a new preface for old stories

villaIn a dusty box in the storage closet of the HUD Housing complex behind the Burger King on McHenry Avenue, you’ll find my file, three inches thick and spanning my nine year residency. The last time I saw the file was the summer of 1999.

I’m standing in The Villa’s tiny office, where the clatter of the air conditioner nearly drowns out the children splashing about in the pool just outside. From behind the desk, Terry thumbs through the folder and then shoves it towards me.

“You should really have a peek.” His tone is serious, but his eyes are warm.

“I’d rather not.” I glare at the thing and it glares back.

I don’t have to open this catalogue of sins to remember the myriad of noise complaints, repair requests for two windows and a door, the landscaping bill for a light-saber-battered shrub, a letter of apology for crashing a Big Wheel into the pool at 3 a.m. or the string of warning notices about my unauthorized cat.

“I’m not trying to be a hardass, Jules, but –“

Terry sighs like a disappointed dad, then gets up and gestures for me to take his chair. He slips out the door to the pool area as I slump into his chair. On the far side of the deck, he lingers near the chaise lounges of Maura and Shell. Fully aware of their cyclical retaliatory boyfriend-thievery, he bravely drags a chair up between them.

I am nearly thirty.

I have spent most of my adult life in this place, among these people.

My “I don’t really belong here” shtick is wearing thin and the ugly reality lay out before me is that I haven’t been the bad-luck good girl for a very long time.

While I contemplate liberating my file, a small gathering of children begin to make blow-fish faces against the window beside me. I look at their baby teeth and tonsils, their waggling tongues.

In the end, there is no absolution, so Villa Bitch through and through, I lean toward Jory and Jellybean and press my open mouth to the glass in a silent scream.


[The Villa Stories is a work in progress, every now and then, since for what feels like forever but is more like thirteen years. Wow. That IS a long time to NOT finish something without abandoning it altogether. Regardless, this is a new bit. With any luck, others will follow.]


(Part 1 – How I Ended up Publishing Independently)

I didn’t intend to get all indie with this book, or maybe I did in the beginning, but when editors start nosing around one feels hopeful and when agents get involved it’s easy to dream of the big leagues. Who doesn’t want a posh NY Agent with international connections?

When I got one, I thought it was time to kick back and let her take over. Oh I wrote the proposal she asked for (with gritted teeth, mind you) but once I handed over the proposal, I ceased to be an active participant in the process.

It was up to her now.

Read the rest of this entry »


promopicWhen Alice first revealed herself to us, someone loaned me a book from the local PFLAG library. It was a skinny yellow volume titled “Mom, I Need to Be a Girl” written by a woman who called herself Just Evelyn. I must have read through that book twenty times in those first couple of months. When I felt alone, plunging headlong against the tide, she gave me strength.

It’s the reason I started writing about Alice and our journey.

The culmination of that work is The Complicated Geography of Alice, my memoir which will be available for Kindle and in paperback through Amazon this December. It is an intimate, portrayal of a family in crisis and a mother who believes that her daughter is going to blaze a brave new path if she can just keep her sober long enough to grow up.

Many of the stories in the book first appeared as blog posts here and at The Daily Kos and you can still find excerpts on the book page. If you would like to be notified upon publication, you can follow Laurustina.com on Facebook or send a blank e-mail to laurustina [at] gmail [dot] com with the words BOOK NEWS in the subject line.