Let’s start at the beginning – Lauren, how did you get your start in writing?
I've wanted to be a writer since childhood. Apparently I was a late bloomer when learning to read but once it clicked, I read voraciously. There’s something about the written word I find endlessly fascinating; it has the ability to transport us to faraway places and meet characters we'd never have the opportunity to meet in real life. I love that it's a two-way street, in that the writer relies on the reader's imagination and comprehension more than other creative mediums. I dabbled with other callings as the years passed – architecture, the law and international relations, non-profit work – but my heart was always firmly with writing. I settled on journalism a little later, when I realized that non-fiction, and therefore real people, could be just as captivating as fiction, sometimes more so.
Where did you go to school?
I have a bachelor’s in English Literature and Political Science from the University of San Diego, and a master's in Journalism from the Cronkite School at Arizona State University.
How did you get your start with PHOENIX magazine?
Essentially, I knew someone who knew someone. Ain’t that the way it always goes? I was toiling away freelancing and working part time, trying to get my journalism career off the ground when the stars aligned and I heard PHOENIX was looking for a new editor. I started last September and it’s been a great ride thus far.
What’s been your favorite story you’ve ever written?
I've been very fortunate to cover some incredible stories in my short tenure into journalism but a few do stick out. In a grad school fellowship investigating the gun industry in this country, I traveled to the tiny town of Nucla, Colorado, which had recently passed a law requiring a gun in every home. The story started as a look at crazy gun culture but evolved into an examination of a dying Americana and way of life that many of us urbanites do not understand.
When I interned at the Washington Post two summers ago, I interviewed Ingrid Crepeau, a puppet master who started a lucrative side business repairing mascots for all the professional sports teams in D.C. When I shadowed her, she had made these incredible Star Wars costumes for the racing presidents of the Washington Nationals and we got to watch them race in costume from the passageways beneath the stadium. It was such a cool experience and even cooler to meat Ingrid, who harnessed joy and laughter and the simple pleasure of play more than any adult I've ever met.
Any crazy interview stories?
Well I've never been in a war zone and I've managed to avoid many sticky political situations so I'd say most interviews have been quite tame. I suppose the "craziest" interview I've had was shooting guns with a former Olympic pistol shooter and NRA commentator in Miami.
What do you do in your spare time?
What's that? But really, the answer is kind of boring: I hang out with family and friends; attempt to exercise every so often; play tennis; try new breweries and cocktails; and listen to podcasts. Oh and I watch perhaps too much TV (see below). A colleague and I also started a networking group for female journalists, which has been really rewarding and fulfilling.
Any favorite TV shows?
Oh, I could ramble on forever about this. I'm a sucker for strong female-led shows like Orange is the New Black, The Handmaid's Tale, Fleabag and Insecure. I love a good thriller/drama like The Americans and Fargo. I round out my playlist with some sci-fi/fantasy a la Game of Thrones and Black Mirror, and I gotta have some comedy: my current favorites are Broad City and Last Man on Earth, though my forever favorite is Parks and Rec. Writing this out, I feel like I may have a problem... send help!
What about music?
Classic rock, forever and always.
What are some of your favorite places to visit?
My favorite places are San Diego and San Francisco for the beach/fish tacos and diversity, respectively, but also because I have a lot of family and friends in both places. Otherwise, I've had wonderful travel experiences in the last decade from traveling abroad in England to backpacking across Central America. I tell everyone to visit Nicaragua and Guatemala – they're less touristy than neighboring Costa Rica but with pristine jungles and beaches and incredibly warm and friendly people that just want to feed you.
What types of stories do you generally work on?
It's a mix. Sometimes I'll write news stories for the magazine's Phoenix Files section. Sometimes I'll contribute to our cover stories – shopping guides, 101 reasons we love Phoenix, beer, pizza, etc. Sometimes I'll do Q&As with people around the Valley. And, my favorite, sometimes I write features, which are narrative articles about interesting people, places and phenomena around Arizona.
What is something our readers would be surprised to know about you?
Hmmm... that's tough. I guess I'll say that sometimes I make a first impression of being steely and reserved and sarcastic to a fault but really I love cheesy romantic comedies and often cry at Subaru commercials. What can I say? The puppies get to me.