Arts & Life, Features

In conversation with Emerging Writer honoree, Lina Abascal

After graduating from San Francisco State University in 2012, Lina Abascal moved to the state of New York. She sought a full-time job with a degree in journalism and wanted to write about music culture.

At the time, moving to New York City seemed like a viable option for the recent grad. New York City was the home of various magazines and websites–fit for her journalistic ambitions.

However, the media industry was in a transitionary period with the boom of technology and the 2008 financial crisis. Abascal learned how difficult it was to get a full-time job in journalism and worked at a restaurant.

It was an “ego killer” but she was able to freelance. Through emailing and pitching she learned the process of seeking work. She found work at VICE, Playboy, The Fader, and other outlets.

Abascal now lives in Los Angeles and released her first book in December 2021 titled, “Never Be Alone Again: How Bloghouse United the Internet and Dancefloor.” The book documents the transient culture of illegal music sharing, blogging and indie-electro dance music that transcended during the mid-2000s–an era that now holds the moniker, indie sleaze.

She also attends California State University, Long Beach to pursue a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. Abascal wants to pivot into the world of fiction and teaches a creative writing course at the university–a position she got through the MFA program.

Abascal is a recent Emerging Writers honoree from Literary Women, host of the Festival of Women Authors, held at the Long Beach Convention Center on March 19.

Early in your career, you wrote a music column for VICE. It was essentially about parties all around the world. How did you land that?

I had a blog in college and I wrote for other people’s blogs. Then I started writing for this site called Frank151. I wasn’t making any money and had this column for them called “Digital Divas,” which was basically about a different woman in some sort of new industry. It could be fashion, music, or whatever–of people blowing up online.

I met someone at a party, Vivian Host, who was creating this new vertical at VICE all about dance music. She was looking for writers and came to me. At first, I pitched random ideas. Then I had the idea for the column. And they said yes because these sites need content.

You need them to say yes, but in order for them to say yes, they need you to have ideas. So it’s in your best interest to always be thinking about what’s current, what’s trending, or what’s my take on something being discussed.

And learning how to find people’s emails and just this formula. Just practicing and getting denied all the time. I get denied all the time. I got denied on something today and I don’t really care.

Eventually, you’ll get a yes. You have to get in where it makes sense and build over time. I only got VICE because I had Frank151. I only got Frank151 because I had my personal blog.

Looking through your work I feel like your reporting has been culturally eclectic. I just want to know, what grabs your attention?

My advice now would be to think about a beat and work within that. Being a generalist is a hard sell unless you’re already famous, have insane access, an insane voice, which I think for me was dance music. But that also intersects with internet culture and subculture.

That’s kind of the arc that I’ve tried to follow with the Bella Poarch thing. I’ll be so honest with you, I didn’t know who she was and that was an assignment. Now I know why they assigned it to me, because they knew what I wrote about.

They were like ‘she can talk about an internet celebrity because she’s familiar with politics and culture of the internet.’ So that made sense to me. That magazine also assigned me the KennyHoopla profile. I know they gave that to me because they know I love pop-punk. Because I’ve written stuff about it.

In terms of the Venmo thing, Instagram thing, OnlyFans thing, it’s all kind of about commerce meets internet–paving new roads through technology. That’s really interesting to me. People doing new and interesting things with culture online.

Image courtesy of Lina Abascal.
“Never Be Alone Again: How Bloghouse United the Internet and Dancefloor,” recounts the mid-2000s era of dance music, internet and how the two intertwined to cultivate an eccentric subculture. Image courtesy of Lina Abascal.

I really want to talk about this book. What compelled you to write about this era of the internet and music?

The simple answer is that I was very present in it. It was something that I know. That era is when I was the most passionate about finding new music and most involved in the scene. I think because of the age that I was at, I was so excited and not tired.

I just had a lot of really fun experiences. All of that is what led me to become a writer in the first place. I have a soft spot for it.

But also there was nothing else written about it. There was no other book and that’s very uncommon. So I really wanted to make that piece of media.

With the internet and trends, I feel like things just disappear. Like some of the websites you wrote about don’t exist anymore. So how do you report on something from the past that was mostly on the internet?

I used Wayback Machine which is a website. That’s a small percentage of what I did. A lot of it is word of mouth. A lot of the events that happen in the book are told through quotes from people. So that’s what they’re saying happened. A quote is obviously different than you authoritatively saying it. It’s difficult. Thankfully I knew who to speak to, who was running these blogs and they were all referring me to their friends.

There are about 50 sources in that book, but there were like 100 people interviewed. Not everyone is going to get in the book. One of my good friends that did the first read was like ‘you’re diluting the point by inserting one singular quote from 15 people in this one chapter.’

I wanted to honor the time they gave me, but it’s not a promise you’re going to be in the book. So doing a bunch of research and then finding themes within that to do secondary interviews or dig deeper online, it was kind of like this puzzle.

Thankfully it wasn’t just a given assignment. I was grateful that I was able to be the first person to write about this–coming from this place of experience. And I think most of the people that spoke to me could sense that and some of them were more keen on giving me their time.

Before we close, I want to talk about the book club you do at Junior High. That’s really cool, tell me more about that.

I love the book club, this is our third year. It’s like been happening since January 2020. A very strange time to start something because obviously, we didn’t know. For a while, it was on Zoom.

Junior High is an art gallery/community space centered around femme/marginalized voices and artists. That is sort of the umbrella under which all the books that we read fall under. It’s totally free, open to anyone.

I think people appreciate the accountability. You know, that’s kind of wholesome. That doesn’t involve drinking or spending money, which is so rare. That was kind of my motivation. Way before COVID-19, freelance working from home, I was just alone all day. At first, I loved it, but it started to mess me up. I was feeling really isolated and sad.

I decided I want to do this because I have to show up. If I flake the whole thing falls apart. So I contacted Junior High. I’d gone to events there before, done a couple of essay/poetry readings that I curated. But I wanted something that wasn’t only for writers. Then I thought of the book club and they really liked it. Because they need events just like these websites need material.

Now we have a partnership with Skylight, the bookstore in Los Feliz. There’s a mini bookstore in Junior High that has the book club book–always. Also, a different person curates the shelves every month. It’s like 30 books that are all under a certain category or theme. You don’t have to buy the book there. But it’s definitely turned into a more real thing. We made merch. It’s pretty cute.

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