The Shifting Boundaries of Story and Medium: Interview with Matthew Derby

By Sylke Jackson

This weekend, Cuppa Pulp Writers’ Space welcomes Matthew Derby for the River River biannual Lodestar Reading. His recent novel, The Silent History, co-authored with Eli Horowitz, Kevin Moffatt, and Russell Quinn (Farrar Straus and Giroux 2014), was originally conceived as the first major exploratory interactive novel designed for digital platforms.  In this interview, Sylke and Matt discuss reaching beyond the boundaries of print media to tell a rich story about children, language, and the questions addressed in the novel that made him delve into unconsciously held thoughts and feelings about his late sister.

The Guardian called The Silent History “A compelling story about difference, rights and power”; Wired called it “Entirely revolutionary.” Matt’s work has also appeared in The Anchor Book of American Short Stories, Dzanc’sBest of the Web 2009, McSweeney’s, The Believer, Guernica, and elsewhere. He is also a designer for Harmonix, a video game studio in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


SJ: Is there any moment or experience in your childhood that you’d point to that opened the door to the kind of work that you are doing now?

MD: I grew up in a big Catholic family. I had six siblings, most of whom were significantly older than me. By the time I was six, all but two of them were already in college. They left a lot of stuff behind in the house when they went away – mostly books and records – and I pored over these materials like an archaeologist struggling to understand an ancient civilization.

The Beatles were the one thing all of my siblings seemed to have in common, so I spent most of my time listening to their records and reading the many books we had about them. I became fascinated with the ‘Paul is dead’ conspiracy theory, and spent many afternoons scaring myself silly looking for the clues about his death scattered throughout their recordings. One day, I read that, if you played the very end of “A Day in the Life” backwards, you could hear, instead of an orchestra reaching a spastic climax before hitting a single, unforgettable note, the sound of Paul’s car skidding and crashing in the moments before his death. I went straight to the record player and spun the record in reverse, and what I heard sounded astonishingly like a car crash.

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Weekend Crash Course in Making Short Movies!

Laura Shapiro loves digital storytelling and will be offering an intensive workshop in this exciting format on the weekend of April 28-30th at CILK119. She has found that the short movies people create convey personal and profound messages and offer a medium that is extremely accessible.

Laura trained in digital storytelling at StoryCenter, a pioneering organization that promotes digital storytelling and has helped nearly a thousand organizations, and more than 15,000 individuals, share their stories. This vital initiative and the amazing videos that it nurtures, supported Laura’s growing conviction that digital storytelling could be an effective tool for expression and communication. Laura especially appreciates that the medium helps communities to speak to their concerns. People’s stories change the world.

The workshop that Laura will offer will help participants tell their stories and find their voices in this concise, selective art form, using images and sound to offer personal narratives. Workshop participants will identify transformative stories that they want to tell, create scripts, learn simple editing on iMovie, and begin the process of composing their own digital stories. The workshop will start at 7pm on Friday evening April 28th and will run from 9am to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday, April 29th and 30th.

An educator, Laura has worked with the New York public city schools and NYC Outward Bound Schools to implement the Expeditionary Learning model, a project-based learning approach. Her digital storytelling clients include: United Hospice of Rockland; Veritas Public School, Queens; Expeditionary School for Community Leaders, Brooklyn; Dr. Albert Pfadt, NYC; and Women’s Digital Storytelling Retreats. She enjoys working with people from diverse backgrounds and helping individuals identify the stories that are important to them. Check out her workshop at: http://www.cuppapulp.com/…/digital-story-intensive-with-la…/

Find Flow with River River this December

While ice will soon form on the Hudson, River River brings a swirl of literary events to Cuppa Pulp Writers’ Space at CILK119 in December. Cuppa Pulp, a major sponsor of River River along with Seranam Literary Arts, offers a physical space to anchor the budding nonprofit. We hope you will enjoy the wellspring of literary events made possible by this partnership this month and for many months to come!

We’ll begin on December 3 with Saturday Morning write!, a 3-week series of free salons designed to encourage generation of new work. Facilitators Donna Miele or Anu Amaran will offer a prompt in a supportive group atmosphere. Writers take this wherever their creativity leads them, and we end by sharing our work fresh off the page. The write! salons are River River’s signature offering, and have sailed through a variety of wonderful venues, including Art Cafe, Johnnycakes, and Didier Dumas of Nyack. We are honored and excited to continue hosting salons at Cuppa Pulp.

December 17 brings a triple-splash that includes write!, then a Drop-in Poetry Revision Workshop with Anu Amaran, and finally, the much-loved holiday season Lodestar Reading, featuring local author Mary Beth Keane, who will read from her novel, Fever. Fever was named one of the best books of 2013 by the San Francisco Chronicle, NPR Books, and Library Journal.

The tide is coming in! Check out our calendar and ride the great swell of River River offerings over to CILK119 this December.

Visceral Wisdom and Music—How Diana Goetsch Got (and still gets) into Writing

Sylke Jackson: Did you write when you were a child? If not, when and how did you start writing? 

Diana Goetsch: No. Sports were my main thing as a kid. I once wrote a report on Saturn copied directly from the encyclopedia. “This is great!” I remember telling myself, as I copied what someone else wrote into my notebook, feeling totally like an author. I was seven.

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In July I met a robot named Miss Peggy

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It was at a party where an inventor presented an exhibition on making houses explode. Yes, and the toilet watered the plants. And there was a maze that never ended.

It wasn’t a dream. It wasn’t a psychotropically induced hallucination. It was Duncan Bell’s Inventions showcase—half open house, half science museum exhibit, a swinging soiree where people can sail off on the Kayakamaran (or at least check out the construction of the double-hulled vessel) or munch nibbles while the grand master explains how everything works.

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Charting the Wilderness of our Lives—An Interview with Debra Scacciaferro

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Early Bird Rate extended for “Which Way Do I Go: Your Life Story in Fact or Fiction.” Register here.

Are there any memoirs that you have found particularly moving? Why?

I’d have to say that “fictional” memoir—or more accurately, an autobiographically-based work of fiction—was my first embrace of the genre, with Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series. My best friend Freyda and I devoured these in grade school, and then acted them out by playing “Pioneers” in our suburban backyards. Those books appealed to our imaginations, our fascination in fourth grade with American history and crafts, and our deep appreciation of Laura’s struggle to be a “good girl” when she longed for the kind of adventure only boys were allowed to have. We also were deeply moved by the independence of her family, their resourcefulness, and envious of their wanderlust.

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Memoir—Where Writer and Reader Meet: an interview with Lorraine Ash

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JACKSON: How did you get started writing memoir?

ASH: I started in 1999 in a hospital bed days after the stillbirth of my first and only child, Victoria Helen. Up to that point, I’d written thousands of articles as a journalist, a few published plays, and a few unpublished novels, all in third person.

After my daughter died, I reflexively started writing to process the experience. I reached for the notebook that my thoughtful husband had placed on my bedside table and jotted down images, aromas, snippets of conversation, and sensations. At that point I was still too grief-stricken and ill to string together sentences.

Later, when my emotions had just begun to settle and realign themselves with my new view of the world, I wrote about the horrendous separation my daughter and I had experienced.

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LoPinto’s next course—tracking a master

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The thing about Anthony LoPinto is, he loves food, he loves people, and he loves the planet. You can feel this warmth in everything about him—from his conversation to his consommé. We talked together Monday morning about his holiday chocolates and upcoming wine and extravagantly-delicious food pairing scheduled for December 19th at CILK119.

“Yes, we’ll be serving last year’s squash soup,” Anthony laughs. “A participant of the tasting for fall of 2014 took some of the seeds from the hubbard squash I cooked, and in the spring, gave me a seedling. I planted it in my garden and the fruit it bore will be mixed with honey dumpling for this year’s tasting.” The community connections apparent in the sourcing of the squash belie the profound intentionality that is behind Anthony’s delectable creations. A circle of loving care for the planet is completed with the meals he creates. And then of course there are new seeds to sow.

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