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Popular blogger, author Jenny Lawson brings mental illness humor to Cedar Rapids

Author profile: Turning life's lemons into lemonade

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By Katie Mils Giorgio, correspondent

If you are thinking of heading out to see author Jenny Lawson speak on Friday night, but have yet to read any of her work, consider yourself warned.

“You should come out if you aren’t easily offended and want a good laugh,” said Lawson via email last week.

Lawson — a No. 1 New York Times best-selling author and Internet sensation known as “The Bloggess” — is recognized for her sardonic wit and her hysterically skewed outlook on life. Her blog (TheBloggess.com) is award-winning and extremely popular, seeing more than half a million page-views per day. She also is the author of two books: “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir),” which won Goodread’s Best Humor Book of 2012; and “Furiously Happy,” which features a crazed raccoon on the cover and inside discusses Lawson’s comical and emotional rollercoaster ride of living with mental illness.

“Mental illness affects so many people in the world, so it’s likely that even if you don’t have it someone you love will, so it’s important to be aware that the stigma surrounding it needs to be dismantled,” she said of the importance of speaking frankly and humorously about the often taboo topic. “Asking for help is so much easier when you realize that you’re not alone.”

In her own life, Lawson leans on — and sometimes writes about — her own family, namely her husband Victor, daughter Hailey and an entertaining cast of brilliantly named cats and a dog. Her daughter recently finished fifth grade and Lawson said she’s entered a period of parenting transition.

“I love that Hailey is now old enough to appreciate so many of the things that I love,” she said. “We watch “Doctor Who” together and share YA books and she’s old enough to have her own unique personality. It’s hard though, to let go and watch her make mistakes. But I guess that’s part of parenting. I’m sure my mother still feels the same way.”

Lawson said the process of writing her most recent book “Furiously Happy” was long but worth it. “I’m a slow writer so it took years to pull it all together. I wanted to write an honest look at mental illness but also write something funny enough that everyone would enjoy. It was a fine line, but I’m lucky to have a great team that helps me decide what does or doesn’t work.”

She said her favorite chapter is the one about recording the audiobook version. “That experience stays with me always. I still write ‘Pretend You’re Good at It’ on my arm before going out on stage.”

In “Furiously Happy,” Lawson discusses the difficulty she occasionally has with public speaking thanks to her anxiety.

“I’ve done a ton of behavioral therapy and I take specific medication that makes it easier,” she explained. “I practice a lot of self-care, like staying in at the hotel to read or draw. It would be fun to be able to see all the cities I go to, but I know that if I do, I won’t have the energy to do readings and signings, so I’m careful to rest as much as I can. My favorite thing is getting to meet all the people like me, because most of them understand completely when I need to hide under a table because my anxiety gets too bad.”

Lawson will take the stage in Cedar Rapids on Friday evening to wrap up this year’s OutLoud! Author Series for the Metro Library Network. She said this will be her first trip to Iowa and “if it isn’t too much trouble, I’d like to request a small, medicinal horse or perhaps a monkey who can pet my hair and tell me everything will be alright.” (That’s the mix of funny and nutty attendees will get a full dose of.)

Fans and Internet followers are likely aware that Lawson hasn’t been feeling well lately. But it’s her writing, and connections to fans, that keep her going, she said.

“It’s strange, but sometimes when I feel my very worst, the best thing I can do is write about it because my readers remind me that I’m not alone. Also, there’s something about finding a way to laugh at something horrible because it makes it easier to deal with.”

As for what Lawson has brewing next, fans will just have to wait patiently. “I’m working on my next book but it’s a bit of a secret still because it’s a bit undone. I’m really excited about it though.”

Surely, Bloggess fans are too.

(For Bloggess fans who know the story of Beyonce the Metal Chicken, I asked how she was doing. Lawson said, “Still proudly standing on the back porch. Beyonce is forever.”

 

If you go

 

What: OutLoud! Author Series Presents: Jenny Lawson

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Hotel at Kirkwood Center, 7725 Kirkwood Blvd. SW, Cedar Rapids

Cost: Free, but registration required at www.eventbrite.com/e/out-loud-author-series-jenny-lawson-tickets-22811652266

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