Interview with Jennifer Lauren: Q2 2020 Creative Nonfiction Contest Runner Up

Sunday, June 21, 2020
Jennifer’s Bio:

Jennifer Lauren is a recovering trial attorney living near Seattle, Washington. She’s seeking representation for her debut novel, Everything We Did Not Do, which explores the human fallibility behind wrongful conviction: as if Jodi Picoult wrote Presumed Innocent.

Ever since she wrote her first masterpiece, The Creature, when she was 5, Jennifer wanted to be a writer. But life happened, sidetracking her with pesky bills and peskier children. She’s worked as an award-winning reporter at a nationally recognized newspaper; fundraising director for inner city schools; and civil litigator for 13 years. In May 2019 she had herself a mid-life crisis and quit her day job to write, teach yoga, travel, and chase her dreams. This landed her in some confusing places.

Before the apocalypse, Jennifer was planning to travel throughout 2020. Now she’s hiding in her office with Seattle’s last known roll of toilet paper, working on her next novel. Check her out at

If you haven't done so already, check out Jennifer's award-winning story "Law & Yoga" and then return here for a chat with the author.

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the Q2 2020 Creative Nonfiction Contest! How did you begin writing this piece and how did it and your writing evolve as you wrote?

Jennifer: This piece woke me up at 5 a.m. and demanded I write. The day before, I'd attended a yoga conference in downtown Seattle, next door to the building where I began my law career. The dichotomy between who I was then and who I was now, particularly in the hormone yoga session, hit hard. I got up the next morning and poured myself onto my keyboard, and the piece was something like 4,000 words long. I saw the WOW essay contest and thought it would be a good fit, so I sat down to cut it to the bare bones, the hard message I wanted to convey. I had just finished the book Why We Can't Sleep by Ada Calhoun, and identified with what she wrote about the struggles of Generation X women. I wanted to make this essay about me and my personal struggles to find identity as I approached middle age, but also about the universality of these feelings among women of my generation. For years, I've seen a lot of affluent women of various ethnic backgrounds insisting they were happy despite the fact that they clearly were not, and I wanted their voices to be heard without the guilt we associate with such feelings. I can't tell you how many times I've listened to a friend pour her soul out, wipe her tears away, and say she has no right to feel this way.

WOW: These are powerful realizations—in your own life and others’—and you’ve done a wonderful job of writing about a personal experience in a way that conveys that universality for others. What did you learn about yourself or your writing by creating this essay?

Jennifer: This was the first personal essay I wrote quickly, walked away from, and came back to thinking, 'wow, this is really good.' It gave me confidence as I try to pursue writing as a vocation, something I never thought I'd have the courage to do.

WOW: Can you tell us more about your novel-in-progress? Does your fiction ever inspire your creative nonfiction or vice versa?

Jennifer: My finished novel, Everything We Did Not Do, is a wrongful conviction story told from the perspective of the accused and the accuser. It also embraces the contrast of youth versus middle age, rich versus poor, educated versus uneducated, and explores how these cultural issues change how we see the world and each other. It was largely based on my experience representing nurses accused of malpractice – the "defendants," who were supposed to be the bad guys, but were sometimes morally superior to their accusers. I wrote it over three years, most of which I was in the death-throes of my litigation career. My new novel, which is not yet named, is about a lawyer who gets roped into representing the leader of a psychic cult. It will be a bit lighter, I think.

WOW: Good luck and enjoy the process with both of your novels! I love stories in which the line between “good” guys and “bad” guys is blurred. Which creative nonfiction essays or writers have inspired you most, and in what ways did they inspire you?

Jennifer: I am madly in love with Glennon Doyle, her essays on motherhood got me through my kids' baby and toddler stages. Her current philanthropy and inspirational writings are brilliant. I also enjoy Elizabeth Gilbert quite a bit. I love the way she normalizes the creative lifestyle I was explicitly raised NOT to embrace, and gives people permission to live their best lives.

WOW: Wonderful recommendations, and I did think of Elizabeth Gilbert's work while reading your essay. If you could tell your younger-writing-self anything, what would it be?

Jennifer: Don't worry so much about the money, the money will come. Don't try to force yourself to be happy with your circumstances when you clearly are not. Leave the job behind. Spend time with the babies. Take the trips without guilt. Remember how much you loved to write? Do that again. No, not briefs. Write from your heart. Maybe try some fiction. Yes, you are too creative enough. Stop telling yourself you aren't.

WOW: Powerful advice that I’m sure resonates with many other writers. Anything else you’d like to add?

Jennifer: Thank you to WOW for this recognition. It means the world to me. I just started a travel blog (worst timing EVER, I know) which can be found at

WOW: Thanks so much for your thoughtful responses. And thank you for sharing your writing with us!

Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, who keeps a blog of journal entries, memoir snippets, interviews, training logs, and profiles of writers and competitive sportswomen.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Anne--Thanks for doing this interview, and for providing a link to Jenniefer's essay. I nodded my head several times while I read it.

Jennifer--Congratulations on this essay. I'm glad you decided to leave a job that did not bring you happiness, so you could pursue joy. I am fortunate. I'm a teacher, I love my job. In fact, I love it so much, I retired... and then immediately began to teach again.

So, your manuscript is told from two different perspectives? And it's a bit of Presumed Innocent (one of my favorite "lawyer-crime" novels) and Jodi Picoult? That sounds right up my alley. One of my favorite Picoult novels was "Handle With Care" which isn't about a nurse, but a doctor (an OB)... and the doctor's best friend--and the best friend gave birth to a daughter with fragile bone syndrome. It does a wonderful job of showing both sides of the story.

Good luck with getting your manuscript published. I'm in the same boat. I'm looking for someone--anyone--to represent or publish my book-wannabe. People who are experts tell me it's a numbers game. Some international best-sellers had to submit their manuscript over a hundred times before they got a "yes." If a lawyer lost 150 trials before winning a single one... well, they probably would not have continued work in the courtroom. However, a writer can rack up that many rejections, and it might mean they're on the brink of success. It also probably means they need to keep going.

I also wish you well with your WIP. As a lawyer, you spend half your time in the courtroom on your feet. As a writer, remember: BIC (butt in chair).

Jennifer Lauren said...

Sioux, thank you so much for your comment, I'm so glad you connected with my essay and that you have a job you enjoy. During my legal years, I often thought that if I could go back in time, I would have taught English, history or social studies. But after spending hours with teacher friends who are burnt out by the bureaucracy, I've realized there are no perfect jobs, just jobs that are perfect for some. I'm so glad you found one!

Handle With Care is also one of my favorite books. I think maybe I modeled my own novel on it a bit. So far not a lot of luck, but I'm enjoying the process and working on my new one.

Best of luck on your own book and your own journey.


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