Lauren Quinn

Lauren Quinn is a writer, kindergarten teacher and contributing editor for Vela. Her work has appeared in The Believer, Guernica and The Rumpus, among others. Her work for Vela has been featured on and The New Yorker’s Page Turner blog, and anthologized in Best Women’s Travel Writing, Volumes 8 & 9. Lauren holds a BA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University and used to write the blog Lonely Girl Travels. Her website is here.

Lauren currently lives in Hanoi, where she washed up after an ill-fated attempt at writing a book in Cambodia. She will always be an Oakland girl at heart.

Stories by Lauren:

  • Neither MFA Nor NYC

    My favorite story from my college years wasn’t one I heard in a Creative Writing workshop. I didn’t hear it in any lit seminar or poetry reading. I heard it on a Wednesday night in West Oakland, sitting in a metal folding chair at the twelve-step meeting where I clung to my tenuous new sobriety. […]–Read more

  • The Ism and the Alcohol

    A year and a half ago, I published my first essay on addiction. You’d think having gotten sober at age seventeen would have been fodder for plenty of personal essays, but it took me twelve years to start writing about alcoholism and sobriety. Even then, that first piece did not show me drinking or using, […]–Read more

  • The Storm and the Beast

    The morning before the typhoon hit, I sat down for a Skype date with my parents: my morning coffee and their evening wine, the usual football and grandchildren updates punctuated by the cut-outs of the faltering wifi connection. Until my dad said he had something to tell me: for the first time, he was struggling […]–Read more

  • On the Far End of Reality: Jennifer Percy’s Demon Camp

    Everywhere he went, he saw them, their burned bodies, watching him. These were the days after the war. Demon Camp is not really about soldiers. Well, okay, it is. Jennifer Percy’s debut book revolves around the lives of soldiers who’ve returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD, focusing chiefly on the story of Sgt. Caleb […]–Read more

  • A Story About Hanoi

    This is a story about moving to Hanoi. This is not a story about moving to Hanoi as an American. This is not a story about eating phở cuốnby the lake where John McCain was shot down. This is not about learning to call the Vietnam War the American War. This is a story about […]–Read more

  • Announcing: Vela’s First Nonfiction Contest

    You know what there’s not enough of? Money for writers. Especially women writers. So we’ve got a little something to help counter that. We’re excited to announce our first-ever Vela contest, with the very excellent Michelle Orange as judge. The Grand Prize is five hundred big ones and the entry is free, so you really […]–Read more

  • The Non-Bravery of Bearing Witness

    It’s happening again: I’ve published a highly personal essay and well-intentioned readers are calling me brave. It’s meant as a compliment, I know, but I can’t help feeling what I always feel when I hear this comment: confused and a little bummed out. As a woman who writes personal narrative, I get called “brave” a […]–Read more

  • The Morning After

    Paper gown and stirrups, white walls and a tray of gleaming tools: he held the syringe over me and said, “It’s a special kind of anesthetic. We won’t be putting you completely under—you’ll still be lucid—but you won’t remember anything.” Then he slid it in. I stared out of the window at a little pond […]–Read more

  • Goodbye to All This

    So, I’m balking on my grad school apps. It’s not because they seem arduous—in fact, they seem surprisingly streamlined. It’s not because I’m unaccustomed to writing 500-1,000-word personal essays. It’s not because I’m unclear on my motivations. It’s not like I’m about to give up a good life in Hanoi and move back to the […]–Read more

  • The Tweakers or the Ghosts

    You know you’re close when the fog thins out, when the dull pink behind cuts through, when the hills along the highway become vacant and brown. Staples, Starbucks, Target, In-N-Out; casinos and check cashing. The spires of the oil refinery silhouetted and pumping exhaust that smudges across the sky. The last exit before the Carquinez […]–Read more

  • The Trip Inside

    Warm summer night, window open, leaves cutting the streetlight into pieces that flickered across the bedroom floor. We lay on top of the sheets, him on his side, me under his arm. I said I couldn’t sleep. “Let me show you a trick.” He pulled his arm out from under me and rolled onto his […]–Read more

  • The Antidote for Personal Narrative

    A month from now, I will be a full-time kindergarten teacher. This was not part of the plan. The plan was… well, there wasn’t much of one, other than to Be A Writer and Write A Book–you know, those things I’d been wanting to do and saying I was going to do since I was […]–Read more

  • Women We Read This Week

    Karen Shepard’s “Dragon Ladies” in The Millions She was Eurasian; I’m Eurasian. She was a writer; I’m a writer. In one of her memoirs, published when I was twelve, she writes, “Karen is so very much like me in some ways that it is almost unbelievable.” What could she possibly have observed in pre-teen me […]–Read more

  • Still Moments in Vampire Town

    “There’s this moment of still right before it happens.” The first time, she was in a car. A man came to the window, reached in and held a machete under her friend’s chin. “But I knew,” Melissa told me. “Like, right before it happened. We were sitting in the car and I just kept thinking, […]–Read more

  • This Is How It Happens

    Try this: Click on our masthead. Look at the photos. Skim the bios. What do you notice? Eight women. Eight white women. Eight college-educated, North American, native-English-speaking white women. We formed Vela to counter the gender byline gap. But what does it mean to have a women-run website, run entirely by one kind of woman? […]–Read more

  • Women We Read This Week

    A gathering of the best pieces by women we’ve read this week. Rebecca Solnit’s “The Faraway Nearby” on Guernica I love Rebecca Solnit‘s writing for its ability to render the intangible graspable without losing a sense of wonder, a whiff of the ethereal. She is a writer you want to read for the pleasure of […]–Read more

  • My Month as a Slut

    My sister clapped her hands and said, “Let’s get dressed up like sluts and go to the Beverly Center!” This is how it started. For my thirteenth birthday, my parents had gotten me tickets to fly down to LA. It was my first plane ride by myself. “I’m sure you’ve done this a thousand times,” […]–Read more

  • “Solo Female Travel Isn’t the Problem”

    We’re loving the response of prominent female travel bloggers to the recent upsurge of the old solo-female-travel-is-too-dangerous line. Both Jodi Ettenberg (Legal Nomads) and Stephanie Yoder (Twenty-Something Travel) posted about the fallacy in the argument that solo travel was to blame for the recent death of an American woman in Istanbul–or, as one commenter put […]–Read more

  • The Bright Burning of Dory Tourette

    Author’s Note What follows is a story about my friendship with Dory Ben-Shalom, AKA Dory Tourette, a person beloved by many. The story is very much about my experience with Dory, which occurred during a tremendously difficult period of my life. As such, it is cast through a certain prism of addiction and depression, a […]–Read more

  • Women We Read This Year: Best of 2012

    The month of December had barely begun when the Best Of lists began to pop up in my Twitter feed. Best Albums, Best Films, Best Longform, Best Shortform, Best Takedown of an Old, Established Writer by a Young, Hungry Writer in an Awkward Press Junket Setting (yeah). When I brought up doing our own Best […]–Read more


  1. Fallen by chance on your old blog Lonelygirltravels, loved your poetry and ” End of the road” as well as a few other writings. Now found you on Vela. Wish you all well. Will take time to read here again.

  2. Joe Mindigo says:

    Ms. Quinn – Read “The Ism and the Alcohol” and thought of a book which may interest you – “A Mind Powered Disease” by Bob Anderson.