Publications like Flavorwire, The Rumpus, and The Millions have all identified Lauren Cerand as a need-to-know freelance literary publicist, citing both her taste in books and her ability to pick successes without sacrificing this great taste. At 33, Lauren says she’s just learning how to say “no” and master the art of living in New York City like a teenager. Here she sits down with Daily BR!NK writer Lauren Rigney over a plate of homemade scones to share advice on life, work, and how to throw an epic dinner party.
How do you come across new projects and choose what you want to take on?
All my work comes from referrals. My clients have to be extremely motivated, and so the first step in that motivation is that they have to seek me out. The second thing is, I choose the projects that I think I can make the biggest impact on.
Would you describe yourself as a one-woman show?
In a way it’s like I can easily employ two people just to do my scheduling, but then I would have to lower my standards in order to cover the bills. I like to work alone.
When you first moved to New York, how did you meet people and make your connections?
Well, when I first graduated, I moved back to Maryland and I moved back with my dad in the suburbs. I had no friends. I would drink a bottle of wine and talk to my dog.
That’s too funny.
One night I was watching Bridget Jones’s Diary, and I was like, “This woman is such an idiot. If she can have friends, I can have friends.” And she has this horrible dinner party that she just botches. And I was just like, “I’m going to have a party and it’s going to be the best party.”
So I made a list of everyone I wanted to be friends with — most of whom I had never even met. I hired my sister and her friends to serve drinks and food. And I spent an entire week’s wages on Calla lilies flown in from South America. It was amazing. And after that I had a million friends and I got invited everywhere.
And then you moved to New York…
It’s really hard to come here — they make it really hard and daunting. But then once you move here you can live like a teenager. You can have a roommate until you’re 40. You can take a cab home at night because you got too drunk. You can always find a new bar. You don’t ever really have to grow up here.
I’m 33 now, and people start talking about leaving New York. I just think, “But who’s going to deliver your groceries?”
Was there a turning point in your career?
It takes about five years to make money off of freelancing. It takes five years to not wonder how you’re going to pay your rent. You have to say, “I’m doing this with my life because this is what I want to do with my life.”
Lauren Cerand speaks on inspiration and the publishing industry at BookExpo America 2009
This is a vague question. You said you’re 33; how do you think your perspective is different now from ten years ago?
Your sense of time changes so much. I would say that ten years later I have developed the kind of inner sensibility that allows me to be my own guide in this world.
The best thing about your thirties is that you’re able to say “No.” It’s like being two again. So someone will ask you out to drinks and you’re like, “No.” In your thirties, you realize that you can and will and are absolutely going to die, but life becomes a little bit more beautiful because you know that. In your twenties, there’s always someone you can lean on. In your thirties, you realize that person is yourself.
If you could speak to your 23-year-old self and tell her a little nugget of wisdom, what would you say?
I would say to her, “You don’t have to be so hard on yourself. You don’t have to do anything.”
Could you walk me through your ideal dinner party?
If you’re the host, I always say to people, “Drinks at 7, dinner at 8.” The thing is, you’re always going to be cooking right up to the moment before you sit down, so you have to take that pressure off yourself. It’s not about the food — it’s about the people and the spirit of the gathering. I usually have one drink I’m making and I make a big pitcher of it. I’ve seen good people fall prey to their own ambitions and try to make too many things.
So once you’ve done that, it’s really about who’s coming. I always encourage people to invite the people you want to get to know better.
What can the Daily BR!NK community do to support you?
Use your influence to give someone an opportunity today, because I don’t really need anything.