Meet the Author: Laura Tremaine
plus a few thoughts on the new year
Hello and Happy January! I’m not going to ask if you’ve made any New Year’s resolutions or goals, because that question can be so fraught with pressure and expectation, but I’m curious how many of you like to mark the new year in some way?Personally, there are some years that I’m really motivated to set concrete goals, other years I just have a vague idea of the direction I want to be moving, and some years I’m just interested in keeping my head above water as best I can. What’s the most consistent is the fact that I enjoy rhythms, seasons, and occasions that lend themselves to a little reflection and maybe a little dreaming, so I have definitely been doing some of that over the past few weeks.
Speaking of a new year…as promised, I hope you enjoy the return of the “Meet the Author” series! “Meet the Author” newsletters will publish separately from the usual book/tv/music rundowns, so keep an eye out for that later in the month.
There’s no better way to kick off the series than with author Laura Tremaine. Laura’s debut book Share Your Stuff, I’ll Go First is part memoir, part discussion starter, part tool for both introspection and connection. If you haven’t read it, here’s the set up: each chapter asks a question, something you could use to reflect on your own life, or—better yet—something to discuss with a friend or group of friends. There are chapters like “Who was There?”, “What Are Your Pivotal Decisions?”, and “Who Taught You How to Be?”. In each chapter, Laura asks the question, gives a little guidance and perhaps clarification, and then answers the question herself. It’s engaging, thoughtful, and infused with a spirit of curiosity. So, without any more rambling from me, meet author Laura Tremaine:
What is your favorite and least favorite part of the writing process?
As I heard in a writing class I took over a decade ago: “I hate writing, but I love having written.” And that exactly explains how I feel about the writing process. I will procrastinate every which way to keep from writing, and even while I’m actively writing I’m thinking about other stuff I wish I was doing instead. But after I’ve written something - whether the words were headed to the garbage or to my publisher - I always feel something click into place in my soul.
That said, my least favorite part of the process is the first draft. I know a lot of writers feel freedom in the messiness of that first vomit draft, but I hate getting started and dislike staring at the mess and trying to make a shape out of it. But once the thing has kind of found its form, I do enjoy the middle editing stages. I like cutting whole paragraphs and extraneous words. I like trying to figure out how to make a sentence stronger.
One of my favorite bits in Share Your Stuff is the unsent letters. Have you gotten an unexpected response from any of those letters?
Thank you. That’s one of my favorite parts of the books, too. I haven’t received any sort of response from that section of the book, unexpected or otherwise. Isn’t that funny? The things that we write that are the most tender or special to us so often go unnoticed, while the things we dash out quickly and without much thought tend to go viral.
I will say that I interviewed my old colleague Noah (#10 from the unsent letters) about the GO! game that we created while working on a tv show together twenty years ago and we had the most wonderful conversation about how such a small little email exchange between friends became my life’s work. You can listen to that episode as part of my Secret Tapes interviews (now available to anyone on my Patreon), but that conversation became one of the most important to me surrounding the book.
Which came first: the tentpole questions for Share Your Stuff, or the stories told within the chapters?
It was a bit of a combination, but mostly I had a list of the stories I wanted to share and I shaped the questions around them. I thought about why those stories were important to my life - whether it was a milestone moment or an influential person - and crafted the ten questions around those ideas and themes.
An exception to that would be the first and last chapters. I knew I wanted the book to start with Who Are You? and in the beginning I got some pushback from my editor about that being the first big question. She suggested that the reader would be on a journey while reading the book and wouldn’t be able to land an acceptable answer to that question until the end. But I knew that I wasn’t asking the existential question of Who Are You? but a more concrete version. I wanted to start with our own labels (writer, mother, American, etc.) and have that in our head as we started this introspection.
The last chapter asks What Do You Believe? and is the only chapter in the book without stories. I wrote it last, and I’ve gotten feedback from readers that it’s the hardest question to answer.
Provided you have all the resources you need, would you rather host a big, blow-out party, or a small, intimate gathering?
Am I allowed to answer somewhere in the middle? Big blow out parties don’t appeal to me at all, but I personally prefer something larger than a dinner party. Let’s say my sweet spot is between 25 - 40 guests. This number of people allows it to be festive without getting too rowdy, and with enough personal conversation without feeling disconnected or like one’s attendance doesn’t matter.
And while formal occasions can be fun every now and again, these days I tend towards more casual gatherings. I just think it’s hard to be your truest self when you’re wearing heels and Spanx. I’d rather be comfortable, with easy, comfort food.
My husband Jeff and I hosted frequently before the pandemic, and it’s one of the things I have missed the most.
Who is someone who has inspired you creatively?
Oh, I have so many! Stephen King is far and away my favorite author. I think he’s the best storyteller alive, and maybe in history. My friend Shauna Niequist was the first example I had of someone writing personal essay in a way that made me feel so connected to the world, so she’s remained a creative influence since I was a teenager. I also love watching artists tell their stories through music (even though I’m not musical at all) like when Taylor Swift, Adele, and Beyonce make an album that’s about so much more than a collection of songs. I even find a ton of inspiration online, which is mostly Instagram for me lately. The internet gets a ton of bad press, but people are creating incredible stuff on a daily basis and we reap the benefits!
Do you think you will continue writing narrative non-fiction, or do you have some fiction brewing in you as well?
I would absolutely love to write fiction in the future. I’ve never tried it seriously, so it would be a big experiment. I’m in awe of the authors who go back and forth between genres seamlessly.
For now, though, I have a bit more nonfiction in me. I’m writing a follow up book to Share Your Stuff, which is exciting. This is where my skills and interests align at the moment, so I’m just following wherever it leads.
What is one of the best pieces of advice you’ve ever received (about anything!)?
A million years ago when I was working in reality television production, a boss told me not to be too good at my job or I’d never move on. I was young, and slightly insulted and confused by this advice. I’d been taught to always do your best at everything at all times. But when I looked around me, I saw what he meant. The people who were the absolute best at what they did tended to get stuck in that same position. They made themselves invaluable. The people who were more flexible (to be generous) somehow seemed to move on between departments or up the ladder. This was one of the more important lessons of my twenties.
Not that I shouldn’t work hard, but that I could hold all of it a little more loosely. I didn’t have to dig in so hard on being the best at just one thing. I could wear many hats, keep my eyes and ears open to other opportunities, and not be afraid to move on (or up).
I realize this advice doesn’t work for every personality type or every industry, but my perfectionist self took it as permission, and it has served me well working on the internet where tech and trends change so quickly.
Laura Tremaine grew up in small town Oklahoma and moved to Los Angeles sight unseen when she was twenty-two years old. She worked in film and television production for many years at MTV, VH1, Fox, and Paramount Pictures, before pursuing writing full time.
Laura has been sharing her life online for ten years. She writes about friendship, anxiety, motherhood, and marriage. Her blog posts and podcast episodes resonate with women looking for ways to connect more deeply with others as they transform from one era of life into another.
Laura lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Jeff, and their two children.
You can find links to Laura’s work and socials at www.lauratremaine.com