I always read the Lilith slush pile with a kind feverish, burgeoning hope—maybe this is the story that will make the hair on the back of my neck rise up. Or this one. Or this. Well, back around 2001, I had one of these longed-for experiences when I read a story by an emerging writer named Amy Koppelman. The story was too long for our pages and uncommonly dark, with its depiction of a young mother suffering from post-partum depression who accidently kills her infant and then intentionally kills herself. But I shared it with Lilith’s editor-in-chief Susan Weidman Schneider and she agreed with me about the story’s stark, stinging power, even as she acknowledged that it would not readily fit into our format. I couldn’t give up on it though, so I contacted the writer and asked her if she perhaps had another story we could consider. She did, and Lilith published Koppelman’s story “The Groom” in 2002. It was her first publication and I don’t know which of us was more thrilled and proud. That story that we couldn’t use? It turned out to be the final, harrowing chapter in an altogether harrowing novel, A Mouthful of Air, which was published to critical acclaim by MacAdam Cage in 2003. Koppelman credits the publication in Lilith with giving her the confidence to pursue the agent who led to the sale. Since that time, I have stayed in touch with Koppelman, and was once again thrilled when I learned that her second novel, I Smile Back, has been made into a film starring Sarah Silverman and will be shown in the Sundance Film Festival.
The protagonist of I Smile Back is haunted by demons both psychological and chemical; she is addicted to risky, extra-marital sex and cocaine, in equal measure. But Koppelman’s treatment is ever tender, ever humane; though she walks on the dark side, she sees the faint light glowing in every ruined, ravaged heart. We at Lilith could not be more proud of her, and we can’t wait to see what she’ll do next.