Ms. Vaughn is especially equipped to write Danielle’s story. She has been a special education teacher and a writer for nearly 20 years. In 2005, she received the Walk of Hearts Teaching Award, and she serves on the Board of the International Dyslexia Association’s Los Angeles Branch. She was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, when she was in elementary school. She came to California for college, met her husband at the University of California, Irvine, and they have lived in Southern California ever since. Together, they share a love of The Big Lebowski. When not teaching, reading, or writing, Lauren is usually on a yoga mat.
What is one book everyone should read?
I love so many books that it is difficult to recommend just one. But, if forced to choose, I think I’d go with The Brother’s K by David James Duncan. Mr. Duncan is an extraordinary writer and he captures the richness, beauty, and complications of family life so powerfully. The story is about love, brotherhood, and the importance of embracing and having compassion for others (especially those who are different from you). This novel lives on and on inside me; I’m very grateful it was written and that I read it. It is quite an achievement. I’m not doing it justice by my words here. It is the literary equivalent of Pablo Sandoval’s three homeruns in one World Series game. (I think Mr. Duncan would like my metaphor since The Brother’s K has a baseball theme.;)
If you could meet one person who has died who would you choose?
Maybe this is cliché, but I’d like to meet Shakespeare. As a high school English teacher, I taught HAMLET for many years. I want to discuss that play with him and also be able to tell him that I believed he actually wrote all those stunning works. I want to tell him that my life is richer for reading them, watching them on stage and film and from performing in a few myself. Thanks, Mr. Shakespeare! I’m in the camp that Shakespeare and not some mysterious, royal other wrote his plays and sonnets. I believe genius can pass through anyone; you don’t need to be highly educated or rich for life’s mysteries to choose you.
What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?
Cream of Wheat with dried fruits and nuts. Yummy.
Night owl, or early bird?
I so wish I were a night owl! I want to be that person. I’m enamored of party people, those who can burn the candle at both ends, so to speak. But, alas, that’s not me. My head starts to nod and my eyes start to close around 10 pm. I’m an early bird, mainly because I’ve been a teacher for so long and have to get up early for work.
One food you would never eat?
Fois gras…because of what is done to the bird to make this food item…I’d rather not discuss it. And, I will never eat it.
Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book.
I would like people to read my book in order to have more compassion and understanding for people who are different.
What inspired you to want to become a writer?
I’ve always loved to write; it makes me feel better, more clear and spacious. In school, I was the odd person who loved to be assigned essays. It’s no wonder I became an English teacher. However, the desire to write a novel was inspired by my students.
Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
My most rewarding experience so far is having a teenager tell me, “You wrote about my life. I don’t know how you knew, but you did.” I’m not happy that this young person has had to struggle as Danielle does in my novel, but I was moved that a teenager saw herself in the pages and perhaps maybe now she feels less alone or more empowered.
What was your favorite book when you were a child/teen?
I loved all of Maurice Sendak’s and Judy Blume’s books when I was a child. I also loved reading the Nancy Drew series.
What’s one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?
Write because you love to write. Write for you. Publishing is a cool thing, but it doesn’t change who you are. You are still you when you sell the manuscript. Writing itself is the thing that can change you, can help you to grow.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you “grew up”?
When I was young, I spent time pretending to be a bunch of different occupations. I played waitress, actress, and teacher. I went on to do all those things at some point in my life. And, I always loved to write, but I never thought about being a writer. That was something I did for fun and that I still do for fun.
When I was in sixth-grade, a boy called me micro-ears because I have very small ears. As a classroom teacher, my creative students called me many nicknames. My favorites: Roe-dog, Ro-dizzle, and the Roe-dinator.
What do you do in your free time?
In my free time, I love to read, do yoga, and spend time with friends having delicious meals.
If someone wrote a book about your life, what would the title be?
SUPER WACKY AND WAY NEUROTIC
What’s your favorite season/weather?
I love summer. This may be because I lived in Hawaii for many years and it is perpetually summer there. Also, as a teacher, by the end of the school year I was longing for summer break. Teachers are just like students in that regard.?
Favorite places to travel?
I loved growing up in Hawaii and it is still one of my favorite travel destinations. I, mean, what’s not to like? I also love San Francisco and London.
With frizzy orange hair, a plus-sized body, sarcastic demeanor, and “unique learning profile,” Danielle Levine doesn’t fit in even at her alternative high school. While navigating her doomed social life, she writes scathing, self-aware, and sometimes downright raunchy essays for English class. As a result of her unfiltered writing style, she is forced to see the school psychologist and enroll in a “social skills” class. But when she meets Daniel, another social misfit who is obsessed with the cult classic film The Big Lebowski, Danielle’s resolve to keep everyone at arm’s length starts to crumble.
1 copy of OCD, the Dude, and Me
Open to US only