Woolfer Q&A with Kristi Coulter, author of Nothing Good Can Come from This
Two years ago, Kristi Coulter published a fierce and funny piece about going sober titled “Enjoli” (as in the infamous 80s perfume with the tagline “the 8-hour perfume for the 24-hour woman“). To her shock, the essay went viral almost overnight, inspiring conversations about feminism, inequity, and booze around the world. (Literally. Kristi received letters from every continent, except Antarctica.) A book deal ensued, and last February Kristi quit her longtime corporate job at Amazon to go into full writer mode. With the impending publication of her brilliant collection of autobiographical essays, Nothing Good Can Come from This, The Woolfer caught up with Kristi to learn more.
Tell us why Woolfers will love your book.
It’s a raw, frank, feminist look at what happens when a high-achieving, deeply unhappy fortysomething woman gives up the *one* thing she really thinks she can’t live without–wine–and has to remake her entire sense of self from the ground up. It’s funny; one advance reader described me as “the love child of Joan Didion and David Sedaris.” And it pulls no punches on topics ranging from addiction to sex to money to the brutal effects of patriarchy on even the most privileged among us.
My goal was to write an autobiography of an emotion; to reveal my experience of being human in this life. My hope is that the Woolfers who read the book will identify with my so-called failures, relate to my dread and fear that something was wrong with me, and in that recognition they’ll feel seen.
Do you have a “room of your own” to write? What’s your process/ritual?
I do! I have a comfortable home office…that I rarely use, at least for writing. I do most of my writing in neighborhood coffee shops. There’s something about the ambient buzz and sense of community that frees me up. Plus, I’ve gotten great material from eavesdropping. I have no rituals–if anything, I strive not to make a big deal out of writing, so that I can eke out a few words anywhere (in a car wash, at the airport, when I have twenty minutes for lunch, etc.). The key thing about my process is to trust that what I *think* I’m writing about rarely turns out to be the real subject of the piece, and that’s okay. More than okay–that’s why I do it, to know what I’m *really* thinking about.
What are you currently reading/excited to read? Any favorite authors?
Lately I’ve been reading what’s called ‘hybrid’ literature–stuff that blurs the lines between essay and memoir and poetry. Sarah Manguso’s The Guardians, about the suicide of a close friend, is a recent favorite. Elissa Washuta’s My Body is a Book of Rules is another. I also love British police procedurals and am tearing my way through Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus books after avoiding them like a dummy for ages. Some of my all-time favorite writers are Amy Hempel, Edith Wharton, Meg Wolitzer, E.M. Forster, and Maggie Nelson. And my North Star is the late novelist Laurie Colwin. I think every writer has an ideal reader they’re writing for, and she’s mine. I just want to make Laurie Colwin proud, wherever she is.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
My first thought, given where I ended up, was “Don’t start drinking!” But that’s an oversimplification. Instead, I’d say “Be aware that you can’t drink away your pain. You can’t drink away the things you don’t want to face. Reality is reality whether you like it or not, and it will still be waiting for you when the alcohol wears off, along with whatever you did to make things even worse while you were drunk–and by the way, people don’t generally make their problems *better* while they’re drunk. Okay! Glad we had this chat, kiddo. Proceed.”