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Welcome to 5AM StoryTalk...Pull Up a Chair
A place to talk about stories in all their forms, the craft that goes into them, and the role art plays in our lives.
Well, hello. My name is Cole Haddon, and I’ve been a professional writer for twenty years now. First as an arts journalist for Village Voice Media and other U.S. outlets, then as a produced screenwriter and published graphic novelist, and, most recently, as a novelist (my debut book PSALMS FOR THE END OF THE WORLD was released last year by Headline Books and other Hachette arms around the globe).
But if you know nothing else about me, you should know that I was born to tell stories and talk about stories. That’s what I’m going to be doing here at 5AM StoryTalk.
By the way, this is me at 5AM:
But what, you might be wonder, is so significant about that time of the day?
When I was at university and throughout my twenties, the highlights of my week were the end of long nights out with friends. Most commonly around…you guessed it…5am. We would stumble into a diner or restaurant, wherever we were on a map, and spend the next two or three hours boozily, blearily discussing – often quite loudly – books and films and music and art in general that we loved. I suppose we imagined ourselves the Algonquian Round Table reborn.
Ah, to be young and ridiculous.
But what I’m hoping is that we can recapture some of that energy, that late-night/early-morning passion for the arts, together – with some artist friends of mine from around the world joining in, both old and new (more on that later).
All Art Is Storytelling
Stories take many forms, as all art is a kind of storytelling.
This means film and TV, novels, music, graphic novels, photography, architecture, the portrait hanging on the wall at the gallery, and much more are all part of a very old, very rich conversation about what it means to…you know…be alive. This might sound a bit pretentious, but I assure you my relationship to art is anything but.
Art, for my money, is about how we experience and ultimately make sense of this world — and it’s for everyone who wants to take the time to ask questions about and consider it.
Gatekeepers who reduce this relationship to snobbery, elitism, or intellectual backslapping are useless no matter how many awards they rack up or what media outlets they appear in. Hell, they put me off from engaging with a lot of different kinds of art or art movements over the years, and most of the time I found that the people trying to explain to me what art matters were more infatuated with their own perceived genius than possessed of any serious ability to consider and deconstruct artworks.
Of course, discourse about art is always appreciated. Reading up on a great painter or director or playwright can be both entertaining and hugely edifying, even if it’s criticism (which I’m actually a big fan of…when it’s good). I’m here talking to you right now because I think I have something to say on the subject of art, too. But my thoughts are no longer the overconfident boasting of youth, but born of hard, obsessive work. I’ve learned observation and asking questions, of being considered rather than impulsive or over-confident in your opinions, can dramatically change how you enjoy your — what I call — “pop-culture consumption”.
So, what’s my philosophy of art (aka storytelling)? Well, it involves regularly asking three questions about any artwork I encounter:
· How does the artwork make me feel?
· How did the artwork accomplish this feeling?
· Was this the artist’s intention and, if not, how do I explain the distance between their intent and my emotional experience? (This includes mulling how commercial interests might have compromised the artist’s vision).
For me, these three questions are imperative to interrogating all art.
Wrapped up in them is narrative, craft, and whatever conversations the artwork is having with history and, most interesting to me, other art/pop-culture. The more you understand about any of this will make answering my art philosophy questions that much easier.
For clarity, 5AM StoryTalk is not a how-to guide, because that means I have the power rather than you (I also hate “how-to write” pieces). Mostly, I’m going to be talking with other artists about their work or about my own experiences in the arts, with the hope these stories help you on your own journey.
The rest of the time, I’m just going to be discussing art I’ve fallen in love with. Sometimes, this will mean pointing you towards art you might fall in love with, too. When I do, I’m going to try to offer perspectives on these artworks, ways of looking at them and why I think they work that you may not have considered yet. Often, I might sound like I’m just repeating something you found obvious. Great, smart-ass, you get it already; good for you.
None of these perspectives are godly interpretations, unchallengeable, the word of some expert who wants you to agree with him. But maybe they’ll get you thinking in some different, surprising direction, and maybe they’ll get you excited about something you didn’t care about before. This is part of the reason why I’ll be inviting so many accomplished artists to join this 5AM conversation, to shake up even how I think and discuss art.
So, What Happens At 5AM?
If you subscribe to 5AM STORYTALK, here’s what you can expect:
· Four newsletters a week.
· On Tuesday EST/PST, I will send you a long form artist-on-artist interview with an extraordinary artist such as (upcoming) Max Borenstein (creator/showrunner, “WINNING TIME: THE RISE OF THE LAKERS DYNASTY”), Meg LeFauve (screenwriter, INSIDE OUT), Sequoia Nagamatsu (author, HOW HIGH WE GO IN THE DARK), Billy Ray (screenwriter, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS), and Kelly Fremon Craig (writer-director, ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET.). More often than not, this will mean a filmmaker or an author, but expect graphic novelists, musicians, fine artists, comedians, and more to show up, too. We’re talking major award winners/nominees, creators/showrunners of your favorite TV series, celebrated novelists, and so on. These conversations will be as much about who the artists are as how they create their art.
· On Thursday, I will send you an arts essay of some variety about storytelling, my experiences as a screenwriter and novelist, or a piece of art I think you need to know more about or reconsider.
· On Saturday and Sunday, I will send you…well, that’s a surprise. Consider these wildcard newsletters. Maybe a bonus interview or essay with a top film/TV or book agent or producer for some shoptalk; maybe some art or storytelling resources you might valuable; maybe some thoughts on films/TV I’m watching or books/articles I’m reading. There might even be a short story or two of mine in there.
Why Am I Doing This?
Because it brings me joy to talk about the arts, it’s really that simple. The idea of helping some navigate the business of art is certainly appealing, too.
That said, talking about the arts is an education in itself. By expressing ideas to you, by putting my philosophies into a kind of structure, by answering your questions about craft and the business of art, I improve myself as an artist. In other words, this relationship is symbiotic.
How Much Is 5AM StoryTalk Going to Cost You?
These newsletters will remain free, at least for the foreseeable future. I’m sure at some point the more labor-intensive aspects of it will have to go behind a paywall, but I’ll give you plenty of warning about that.
That said, I hope the amount of work I pour into them and what they add to your life and/or creative journey occasionally inspire you to buy me a coffee or two. It’s always appreciated.
Can You Contact Me?
For most 5AM StoryTalk posts, the comments function will remain open and I will be reading and responding to your responses regularly or, at least, as life permits in-between my writing obligations elsewhere. I will also be responding to some comments in Q&A-style posts. A 5AM conversation about art means I can’t do this alone. You’re going to have a big part in helping me shape this experience for all of us.
For those interested, you can also find me on Medium (where I discuss both pop-culture and life in general), Instagram (where I share photos of my life in Australia and international adventures as an artist), Facebook, and Elon Musk’s hellscape.
PSALMS FOR THE END OF THE WORLD is now available from Headline Books, Hachette Australia, and more. Paperback will hit shelves on May 25th. You can order it here no matter where you are on Planet Earth: