Sarah Hepola’s new memoir, Blackout: Remembering Things I Drank to Forget, chronicles her addiction to alcohol with brutal honesty and brilliant humor. The book is gaining critical acclaim from reviewers in The New York Times, The Washington Post, LA Times, and Kirkus Reviews. Entertainment Weekly observed, “It’s hard to think of another memoir that burrows inside an addict’s brain like this one does.”
Blackout was named one of Amazon.com’s Best Books of June 2015, People Magazine’s Best Books of the Summer, and won a spot on the New York Times Best Sellers List.
Hepola recently joined us on The Write Up to discuss the memoir. We also chat about her work as an editor at Salon and as a freelance writer, and the complicated ways alcohol affected her writing and life.
Hepola cut her literary teeth as a writer for the Austin Chronicle in the late nineties and early 2000s. She made a national name for herself as a cultural journalist and personal essayist with Slate, The New York Times, and The Morning News online magazine. Her brand of red-hot wit and self-deprecating honesty earned her admirers and writing jobs. But as her career slowly grew, so did her dependence on alcohol.
From the backyard parties of Austin to basement bars of New York City and the sidewalk cafes of Paris, Hepola tracks her drinking bouts and the blackouts that followed. Many mornings she woke up alone with a cloudy head, mysterious bruises, and black space where the last several hours should have been. On more terrifying occasions, Hepola woke up in bed with someone she didn’t recognize.
It wasn’t until confronted with crumbling friendships and a stalled career that Hepola took the courageous step of getting sober. Hepola’s memoir does not stop there. She describes the struggle to rebuild her mental and physical health, her return to Texas after years in New York, and her discovery that her writing voice did not depend on an open bottle.
Blackout also touches upon the bizarre and sometimes wonderful experience of online dating, the undulations of adult friendship and the pressures of being a professional woman in the once male-dominated world of journalism.
Hepola speaks of her life and writing with an unmasked candor and humor. Her research and insights also enable her to link her own story to cultural trends in dating, women’s liberation, and America’s obsession with alcohol.
On the podcast, Hepola shares the difficulty of transitioning from personal essays to a book-length memoir, the allure alcohol seems to have for so many writers, and necessity of releasing one’s inner editor while writing a first draft.