self-contained in a snowglobe and that I am trying to figure out how to break out of it. Today I went to the park to recycle boxes from moving, and I saw abandoned snow forts on the hillside. A lady with a box called out to her husband to help her lift the lid of the recycling bin, but she didn’t shout loud. I said, “Oh, I’ll help.” But she said, “I was talking to my husband.” I glanced over my shoulder and could see he wasn’t coming over to help. I said, “Nah, I’ll help. I had one of those once. That’s how I remember it.” I was jesting, somewhat, and she didn’t laugh, but then she stayed and helped lift the lid for me when I was dumping my boxes in. Her husband started their car and sat inside where it was warm. Nice lady, even after I made it weird. I drove home and went a way I don’t normally go, and because of that, I saw giant snowmen with huge gaping mouths and far-reaching branches for limbs, like something out of Calvin and Hobbes. I felt good about most of those choices.

Last night, because the sun was shining and because I wanted to, I sat outside on the front porch and played a song I wrote. I think I felt a lot of things in that moment. Proud that I actually wrote a thing I have been trying to do for years now, and glad that it doesn’t sound terrible. Happy that this place is just so damn awesome and that I am glad I found it and jumped on it without much internal debate. Hopeful for more positive changes in the coming months. I have weird feelings like something bigger and better is coming, and I won’t know it til it’s here, but I’m not going to wait around, either. I’ll keep working hard, writing things, learning and improving my skills, and then see what’s what.

Moving Day

January 10, 2015

Moving day approaches. So many hours I spent in this tiny space, cluttering it up, more and more with each month. The more time I spent outside of it, leaving the clutter to its own devices, the more impressive the disarray became.

I think part of this happened because I was staying in one place, whatever you want to infer from that. The thing is, I had moved just about every year for the 4 years leading up to landing here, and moving a lot teaches you a lot about how unimportant stuff is. This place was just supposed to be convenient while I was in grad school, but it’s been almost two years since I graduated, and here I have stayed.

A lot happened here. Three weeks after moving in, I lost the job that was taking every bit of my sanity that I would foolishly let it have. I temped a lot, threw myself into grad school and writing, got a pretty sweet job in academia, and things have been generally okay. Well, aside from the time I threw out my back. That was the worst, but my mom came to stay with me, and helped get me literally back on my feet.

I have been ready to move on for awhile now, but I was being picky when it came to finding a new place. I wanted something closer to work, but I wasn’t really loving anything I looked at on the west side. So I started hunting in the Desales Corner area, but gentrification… so that stuff is already out of my price range. I stalked Craigslist nearly every day, and then one day, early in winter break, I found a place in O’Bryonville. It had a few flaws, but nothing that was ultimately a dealbreaker. And for roughly the same price I pay now, at least 200 more square feet. So, room to move around without knocking things over. No more walking out into a hallway and feeling like I’ve stepped into a bong. No more turning around in neighbor’s driveways because on-street parking is a pain in the ass on my current street.

And then there were other little things. Like the street number is a palindrome, and there’s a front porch and a firepit in the yard. And I only have an upstairs neighbor. And the oh-so-tempting bakery down the street keeps weird hours, when I am usually at work, so that won’t be a problem.

So anyway, I am excited, and packing, and purging crap out of my life for good. I am enjoying the feeling of change that a new year brings. I think I will be making better positive choices this year. At the very least, I plan to try.

On that note, here is a photo I took of some trees last November. I love the contrast in it, if that is even the right word.November Trees

Factory Upgrades

September 14, 2014

The Factory of Ideas has been run down a bit lately. Out to sea, it sat adrift, near dead stopped in a motionless ocean, waiting for some sense of life to be breathed back into its sails. The tanks had run dry awhile before, a stuck-gauge telling lies about its fullness. The skeleton crew was half-starved and beginning to side-eye each other as walking entrees.

And then a sudden lilt in the air, a shrillness, a cool breeze blew in, suggesting oncoming changes in climate. The Factory of Ideas lurched forward and began to move, but towards what respite from the mind’s starvation?

That destination is still unknown, and while that could be worrisome, instead it serves as a simple data point, unbound by speculation. I suppose it could be tethered by speculation, but why attempt to throw down anchors when still so far from the shore?

The maudlin month of August in its dying days took its toll, and September crept in, offering no cheerier prospects, nor solace from the sadness. When the winds tore through, some things were lost, mistakes were made, and some damage was done. For awhile, the factory idled, festering in the waking hell of its own wastes.

Now, sea sprinkled with debris, the dullness fades into the background, swallowed up by a horizon that rolls into the next, recursively. Through the art of landscapes, the picking of the mandolin, voices that soothe, and unsteady hands that draw and erase and draw and erase, imperfect but trying, the factory of ideas sails on. The gears which had weeks before ground into silence have been oiled by observing, wetted by wondering, inspired by art. Again, they churn, not quite where they stopped, but happily moving past that and into a new phase.

There is a strange rumbling in the lower deck of the factory. Much speculation from the crew on this matter, if it is something wrong within the engines, or perhaps some sort of creature stowed away and has mutated in the wastes of the ship’s bowels. Perhaps it is nothing but the figment of imagination, like a gurgling in the pit of the factory’s core. Perhaps it is nothing at all.

As the days shorten and the night favors attention from the stars, these questions will be answered. The spoils of the factory shall be revealed, all in due time. Or in another time. Perhaps even in another dimension. But probably not that. Probably.

Too weird? Didn’t read? August was brutish. September, eventually, seems to fare better. The tanks were dry but are being refilled, by art, by music, by literature. Revisions are ongoing, and without an end in sight, eventually there will be writing worth posting.

Revising Time

August 6, 2014

I finished my writing project on July 24th. And then I threw myself into a new project that I need to finish before I go on vacation (read: DragonCon) at the end of the month. I really want to release that project (a pretty sweet non-fiction story) into the wilds of the Internets before the trip to Atlanta. But wait, there’s more. I also threw myself a bit harder into one of the classes I am taking this summer, because I felt like I was lagging a bit behind on it. One more week of classes and all of that is over. And then I’ll go to GenCon with some awesome ladies I am lucky enough to call my friends, and we shall just generally have fun being silly for a weekend. And I shall NOT crack if I happen to run into the worst dude I ever stupidly let into my life, if only ever so briefly. That is in the past and it can frakking die there.

So anyway, then I need to finish writing up that aforementioned project, which is a super rad interview about a super cool thing. *no spoilers*

So in the meantime, because even when I am busy as frak, I seem to think I am not getting enough shit done, I need to start diving into some soft revisions, to ease myself slowly into that hot mess, and work out those kinks in my back… or whatever. Tonight, I am printing out the first few parts of the summer fiction project so I can start reading through it and making notes. A little over a week ago, I made a bunch of notes about what sorts of things I know will need to be revised. Name changes, points of view, consistencies, and so on.

Soon, this thing will begin to take on the shape I envision for it, and it will no longer be such a cluttered up jumble of words. I know what direction I want to take, I know the ending, and I know it is going to take a lot of work to get it there. And I’m ready to take this story where it needs to be. And then whatever cheesy shit about wherever the story is going to take me.


June 30, 2014

It had been two weeks since I ventured out into the woods. So caught up in my own head, in my own bullshit, I decided to take a break from being myself for a little while.

That might not make sense. I don’t really care. But I did go back into the woods this weekend, on a quest to catch some perspective.

There is this thing that happens, I suppose, at least it happens to me, when I am in the midst of a project, I might get a little too caught up in it. It could then twist me so much and turn me about that I don’t much care for anything else but thinking about the project.

I have been writing around 350 words a night, and have just passed what I estimate to be the halfway point of this current project. Even when I feel a bit stuck inside my own head, I write. Every damn night, I write. Afterwards, I like to get out of my comfort zone, go to places I have never been to before, or to places that have changed drastically since I last saw them.

I like to sit in places I’ve no reason to. Sit and think and stare up at the sky, at the surrounding trees. Listen to whatever sounds might happen, to whatever voices get carried to my ears. And really, really see. And truly, honestly hear.

Another important rule of writing: fill the tanks. I will jokingly refer to my brain as the factory of ideas. But it’s a fair enough assessment. And when the factory runs short on fuel, it needs more. The factory is a needful thing. And so I read whatever I can, absorb whatever words are not my own, get outside of my wheelhouse, and let all kinds of art filter into the void, filling the tanks, until they’re almost brimming with artistic energy.

Sometimes, I topple the tanks and fill them all over again. All the while, I keep writing something, even if it’s just a page a day, just to make progress, just to get some art out. Just to shake out the crazies.

And then there are days like today, when the tanks are full, but I am not sure where I want to go. Days like this, I really need to get out of my own headspace. So today I went walking around the neighborhood, letting the wheels spin, waiting for the factory lights to turn on, and for some words to spill out.

About halfway through the walk, the words began to take shape, or an idea began to form, really. Something that would push the stalled story along, get it moving towards the ending, especially now that the ending is nigh.

I went home, and I typed a mess of nonsense. It’ll all make sense in revisions. It’s all getting me closer to the ending of this project. And then the next one. And the one after that. Thing about this factory of ideas is that it’s taken a long time to secure the foundation, get it working all right. Now, I think it’s in a prime location, and it hits all the sweet notes in my head, and the writing is fine… it’s time to let it all outside, and see where it flies.

Recurring Themes

June 15, 2014

I have been having this weird recurring dream lately. For some reason, I am at my old elementary school, and it looks all different. I would expect it to look different, first of all, because nothing really is as you remember it from when you were a little kid. I don’t remember any specifics of the dream(s), other than the place.

I went to my hometown for awhile this weekend, and one of the things that happens when I visit my parents is that I usually take their little white dog for a car ride. It’s like her favorite thing ever, and it’s just fun to see her with her head out the window, tongue hanging out, enjoying the frak out of “bye-byes in the car.”

When I’m feeling lazy, I’ll just let the dog in the car, pull out of the driveway, back in, and then let her out of the car like she went on an actual car ride. Or I’ll just take her around the block. This time, I drove the full length of the street, and I thought about the lady who lived down the street when we were kids, who I rode the bus with to high school, who went to sleep one night this past February and never woke up. And I thought about walking to school with my mom, and riding bikes with my brothers. I noticed a lot more dead trees than I’d noticed last year, and places where trees used to be.

By the time I reached the end of the street, I thought about the recurring dream, and so I drove past the old elementary school. That’s how I found out it had a new name, and I was reminded of the name of the street where it is, which coincidentally is a name the street shares with my parents’ little white dog.

I drove around the block, taking a route my mom and I used to walk sometimes when I moved back home for a little while after my marriage imploded. I thought a little bit about paths walked time and again, old roads traveled, and the places they eventually lead.

All of this, I think, ties into the new story I am writing. I have been working on trying to figure out how to explain it to people. It’s about a journey, but it’s also about ending up places without knowing the destination. Kinda how a person can feel like their actions are taking them one place, but they find they have ended up someplace else entirely. And maybe that place is better than they had even imagined. Or maybe it is worse… but I think if the ultimate goal is to grow and learn and be better, the road is going to lead to a better place, somehow, some way.

The story I am writing is intended to be a bit like a fable, or a legend. Like a fairy tale handed down generation to generation. It is something I have thought about a lot, something to use as a unifying force in all my work, because that is a thing I strongly feel I need to write into my worlds. It works on several different levels, in many different kinds of stories, and it works in my head, because sometimes you get to writing, and you find you are writing the same story over and over, whatever one you need to tell. The characters and situations may change, but at the core of the tale is the same molten lump of truth. So I am specifically getting that nugget out there, in short bursts of just over 300 words a night. I like to stop when I am in mid-scene, so that I can pick right up the next day. I have never really written like that before, so this is a cool experiment with my process.

So far, I am almost at 7k words into this project. I have nine parts mapped out, very vaguely, and pages upon pages of notebook scratchings about the story, most of which I jotted down while listening to bands at various venues around town. I am trying not to edit too heavily as I go. I can already get a sense of the revisions that are going to be necessary, and don’t even feel a bit daunted by it. I will just take them piece by piece, bit by bit, just like I did with my thesis. This story will grow, mature, and evolve, and I am looking forward to every single step of it.