From blog to book, Jenny Lawson copes with success

Jenny Lawson is author of the website The Bloggess.
Jenny Lawson is author of the website The Bloggess.
Posted: July 22, 2012

Jenny Lawson wasn't sure if anyone would buy her book. As the author of The Bloggess website, she had 250,000 Twitter followers and blog devotees, but who would want to read about a childhood with a father who woke his children up by using a very recently dead squirrel as a puppet?

Then the preorders started piling up on Amazon, and when Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir (Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, $25.95) debuted, it was at the top of the New York Times bestseller list.

Three months later, it's still hovering in the 20s as Lawson plans the fourth leg of her book tour — no word if Philadelphia is on the list yet.

Lawson was the child of a taxidermist growing up in Wall, Texas, and there's no escaping her humorous take on her childhood, her husband, and her cats, including Ferris Mewler, who likes to terrorize the family by leaping on them from atop the Christmas tree.

But there's no escaping the dark corners either, and it's hard to look away, even when Lawson has curled into a ball detailing her walks with depression, agoraphobia, and anxiety.

Now at home with daughter, Hailey, and husband, Victor, Lawson took a few minutes to reflect on her cult status and how she managed to get through three legs of a book tour. Drugs are involved.

Question: How are you handling all this fame?

Answer: I'm utterly and completely shocked It was number one the first week it came out. I was in a coma because I thought there was no way that was possible. Every week it's stayed on the list, I'm dying. So basically, I've been in this really long coma.

Q: Did you get yourself a present to celebrate?

A: I bought myself a Wonder Woman Underoos outfit. They make them in adult sizes now. I'm wearing it underneath my garments at many of the readings.

Q: You've been very open about dealing with your anxiety and agoraphobia. How did you get through the book tour?

A: I went to a lot of therapy beforehand and did a lot of behavioral therapy. My therapist is great and really understands the way my insides work. Plus, I had the regular drugs for the normal anxiety and a special drug just for the performances.

Q: What was the worst part?

A: The hardest thing is walking out onto the stage, right before the audience sees you and start saying YAY! and clapping. I always have that moment where I think, "Oh My God, everyone here hates me and I'm going to die."

But then I would go out and look at the audience. Every place was standing-room only. And I would see women in red dresses \[she wrote a blog post bout how every woman should have a fabulous red dress that she just wears to make herself feel special\] or men carrying giant metal chickens, sometimes begrudgingly. There were women wearing tiaras or carrying taxidermied animals. They were just amazingly supportive people.

Q: What was the best advice you got?

A: I was doing the audio version of the book, and I was terrified and you could hear it in my voice. My friend and fellow author Neil Gaiman told me to pretend I was good at it. Every single day, I would write that on my arm, "Pretend you're good at it." And I would just go out and pretend. But really I was terrified.

Q: Was it cathartic to write the book? Was it hard to go back?

A: The cathartic part comes more from writing about the anxiety disorder or suicidal thoughts or infertility. Those were very hard to write about, but it was like I wrote about them and when I shut the book, it was done. They were in the pages and they couldn't hurt me anymore.

The biggest issue was writing about what happens when I have an anxiety attack. Because writing about it would trigger an anxiety attack. It took months and months because I would write a paragraph and then start feeling sick and my heart would race and I would think "something bad is going to happen." It was a bad month for everyone.

Q: So did doing all this help at all?

A: Writing the book helped a little. Doing the tour helped because I didn't think I'd be able to do it. And now I know I can. And that's something extremely wonderful — to know that you can do so much more than you think you can.

Q: You write a lot about your family in your blog, The Bloggess. How does that go over?

A: We have a rule that we've had forever that I never write about anything we're currently fighting about. Because everyone would be on my side. Anything I write that has to do with our daughter, Victor looks at first, and he has to agree that it's OK. I'm so protective about writing anything at all to do with my daughter. I know that kids in general can be cruel and I don't want any information out there that can be used by bullies.

Q: One of the benefits of having a quarter million Twitter followers is power. Some other bloggers Tweet or write about small incidents — like a car dealership that made them mad, or bad service from a clothing store — and then ask their readers to attack. What's your take on that?

A: There are a million times I want to write about something that's ticking me off, but I don't because I know it will blow up into something bigger. I've only done it two times — one when a PR guy called me a bitch. That was not cool, but he and I went back and forth across many e-mails before I finally said, “OK, if you're not listening to me. … “

The other time was recently when my laptop was stolen. It wasn't even that my laptop was stolen. It was about the airline policy that I had to drive two hours back to report it in person, even though it would still not get my laptop back and it wouldn't be reimbursed. It was just a way of keeping people from reporting theft.

Q: So what's next?

A: Next I'm starting book two. Since book one took me 11 years to write, I'm hoping it takes less than half that time. I'm trying to spend a lot of time with my family. It feels like I've been away so long. Because it's a week of being gone, but it's also a week of recovery and a week of prep. I don't think I realized how much it was going to take me away. So I've got one last leg, and then I'm going to sit down at the desk, write book two, and cross my fingers.

Contact Dawn Fallik at dfallik@gmail.com. Jenny Lawson can be found at @TheBloggess on Twitter and http://thebloggess.com

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