Order of the Good Write

That Magic Feeling When the Words Flow. A Blog by Debi Rotmil


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The Writer’s View & Everyone Else: Two Sides To A Story

twowaystreet

When I was at the AWP conference last week, I attended a panel entitled “The Ethics of the Artist: Writing About Family in Essay and Memoir. The panel of authors comprised of top authors of memoir: Alice Eve Cohen, Julie Metz, Aspen Matis, and Honor Moore, moderated by Laura Cronk of The New School.

Alice Eve Cohen, author of “What I Thought I Knew: A Memoir”  answered a question posed to the entire panel by Ms. Cronk.  The question was – who do family members of a memoir deal with being part of an experience reiterated through the filter and subjective view of the author. What about their side of the story? How about what they perceived? Ms. Cohen said this (and I’m paraphrasing):

“You know, my husband and daughter (who are very much part of this memoir) told me before coming here that they were going to set up a panel of family members featured in best selling memoirs over on the other side of the convention center hallway at the same time I’m scheduled on this panel and call it “The Family of the Best Selling Memoirists: Our Side of the Story”.

Perception. If a story you write belongs to you, then what does it mean for the people who are part of your story?  What was their concept of the experiences at hand?  Would the story be a drastically different one if they told it?

There are two sides to the coin of personal auto-biographical storytelling. There’s your side, the one of the writer telling the succession of events either through linear or non-linear telling, and the view of those on the other side.

When I think of this two way concept of literature or memorization, I often think of the 1986 New York Mets and the Boston Red Sox  World Series outcome.

mets 86 win ws

As a Mets fan, the 1986 post season was a miraculous roller coaster ride of deadly lows and euphoric highs. They overcame losses with luck and good timing to win improbably time and again. When you thought they were done. They weren’t. Especially during the World Series when in game six that ball drifted between Bruckner’s legs and Mookie Wilson helped propel the Mets to a win. They went on to game 7 and took the whole thing.

As a Boston Reds Sox fan, 1986 was just another historical disappointment in a long time history of no championship wins. For them, our celebration was their classic and profound loss, another kick in the gut. The video would play out again and again in Red Sox history as a moment of lost opportunity, a low, disgusting point, a potential win that was so heartlessly and devastatingly taken away from them – again. It was cruel.

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While we celebrated for thirty years, Red Sox fans mourned until 2004 when they finally won the World Series. While we were on the right side of history, with photos of the celebration hanging on the walls of Shea and Citifield, Sox fans wrestled with the torturous pain and vast disappointment. While replays of that moment were and are played on the Diamondvision in Flushing, Red Sox fans had to re-live the loss in their minds while family members who never lived to see the Sox win a World Series, passed away.

I was on the right side of history. My Red Sox fan friends were on the wrong side. We each came away with two different tellings of that World Series, two different feelings, two different views of what that one story and outcome of events meant to us.

In 2004, I paid it back and rooted for the Red Sox to win the whole thing. And they did with a repeat in 2007, while my Mets sank into mediocrity and a longer off season vacation.

Two sides of a story produced two different stories.

The one thing that was discussed by the authors at AWP was how to deal with the reaction of those who are part of the story and have their side to tell. Some family members in their book were horrified or indifferent to the publishing of these books. One family member wrote a book to David Remnick of ‘The New Yorker’ pleading with him to not publish an excerpt from her book “The Bishop’s Daughter”, to which Remnick went ahead and published it anyway. Honor is estranged from that brother, along with other siblings who took offense to her telling the story of their father.

It was mentioned strongly, that as long as you write your truth and represent those in your history with compassion – not hate, you will honor their side with grace, especially if you’ve brought the other members of the story in on what you’re writing. Let them have their say, but stay strong in your veracity. They are free to write their side any time. In fact, what an interesting thing for readers to read: Two sides of a story!

Always be brave in telling your story. Even though there are two sides to every one of them, it’s our right to show our fairness and our strength in the telling.

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Kate Mulgrew: The Funny with a Side of “Teeth”

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In August 2012, I interviewed actress Kate Mulgrew for my television/comedy blog TVBlogster.  Back then, she was promoting NTSF:SD:SUV, an outlandish comedy series on Adult Swim that spoofed TV network and cable police procedural dramas.  Kate portrayed the forceful yet sensitive Detective Kove, and she was hilarious.

While interviewing Kate, I realized I was speaking with a true professional with a warm heart and the most wicked sense of humor.  Our conversation touched upon some interesting stories about her life and her creative process. It was a great phone call, my favorite interview ever conducted. She’s a goddess.

Since then, Kate has found continued success as part of the cast ensemble on Orange is the New Black where she plays Red, a Russian cook who will starve your ass you if you cross her.

In honor of her recently published memoir Born with Teeth, I’d like to share my interview with you here on “Order…”. I had a devil of a time trying to post this on WP yesterday. Hopefully the text alignment will read clear on this site, but if not – the original version can be found on TVBlogster.com

Exclusive Interview: Kate Mulgrew Finds Her Funny Side

(originally published August 28,2012)

The day Kate Mulgrew returned to her hometown of Dubuque, Iowa to receive the Pioneer Spirit Award at the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival in April, it was almost her last day on Earth. After a calm takeoff out of Chicago O’Hare, the weather took a turn for the worst as the plane approached her destination.
“We were flying in a soup!” the co-star of Adult Swim’s NTSF:SD:SUV  recalls, the memory of this harrowing experience still fresh in her mind. “Dubuque is in a valley. But when we got close to the landing strip, there was zero visibility. The pilot tried to land and he couldn’t get the nose down. We hit the tarmac, but we then went straight up like a rocket with the plane shaking side to side.”One can imagine how Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Starfleet Starship USS Voyager on Star Trek: Voyager, a role Mulgrew inhabited to much acclaim, would have handled such hideous turbulence: With steely eyed determination? Perhaps. But this was real life in the face of a massive storm, and the real Kate, who wasn’t the Captain on this flight, was ready to meet her maker until the pilot gained control of the aircraft and landed safely. “Ten  minutes after landing, I was on stage getting this award! But, then to add insult to injury, I told the whole audience the story and said, ‘Can you
believe it? I almost crashed on American Airlines!'”.Why “insult to injury?”  The whole evening was  sponsored by  American Airlines. “Comedy of errors!” laughs Kate, obviously still shaken, but never stirred. (More on the Bond reference later.)
With forty years of hard earned stage and television work under her belt, (some viewers may remember her as Mary Ryan in the soap Ryan’s Hope), it’s a curious turn to see her join the ranks of alternative comedy on NTSF:SD:SUV, where she plays Kove, the eyeball challenged head honcho of the National Terrorist Strike Force in San Diego, a fun send up of the plethora of cop procedural shows that infest the network airways.
 I spoke to Kate about working on NTSF and this new genre of niche comedy Adult Swim is championing. She was charming, hilarious, charismatic and open to the world of the absurd.
Paul Scheer and Kate Mulgrew in NTSF:SD:SUV

  • You’ve done everything from Shakespeare to Star Trek Voyager to portraying Katherine Hepburn on stage. What made you join the NTSF team at Adult Swim?

Paul Scheer. He’s beyond wonderful. I keep saying it, and I can’t say it often enough or emphatically enough. He’s a singular human being in Hollywood. Kind, generous, funny. He called me, and I had no idea who he was. He watched me on Star Trek and had this idea that I would be “M” 007, and he said “What do you think?”, and I said “Is it lunacy?”, and he said “Complete lunacy”, and I said “I’m in.”

  • Alternative comedians have such a sense of the absurd, which opens an outlet of creativity that doesn’t fit within the boundaries of mainstream entertainment.
Well, I think Paul is held in great regard because every time I turned around in the second season, there was another terrific comedian. Everyone wants to work with him and for him.
  • Is there a little Captain Janeway in Kove?
No. Paul was thinking of Judy Dench in the James Bond movies. He was thinking of a serious female figure, so of course, he put an eyepatch on me.(Laughs)
  • Is there a back story on how Kove got the eyepatch? I don’t remember anything eluding to the reason why she has one.
 
We haven’t examined the back story, but Paul and I are always laughing about it. I think that I should switch the eye patch to the other eye! Maybe we’ll have an episode about the history of the eyepatch!
  • Does Scheer keep the door open for you to contribute to a scene?
Oh yes, he’s collaborative. He knows the best work must be collective. He listens to you with every part of his being. He uses what he can use. Never once does anyone feel less than necessary. He has that fantastic gift.
  • Does the cast come to you for acting advice, or how they should approach their character?
No, but they often look at me and say “does anybody know you’re funny?” (laughs) because they know I’ve had a 40 year career as a legitimate actress, and it’s so much fun to play with them and be, in their eyes, a comedian.  It’s very freeing.
  • The show is so kooky, was there ever a time or a scene that was so over the top that you had to say, “Oh no, Paul I can’t do this?”
I’ve never said I can’t do it. I don’t know how to say those words, but the chopping off of thumbs and appendages with a machete last season – that was very challenging. I did look at Paul and thought “Arrrgggh!” But you have to let it go. There is nothing precious. Nothing.
  • Trent and Kove have been married and divorced twice…
Right!  And we have two children Jericho and Cherokee. Neither of them speak, but they are karate champions.
  • Of course!  What else would they be? Do you think Trent and Kove will get married and divorced twice again?
Well, hope springs eternal! I think it would be brilliant, don’t you? To be married and divorced twice in the same season – it would be brilliant. Someone actually does get married this season. But it doesn’t last.
  • I hear that Kove now has a podcast? What kind of guests will she invite in for an up-close-and-personal interview?
We’ll, she’s less interested in sane people than she is in bizarre people. But Kove wants to be highly regarded by the team. She would give anything, her right hand and her left eye – her only remaining eye – to be part of the group. But she’s so un-hip, and Kove is so desperate to be hip.
  • It’s the whole aspect of her character, that off-center pattern of characteristics that make her so funny.
Right! And it’s her self-importance. She just knows that she’s never going to be invited to the party. Just like that whole episode in last season when they wouldn’t invite her to a birthday party. She’s obssessed.
  • Since NTSF and Childrens’ Hospital pool of talent and producers are intertwined, has Rob Corddry ever asked you to make a guest appearance as Kove at Childrens? Perhaps in a NTSF/Childrens’ Hospital crossover?
I don’t know anything about that, but it sounds intriguing. It’s the new wave, but I think Adult Swim has a pretty good idea what’s amusing to every demographic. You should suggest that! (TVBlogster: If anyone in power is reading this…hint, hint.)
  • Any plans on returning to Broadway or the off-Broadway stage in the near future?
Yes, I’m doing a play in the Spring called Somewhere Fun, written by the very gifted playwright Jenny Schwartz, directed by Ann Kaufman. We go into rehearsals in April in New York. I’ve been working on this play, workshopped for them and with them, the last two years, and now we’re going into the theater. I’m very excited. It’s a dark comedy, but it’s brilliant. The playwright is truly magnificent – a great, great mind. So come and see it if you can.
  • I would love to get back to New York to see it!

Well, Get your buddy pass and get on Jet Blue now!For more on Kate Mulgrew and for updates on her upcoming projects, please check out her Twitter feed @TotallyKate (and @TheKateMulgrew) and her official website www.KateMulgrew.wordpress.com