Tag Archives: darkness

Through The Fear: Novelist Amy Koppelman

Amy Koppelman started writing before she had any idea that she would one day become a novelist. Three books and one film adaptation later, she now has plenty to share with Coffee with Creatives listeners, especially about:

  • The cathartic, early-stage creative exploits that often later lead to our larger creative pursuits
  • Waiting for the tools needed to authentically address what we’re compelled to address
  • Learning to parse comments and criticism
  • The importance of learning — and then breaking — the rules
  • The difficulty of letting go after a thing is done
  • How and why darkness doesn’t necessarily suggest hopelessness
  • Humanizing mental illness
  • The importance of perseverance

AMyKoppelman[1]It was great to meet Amy, and to talk shop about fiction and the challenges of being a novelist. Her unflinching portrayals of characters struggling with depression, trauma, and other tough subjects — they can serve as a good reminder of how hard things can get for people who we might know and love but not always fully understand. Her discussion of the hopefulness that can often come out of that process, as well, is particularly moving.

Hesitation Wounds comes out in hardcover on November 3rd. For more information on her other books, and/or the film adaptation of her novel I Smile Back, check out her site. You can also follow Amy on Twitter.

This episode is also on iTunes.

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Reflections on Story

The script for my new project, the story of which, I hope, is just beginning.

The script for my new project, the story of which, I hope, is just beginning.

I want to talk about Story. Stories.

Stories have been on my mind lately. They’re always on my mind — I’ve always had a particular obsession with storytelling itself, as much as I have one with the act of it — but lately I’ve been reflecting upon what stories mean to me with a renewed focus, with redoubled vigor.

A few days ago, I wrote a note to myself:

Story is how I make sense of the world, and how some sense of the world is delivered to me.

At the time, I felt it was an important reflection. In retrospect, I recognize the words as some variation of an old mantra — one that readers might even recall from past posts here.

It doesn’t matter. Either way, I needed to deliver that message to myself. I still need to deliver it, perhaps every day.

Sometimes I try, uselessly, to fight reality. I try to convince myself that there are other important things to do. And there are, I suppose (eating, drinking, sleeping and…loving). But, for me, for better or worse, everything else — it all has to be part of The Story.

It gets dark, in my mind, when there’s just the noise and the flash of life filling the space there. I need to tell and experience stories — however they are defined, in whatever form — in order to stop myself from going crazy. I think, perhaps, in one form or another, we all need to do this. The danger, of course, is choosing the right stories to believe in and pursue.

There is also danger in denying the truth of our own stories, whatever they are. But as tempting as it may be, and however many of us may do this for long stretches and even entire lives — that truth, in the end, is irrefutable. We have authorship over the choices we make in life, that take us in whatever directions, down whichever paths. Every story invariably demands its day.

For all these reasons, I consider stories to be precious. Though I don’t mean by that they should also be stored behind glass, viewed from behind a rope.

I like my stories messy, a lot of the time. Some of the time I like them dirty. On occasion, I even like them to be confectionery. But, really, overall — I don’t much care.

Just give me something passionately told and fully considered. Give it to me in whatever form. Even within the narrative of my own life. I’ll take passion and thoughtfulness, every day, over the fear and the panic of the unknown.

I fucking love stories. I live for stories.

Don’t we all, when you really think about it?

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What I Liked This Week: 2/2/13

Hello, folks. WILTW is (obviously, at this point) the only juicy little nugget you’re getting this week — apologies, all my spare time has gone into the new script, more on that later — so let’s just get into it and start fresh on Monday. Argh. Monday’s awful. Monday puts ketchup on spaghetti. I won’t be writing anything on Monday. Monday hates writing. And babies. And puppies wrapped in sunshine.

Anyway. Nearly everything I liked this week was nominally entertainment based.

  • The Perks of Being A Wallflower. Probably the best film I saw this year, if only because it accomplishes something that Django Unchained can’t  accomplish as fully, due to limitations of genre and other reasons I won’t get into now because I don’t feel like opening that can. What does Perks accomplish that many films these days, unfortunately, don’t? A few things. It exists in proximity to life-as-it-is. Even though it’s still “a movie.” How does Perks accomplish this? Through unfiltered, unflinching emotional honesty — regardless of costs of discomfort and sadness and pain (life is sometimes uncomfortable and sad and painful!) What else did I love about the flick? The central, crucial role that love, both communal and personal, played in the redemption of its damaged protagonist. Because a lot of us are damaged. We need love. Perks doesn’t dance around either this truth, or the necessity of facing it if you ever want to “feel better.”
  • This episode of WTF with Marc Maron, in which Marc interview Lucinda Williams. First, I just straight geeked out over this, because these are two of my favorite entertainers, talking to each other for an hour in a garage about life, music, personal demons and redemption. Also, as he is wont to do, Maron dug up some of the specific darkness in Lucinda’s backstory — which we all knew had to be there (such beautifully sad and soulful songs as she writes and performs don’t come out from nowhere), and it was enlightening and sobering to hear about some of her specific struggles. The best parts of Maron’s shows (not a secret) are when he and a guest bond, in “real time” in front of listeners, over the revelation of some painful memory or another. This is how part of how we climb back — by finding a place of empathy through mutual sharing of some of those things (no matter what they are, or how dramatic or “commonplace”) that personally haunt or drive us.
  • Treme. The wife and I are only on Season 2 of Treme at the moment (we don’t have cable), but it’s getting very good, and it’s a shame that so few people seem to be watching it outside of “The Wire Faithful.” David Simon is one of the most brilliant minds America has, and the messages he and his cohorts work hard to deliver through such carefully crafted docu-style narratives as The Wire and Treme are crucial ones that would serve us far better if more people paid attention to them and started talking. I go back and forth between feeling sad that more people (from all walks of life, everywhere in America) aren’t watching these shows and grateful that these sort of examples of “fringe popular culture” are at least out there. The thing is: this should be a more popular show. It shouldn’t be fringe (and I admittedly use the term loosely). Treme is a show that, much like The Wire, forces us to take a reasoned, compassionate look at the systemic injustices of the crumbling American bureaucracies that are failing and/or holding back entire communities of citizens — most often those most in need of more (reasoned and compassionate) help and support from the rest of us — even as those in power continue to view those same systems as ‘adequate’.
  • The feeling I had last night, after working for hours and hours to complete a hard-fought, new and better draft of a script that took me about three months to write (to date). Something about this one has me particularly excited. For better or worse, as I was telling my wonderful (and wonderfully supportive) wife-slash-partner-in-crime last night — this one, more than anything else I’ve written, feels like my best work. Even if nothing much changes, now that it’s “done for now,” the fact stands that I’ve changed as result of having written it.

And that’s why we do it. Have a good week.

What I Liked This Week: 1/5/13

Happy Saturday, everyboddy. Working on a lengthier post that I’ll publish soon, but in the meantime here’s a short list of what I liked this week.

The plan is to do this once a week, unless I end up hating everything on a given week, which is possible but I am trying to put that darkness in the past and/or into my scripts. We hope instead for sunshine and cheeseburgers.

So. What I (especially) liked this week.

  • This article, by Charles Eisenstein, about why “Everything We Tell Ourselves About America and the World is Wrong.” It’s compassionately written, non-confrontational, and not as cynical as it perhaps has a right to be. I may be projecting that last point. Either way, please read it.
  • This short film, MAN, by UK artist Steve Cutts, which is fantastic and only three minutes long so I am not going to describe it. Just watch it. Smart, (definitely) cynical, hilarious — pointed.
  • This “clip” from an ep of Inside the Actors Studio, wherein Dave Chappelle opens up about why he walked away from his successful show, what he was going through at the time, and his opinions on celebrity culture and the entertainment industry. I haven’t watched the whole interview but am going to go back and do so because I’ve always admired what Chappelle did and am interested in learning more about him as a person.
  • This episode of WTF with Marc Maron, where Marc interviews Michael Keaton. I grew up watching and rewatching Tim Burton’s Batman on VHS at my grandmother’s house, and have seen many if not most of Keaton’s movies. I have always been a big fan of his charisma and had been missing him on screen until he started showing up again lately. Also a very big fan of Maron and his show, which was a huge help to me this year as I began the work of re-engaging with my life (on a personal and creative level) after a few too many years spent chasing the darkness (in myself and on the page). Hint: you can’t chase the darkness — it’s unending. That’s why they call it darkness.

Found most of these through The Twitter. The article was posted by Ted Hope, Executive Director of The San Francisco Film Society. MAN was posted by Short of The Week, a site I started following recently that does some great work curating short films from solid talent. I can’t remember who posted the Chappelle clip but will do a better job about logging this sort of info moving forward.

Have a good weekend, people. Hit me up anytime at my own Twitter page.