Lauren Oliver: From Phone to Page - Vanishing Girls

How Lauren Oliver manages a busy schedule and finds time to write...



Lauren Oliver is the bestselling author of numerous novels including BEFORE I FALL, the DELIRIUM trilogy and PANIC. Her latest novel, VANISHING GIRLS, is a heart-stopping, heart-breaking story of two sisters searching to find themselves, and each other, after the terrible accident that tore them apart. You can find Lauren online at, on Twitter @oliverbooks and on Facebook at



I have a confession: right now, this very second, I am traveling down rainy backroads in Connecticut on my way to JFK airport, and I am typing all of these words on my phone.


I've always been able to write whenever and wherever I am. I inherited the habit (or curse?) from my father. I have very clear memories of being in a car with him; suddenly, his eyes would go distant, and he would command me to unearth a pen and paper from the center console and begin transcribing whatever passages had just materialized cloud-like in his head. Or we would be on vacation in Cape Cod, waiting at a fish shack for our lobster rolls and onion rings, and he would begin scribbling on a napkin or even, memorably, the tablecloth. (The sole problem with this method being that he often couldn't afterward decipher his handwriting.)


For both my father and me, writing and real life were inextricably intertwined. We passed (and still pass) seamlessly from the world of our imagination to the present world. But I've made some 21st century updates to my dad's habit of scrawling-on-a-napkin: I write on my phone.


Standing on serpentine security lines at the airport, bored out of my gull, I write on my phone. At night, in the bath, surrounded by a delirium of lavender-scented bubbles, I write on my phone. I'm like the Dr. Seuss version of mobile writers: on a train! On a plane! In a car! Or a bar!


In my early twenties I worked at Penguin as an assistant and then as an assistant editor. I was simultaneously in graduate school and working part-time at a nightclub. (Now, at 32, even typing that sentence makes me want to nap.) The only time I had to write during that unimaginably busy and exhausting time was on the subway, commuting back and forth to my various commitments. New York City subways aren't the best place to whip out a computer, for reasons ranging from security to the likelihood that someone will immediately spill coffee all over your keyboard, so instead I wrote on an ancient blackberry, becoming so attuned over time to its little keys that I could nearly match my typing speed on a laptop. I wrote half of my first book, Before I Fall, on the F-train, rattling between the west village and my home in Brooklyn. I've never lost the habit.


I hear young writers complain all the time about having no time to write. But this is a false problem--or maybe it's the problem, the single problem that ultimately differentiates writers from non-writers. Writers write, period. They must. On a train, on a plane, with a peach, on the beach.

On a phone, too.

We have no choice.




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