Lauren Quinn

Lauren Quinn is a writer, kindergarten teacher and contributing editor for Vela. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Believer, The Rumpus, The Toast, This Recording, Nerve, San Francisco Chronicle and Best Women’s Travel Writing Volumes 8 & 9, among others. She 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:

  • 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

  • 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 cuốn by 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 […]–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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • Apocalypse Soon

    The fog crept past the streetlight, swallowing the clouds of smoke we blew out, skinny or fat or from our noses in dragony tendrils. It was quiet there on the back porch; you really couldn’t ask for a better place to take a break – sweat stuck to your skin; hands stinking like tequila and […]–Read more

  • Sweat Ride through the Smog Swamp

    I met him when I was trying to get to work. I was walking down the street in the Old Quarter, dodging traffic in my too-baggy work pants, the Hanoian humidity pressing down on me like a clammy hand, like it wanted to suffocate me, like it might actually want to kill me. I was […]–Read more

  • Girls, Girls, Girl

    The girls looked bored. They slouched in plastic chairs, picked at their nails, crossed and uncrossed their toothpick legs. Neon shadows slashed their skin, deepened the dark places, made their bones look sharper than they really were. Men filtered through the open-air patio, Western guys in flip-flops and shorts. They wore the efficient expressions of […]–Read more

  • On the Rails in Phnom Penh

    We called him Eat Pray Paul. Because there were two Pauls and they were more or less indistinguishable — both red-faced old dudes who’d been kicking out Cambodia for years, smoking ice, shagging prostitutes and losing teeth until there wasn’t a whole lot left. Both Pauls would wash up at George’s house from time to […]–Read more

  • Confessions of the Hamam Non-Sisterhood

    She flung the plastic bucket in my supine direction. The warm water leapt out, arched through the steaming black room and landed with a slap across my face. I gasped. I lay on my back, sopping wet and stripped down to my panties. I blinked the water from my eyes and stared up at the […]–Read more

  • Could Have Stayed On The Highway

    Interstate 5 stretched out before us like a flat black stain on a dingy beige carpet. Desert, industrial orchards, slaughterhouses, gas stations, little shit towns with broke-down cars and rusted bicycles in the weedy yards of clapboard houses: it all passed in the periphery. I didn’t bother to look. The tires were bald, too bald […]–Read more

  • Barang Goes To A Wedding

    The music started before dawn. I knew this only because the holes in the corrugated tin roof revealed swaths of night. The room rattled each time the music boomed, buzzed metallic with each twinge of distortion. I could feel it in my teeth. Dim lights snapped on, and bare feet padded over the floor, the […]–Read more

  • The Angelo Who Isn’t There

    Street 182, just past dusk, and I’m moving through air as thick as swamp water. Moving like a swamp creature—Amazonian and dripping refuse, trailing foreign smells in my dirty jeans and hair. The horns shriek and the engines whine and a cellphone shop blares a high-pitched voice. The night is a streak of headlights and […]–Read more

  • A Trip To The Castle

    The tin fence is half-collapsed, and the smoke that billows out of the shack might be meat or it might be trash—or by the smell, both. We crunch the rocks and rubbish beneath our Converse to get a closer look. A few mangy chickens cluck around the debris-strewn yard: cardboard and wires and buckets of empty. […]–Read more

  • Cities Like Boys

    “Wait, wait—you’re moving to Cambodia?!” I nod. “I was just out there for a few months earlier this year. And now I’m headed back.” “Ah. So,” leans in, a hushed voice, “did you meet someone?” I feel my neck snap and eyes pinch. “What?” A knowing smile: “What’s his name?” I pause, furl my brow […]–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.