Meet a Member: Lauren McMenemy

-Interview by Sophie Gordon

This month we meet 26’s new membership and website manager, Lauren McMenemy. Who is she? What brought her here? And what kind of person mixes gothic and folk horror writing with a self-care newsletter and a pet bunny rabbit?

Photo: by Nicolas Laborie

Tell us a bit about yourself – where are you from and what do you do?

Hi, I’m the new membership and website manager for 26! I’m Lauren (she/her), an Australian-born writer, editor, proofreader and coach who’s been troubling various parts of London for almost two decades, scary as that is. 

I’ve spent much of the last 25-ish years working as a professional content creator across the media, and in agencies and in-house communications teams. I was the music editor for a daily newspaper back home (a good gig and being waterside remains my happy place), and I considered myself a has-been at the age of 26 when I gave that up and moved to the UK – that is, until I caught my second wind, and rekindled my childhood love of creative writing. 

Outside of the words that pay the bills, I’m interested in the paranormal and the occult, and have a developing fascination with folklore, the “old ways” and our fast-changing relationship with the natural world – so of course, I write gothic and folk horror fiction. I’m also editor of a weekly dark speculative fiction e-zine, and enjoy working with writers to help develop their craft – so much so, I’m now working as a certified coach/mentor to writers at all stages of their careers. I also work as an editor and proofreader in both the fiction and business worlds, and help writers to brainstorm their marketing plans and personal brands.

Finally, but importantly, I advocate for a better understanding of mental health. My Substack newsletter, How to Be Self(ish), tracked my year of sabbatical and self-care, and I continue to write it (very) irregularly as a mental health companion. (Note to self: I really should pick that back up. It was therapeutic to write.)

You’ll find me haunting south London, where I live with my Doctor Who-obsessed husband (check out his podcast!) and our aged black house rabbit. You’ll also likely find me hosting Writers Hour sessions for the London Writers Salon a few times a week. For more details about my work with words, head to my very messy website.

Where did your love of words come from?

Honestly, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love words. Writing is all I’ve ever known how to do, and all I’ve ever been half-decent at. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to write. I was that kid creating “books” with hand-drawn covers telling the story of the family dog, the one that would be found with her nose in a book at all times. I was always, always going to be a writer, and maintain that love of words. It’s in my blood.

What made you join 26? And how long have you been a member?

I actually discovered 26 via my local writing group, Sutton Writers, back in 2018. A poet came to speak to us about the research she did as part of the 26 Armistice project, and I was hooked. At the time, I wasn’t getting much opportunity to write creatively as my day job sucked all of my writing oomph, and I loved the idea of being part of the projects and getting to flex my creative muscles in a new way. I was a member by the end of the week.

Have you been involved in any 26 projects?

Yes, quite a few now! My first stand-alone project was 26 Trees with the Woodland Trust, and I’ve also been part of 26 Weeks, 26 Wild, 26 Places in Cornwall and Fine Cell Work’s 25th anniversary project. I have been part of 26’s team for the Bloomsbury Festival for four years, too, and have organised its writers in residence since 2020.

What’s your ideal scenario for writing? (A coffee shop? Quiet retreat? With or without music? What do you do to get yourself in the right frame of mind?)

I’m a binge writer for the most part – I’m not really one of those writers who can grab snatches of time in the day, though I try! – so my ideal is to set aside several hours or days to fully immerse myself in a project. Writing retreats are perfect, though so are days spent at the London Library or in my cosy writing nook at home. I need music because I suffer badly with tinnitus, but it has to be instrumentals with a driving beat otherwise I’ll get caught up in singing along. I try to match the mood of the music to the tone of what I’m writing. Work writing is often techno to push me along; my fiction is darker so some gothic goodness helps. A nice scented candle or incense, some mood lighting, and either a nice notebook or my Freewrite Traveler rounds out the scene.

I’m a words person for both work and pleasure, so that question is a bit tricky. To earn money, I write blogs, articles and profiles for businesses – good ol’ thought leadership and content marketing. 

Outside of the marketing world, I write gothic and folk horror and am part of the global genre-writing community. I am at the helm of the Trembling With Fear weekly zine on, so you’ll find me working on the week’s editorial as well as liaising with writers about submissions. I also work as a coach/mentor to genre writers to help keep them accountable, brainstorm ideas and keep them on track. 

The thing I *should* be working on is my novel, which is set in the world of the Victorian occult, concerning an investigation into a spiritual guru. It’s still early stages, but it’s been that way for over a year…

Could you tell us about a piece of writing you’re particularly proud of?

I don’t mean this to be cringeworthy sucking up, but I actually really love the work I’ve turned in as a writer in residence for 26 at the Bloomsbury Festival. My first piece was about the leaps I and other expats have made over the centuries and what it means to be foreign. Likewise, my writer in residence piece from the 2021 festival, Here Comes The Sun, came during a particularly difficult time for me, and the message was just what I needed.

Where do you get your inspiration?

My fears. I explore my fears through my writing, and I’m scared of every damn thing.

My eccentric English husband and all his excitedly-told stories of ridiculous escapades, plus the cutest, most diva bunny in the world that’s lived with us for about eight years.

My expat life. It heightens a lot of emotions, especially when you’re trapped a world away from your family in uncertain times with very little hope of getting home any time soon.

The state of the world.

But mainly, my habit of extreme empathy needs an outlet or I will go crazy.

If you’d like to feature in a future Meet a Member, or nominate another 26er, drop Sophie a line at Don’t be shy.

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