1.What is your earliest memory of writing?
When I was in grade school I was obsessed with writing haiku. I even illustrated some of them on poster board (I think I still have them in a box somewhere!) I was just really in love with words from a young age. I had a list of favorite words, and I’d use them in stories or in conversation. I wrote my first short story in 3rd grade entitled “Miss Marshmallow.”
2.What inspires you – or where do you find inspiration?
I know it’s cliche, but I really do find inspiration everywhere. My neighborhood in Los Angeles is a continual source of ideas and inspiration. For example, there’s a guy who flies a kite on the corner when it’s windy. One of these days, he’ll definitely show up in a script. Like most writers, I love to eavesdrop for character quirks and dialogue. Driving and listening to the radio is always a source. A song will send me into a memory or spark a new idea. And trash, believe it or not! When I see stuff left on the side of the road, I start to imagine characters and stories. Who owned these objects, and why did they leave them here? What was going on? That can send me down a rabbit hole in the best way. Once a stained glass window inspired me to write a play.
3. Tell us some of your favorite movies, plays, TV shows, and books.
So many in all categories! Hmmm…for plays I usually read Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf once a year. I learn something every time I read it. Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. Paula Vogel’s How I learned to Drive and Indecent. Tracy Letts’ work. I love Martyna Majok’s Cost of Living and Nina Raines’ Tribes. One of the best plays I read recently was Anatomy of a Suicide by Alice Birch. Brutal and brilliant.
This year I got obsessed with a bunch of TV that I had missed in recent years. I binged watched The Americans like a crazy-person. I loved Russian Doll and Killing Eve. Six Feet Under, The Wire and Deadwood are among my all-time faves. Atlanta. Fleabag. I love a good limited series like Chernobyl. Lately, I’m loving the originality of Pen 15.
For movies, I love so many classics from the 1970’s like Chinatown, Network, Bonnie and Clyde. That whole period of filmmaking. A couple of films by playwrights come to mind…Moonlight, Moonstruck, You Can Count on Me. I’m also a sucker for romantic comedies from the classic to mainstream. It Happened One Night with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert is an all-time fave. Anything Nora Ephron wrote. Anything with Melissa McCarthy. These days, with all that’s going on, I want to be entertained. I want to laugh.
For books, a few that have always stayed with me include Beloved by Toni Morrison, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and believe it or not, Moby Dick by Herman Melville, probably because I’m from a small New England town and it reminds me of home—and there’s that crazy section about whales and whaling that’s just amazing. I have an eclectic assortment of books by my bed right now that includes Joan Didion’s essays Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Consolations by David Whyte, and a new book of poems called Imperial Liquor by Amaud Jamaul Johnson.
4. You write plays and screenplays – what is your process like for each?
An idea for a play can rattle around in my imagination for a while before I sit down to write. Then it’s an exhilarating (and somewhat frenzied) dive into the unknown getting the first draft down. I spend a lot of time digging into the emotional life of the characters and their relationships. Working with actors to hear pages and help me shape the piece is a huge part of the process. In 2020, I had the great fortune of working with a writers’ group at The Road Theatre to develop a new play. We started pre-pandemic and when the world changed, we shifted online. The structure and support of the group were instrumental for me, especially during this strange time. The play is called Here Comes The Night and it’s about the gray areas of decision-making for women – including the right to choose – and it also explores female friendship in the digital age. It’s one of those pieces I had been thinking about for years. The time was right for it to emerge.
I’ve been concentrating on plays for a long while but I’m getting back into screenwriting now, actually. I’m working on a feature that riffs off of my short play Tattoo You, which I adapted into a short film several years ago that made the festival rounds. It’s called Grown-Up Bully and it’s about a woman, who, after learning that her teenage daughter is being bullied, realizes she needs to finally grow up, and get redemption from the woman she herself bullied as a teenager. The short film is darker in tone than the feature screenplay is turning out to be, which is surprising and fun. It wants to be a comedy.
5. How difficult – or easy- is it to go from plays to films?
It’s funny, when I’m writing plays, oftentimes I can get cinematic with my writing. Then, when I’m writing for the screen, I can get dialogue heavy. With playwriting, you’re carefully weaving all of the action into the dialogue, and with screenwriting the action and visuals need to be at the fore. So it’s an adjustment for sure. Once I get into a groove with one or the other, it feels good…it’s just making that transition. It’s hard for me to work on a play while I’m writing for the screen, and vice versa.
6. What is it like to mentor in the WGI workshops?
Mentoring in the WGI workshops has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had. First, the WGI team comes together to create an environment for the participants. Then we welcome the participants to fill that space with their authentic stories. Together we co-create this special environment. I love that the workshops are completely focused on giving the writers the freedom to express themselves with no judgement. It’s amazing to see them make discoveries and voice their stories, many for the first time–and all in one weekend. It’s transformative for them and for us. A real community is created in a short amount of time, which is inspiring.
7. What is the most surprising thing you have learned from writing?
As far as the craft itself, I continue to learn that the more vulnerable you are on the page, the more you’ll connect with your audience. You think you’ve gone deep, but you can always go another layer deeper. That always surprises me. Another thing I’ve learned is when you feel stuck, that’s usually the precise moment when it’s time to really let go. And when you do, your characters usually come up with something that you didn’t expect and you sit back and wonder––where did that come from? I love moments when the unconscious takes over.
8. Do you have a writing quirk- if so, what is it?
I have many! I take dance breaks. I tend to become obsessed with a set of songs and I dance them to death, and then pick a new set. In terms of craft, I do a lot of journaling when I’m working on a character before I open the computer and start “The Script.” I need to meander for a while with pen to paper. Also, I have favorite pens. My go-to right now is the Pilot P-700.
9. How do you juggle writing with everything else? Do you have a specific routine or practice?
I’m a cultural event producer for my day-job, so I’m used to juggling but it’s not easy, especially to carve out the brain space. My usual routine is to write at night when it’s quiet and everyone’s asleep. I’ve always been a night owl and I have the most energy from about 9 pm to 1 am. Which is fine…except when you have to get up and operate on the rest of the world’s schedule. I try to write morning pages every day just to clear my head and capture bits of ideas and dreams. If I don’t do them in the morning, I’ll journal at some point during the day. Morning pages might become mid-afternoon pages, and I’m totally fine with that.
10. Any tips, guidance, or suggestions for our readers?
I’ll pass on my two favorite quotes from other writers that I keep close:
“Scenes are negotiations, seductions, or fights.” – Mike Nichols
“Interruption is the death of the imagination.” – Joyce Carol Oats