1.What is your earliest memory of writing?
In second grade, we learned to write cursive. We slowly worked our way through the alphabet, and because “Ruddy” has a “y”, I was the last of my friends to be able to write my full name. In short, writing is wonderful but often stressful.
2.What makes a good story?
There’s a saying from the theater that if the actor cares, the audience will care. I find it applies to writing as well.
3. What are some of your favorite books, plays, movies, and TV shows?
In no particular order, and off the top of my head… Books: At Swim-Two-Birds, Persuasion, Put Out More Flags, My Antonia, The Brothers Karamazov, Don Quixote, Jane Eyre, Everything That Rises Must Converge, Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves; Plays: Arcadia, The Importance of Being Earnest, Antigone, all of Horton Foote, all of Lynn Nottage, The Lonesome West; Movies: Mr. Roberts, The Lives of Others, Topsy-Turvy, Casablanca, Once Were Warriors, The Wizard of Oz; TV shows: South Park, Chappelle’s Show, Twin Peaks, The Beverly Hillbillies, SCTV, The Office (UK), 30 Rock.
4. What inspires you?
I’m inspired by authors who write beautifully but also manage to be actually, genuinely funny.
5. Tell us about your writing process.
I face a blank, boring wall to limit distractions, but then get up and walk around every five minutes, looking for distractions. But I make sure I write every day, even when I don’t have a lot of time. To paraphrase WGI president Richard Dresser, the act of writing every day, even if it’s just for a few minutes, ensures that you will be writing all day because the ideas will swirl in your head. I find this to be helpful and true.
6. You have done work at UCB and The Moth. Is there a link or a connection between improv and writing? How do they inform each other?
Writing is just improv that you have the ability to edit and polish later. Within the context of writing, improv is raw creation, that moment when your fingers are hitting the keyboard. Improv works various writing muscles: actively listening, inhabiting other characters and worlds, taking chances, and so on. And writers can learn from the daring and risk-taking inherent in improv, of getting one’s ideas out there before they’re quite ready, and then following them to interesting places.
7. Tell us about mentoring WGI workshops.
I love the workshops. Many of our participants are accomplished writers, and others are just getting started in their writing careers. In either case, I’m inspired by their bravery, their willingness to be honest and vulnerable with us on the spot. The workshops are deeply satisfying because our writers consistently produce meaningful work.
8. What is the most surprising thing you have learned from writing?
I’m surprised at how long it takes me to get from a good idea to a polished piece! With all these years of writing, you would think I would be able to get there without fifteen intermediate drafts! It’s an outrage! (Euclid explained to a frustrated Ptolemy I that, “There’s no royal road to geometry.” Well, um, there should be.)
9. Do you have a “writing quirk,” if so, what is it?
I never use the letter B! (Not really, but that would be a good quirk.) Let’s see… Despite being a night owl, I have to get my writing done first thing in the day.
10. Any guidance or tips you’d like to share?
For me, having a deadline, real or self-imposed, is essential. I often have work deadlines, but I also belong to a writing group with three amazing writer friends, which motivates me to submit writing every week, whether I’m ready or not. And consistency is key. Write as regularly as you can, even if it’s for a short time each day.