Writing and stuff: the Layla Lenhardt Story

When I was seven, I wrote a screenplay inspired by the Hall&Oats song, Rich Girl. But before that, I was writing stories with the help of my mother. My mother raised me in a library and I found books and knowledge to be the most respectable thing. My mom made me memorize Poe’s Annabelle Lee before I could efficiently spell and that jump-started my love for memorizing and reciting poetry (I know more Sylvia Plath than Ted Hughes did), and ultimately, for becoming a poet myself. In middle school, I was a gigantic fan of the pyramid scheme called Poetry.com and I had many of my  “poems” “published” which basically meant I wrote some nonsensical, existential bullshit about the world was always moving and people’s lives were always ending and Poetry.com told me they’d “publish” it and I could buy the book for $80.00USD or some craziness like that. Through this, however, my infatuation with seeing my own words written in a book had been sparked. It wasn’t until I started smoking cigarettes (which I do no longer) in high school that my poetry had gotten better. I found things a lot more inspiring at that time -though the cigarette smoking was merely incidental. My biggest dream was to fall in love and it inspired two unpublished novels (we can thank my first unrequited love, Dr. Eric Emilio Casero), and many poems and short prose. My writing found a home on Xanga, and I was pleased by it.

It wasn’t until I actually fell in love that I realized I could no longer write about love. My words no longer could explain love or give it justice. And I’ve continued to struggle with this quandary since then when writing fiction. In the next eight years, a lot of things happened. I believe life is a series of vignettes, each one completely separate from another, and I have volumes of them, all which inspired my writing. I fell in love with my honey-haired first love during a Sufjan Stevens song while counting cracks in the sidewalk, I lived in, and subsequently, got deported from the UK, I travelled the world with a man with a gambling addiction, I did some drugs and played some music, and, despite all odds, I moved to the Midwest with the person who has inspired most of my writing. My writing had a lot of inspiration, but it was still really hard to write at times.

I never got much recognition for my writing because I never looked for it. Save for my xanga friends, my college professor and Isreali author, Pearl Abraham was really the only one to outwardly recognize my writing and I look to her as a really special and important influence; I mean, she showed me Kate Chopin. This lead to a series of professors helping me become the writer I am today. Andrew Mulvania followed Pearl, and finally it was Dr. George David Clark. Dr. Clark chose me to be the editor-in-chief of our college literary journal, The Wooden Tooth Review, and I loved every minute of it. It was four AM and I was drinking bottom shelf whiskey from an orange Starbuck’s mug, while looking over the poetry submissions, totally exhausted, and I said aloud to no one specifically, “Oh my god, I love this. I need to do this with my life.” And I meant it, I was a law school drop out who really had no idea what I was going to do.

So that’s how 1932 began. I moved to the Midwest from a fast paced, east coast city and I was lonely and bored and drunk in a swimming pool. It was then that I realized I could take control of my life and do whatever I wanted to do. And I wanted to make a literary journal in hopes that I could share the feeling of pride and fulfillment with others, in hopes that I could bring people together. And it has been truly incredible.

In my time after college, I have gotten three poems published in literary journals and I’ve gotten about 13 rejections. Being a poet is basically constant rejection littered with an occasional acceptance. And while waking up on a Monday morning to a rejection letter absolutely blows,  that one acceptance letter will lift your spirits higher than e.e. cummings’ hot air balloon and honestly, it will inspire you to write that much more. So I guess the moral of this story is never give up and it’s okay to feel discouraged, but there always will be that acceptance letter just waiting around the corner for you, and it makes it all worth it.  If I’ve come this far, anyone can.


One thought on “Writing and stuff: the Layla Lenhardt Story

  1. Let me tell you ma’am, you are wonderful! your life is awesome and is something I would like to become.
    I like to write, but can’t be a full timer as I’m pursuing engg. in India which is tedious beyond anything :l
    Anyways, heads up, cheers from India!!


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