— Here’s something: Two notebooks from 1995, my fifteenth year. 1995 was the first and last year I didn’t give a shit about what anybody thought about me. The year I dressed in polyester and spray-painted boots, novelty earrings and a corduroy sport coat. All summer I strode up and down Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz, taking in the scummy atmosphere crawling with lovable weirdos—my camera, my notebook and my friend Nickole in tow. We always had a notebook and a camera, and no money.

These aren’t sketchbooks, although there is the occasional drawing. They aren’t journals or diaries, because the writings were meant for public consumption, either snippets for a later story, or a screed to be pushed onto an unsuspecting family member, stranger or friend. These were our public writings, our laboratories for developing a nice blend of sleaze, toxic humor and absurdity. Naturally, since I carried it everywhere, my notebook also became a place for phone numbers, funny quotes, clippings, recipes, mix tape track listings and lists of various sorts. In them, now, twenty years later, I see (and am somewhat surprised by) the use of constraints, the obsessions, the easygoing attitude toward things that don’t make sense, often employing a confrontational style bordering on mock didacticism. Truth be told, we were just messing around, trying to push people’s buttons. It’s play, something I must never forget—play in writing.

Grace Krilanovich is an author. She was born in 1979 in Santa Cruz, California. Her first book, THE ORANGE EATS CREEPS, was published by Two Dollar Radio in 2010. In 2010 she was also named a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Honoree.