“It’s Like the Weather,” by Lacey Lord

The first time I recall meeting Lacey Lord, she was a quiet student in my Introduction to Social Media course, which is part of the Digital Media Minor program I run at Ball State University.

I’ve taught a version of this class since 2002, and have thus become accustomed to the wide range of students who take the course. Some take the course because they think they’ll be playing on Facebook all day, some take it because it’s a requirement in the Minor, and a handful take it because they think it might help them get a job.

While I think Lacey took it because she thought it might help her pursue a career in publishing, I don’t think she was expecting it to lead her down her current path.

In that social media class, Lacey formed a partnership with Megan Gish, a former magazine student of mine who had decided to pursue public relations. The two of them excelled with their projects — Megan built a social network for her national sorority and Lacey built a social network around reading — and I asked them to run the social media outreach for Transmedia Indiana, the largest immersive project I’ve ever run.

The short version of the story is this: Lacey and Megan helped make that project a success, and I knew that I was going to make sure I recruited Lacey for all of my projects.

* * *

When I approached her about working on the Invictus project, she tried to squirm out of it by telling me that she’d never really thought about writing as a profession before. She’d studied literature, but she wasn’t sure that she wanted to make her own.

Obviously I wasn’t going to accept that answer. I told her that it wasn’t enough to celebrate the work of others (although that was important). I wanted her to experience the joy and the frustration of creating her own work so that she would better understand the literature she so clearly loved.

After all, everyone fancies themselves a writer, but very few are exceptionally skilled at the craft. More importantly, very few people who want to write know what they want to say. I didn’t know if Lacey was going to be good at writing non-fiction, but I knew very early on in our relationship that she had something to say…if she would let herself say it.

* * *

It’s hard to explain the process of writing to readers. The important part of a writer’s work happens far away from your eyes. What you see is the end result of an emotionally draining experience as we try to understand very small human truths and present those to you in a way that appreciates the complexities of those small truths.

I watched Lacey struggle with herself as she tried to find the soul of her story.

Like so many students I know who come from poor and working class backgrounds, she struggled with the idea that her story was interesting. She didn’t believe anyone really cared about what it means to grow up poor, and what it means to try to find meaning in your own life when so many people have given up so much so you could do that.

Most of our conversations focused on understanding why her family did what they did to ensure she got to college, and understanding how her feelings about her family shaped the decisions she made.

The more she talked about those ideas — ideas she readily admitted she had rarely spoken about before this class — the more she began to slip into the story. She began to find her voice on the page, and she began to understand why her story was important.

In the end Lacey’s story isn’t just a piece about growing up poor, it’s the story of how we struggle to find out way between the dreams our families have and the responsibilities we feel for our roots.

I’m so very proud to introduce our third, and final essay, “It’s Like the Weather,” which is more than just an essay, it’s the heart of what The Invictus Writer’s Project is.