Hipstercrite: Blogger Makes Good
Lauren Modery, aka Hipstercrite, is an ideal subject for the first in a series of Austin Post talks with notable local bloggers. She may hail from the Hill Country of upstate New York – not far from where this writer grew up – but she is indeed one of us after only four years here. A graduate of film studies at Ithaca College, she won a job even before finishing school as a personal assistant to an Oscar-winning actor who was also a writer/director/producer (who she prefers not to name for professional reasons). She was working in Hollywood but felt that something was missing. In need of a change, she moved to Austin.
Modery, now 29, launched her Hipstercrite blog three years ago and not long after was nominated for three 2010 Austin Blogger Awards and won two: "Blogger of the Year and "Best Blog to Find Comments and Discussion." As one of Modery's followers says, quoted on her About Me page, “Hipstercrite bridges the gap between blogging about yourself and blogging about pop culture."
Her award-winning blog opened other doors for Modery, leading to workas a columnist for CultureMap Austin, a contributor for Citysearch and Spinner and copy writer for ScoutMob and Alternative Apparel. She also co-wrote the upcoming independent feature film “Loves Her Gun,” directed by her boyfriend Geoff Marslett, who lectures on film production and screenwriting at the University of Texas. She recently launched a second blog, Goddamn, East Austin, about the neighborhood where she lives.
We met at one of her favorite java houses, Vintage Heart Coffee, on East Seventh Street to discuss and talked about writing, her inspirations, and her take on our Austin. Modery has a sweet, modest manner that is quite winning, yet behind it is an obviously willful and dedicated creative soul.
Austin Post: So how did you end up in our fair city without ever having visited here before?
Lauren Modery: I had been reading a lot about it. It was popping up on all those lists of best places to live and best places to start a business and best places to be a young person, all over -- I love reading those Forbes lists and whatever. And I was finally coming out of my bubble that I was very miserable in Los Angeles. I was in such denial because I was so determined to make my time there work. And I kind of lost sight of what my own goals were.
AP: Hipstercrite. Is that a combination of hipster and hypocrtite?
LM: Today is National Punch A Hipster Day! It came from that I have a lot of hipster interests, but I don’t like them either. But that’s what most hipsters are: They are [hipsters] but they say they don’t like them. So that’s where Hipstercrite came from. And then people started to like the name and it became like a brand. It’s not like an alter-ego… maybe a little bit. I’m that person. My writing is almost 100 percent who I am and how I feel and factual.
AP: Did you have ambitions as a writer before you started to blog?
LM: I did. That’s part of why I moved here. I had gotten so wrapped up in the film business and working for celebrities that I kind of lost sight of what I wanted to do. So when I ended up working for two months on a production in Chicago, getting out of L.A. and being around really down to earth people but still in a big city atmosphere, all this creativity that had essentially dissipated in the five years I lived in L.A. came rushing back. I filled up a journal and another journal in two months: stories, songs, poems, drawings and everything. And I said, oh my God, I can’t let this go. I forgot what I wanted out my life. I don’t want to be someone’s personal assistant for the rest of my life. You have to be a person who really likes co-dependency to be a personal assistant.
So when I was in Chicago, I was like, oh man, I can’t let this go. So I finally decided I was going to come here and I was going to write. I knew no one, and didn’t have a job, and I had $500. I said, I’m gonna drive here, give it three months and see if it works, and if it works I’ll stay and if it doesn’t I’ll keep going, I don’t know where.
AP: What were your first impressions of Austin?
LM: It’s funny. Because I didn’t know Austin or anyone here, I ended up moving in with a girl who I met once who is the daughter of my Mom’s high school sweetheart. I figured out she lived here and stayed with her for a few months up near The Domain. And for four months that was my Austin. I didn’t even know about the Alamo Drafthouse or the East Side or knew anything existed. But I think I was so ready for a change that I was okay with being in a new town. She never showed me anything. She was like, here, let me show you Austin, and she took me to the Kerbey Lane that’s north of The Domain. Then when I finally ventured out….
AP: And how do those first impressions square with the Austin you know now?
LM: Like I said, I first lived up near The Domain and my impression was, oh, strip malls, okay. Then when I got to know Austin, I’d never before experienced a city that’s like it. It’s so creative and so wacky and so many wonderfu creative and wacky people. And I fell head over heels in love with it when I finally got to see it for what it was.
Our relationship has had its bumps in the road. The summers I think are almost unbearable for anybody. And before I met my boyfriend I was getting a little disillusioned with the party life that is so popular, because I’m not a partier. Socializing usually involves a lot of drinking, and that’s just not me. So I was kind of getting sick of trying to partake in something that wasn’t very important to me. So at that point, about a year before I met Geoff, I decided to give up dating and socializing in big settings and really focus on writing. And that’s when I started to get more work and my blog started to take off. I was like a hermit for a while.
AP: Why do you think people responded to your blog?
LM: I think people really responded to my voice, and my sense of self-deprecation. I am not shy to divulge feelings and thoughts and experiences that are somewhat embarrassing. And I think people read it and think, yeah, that happened to me and I felt that. And it’s great because then they’ll write that and we’ll have a good connection and, oh, we’ve both done that and thought and felt the same way.
AP: How did it feel to win two Austin Blogger Awards?
LM: That was great. Prior to that I had been selected by Blogger as a "Blogger of Note," so that got me a lot of traffic. Those two things were milestones. The thing that helped the biog the most was the very large social networking community in Austin. I read somewhere that Austin is the #1 blogging city. I read an article that said like 25 percent of the people in a certain age bracket have a blog. I don’t know if it’s accurate. Men’s Health also did an article about the most socially networked cities and Austin was like #8; New York and L.A. were in the twenties. The cities were not what you’d think. They were like Minneapolis, Denver, Austin, all second tier cities. My blog would not be where it is without the natural generosity and support of Austinites and Texans. I think people who move here also adopt that sort of way of thinking too.
AP: And then you started to get paid writing work as a result of blogging?
LM: My blog has been my best tool for getting paid writing work. I’ve been really lucky in that people have reached out to me instead of vice versa. Now I’m not saying I get phone calls every week for writing work or anything. But because Austin is growing so much and there’s a lot of start-ups and companies are setting up fronts here. So when people come to town I’ve been kind of a go-to person for that young, hip thing.
I’m still surprised at how much writing work I’ve gotten through my blog. I don’t know if most writers feel this way, but I’m thinking at some point somebody is going to go: She doesn’t know what she’s doing. Why are we offering her work? I have such a long long way to go with my writing. I feel more confidant with my writing than I did three or four years ago. I think the reason why I keep getting work is that I try to add a little humor and I tend to be a bit self-deprecating or sarcastic. People who hire have told me that they appreciate that I have my own voice. It’s not so much that I can make these really elegant sentences and use big fluffy words. I still wake up every morning wondering….
I write every day. In some ways I think I am getting better, and sometimes I feel like I am maybe getting a little burned out, so I have to check myself all the time.
AP: Can you offer any advice to other bloggers on things like building an audience?
LM: I definitely learned more along the way. When I started the blog I didn’t have any specific intentions. It’s been more of this pleasant surprise that it’s grown as it has. And that sort of shifted my intentions that it can be a business tool in a way. But that’s a fine line in a way because you don’t want to alienate your audience by being mercenary and manipulative in what your goals are.
I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned what kind of titles for a post determines if someone clicks on it or not. Usually the best phrasing is a question. Lists. People love lists. Short, concise, visual. Phrasing in a way where they know they are going to be looking at something that is easily digestible and quick. I did this one when it was announced that Trader Joe’s was coming to town: Top 10 Reasons Why I’m Excited That Trader Joe’s is Coming to Town. It got picked up by Texas Monthly’s blog, huge traffic. I’ve learned that being active on social media daily is important. A lot of bloggers still aren’t very active on social media: creating a Facebook fan page for your blog, having a Twitter account, StumbleUpon, Google+, all those things. They make a big difference.
AP: Can you tell us a bit about your second blog?
LM: I’m still starting it. I’ve lived and worked on the East Side for a while now. I have such strong emotions for this side of town. I love it so much. But it scares me. I imagine it’s like how people felt living in the East Village or East L.A. where a lot of creative types moved. They love it because it’s so rich in history and creative culture going on. But it comes with the cost of your sense of security and safety sometimes. But I created the blog to, a) have an outlet to talk about all the wonderful things that are going on, and b) also try to create a forum for people to discuss those changes, for good or bad. It’s still in its infancy and I’m only doing a soft push right now because Hipstercrite is still my main priority and I give a lot of time and energy to that. So I have to look at Goddamn, East Austin as more of a hobby whereas Hipstercrite is more of a business.
AP: You must be very proud of what you’ve achieved.
LM: I’m still so new at this that any opportunity is just really exciting. I feel really lucky that at some point in my twenties I was able to readjust and realize what I actually wanted to do. And then go after it and start making a dent in that path. When I decided to leave L.A. I remember fits of tears: what am I going to do with my life? The fact that I am where I am now – even with $10 in my bank account waiting on a check that’s in the mail – I feel so lucky. This is just a great town for creative people and self-starters. I’ve met so many wonderful creative people who have been so supportive. This town has been so good to me.