A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Woman

13 Jan

Last week, over winter break, I visited my old high school and spent two periods teaching column writing to some journalism students.  My journalism teacher still makes them read a piece I wrote back in my senior year about how much country music on the radio sucks.  Apparently it’s supposed to be an example of good column writing, but by my standards today, I think it totally sucks.  Maybe one day I’ll post it on here and just go to town talking about how bad it is.  That’d be fun.

ANYWHO, one of the things we talked about was the importance of knowing yourself as a writer.  Like, where do your strengths lie?  Who do you want to write for?  What do you know best that you can provide a unique perspective on?  Specifically, I told them to sit down and actually try to put into words how they’d describe their writing style.  So, I thought I’d do the same – examine Lora the writer, both past, present, and future.

5 Things That Were Early Indicators of My Future as a Writer

1.) One of my first words was “actually.”

2.) I used to have this basketball night-light in my room, and I’d sit next to it late at night and read.  This was in the days before book-lights.

3.) I wrote a story in the first grade about two of my then-favorite topics:  the Olympics and marine animals.  It was about a young fish who competes in the Underwater Olympics.  Someone (a person who was not me, because I refused) read it at a school assembly once.  (Side note:  marine animals terrify me now.  Don’t know what happened.)

4.) I once gifted my Aunt Stacie with a story about her being a crime fighter when she wasn’t working at the hospital.  She kept it on her refrigerator for a really long time.

5.) I placed in the Young Authors competition two times:  Once in first grade, with a story about two detectives solving a case about missing books (which was probably my worst nightmare at the time – that my books would go missing).  The second time was in the sixth grade, and it was a story about a seeing-eye dog who could talk to his blind owner (the owner got hit by a car and it all got very sad because the dog had no one to talk to).  Clearly it’s all been downhill since then.

3 Places I Prefer to Write

1.) Sitting up in my bed.

2.) Laying on my stomach in my bed.

3.) In the shower (I come up with all my best ideas in the shower, and often I’ll start writing things in my head in there.  I’m so glad we don’t pay the water bill in my apartment).

2 Things I Will Write In

1.) On my computer, in Word documents that I give ambiguous titles, like “Quiche Recipes.”

2.) In a black Moleskine notebook. #allwritershavetosaythat

5 Words I (Or Others) Might Use to Describe My Writing

1.) Humorous (I try, at least).

2.) Vulnerable (Ashley Ford told me that once, and it was awesome).

3.) Honest.

4.) Depressing (I can be a total downer).

5.) Simple (this isn’t necessarily a good thing, but I think my writing, while sometimes lengthy, can have a no-frills quality about it).

6 Things That Inspire Me

1.) Stupid stuff that happens to me.

2.) Pictures (crap I find on the Internet, or personal pictures).

3.) Found objects (I haven’t really done this yet, but I have this idea to create flash fictions based on other people’s grocery lists that I find).

4.) Music (specifically Joni Mitchell – the first serious, college student poem I ever wrote was based on “River.”  It sucked, but Joni’s been like my spirit animal ever since).

5.) The news/politics (I’m obsessed with this idea of writing persona pieces from Sarah Palin’s POV.  I’m sickened and intrigued by her, so I should explore that).

6.) Your mom (not really, I just wanted a sixth thing).

So, what made you a writer?  What are your specific writerly traits and how would you describe your writing?  What inspires you?  Where and how do you write?  LET ME KNOW.  It’s a great way to get to know other writers.  Also, I need more inspiration so whatever you say inspires you, I’m probably going to try it myself (unless it’s “sex with strangers and/or hookers,” or “shooting heroin into my toes” because I’m not trying that).



19 Responses to “A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Woman”

  1. thenerdynegress January 13, 2011 at 1:27 am #

    I will pay you 5 counterfeit dollars to write as Sarah Palin. Also, you’ll probably be writing for 30 Rock right out of college. That’s just SO like you.

    • leeraloo January 13, 2011 at 1:43 am #

      I think I’m going to work on a Sarah Palin piece to do at the reading. I am just unhinged when it comes to her. Hopefully it’ll be good.

      AND IF I WROTE FOR 30 ROCK RIGHT OUT OF COLLEGE I WOULD DIE OF HAPPINESS. And also I’d make Tina Fey adopt me because I’m 99.999% sure she’s my biological mother anyway.

  2. tlgobble January 13, 2011 at 11:53 am #

    I might be overkilling my comments, in both number and length.

    But a couple things:

    – I carry a really small, cheap notebook in my pocket at pretty much all times. I have lost several, given up on some, but recently I found these tiny ones, three for a buck at the dollar tree. They’re working well.

    – I also have a “Never Without A Pen” and “Never Without A Book” rules, meaning, as much as I can stand/arrange it, I always have a pen in my pocket and a book I’m reading/want to read handy for “those moments.”

    – It wasn’t until I gave up my dream of being a pro basketball player or lead singer of Comeback Kid in the past few years, that I actually focused my creative output on writing. You might be thinking, basketball is not a creative output, and I would say, you’ve obviously never seen me play. I’m kidding, kinda.

    – My writing: lonely, desperate, stoked, hello hold me.

    – I think this is a really good idea for a post and I hope the comments are MANY.

    – I like your found objects inspiration. Something I do, most of the time, is grab words that I haven’t used, intrigue me, are in a book/lyric that I like, throw them on a page and write from there. It’s better than starting from scratch. The end, for me, never resembles the beginning=mine.


    • lindseyplaval January 14, 2011 at 1:30 pm #

      Tyler, good work. The moleskin thing always looks pretentious and really, I can’t afford one. Tiny notebooks for all.

      Also, don’t apologize for commenting. Duh. We, like, live for this shit.

      YOU GUYS TOMORROW IS OUR GRAND ADVENTURE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. elysiasmith January 13, 2011 at 1:56 pm #

    future as a writer:while my sister drew pictures, i tried on my mom’s reading glasses and read books upside down at age 3. i also got/get insanely jealous of people with cool pens.
    write in: i write in the crook of my arm a lot.
    and where: at my desk, various random places on the floor, in class (ie. I don’t pay attention in class).
    inspiration: lines in other books, music, conversations heard via eaves-dropping and my best friend.
    PS> good post idea 🙂

    • leeraloo January 13, 2011 at 1:59 pm #

      YES. Eavesdropping and people watching are great sources of inspiration.

      And that’s hilarious about you reading books upside down.

  4. Layne Ransom January 13, 2011 at 5:25 pm #

    I like sitting on floors when I write. I don’t know what five words best describe my writing. Inspiration usually comes back to people/things I worshipped/worship in some way. One time Jared Sexton was workshopping one of my things on my computer. He looked up and said, “Is this file called ‘KITTIES?'”

    When I was in second grade I wrote a story about a zookeeper that finds a lion that can laugh and makes a million dollars showing him off on TV.

    • leeraloo January 13, 2011 at 8:47 pm #

      God, I wish I still had the imagination I did in second grade. Kids are BAMFs when it comes to crazy ideas for stories. Maybe I should just go back to writing about animals too.

    • lindseyplaval January 14, 2011 at 1:45 pm #

      Lawl to “kitties” and especially “quiche recipes.”

  5. amhines January 14, 2011 at 1:32 pm #

    Future as a writer: I used to love going to the library so much that I wanted to live there; I had it all planned. It was going to be just like in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler except I’d bathe in the drinking fountain instead of a real fountain, and sleep between shelves instead of in antique beds. Basically I just wanted to never stop reading.

    Places I prefer to write: In my bed OR in my car while I’m driving. I can’t physically write anything down, but I always come up with my best story ideas on my drive from Muncie to Ft. Wayne. Sometimes I get too involved in a story, and I make myself cry, so then I’m sobbing while driving down 69 which is weird.

    Things I write in/ Places I write: moleskin notebooks, class notes, and in my phone (which is annoying when I go to find my grocery list, but instead pull up a note that just says, “No one will ever want you that badly.” Why did I ever think that was something that should be written down?

    Inspiration: books, poems, things people say to me, objects, etc.

    GOOD IDEA LORA. This was fun, and I liked reading other people’s responses.

    • thenerdynegress January 14, 2011 at 5:25 pm #

      “Sometimes I get too involved in a story, and I make myself cry, so then I’m sobbing while driving down 69 which is weird.”


  6. lindseyplaval January 14, 2011 at 1:42 pm #

    Lora, one of my favorite things about your writing is your voice. You have this wry humor and garl, I dig it.

    I wrote a story called Toad Skyhopper, or something, in which I replaced the characters in Star Wars with reptiles/amphibians, gave them punny names, and made them maybe save the galaxy or whatever.
    Nerd baby.

    I work really well with challenges. Like, assignments, essentially. Something kind of broad, and then you can make it whatever you want. Maybe we should give each other challenges. Missions. ADVENTURE RHETORIC.

    • leeraloo January 14, 2011 at 5:54 pm #

      I do too. I sometimes can’t write unless I’ve been assigned something. The more intricate the challenge or assignment, the better. WE SHOULD START GIVING EACH OTHER WRITING PROMPTS AND STUFF. Let’s do it. Like, for every blog post, let’s tack a writing prompt on to the end.

  7. thenerdynegress January 14, 2011 at 5:35 pm #

    I guess I should respond to this forrealz, huh?

    I became a writer out of necessity. I’ve always had way too much going on in my head to just let it sit there. Eventually my mind feels swollen and I lay on the futon in my basement and watch “Coraline” for 12 hours until there is nothing left.

    I’m still trying to find my voice as a writer. I’m worried that part of the problem is that I tend to write short story, but I might be better suited to novel writing. I’m always trying to make a memory for the reader. I want to give them a moment they can’t give back. Look at me. Talking like I know about stuff.

    I usually write from my futon while listening to classical music. I always carry some sort of notebook or journal. I actually kind of collect journals. If there’s a sentence I can’t get out of my head, I can’t go to bed until I write it down, so sometimes I write on the chalkboard wall behind my bed.

    • leeraloo January 14, 2011 at 6:00 pm #

      I wish I had that chalkboard above my bed. I do have a dry erase board, but all I write on it is, “Make an appointment with your therapist, stupid! DO IT NOW!”

      I totally struggle with voice, too. I feel like I should find some place in between humor and sadness to write from, because that’s who I am, but instead I feel like I write humorous OR sad. Hardly both. Maybe it’s not a bad thing, though. I mean, I do have a pretty consistent voice, I just want more consistency.

      “Coraline” is basically your “thing.” That’s awesome.

  8. Maria Hines January 15, 2011 at 3:22 pm #

    Oh, you may have an old soul. Joni Mitchell is one of my favorite singers and song writers. I like the For the Roses album. The song “I am a Woman of Heart and Mind” is one of my favorites. I also like”You Turn Me on I’m a Radio”- it’s a little goofy, but it makes me happy to sing it. I liked your piece.

    • leeraloo January 15, 2011 at 11:38 pm #

      Thank you! I know it’s cliche, but my favorite Joni is still “Blue.”

  9. Peggy February 10, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

    I am100% certain that Tina Fey is NOT your biological mother and I can prove it.

    • leeraloo February 10, 2011 at 9:52 pm #

      I know, I know. I’ve seen that video tape, unfortunately.

      Scarred for life.

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