Wednesday, April 3, 2019

In case you missed it...

Hi friends, 
I'm announcing a special episode of Crack the WIP. In it, I read "Inheritance," a personal essay about what is gained--both the positive and negative--from our relatives. I performed the piece at a storytelling event called Voices Heard at the Sugar Space Arts Warehouse in Salt Lake City on March 18, 2019.
I think it went well! 

Love you all! Thanks for the support, friends! 

The Voices Heard organization's mission is to allow writers and storytellers with sundry backgrounds to share their unique narratives in a safe, inclusive space. For information about future events, visit the VH Eventbrite page here.
Thanks for your support! 

Photo credit: Nathan T. Gross

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Voices Heard: Unlucky

Hey friends,

I'm reading an original personal essay at Voices Heard on Monday, March 18th at 7pm at the Sugar Space Arts Warehouse in Salt Lake.

Here's the official advertisement from Chad Anderson:

Next Monday night, March 18, it's Voices Heard: Unlucky! Featuring first-time storyteller, Rena Lesue!
Rena Lesue is a caustically funny and blisteringly honest creative nonfiction writer, who specializes in memoir and essays. She has a BA in English Education and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction. Currently, she teaches writing courses at UVU. Rena has been writing and publishing for nearly 20 years, including a 4 year stint with The Daily Herald. Her prose has appeared in publications such as Segullah, Ruminate, Superstition Review, The Lily, The Salt Lake Tribune, and The Washington Post. She was a finalist for the 2015 Heather Campbell Prose contest and the 2018 Writers@Work nonfiction contest. This year, Rena released a collection of essays called, How We Die, on topics of death, depression, and abuse; it is available on Amazon. She and her husband, Nate, have a podcast for aspiring writers, Crack the WIP (an acronym for Work in Progress), on Patreon and Stitcher. In her spare time, she dreams up cosplay ensembles and themed birthday cakes. She runs to Weezer songs and, with her four kids, jumps on the trampoline, still, somehow, landing the occasional backflip.

Come check it out!

Also, Crack the WIP launched a new podcast episode about how to write about religion for a secular audience.
Here's the link!

Thanks for your amazing support! Love you all!


Sunday, June 10, 2018

I'm only happy when it rains.

At the end of May, we put in a sprinkler system. For nearly a week, Boyfriend and my son gouged the land with a trencher, hacked at dry clay with a pickax, and shoveled out rocks the size of infants from my property. I hand-cranked a pipe cutter through a half mile of PVC, while my daughter slopped blue glue over each end so that we could jigsaw the elbows and drains on the line. I learned the jargon quickly, volleying terms like funny pipe and Teflon tape as though they'd always been a part of my vernacular. I learned that Christy's Red Hot Blue Glue sears like a mother if you accidentally get some in your popped blister. I learned that I should not try to excavate a rock from clay with my hands--that doing so will rip my nail from my finger. By the end of the week, I poked a hole in my glove, the kids twice tracked mud through the living room, and Boyfriend was unable to close his fists. He walked around with his hands in a C like a Lego person. But, despite all that, we did it. In true Bradbury fashion, we sat in the parlor and activated the sprinkling system with a tap-tap on my phone.
Goodbye spotty, bleak lawn. Hello greener pastures. 
After our laborious week, Boyfriend, the kids, and I went to a family reunion and helped sod my parents' lawn (or rather I did. Boyfriend looked woefully at his Lego hands and I exiled him from the backyard and sentenced him to a nap.) Forty-eight hours later, we boarded a plane for Atlanta. (Guess who doesn't need sprinklers?! Georgians!)
The last few weeks have been bananas and some of our projects were re-prioritized. But fear not. Crack the WIP is alive and well. Recorded and edited. Available now. In fact, we had two episodes all ready to go, but somehow, in our rush to make our flight, we lost one. Hopefully, The Lost Episode will be found at home on the hard drive, but in the interim, we have an equally AMAZING one for you. An author interview with Krista M. Isaacson, a three-time winner of the first chapter contest (nonfiction category) at Storymakers Con. This year (2018), her submission earned her the runner-up spot for the Grand Prize.  In the epi, we discuss Krista's history with writing, the harrowing events that led to her current WIP, her go-to lessons, writer tics, and favorite books. Listen here.
Also, we'd love your support on  Patrons can receive a range of gifts--bonus content, a copy of my upcoming book, prints by Nate, and/or manuscript consultations. You can listen to us on Patreon and  Stitcher. Or you can add this link to your favorite podcast player:

Write on!


Sunday, December 31, 2017



January started, as it sometimes does, with a medley of films at the Sundance Film Festival with my childhood friend, Melanie, and teacher-buddy, Rachelle. We intended on going to the Women's March in Park City, but that night the snow collected on the earth like popcorn on the floor of a horror flick. We couldn't get up the canyon without chains--which our rental did not have--and we were forced to represent, instead, in SLC by wearing pink pussy hats and giving the finger to rape culture. (Thank you, Roni Jo, for the hat. 😘)

My favorite film of the weekend was Whose Streets?, a documentary about the events in Ferguson, Missouri following the murder of Mike Brown. It's powerful and heart-wrenching. If you haven't given to a cause this year, I recommend it.

Most of our films were at Sundance or various theaters through out the Salt Lake Valley. 


This was a bittersweet month for our family. My husband and I decided to get divorced. We signed papers and, after fifteen years, it was over by May.

My 2017 Valentines. 

Also, after three months of training, I ran my first ever half marathon with my buddy, Trevor. We'd only ever done 5Ks before (and one 10K), so it was a vast change for both of us. I mean, we went from 3 miles to 13! It was something like 45 laps around the Olympic Oval in Kearns, UT. We got to watch speed skaters glide around in circles for nearly 3 hours, and fortunately, because of the ice, we didn't get hot. My time was an embarrassing 2 hours and 46 min. Still...I did it. I ran a friggin' half marathon.

I had my first publication of the year come out in Bloody Key Society.
  • "Lamb," Bloody Key Society, issue 2, (Feb. 2017). 
    • At twelve, I was in a car accident that resulted in the decapitation of a man.


Gavin turned 9.
I brought him the fondant head of a hedgehog! 
Shopping and chilling with my kid! Love her. 


I went to Vegas with friends and Capitol Reef with my kids.


Mother's Day brought snuggles in bed and cute drawings and cards by my favorite bugs.

My grandmother passed away at 98 years old. Family came from all over to celebrate her long and fruitful life. She will be missed.


When school let out, the kids and I packed up the car and took an impromptu trip to Canada to see Lisa, my bestie, in Okotoks. It took two days but we had fun visiting sites in Banff, Calgary, and Lake Louise.
Lake Louise
We rode a gondola up to Samson Peak.

A week after returning, we loaded the car again and headed to Colorado to visit my other bestie, Melissa. We went to the Rocky Mountain National Park and white water rafting. On one bend in the river, Gavin and I jumped off a 30 ft cliff into the ice cold water. Why? Because we're crazy!


Two pretty incredible things happened in July. 

First, I got my first article accepted in the Washington Post. The article bounced to two other publications before the week was over, and it landed me a freelance position with the WaPo Talent Network.  

My next one was published in autumn.

The second thing? 

I signed up for OK Cupid. There were a few duds to begin with--see this post--and then I came across a profile that made me laugh out a good way. (Any man who can make pop-culture and literary references in the same witty post is a man I wanna meet.) We went out a few times, and a month later he was "boyfriend." 

Meet Boyfriend, a talented photographer and NOC engineer with a penchant for marketing. 


I visited Melanie in Portland. We went to an art festival on the river, this book reading at Powell's, and hiked all over the area. I continued, even while on vacation, to train for my half marathon scheduled for the week after I returned. Melanie and I drove to Astoria and Seattle. We hiked on coastlines and through a smattering of waterfalls, and chowed on some amazing seafood. I also had a chance to meet up with two of my cohort peeps from grad school. Hi, Amy and Mark!

My second, but certainly not my last, half marathon. My time: 2:20:24!!! I killed it! 


I started another school year at SHHS and UVU. Sigh. I'm a single mom with two jobs. I don't need to describe how hard that is, but I do need to mention that I love life. Things may be hard at times; however, I am happy.

I took Gavin to Comic-Con. This is the light saber version of the GoT throne. 
Gavin is Scarlet Spider and I am Gwen Stacey. 
Had to see Faith (Eliza Dushku), and we took the train to avoid traffic. It's always fun this time of year. The train cars are full of hobbits and wonder women and batmen galore! Also, note that the host on the left is wearing something from my brother's t-shirt company,



We spent the fall working and hiking whenever we had the chance.

Guess who loves hiking? 



Guess who likes to run?

Boyfriend ran two 5Ks with me this season! 

Actually, this one was a four-mile run. And he ran it with a 10 lbs. turkey that he won on the course! 

Boyfriend is handy. He made this for me in the mudroom.
We've been together for 6 months! I can't believe it's been half a year! Crazy how life is like that. Sigh. I love him. 


We spent part of the holiday break in Capitol Reef. It sure was nice to hang with family and to get outdoors. The weather was beautiful. A perfect winter break.
Hiking in Capitol Reef with the littlies.  


Eclipse Day.
And...looking to the future. Who knows what 2018 will bring? 
Hope you all had a wonderful year. I have a feeling that 2018 will be a big one. Lots of life changes. Maybe I'll start another grad program. Maybe I'll run another half marathon. Maybe something unexpected will flit across my horizon. Either way, I know I'll be writing, and the kids and I will be traveling.

Love your guts,

Rena, Layne, and Gavin.

Monday, July 24, 2017

No, I Don't Wanna See That! An Online Dating Story

I haven't talked much about this publicly, but I got divorced in May. It's been both good and bad, simple and complicated. Regardless, I'm dating again. I've made some incredible friends, and I'm exploring Utah's nightlife as a single woman. I've found online dating to be enjoyable and weird, exhilarating and heartbreaking. Not much has changed since the last time I was single, fifteen years ago. Well, one thing is different. [Shrugs.] I'm wittier now.

The inquiries are typically stale, and even the more inventive ones seem day-old bread-y. But I have fun.
Seriously, dude?! Worst pick up line yet.
(Let it be noted that I only cut out a couple lines between.)

Pro tip: When you hit on an English professor, know this basic rule...
You're = you are
Your = shows possession
Herd = group of animals
Heard = involves sound in ears
I wish those were the only two mistakes, SMH.

I'm NOT dating anyone who can't get at least one of these three lit references, or, at the very least, someone who hasn't mastered the art of Googling.

More to come, friends. There is some crazy stuff on my horizon, and I can't wait to share my latest publication credit. Let's just say it rhymes with the Blashington Toast.

Love your guts,


Monday, January 2, 2017

The one where pie invades my face.

Hi friends!

Here's the much anticipated pie-in-the-kisser video as a reward for reaching over 100 newsletter subscribers.

What should I do if I get 200? Lick a celebrity's arm? (I am going to the Sundance Film Festival in a few weeks.) Let my kids give me a peanut butter mohawk? Get a professional face painter to draw a picture of a kangaroo with the head of Jensen Ackles on my cheek? I'll entertain other ideas.

Much love,


Friday, November 18, 2016

How I got the reputation for being "blisteringly honest."

“Writing is like giving yourself homework, really hard homework, every day, for the rest of your life. You want glamorous? Throw glitter at the computer screen.”

--Katrina Monroe

It’s hard to imagine why  anyone would want to become a professional writer. It isn’t as if it is the best paying gig in the world. Most writers don’t make enough to buy health insurance. Nevertheless, writing is the marrow in my bones, it’s stitched into my soul.

In high school, I didn’t show an aptitude for much of anything. I liked certain classes, but I wasn’t exceptionally talented in any one area. My attentions were, sadly, too consumed with dating to bother with academia. However, in college, I was drawn to literature courses. Suddenly teachers spoke openly about the hush-hush topics that no one brought up in secondary school, and critical theory pushed the boundaries of my mind, forced me to see things differently, and challenged my beliefs. I loved every minute of it. 

As an emergent writer, I hunted for ways to shine around campus; first by contributing articles to The College Times, the college newspaper, and then publishing short stories in college magazines. Writing became a therapy and a drug. It was a creative outlet and a method for processing learning. But more than anything, it provided me with an unparalleled sense of fulfillment. Give me words or give me death. 

I published a lot in the years to follow (mostly in newspapers and blogs), and then I went on to get an MFA in Creative Nonfiction. The training in my Master's program helped shape my work and aim me in the direction of a genre I hadn't considered before. Narrative essays and memoirs became the bread to my butter. The Triskets to my cream cheese. 

This week, one of my essays was published in Pinball. "How We Die" captures the naked life of a family ravaged by depression. Yes, this is my family and our toe-to-toe, thrust-and-parry battle with depression. It's writing like this that gave me the reputation for being "blisteringly honest" by my writer mentor, Jake Lamar. Here's the link.

Much love,



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