My Slightly Awkward Introduction

I always find introductions fairly awkward. My goal is to be friendly, approachable, and professional, but not boring. Like this:

I’m casually leaning in front of my bookshelf, so you know I have books. If you zoom in, you can see what the books are if the picture is in high enough resolution. My bestie’s book is to my right (your left) and I get a kick out of having her book over my shoulder. If you look closely, I am holding my prized Busy Mockingbird mug. The artist collaborated with her four year old on the drawing. So I have a cool mug, books, and an inviting smile.

And yet, it’s all rather contrived feeling, isn’t it? A writer posing with books and coffee? What does that say about me, really?

This picture is one of my favorites. I’m wearing no makeup and my SigO’s boots. It says: this woman isn’t afraid to post pictures of herself wearing men’s boots on the internet. Also, she’s sitting on logs so must not be afraid of creepy crawly things. This is a lie. I am actually very afraid of snakes and spiders. However, I am not afraid of mice, bees, or wasps because I like to be unpredictable.

Another thing that I am afraid of is posting pictures of my children on the internet, so although I have two delightful boys I won’t be sharing much about them. I am not afraid to post pictures of my dog, a 13-year-old rat terrier I rescued back when I lived in Kansas. He’s blind and walks into things. He also smells very badly. Luckily I can’t post smells on the internet.

In addition to the kids, SigO, and dog, I have a gorgeous cat named Grunion. Grunions are fish that leave the water and walk on land. My Grunion, a.k.a FluffBeast9000 spends a lot of time trying to kill me (generally by tripping me on the stairs) and singing the song of his people outside my bedroom door in the early hours of the morning. He also likes to sit on my paperwork and is the least affectionate cat I have ever owned, but I somehow respect him more for his assholish demeanor.

I suppose I should say something about writing here. While I don’t like to be told what to do, I am also a people pleaser and want to make everyone happy. I knew I wanted to be a writer back in high school. I had a story—my mother is a lesbian and my father has been married seven times—but I didn’t really know what I wanted to say about it. I spent most of my professional life as a secretary in one form or another. Secretaries write a lot but generally don’t get to use their own words. It wasn’t until I was four months pregnant with my second son that I woke up one day and I was flooded with words of my own. I wrote every spare minute I could steal away from my family. I bought this portable word processor for $50 on eBay and wrote while playing Thomas trains with my two year old. I dragged my keyboard to the playground. I managed to write over 500 pages of really bad fiction in five months time. I loved being immersed in my stories, but I was frustrated by my skill level. I knew that I needed to learn to write better.

I took writing workshops. I went back to college and finished my Bachelor’s degree, then my MFA. I wrote essays and creative nonfiction, because I felt like these stories were pressing on me, and that I couldn’t write fiction until I got them out of my head and onto paper. But I didn’t write much about my parents. Instead I wrote about love and sexuality and ex-husbands (I have two of them) and single parenting and everything else. Finally, in my thesis interview during my last week of school, my advisor asked me, “When are you going to stop writing all this boring shit and write about your family?” So I did.

I wrote an essay about my father and a separate one about my mother, both of which won prizes. Prizes are super fun to win because you feel validated and gain confidence and then all the subsequent rejections your work receives are a little easier to take. The downside of winning prizes is then your work is in print and/or online and people actually read the things you wrote and some of these people are related to you and that is rather terrifying.

I then wrote my memoir, Girlish: Growing Up in a Lesbian Home. My writing partner, Sandy, came up with the title for me, because I suck at titles. I started writing it in first person, but I couldn’t maintain my distance, so I switched it to third person. I started out calling the protagonist “The Girl” in the style of The Flower Children by Maxine Swan.  I read a few chapters to my SigO and he suggested that I drop the “the.” Thus, my main character became simply Girl. I hope it doesn’t drive readers crazy, but it’s kind of too late now. There was some controversy over the subtitle, and whether or not the main thrust of the book is having lesbian parents, or having a mentally ill parent. Technically, the subtitle should read: Growing Up in a Lesbian Home with a Bipolar Parent and a Biological Father with Attachment Disorder but apparently that’s too long to fit on my book cover.

I think I have written too long of an introduction so I will stop. If you ever meet my in real life, you will learn very quickly that I talk too much, but also that I am prone to baking cakes for friends at eleven o’clock at night so I think that balances it out.

 

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Lara Lillibridge sings off-beat and dances off-key. She writes a lot, and sometimes even likes how it turns out. Her memoir, Girlish, available for preorder on Amazon, is slated for release in February 2018 with Skyhorse Publishing. Lara Lillibridge is a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College’s MFA program in Creative Nonfiction. In 2016 she won Slippery Elm Literary Journal’s Prose Contest, and The American Literary Review's Contest in Nonfiction. She has had essays published in Pure Slush Vol. 11, Vandalia, and Polychrome Ink; on the web at Hippocampus, Crab Fat Magazine, Luna Luna, Huffington Post, The Feminist Wire, and Airplane Reading, among others. Read her work at www.LaraLillibridge.com

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