The woman who is probably Texas's most famous blogger is now also a published memoirist. Well, as of Tuesday she will be.
Jenny Lawson, known around these parts at The Bloggess, is debuting her first book, a "mostly true memoir," with a book tour that starts in New York next week. The book is called Let's Pretend This Never Happened and is about her life growing up in a small town with her taxidermist father and lunch lady mother, her crippling anxiety disorder, her struggles with infertility and much, much more.
Fans of The Bloggess's long-running Web site will likely love the book, written in the same frenetic Attention-Deficit-Disorder non sequitur style that is the trademark of all her blog posts. In the book, Lawson explains that her TMI rambling is one of the ways her Generalized Anxiety Disorder manifests itself. She's a ball of nervous energy.
But on the phone, she sounds surprisingly even-keeled, not at all as nervous as I expected her.
"I apologize in advance if I've offended you," she says after I tell her that I'm working my way through the book.
It's a pretty common story these days: blogger gets book deal thanks to built-in, pre-existing audience. But that's actually not how it happened with Lawson.
"I started writing this book for myself about 11 years ago, because I wanted to remember all of the great things from my childhood," she says. "But I wasn't very good at it. So I started a blog to try to find my voice. So it was more like a book-to-blog-to-book."
That blog has something like 200,000 followers. An average post gets more than 100 comments. How far is her reach? In 2010, she and her readers raised more that $40,000 for children in need of Christmas gifts.
But she says she's shared the best stories for the book, including a tale about a cow insemination gone wrong, a story her editors in New York needed photos to believe. I won't spoil it for you, but anyone who grew up in rural Texas can probably relate.
She says the memoir is "mostly true" because "I wanted to give my family the gift of plausible deniability."
"I had my family read everything before it went to my editor," she says, in a effort to make sure her memories were correct, and that her family wouldn't be too embarrassed. Her stories, however weird, come from a place of love. "They liked it, but they didn't really laugh because it's what's normal to them."
Her favorite chapter is about Stanley The Magical Talking Squirrel, which was more of a dead squirrel her father pretended was a hand puppet.
"For me, that story is like the story of my childhood. But I think the best chapter in the book is the HR chapter."
Human resources is where Lawson learned to ask the question "Is this your penis?" with a straight face.
"Parts of the book aren't funny," she says. "It goes from funny to very maudlin and serious and back to funny." As she writes in the chapter about her attempts to have a child: "How do you write something funny about dead babies? Answer: You can't.
"I was worried that people were really going to be pissed about this," she says, "But people are saying 'I'm so glad you wrote about it.'"
Lawson's book tour starts Tuesday, the day of the book's release, with a reading and signing at Barnes & Noble in New York City's Upper East Side. Then she'll fly to the West Coast for an appearance at the Writer's Guild in LA and a reading in San Francisco. On April 24 she'll be at Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston.
She says she's not super anxious about appearing in front of all those people.
"Most of the people who would buy the book probably already know I have an anxiety disorder," she says. "I'm also really lucky that I have a great therapist. She gave me this really great drug -- she said that rock stars take it so they won't be nervous on stage. So basically, it's cocaine," she jokes.
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"I mean, if you're a writer or a journalist, you basically already have something wrong with you." She pauses awkwardly. "Aaaaand I just insulted you."
Thank goodness for the advance apology.
The Bloggess, Jenny Lawson, will read from her new memoir Let's Pretend This Never Happened on Tuesday, April 24 at Blue Willow Bookshop.