Q&A with Koren Zailckas discussion

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Fury: a Memoir

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message 1: by Koren (new)

Koren Zailckas | 27 comments Mod
Hi everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this week as we discuss life, literature and memoir-writing. This thread is devoted to my new memoir FURY. Post your questions here and I'll respond to them first thing.


message 2: by Koren (new)

Koren Zailckas | 27 comments Mod
I find myself wondering, how do you folks out there express or repress your anger? Are you a punch-a-pillow-type? Or a silent seether?


message 3: by Melissa (new)

Melissa | 2 comments Koren wrote: "I find myself wondering, how do you folks out there express or repress your anger? Are you a punch-a-pillow-type? Or a silent seether?"

I haven't read your memoir yet, but I find myself fascinated by memoirs. I guess it satisfies that curious streak that urged me to sneak into my sister's bedrooms and divulge in the contents of their diaries. So...all that to say, I look forward to reading FURY.

I have recently been thinking about how I handle my anger. When I was young, I would stuff my emotions down inside and they would be turned to rage. They would blow up unexpectedly, triggered by the smallest thing. I find as I've grown older, I avoid conflict more (except in familial settings) and tend to process internally or via journalling.

Because I am not always aware of my emotions, I do still stuff them in...I guess it feels inappropriate to feel the full extent of your emotions. "I'm an adult. This shouldn't bother me." So it gets shelved...and later topples down from it's height when the weight becomes too much or something of more import crowds it out.

It's a very curious thing that I have been pondering for a week or so now.


message 4: by Koren (new)

Koren Zailckas | 27 comments Mod
Hey Melissa,

Thank you so much for this. I can't tell you how much I can relate.

My anger style is pretty similar. I grew up thinking anger was dangerous. My parents had disowned a few friends and even family members that they'd argued with. In that very simplistic way that kids draw connections, I decided early on that anger and love were incompatible. I thought conflict always led to dissolution.

Very twisted, but without that cholerophobia (fear of anger) I don't know that I would have become a writer. (Perhaps you feel the same?) Because my family despised emotional talk, I didn't attempt to engage them in it. Instead, I too wrote down my more difficult experiences and feelings in journals.


message 5: by Patrick (new)

Patrick Martin | 1 comments I can relate to where you both are coming from. Feelings were not allowed to be discussed growing up, and I kept everything inside until it exploded out. I now work as a childrens' therapist and explore different avenues for them to be able to release their anger. I also work with their parents on allowing the children the ability to discuss what is bothering them.


message 6: by Melissa (new)

Melissa | 2 comments Koren wrote: "Hey Melissa,

Thank you so much for this. I can't tell you how much I can relate.

My anger style is pretty similar. I grew up thinking anger was dangerous. My parents had disowned a few frien..."


This is fascinating to me because my family environment was almost the opposite of what you describe, yet my reaction was strikingly similar. My family members never tried to avoid conflict, but instead were often trying to fix conflict. Whenever they had disagreements with friends or family, they worked it out. Oftentimes that meant swallowing or minimalizing how you really felt. Letting it go.

This is an altogether different but just as potentially deadly way of avoidance. We would talk about the conflict. Sometimes WAY too much. This was worse within the family. If I got into an argument with my sisters, they (my sisters) would try to immediately work it out. This is good in a sense. They wanted to make up and go back to being sisters.

The problem with this is that I was never able/allowed to fully process my emotions. I was always being halted in the midst of process to discuss, work out, analyze, fix. In all actuality, one of the biggest lessons I have learned is that precarious difference between "I need a minute to process" and "I want to crawl inside so I can truly feel". Because I would hide so that I COULD feel, could be safe, could be sad/angry/whatever.

They would always SAY they wanted to know what I was feeling, but anything negative had to be immediately turned into something positive. If you were mad, you had to let it go. If you were sad, you had to look for the positive. If you felt hurt, you had to forgive and walk it off...

Without that freedom to process that journaling gave me (and it sounds like you), that anger could have grown even more disastrous.

Now I can say, "I need a minute" because I'd rather not blow up at someone OR clam up inside myself. Instead, I want to be a healthy person that can go away and feel EVERY emotion I need to...to completely process the whole mess of it and THEN return to that person/situation and discuss those feelings and work the situation out.

It is a really hard thing to do...walk out of habits that are potentially dangerous for you into true life that may be harder but much more fulfilling.


message 7: by Anna (new)

Anna Irvine (annairv) | 4 comments Koren wrote: "Hi everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this week as we discuss life, literature and memoir-writing. This thread is devoted to my new memoir FURY. Post your questions here and I'll respond..."


message 8: by Anna (new)

Anna Irvine (annairv) | 4 comments Hi, I have just written a memoir about a failed relationship and found the process (nearly 1 year) so therapeutic and really helped me to move on from my anger and extreme sadness. It is the most amazing transformation, which I didn't quite expect. I am going to try to find your book this evening after work (I hope it is available in Australia) and I am looking forward to reading it. I think writing is a productive and harmless way to rid so many negative emotions. Yay for writing !! Can't wait to read your book, it sounds intriguing.


message 9: by Koren (new)

Koren Zailckas | 27 comments Mod
Melissa wrote: "Koren wrote: "Hey Melissa,

Thank you so much for this. I can't tell you how much I can relate.

My anger style is pretty similar. I grew up thinking anger was dangerous. My parents had di..."


Okay, I have only just learned how to use the reply feature...Thanks all for bearing with my tech ineptitude. (There seems as though there ought to be a word in there. Maybe, "in-tech-titude.")

At any rate, I think you're absolutely right. So important to experience the full spectrum of our emotions.

Most of my family members are avoiders. But the others are fixers. Sometimes things just need to sit broken for a minute. You need time to survey the damage!


message 10: by Koren (new)

Koren Zailckas | 27 comments Mod
Anna wrote: "Hi, I have just written a memoir about a failed relationship and found the process (nearly 1 year) so therapeutic and really helped me to move on from my anger and extreme sadness. It is the most ..."

Thank you Anna. And congratulations again on your book.

I agree, writing a memoir can be a very transformational process.

In the past, I've always really resisted the idea that memoir-writing is cathartic. But I suppose that's only because it seems to imply that "feeling better" is the goal. When I set out to write these memoirs, I'm usually aiming to find some insight into the larger culture. The way I see it, I'm just using my own experience as a starting point.

But I can't escape the fact that writing about my life has changed my life dramatically. I'm sure you know what I mean. It's inevitable. Memoir writing requires so much self-scrutiny. You learn so much about yourself in the process (even things you'd perhaps rather not know).

Like your book, Fury also begins with a failed relationship. It's funny, I'm not sure I ever would have been able to be in a successful, loving or honest relationship unless I'd written this book.


message 11: by Anna (new)

Anna Irvine (annairv) | 4 comments Thanks Koren, I couldn't find your book last night. Will buy it online. Looking forward to reading it. It sounds as though your life has sorted out and I'm pleased to hear the writing helped with that. Yes, writing does require a lot of self scrutiny, which is a good thing. So many people bypass looking at themselves honestly. It's the only means to move forward. Hears to writing !!


message 12: by Kara (new)

Kara | 2 comments Hi Koren,

This is another question that sort of combines both Smashed and Fury.....
In Smashed, if I recall (and please pleeaaase correct me if I'm wrong) you talk about how you don't trust a lot of men and how they can hurt you in ways that women can't. And it seems that a lot of your anger in that book is directed towards men. Yet in Fury you talk about how the majority of the anger you feel is towards women..
So my question is...have your feelings towards men and women (in general) changed? Or is does your distrust in men and your anger towards women remain separate? Are you not able to lump the feelings for one sex together in one 'general' emotion?
Thanks!

KEF


message 13: by Koren (new)

Koren Zailckas | 27 comments Mod
Butterfly Joi wrote: "Koren, my question is how did you decide to open yourself up and let the world see you, fully and completely? I mean, we all wear these masks as if we're okay when we're not. But instead of wearing..."

It was easy to be uninhibited when I was writing SMASHED. Probably just because I was so young and naive. I wasn't acquainted with the harsh criticism that can accompany book reviews (college writing workshops were about as close to critique as I'd ever come). I wrote Smashed as though it were just for me.

I remember walking into the Strand bookstore in NYC shortly after I'd finished my final draft Smashed. I just looked up at those 18 miles of books and thought about how many great books get published every year and how many vanish into obscurity. I honestly never expected anyone to read my first book, so it was really easy to let it all hang out.

Fury was an entirely different animal, and I experienced a lot of writer's block while I was writing it.

As anyone who has ever written memoir knows, writer's block is always fear when you're writing from your life. It's not like you don't know how the story ends. It's not like you're not well-acquainted with the characters.

I was really terrified to let readers into the angry side of my emotional spectrum. I'd always concealed my anger from the people I loved because I worried that they would leave. (My family had disowned friends and family members they'd had past conflicts with.) I worried that it would be much of the same with my reader. I feared that he or she would write me off. That I wouldn't be able to maintain his or her interest or empathy.

Somehow I overcame those anxieties (which had a lot to do with coming off as flawed, imperfect and basely human as I am). At that time, anger was the most important theme in my life and it was a story I desperately wanted to tell.

Therapy helped. And I highly recommend it for anyone who's working on a memoir. It's a great place to sort through your memories--to begin to process and make sense of them. Not only will it help you to find the clarity and insight that you need to do justice to your story, but it will also just provide you with some personal, emotional support.

Memoir-writing can be emotionally and physically draining. Reliving the traumatic stuff takes a lot out of you. I know a few memoirists who can only work for an hour or so and literally pass out in exhaustion at their desks.


message 14: by Koren (new)

Koren Zailckas | 27 comments Mod
Kara wrote: "Hi Koren,

This is another question that sort of combines both Smashed and Fury.....
In Smashed, if I recall (and please pleeaaase correct me if I'm wrong) you talk about how you don't trust a lot ..."


Hi KEF,

Sure. I suppose that's right. In my college life, I did feel as though the men I was drinking with had an upper hand. They didn't have to worry quite so much about being date raped in a blackout--that kind of thing. And I did feel a bit wounded by the few who had hurt me.

I also know the section you're referring to in Fury. For those who haven't read it, I should say: There's a scene where I'm attending an anger management seminar. At the time, I imagined I was there for research only. I was very guarded, defensive and reluctant to participate.

So in this scene, we're doing an exercise where we're supposed to beat up a punching bag and pretend it's the "men in our life who have wronged us," particularly our dads. (There was also a subsequent session where we "beat up" all the "women in our lives who had wronged us, particularly our moms.")

When the therapist instructs me to beat the male bag, I tell her that I don't want to. That maybe I'll try later when we get to the females in our lives. I claim I'm angrier at women and expect more of them. It's an obvious lie (really, I'm trying to find a way to access my anger for my mother) and the therapist quickly calls me out on it and alerts the whole room to how ridiculously deluded I am.

So to answer your question, that blanket statement in Fury isn't meant to be taken at face value.


message 15: by Kara (new)

Kara | 2 comments Koren wrote: "Kara wrote: "Hi Koren,

This is another question that sort of combines both Smashed and Fury.....
In Smashed, if I recall (and please pleeaaase correct me if I'm wrong) you talk about how you don't..."


Thanks for clarifying-it was something I'd been thinking about since I read Fury. It's interesting thinking about how gender plays a role (or doesn't..) in how people navigate their relationships.


message 16: by Koren (new)

Koren Zailckas | 27 comments Mod
Kara wrote: "Koren wrote: "Kara wrote: "Hi Koren,

This is another question that sort of combines both Smashed and Fury.....
In Smashed, if I recall (and please pleeaaase correct me if I'm wrong) you talk ab..."


My pleasure. Thanks for reading the books.

I probably think far less about gender now than I did when I was in my early twenties. I think gender certainly contributes to the way we experience the world. But the year I turned 30, I realized with considerable horror that when I'm making generalities about one gender or the other, I'm usually basing it off of my mother or my father. So many very strong and misguided ideas about how the world works take shape in childhood. We draw them when we're kids and never revise them.


message 17: by Christine (new)

Christine Hatfield  (christinesbookshelves) | 4 comments I thought your book was really good


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