Hi there, my name is Jennifer Coté and it’s lovely to meet you!
Whenever I’m taking pitch meetings in LA, I often introduce myself by saying something along the lines of, “I grew up between a cemetery and a farm, and this explains everything you need to know about my weird ass.” This always goes over great in meetings the way pithy soundbites like it typically do, but it also always feels like a bit of a lie to me. Don’t get me wrong, the statement is factually/geographically true, BUT what rings false to me is the idea that anything about me or any living soul could possibly be explained so simply.
I don’t know a lot for certain, but one thing I have come to learn from every single person I’ve ever crossed paths with is this: all humans are really complicated, intricately multi-layered, and intensely WEIRD beings with depths of emotion, hidden reserves of resilience, and personal stories of sorrow and triumph that could inspire freaking country songs. Since this is my corner of the internet and you’ve likely come here to learn about me, though, I’m going to refrain from going on about my obsession with the country-song-worthiness of all humankind much longer and will instead use this space to fill you in on a little bit more of my bio. I’m also going to do my best to share stuff here that goes beyond what you might learn in a meeting or on a book dust jacket. So, here goes…
Like I said earlier, I grew up between a cemetery and a farm on the outskirts of Boston, Massachusetts. Although this childhood spent wandering past tombstones and corn stalks on the daily could certainly explain why my creative vision revolves around depicting stories of surreal beauty amidst dark chaos and telling tales of optimists in pessimistic worlds, there are quite a few other factors that have contributed heavily to making me the writer I am today. For starters, I’m descended from a long line of Broadway singers and jazz musicians who have been a part of making some of the most uplifting musical works ever recorded, and yet I also come from a long line of ancestors who have struggled profoundly with addiction and depression. In many cases, these starkly different traits have existed in the very same relative, much the way some variation of each coexists in me…
I’m alternately an almost cartoonishly bubbly person who literally walks down streets whistling and sings along to muzak in grocery stores with the set of pipes my Great Uncle Bob gave me (we’re talking every damn street and every damn grocery store every damn time), and yet I’ve spent more nights sobbing myself to sleep than I can count and even spent much of my teen years being tossed between mental hospitals and day treatment programs, feeling like I was all but drowning in a sense of hopelessness. Back in these really bleak years when I was a 16-year-old high-school dropout battling issues that were a whole lot bigger than I felt capable of wrapping my brain around, I might have described myself as having depression, but the truth was it felt a whole lot more like depression had me and my entire life in a headlock. Out of respect for the f#*ing bigness and all-encompassing-ness of what I was going through back then, I’m not going to insult my past self or anyone else out there who might be dealing with similar things by even remotely attempting to summarize my “recovery” journey in a couple succinct sentences here. In fact, to be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever “recovered.” What I have managed to do, however, is embark on a journey that’s very slowly taken me from feeling debilitated by darkness to feeling like I can coexist with it. And, from pretty early on along this journey I’ve found that one of the main things that helps me coexist with darkness is the power of storytelling.
In my twenties, I chased down great stories by waiting tables at Carly Simon’s nightclub on Martha’s Vineyard and tending bar at numerous music venues in Austin, Texas, so I could soak-up live performances from my favorite folk, blues, and rock acts each night. All the while, I scraped together what other people would consider some semblance of an “adult career” by writing freelance magazine articles, press releases, and speeches until I eventually discovered the art of screenwriting and went on to earn my MFA in it from The University of Texas at Austin. Somewhere in this blur, I met a guy I liked both kissing and talking to a whole lot more than I’d ever liked kissing or talking to anyone, we got married, adopted a dog, and then moved to Los Angeles together almost immediately after I wrapped up graduate school.
During my time in Los Angeles, I’ve worked a whole lot of ghostwriting jobs, run development for a small production company, and had the great privilege of bringing to life two entire television series (and counting) from scratch. I’ve had offices on the Universal Lot, on film sets in the middle of nowhere, and inside some really swanky Beverly Hills buildings made of marble and glass, but I now consider myself immensely lucky to spend most of my time writing in my home office nestled inside California’s Del Monte Forest just few blocks away from the ocean. I currently divide my time between writing TV projects, movies, and novels, which may sound quite varied, but everything I do is always connected by a common thread: telling stories of people finding hope in a seemingly hopeless world — stories of finding light in the darkness.
I tell these stories and suspect I always will because they help me find hope… Because they help me coexist with darkness.
I also must admit I tell these kinds of stories because I’d like to think they might have the power to help audiences/readers find some tiny slivers of hope amidst their own personal struggles with darkness.
If you are one of these kindred spirits who have found solace in my characters and words, thank you for reading now and always. Please know that being a small part of your journey is one of the greatest honors of my life.