Interview with WGI Workshop Participant Iman Ahmed
by: Chiara Montalto-Giannini
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- What is your interesting writing “quirk?”
I can’t stop editing. I’m not sure if that is a quirk or a sign….
- 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.
- Do you have any advice/guidance or suggestions for anyone who wants to write?
Just do it.