AUTOFOCUS Release, Orlando Love

Today is Friday. This past Tuesday, AUTOFOCUS officially released into the wild. Then, on Thursday, I celebrated the one year anniversary of THE NIGHT WE SAID YES being published. It’s a crazy experience, knowing something I wrote – something I imagined – is out in the world. That people from all over are reading it. That they’re discussing it online, and having favorite characters and quotes. Writing is such a personal experience that when the book is finally published, it’s…crazy. And terribly exciting.

All that said, the week has been overshadowed by a lot of sadness. I’m devastated by what happened in Orlando, Florida. I’m devastated that I live in a time where people are still full of so much hatred. I’m proud to say the city is rebuilding, and that there’s so much love being passed around. People from all over are coming here to show their support. There are so many beautiful rainbow flags flying over the interstate. The city is united, and while I love it, I hate that a terrible situation caused it.

I love Orlando.

Here’s what I wrote on my Facebook page:

For those who don’t know, I live in Orlando; it’s been my home for so long. It’s why all my books take place, at lease in part, here. Last night I was discussing the scene in TNWSY where Ella says she feels safe in Orlando–that the only thing she fears is bad ex-boyfriends. That’s kind of how I felt when I was in high school. I was in this small bubble where nothing could go wrong. Though times have changed, and it’s completely idealistic, I want to raise my daughter like that. Not to fear, but to love. And love and love and love. So, I dedicated my second book to her–and I’m celebrating that love today. Thank you all for your love, and for reading. xo

Take On Me

There’s this older Dreamcast video game called Samba de Amigo. It’s essentially Dance Dance Revolution, only with maracas. You stand on a pad and shake maracas in beat to the song (the favorite being Take on Me), posing in various position to gain points. It’s ridiculous. It’s amazing.

I played this game with my friends all too often the summer before my sophomore year of college. It was a weird, in between time for me. I was between the person I was in high school – shy and meek, and the person I was becoming in college – more outspoken, more me. Tallahassee had become my home, but I was spending the summer in Orlando with my parents and high school friends. I was both here and there, old Lauren and new.

It was the summer where I worked all day at Borders (RIP) and went right to Starbucks afterwards, where I knew one of my friends, if not all, would be. It was repetition, a daily schedule, and it felt right. With this group of friends, I felt like I was part of something bigger, something enviable. We were still young enough to make grand plans, but old enough to know that they might not come true.

Now, years and marriages and divorces and successes and failures later, we’re mostly apart, living in different states and at different stages of our lives. We’re transitioning again, and I wonder who we’ll become next, and if there’s something that’ll bring us all back together again. In a way, I know there will be.

Because in some strange nostalgic sense, we’ll always have that video game and the memories of playing it for hours when hours weren’t important and felt much longer than they should have. It’s weird to think how much joy we found in a video game, and how it brought us all together. And it’s weird to think that when I reflect on that time, and my becoming who I am today, I always, forever, hear Take on Me and shake my hands in time.

Forget How You Found Us

photo-3A bit ago I mentioned contributing to a book called FORGET HOW YOU FOUND US, part of Burrow Press’ 15 Views of Orlando series. Well, the book is out and I received my author copies yesterday! I’m in a book! So exciting!

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A bit about the project:

Burrow Press, an Orlando publisher, started a series called 15 Views of Orlando, where 15 writers each contribute their own chapter, with each chapter taking place in a different part of Orlando. The chapters, though separate, must somehow continue the story, whether by elaborating on a character, a location, a theme, etc. So, when writing, there’s no outline, no concrete plot. The first writer creates their chapter, then the second tacks his or hers on. The cool part is that writers have no idea where the plot is going once their chapter is contributed, and have no say in how the story – or even the character they create – concludes.

I had the privilege of writing the epilogue, so I was able to read the entire thing. It was weird, concluding a story that I didn’t create, and utilizing characters that started out as other people’s creations. But also extremely fun, because it was a challenge. It was something new and unique. And the plot? So different from the stuff I usually write.

And so, the book is out! It’s so neat seeing my name in print, and only adds to the bubbling thrill of TNWSY’s release next year. I’m so honored to be a part of the publication, with all the other talented authors, and can’t wait to hear what people think.

Here’s the synopsis for the book:

Forget How You Found Us is a loosely linked literary portrait of Orlando, FL as told by the city’s best writers. The stories within follow Olivia and Sabrina, two teenage sisters brand new to the “golf course community” of Lake Nona. Olivia is tired of living in the shadow of her older sister’s rebellion. Since the move, their only communication has been through notes and poems written in each other’s journals. But when Sabrina runs away from home, and Olivia’s only friend mysteriously disappears, a sequence of strange events follow both sisters, as well as a peripheral cast of characters that includes the distraught mother of the missing girl, the groundskeeper of the Kerouac House, a homeless bridge troll, and William S. Burroughs.

Read the first chapter here (which was written by a high school student, as part of the publisher’s literary outreach).