Interview with WGI Workshop Participant Iman Ahmed

by: Chiara Montalto-Giannini

  1. When did you know you wanted to be writer? Tell us a little bit of your story.

I started writing in high school. I took fiction classes. My short story Good Muslim Girls was a finalist in the Cosmopolitan fiction contest. It wasn’t until college when I read about Shonda Rhimes that I realized TV writing was a career option so I enrolled in the TV writing summer intensive at Columbia and was a two time finalist in the Austin Film Festival for Teleplay.

  1. What do you think makes a good story and what kinds of stories are you drawn to?

A good story has honest, authentic, three dimensional characters that makes you give a damn about their journey. I love shows like Bob’s Burgers and BoJack Horseman with unique characters, smart dialogue and unexpected storylines.

  1. When did you first take a WGI workshop and what lead you to take the workshop?

I saw a post on Facebook in the fall of 2017 through the Muslim Writers Collective. I wanted to be around other writers. Writing is lonely, I craved a community.

  1. How did that workshop impact you?

The WGI workshop saved my life. I am forever indebted to my mentors Scott Frank and Colleen Werthmann who validated my writing, challenged my work to grow and extended their kindness to me after the workshop ended. I am very thankful for the WGI for reaching out to underrepresented communities who need access to tell their stories. It’s painful being made to feel invisible. 

  1. What is your writing process like?

Somewhere between sheer panic and abject misery. There is a lot of editing. It feels like a puzzle you are trying to put together. I know the story has potential when I can’t let it go. There is no better feeling than writing a funny line and hearing everyone laugh during a table read. 

  1. What is the most surprising thing you have learned from writing?

It is therapeutic in that it helps me understand life. I can explore ideas and feelings in characters and reflect about the world through a different lens. 

  1. What have you done since that initial workshop? How have you used the tools you learned in the WGI workshop, in writing (or in any other way?)

– My scene The Muppet Man was performed by actors Bill Irwin and Liza Colon- Zayas at the Writers Guild Initiative Gala in March.

– The play I started in the WGI online workshop with Fred Graver and Charlie Rubin is being produced at Theater Row this summer.

– My pilot was accepted into the Orchard Project Episodic Lab.

– I started a weekly Arab writers room where Arab writers workshop their plays and pilots in a constructive group setting.

– I started doing stand up comedy at Caroline’s, Eastville, Q.E.D, The Stand etc

– The Moth produced Iman’s story about being a caregiver in their biannual community showcase “Across the Divide” in 2019 at the Bell House.

–  I organized two storytelling workshops for 50 participants with The Moth and arranged personal interviews with StoryCorps for airings on NPR.

  1. What is your interesting writing “quirk?”

I can’t stop editing. I’m not sure if that is a quirk or a sign….

  1. What do you like to do for fun, when you’re not writing?

I love seeing plays and sharing the same emotional experience with a live audience. I also enjoy reading. I just finished Sahar Mustafah’s The Beauty of Your Face.

  1. Do you have any advice/guidance or suggestions for anyone who wants to write?

Just do it. 

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