Inspired, Writer, Blogger, Artist….
A: I moved to LA when I was barely twenty. When you’re that age – not that I’m too far removed from ‘barely twenty’ as far as demographics are concerned – you do things spontaneously, idiotically. You do things for strangers.
I had fallen in love with a virtual stranger over Twitter. One of Hollywood’s most hated personalities, actually. But I didn’t know the difference. I was in love. I visited LA for that kind of love, and the breath got knocked from me upon seeing Hollywood’s dirtied palm fronds, its murals, its loud and proud way of being peculiarly removed from society, and yet its own brand of en vogue all at once. LA could do no wrong in my eyes; it was disgusting, and artistically so. I had never seen anything like it and I knew right then and there that I would never leave. I remember standing in a Banana Republic at Beverly Center, on the receiving end of a call with my mother. She asked if I liked LA and I told her that I sincerely did not want to leave, and that I probably wouldn’t leave the next time I ‘visited.’ She seemed disappointed. But when you know, you know – y’know? I ended the phone call by stating that I would much rather live out of a rotten box on the streets of LA than return to a bland apartment in my home state, Michigan. She had simply said, ‘Oh,’ as if she’d learned I’d developed a cancer.
I wasn’t hoping to find anything in LA. I made it my god, and was receptive to anything it offered me. I prayed to it, learned from it, found myself beaten black and blue by it. But I have found everything to which I was receptive: Love. Heartbreak good enough to write about. Artistic misery. Brilliant spats with brilliant artists. Relationships with the most interesting people in the world. Relationships with the famous, the infamous, the in-between. I’ve aligned myself with a particularly swashbuckled family found off the Sunset Strip and nowhere else. A chosen family. What did I hope to find? Stability where there is none.
And I got it.
Q: You’ve written short stories, worked an Online novel, film scripts, been a script doctor, editor for others, artist and model, all while holding down a day job. What attracts you to writing and how do you feel it has progressed (Style, tips, etc)? Which of the various elements have you enjoyed the most?
A: I’m attracted to writing simply because it’s my outlet. Some people start bar fights. Some people paint landscapes. I like to pick out the prettiest combination of words to relay the most accurate interpretation of humanity I can possibly provide for people who cannot otherwise take a direct look at my thoughts.
I consider myself to be a strong communicator – as a communicator I enjoy making sure people know exactly what I mean. Writing can be an exact science in that way, or it can become an open-ended interpretation left up to the reader. So, in a way, it’s a tool for me and something of an ongoing study in how to communicate in ways that are unexpected, and therefore, more powerful.
Stephen King mused in ON WRITING that writing is literal telepathy. And he’s right: I can describe to you the most beautiful vase in the world, and you’ll have to picture that to comprehend it and move on. Where writing gets interesting is when I wax poetic about this vase, and then I mention at the very, very end that, oh, by the way, inside this vase lives an entire community of microscopic extraterrestrials transmitting every detail of your life to a far-away planet that is currently planning your demise. Writing is telepathy but it’s also artful timing.
I enjoy using both of these elements but I’d say I enjoy the mental mouth-feel of the words themselves. Saying something is not nearly as powerful as how it is said – and I find that while I’m not a poet, I like to treat everything I write with my own sense of rhythm and meter. Writing is a form of music for me.
As for my day jobs, I’ve got a hefty list for sure. But each and every job I’ve taken has pushed me to find more writing material, to perceive every experience as a possible story. I’ve been incredibly lucky to find tons of real-life heroes and villains, people who have legitimately had me questioning if I were living out a strange story myself where I happened to be the only (fairly) reliable narrator.
Writing progression happens when you accept that being a writer is a lifelong commitment, that you will never be as good now as you will be when you’re Cormac McCarthy’s age. I’ve progressed but it’s been almost nominal when you consider that so much more will happen to me, shape me, etc., and will influence my writing in more complex ways.
Q: What is the genre you prefer?
A: As a kid I was raised on Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury – healthy doses of horror and sci-fi that fed into a rabid interest to explore my personal life, and observances about others, in such a way that reality could be exploited in the abstract. I’m still fascinated by science fiction but lately I’ve leaned more on writing about personal experiences, implying certain emotions and frames of thought to grapple with my own presence of being, or hitting things head-on to get to the point. Regardless, it’s strategic embellishment of reality, and I find it similar to a rite of passage in learning to find fairytales where someone might only see a stretch of Skid Row.
Experimenting with narrative nonfiction has been extremely cathartic. Experimental writing in general, actually, has given me Pollack levels of expression I didn’t think possible.
Q: Social media plays an important part in your life and promoting what you do. How does it influence what you do or do not do as far as your writing?
A: I’m in a love-hate relationship with social media. I love it because it allows me to share my works (writing, art, etc.) in their infancy, and get a real-time reaction from people whose opinions matter to me. It’s allowed me to connect with working writers, for the screen and otherwise. It’s created a support system to fall back on when creative roadblocks have me hitting a wall.
Twitter in particular is a legitimate community with working parts, enemies and allegiances, people hungry for good art. In time, a writer just starting out can collect a following and collaborate with others on real projects. It’s not just a silly app, it’s an actual tool that I stand by, a networking machine when you fully integrate into ‘film Twitter.’ It’s the reason I found myself, and my first script, in several fancy offices as a 21 year-old with nothing to lose. And it’s powerful. It’s intoxicating.
It can get dangerous, though, in that thousands of virtual strangers collectively decide who they think you are and what you have to offer based off of a tiny photo and a series of 140-character public messages. When you stray from that deduction, Twitter feels it has agency to question you, publicly, or not-so-publicly with coded asides. When you emphasize that deduction, Twitter will exploit it so much that you feel you have no choice but to continue emphasizing it – but ‘better,’ and with a dainty apology as if to acknowledge behavior deemed borderline unacceptable. It’s a disgusting roundabout, a clique; a necessary evil. It didn’t influence me as much before – I have a tiny following compared to the pro’s of the industry but it’s still over 1,400 real and breathing people keeping tabs on me. I used to be free-flowing with words, free-flowing in my intensity; my emotions used to be pure kindling for the exploratory fire I had going with voice as a writer. Now I’m a little careful. In fact, I was at a crippling standstill trying to wrap up the editing and self-publishing of my collection of writings simply because some of what I had written a couple years ago could be misconstrued as ‘too this’ or ‘too that’ for a public arena that has, at times, tried to skewer me.
Social media is, hands-down, the sole reason I have been able to collaborate with some amazing people, so I recommend it to anyone trying to put their writing out into the world – but use it to organize real-life meet-ups. Don’t rely on it, and don’t let it define your voice.
Q: You have a collection of short stories coming out. Could you share some information on that?
A: UNSAFE PLACES is four years’ worth of writings, from the beginning of my life in Hollywood all the way until now, where I’m adjusting my voice, acquiring more grown-up emotions, growing up in general. I’ve included my favorite pieces of fiction, narrative nonfiction, letters to people who have unwittingly carved me as a human being, etc. It’s grimy and murky. A creative diary, if you will. Its namesake story inspired me to go all-out with that kind of grime, to dig deep and hone everything that’s created me as a writer. Everything I wrote for UNSAFE PLACES either made me cry, or relieved me of a spiritual burden; it’s extremely personal, a ball of energy I’ve been mouldering, and I want people to see how I’ve used that energy. It marks the end of a phase of my life where I was submitting myself to a poisonous brand of whiplash but still kept going for the sake of adventures being handed to me – the stuff of writing gold.
UNSAFE PLACES is about having sacrificed myself to Los Angeles knowing it would skin me alive. It’s about that sacrifice, and using it to fuel an intense masochistic desire to still yet cut deeper, to make all the blood and gore beautiful in the end.
It’s not pretty but it wasn’t supposed to be.
Q: What do you see in your future? Writing?
A: I’m involved in so many projects and ideas at the moment that I can’t say for sure – I just know that I’ve found peace with accepting each day as it is and as it comes. A tarot reader once told me, after he had pulled the Fortune card for me, that I would be ‘very, very happy.’ He laughed, even, almost as if he were experiencing my future good tidings. I would have ‘nearly everything’ I could ever want. And then his face suddenly fell – he decided one more card was needed. He touched each deck and found one predicting ‘disappointment.’ I would be happy, then, but I wouldn’t have ‘absolutely everything.’
Sounds silly but I think that goes for everyone who does their best to create a full life – you reap what you sow, but the Universe has its own path for you no matter what.
Q: Anything else that you would like to share – shameless plugs, etc.
A: I’m still proofreading scripts when my schedule allows for it, and I write/draw on commission. Information can be found on my blog, which is a bit scarce now that I’m pulling posts from it to use for UNSAFE PLACES.
A Letter Untitled
by Lauren Jefferson
A certain song in a certain hour always reminds me of that day in Paris, the morning I got sick? Remember? My nose was running all the way to the Palace of Versailles, and you’d given me the rest of our baguette aux lardons for the train ride on over to the bigger train that would take us to Antoinette’s home. I kept sniffling, loud and whimpered, and I caught an elegant Parisian darting sharp eyes at me. But you kept me close and you kept me safe. It rained so hard that day. It rained so hard that we had to learn the word for “umbrella” – parapluie – so that we could buy one from the local shop. I would mutter Rochechouart under my breath on occasion, reliving a flood of pride from when your father had praised my pronunciation. My French r’s were lovely, just grand. The baguette didn’t last long. We were almost there, you said.
Versailles was beautiful. I almost cried like I did when the doors of the Sacré-Cœur opened and nuns ushered us into the basilica’s warm embrace. Here, and there, I felt at home. You immortalized our time at Versailles with a photo of me looking into the Hall of Mirrors, just as you’d immortalized me at the English bookshop.
I felt so beautiful in front of a wanting camera in your hands. I felt precious, like Versailles. You don’t know this but the moment you took that picture with the mirrors was the moment in which I’d wanted to tell you I loved you, again, for a last and final time, but I had appropriately held back.
We found farming cottages dotted on the outskirts of the garden’s groomed monolith so we said hello to the queen’s friendly cows, her pup-eyed goats. Quilts of grass poured into a maze of centuries-old fence posts and haunted escapes meant to house the gardeners; things the other tourists did not know or want to explore. And we got deep, so incredibly deep, into Antoinette’s garden that we’d reached a vineyard of some sort, idyllic greenery you’d find in landscape paintings or children’s books.
I thought for a moment we’d catch enchanted ghosts amongst the flowers, the kind we had hoped to catch in a cat-crawled cemetery, immense and gothic, the day before. And I was terrified to disrespect the palace rules, to follow you into forbidden ivy aisles. But you said it was okay and so I trusted you and took your hand, and we walked for a forever, toward a latticed center. We reached a mossy clearing scattered with broken pottery. No one was here for a half mile all around. Just us. In all the universe, here and above, it was just us. I danced and laughed. We dizzied ourselves, drunk on the freshest air we’d ever tasted. I found a bench outside the clearing and you laid your head on my lap. I rubbed at the same strand of black hair looped around your ear. You fell asleep and murmured things from a lost and hurting boyhood. I smiled down at you and murmured things from an awakened maternal core.
We stayed there long past our stolen welcome. On the plane ride home, you made me cry. I had let a stranger borrow the pen we had used to check off boxes for the US government, things like, no, we had not touched Antoinette’s exotic cows and that, no, we were not harboring viruses of an illegal variety, and you hated me for the pen allowance, silenced me with such cutthroat glares that I felt small and weak. I had taken rocks from Versailles, dulled purple gems hoping to birth amethyst, and I felt nervous that our government would confiscate them.
It has been two years since precious Versailles. I treasure the memory just as I treasured a human with a heart that could no longer hide rust with fool’s gold. In those two years I have strayed from the French and wandered into Spanish. I have learned to say mi corazon se duele (my heart, it hurts) and I have learned to retract this statement with todo esta bien (all is well).
I have promised to return to Paris.
I have promised to never return to you.
[Editor note: You can follow Lauren on Twitter – she usually responds – @laurjeff .She is also on Instagram @laur_jeff and her Blog laurjeffwrites.com We thank Lauren for honest answers to some personal questions, and look forward to reading her anthology of stories.]