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BADASS JOURNALISM: AN INTERVIEW WITH MARC COOPER

marc_cooper_smallby Jenny Chi

 

Few journalists have reported first-hand on the destruction of a democratic government in the middle of a violent military coup and lived to tell the tale. Meet award-winning writer Marc Cooper. In his early 20′s, he served as President Salvador Allende’s translator for publication and press attache. Marc narrowly escaped execution by firing squad in Chile in 1973. Since then, he’s written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s, Playboy, The Nation, Rolling Stone, and the Village Voice. He’s also published three non-fiction books and his memoir on Chile, Pinochet and Me (Verso 2001), was a Los Angeles Times Best-Seller. Currently, Marc is a contributing editor for The Nation magazine, Director of Annenberg Digital News, and is a member of the full time faculty of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
 

We’re very privileged to host him a guest instructor at the Pad this July. He’s teaching a trio of workshops Freelance Journalism on Sunday night, July 13, a Pitch Letter Clinic on Monday night, July 14, and a Review and Interview Writing class on Sunday night, July 20!

 

Marc took time out of his busy schedule to share his tips for delving into a journalistic career and his views on the state of journalism today.

 

1. As a journalist, how do you walk the line between making a statement in your article and keeping a neutral tone for your story? Or rather, do you find that a neutral tone isn’t necessary for journalists?

 

The myth of neutrality is one of the great weaknesses of American legacy journalism. The objective of journalism is to be truthful, not neutral; and the truth is almost never truthful. Media theorist Jay Rosen calls the cult of neutrality “The View From Nowhere.” I much prefer journalists who are passionately engaged with their subject matter and are burning with a desire to tell their stories. This in no way obviates accuracy or attention to facts. Indeed, it sharpens it. Waterboarding, for example, is truthfully torture. To refer to it in a “he said/she said” manner is, in fact, an obfuscation of fact and a dis-service to the public.

 

2. You run a website called Marc Cooper’s Tweet Daily, where you share tweets written by various twitter users regarding society, politics, education, etc. How did this idea for a website come about? Additionally, how has it furthered your career as a journalist and blogger?

 

Marc CooperI have had a personal blog 2004. I find it an indispensable necessity for any working writer. The Web has turned journalism into an ongoing national, in fact global, conversation. It is vital to participate in that conversation and to create and nurture one’s voice and brand. Your brand is the only thing you have as a journalist that can never be taken away from you.

 

3. You’ve had an extensive career in media production. You’ve served as a documentary producer and reporter for the Christian Science Monitor, PBS Frontline and CBS News and been executive producer and host of the weekly, syndicated Radio Nation. Do you find that a background in media or audio production is important for an aspiring journalist?

 

Not necessarily. The conventional wisdom nowadays is that new journalists have to be a “one man band.” Certainly, the ability to work on different platforms is a plus — but not an imperative. It’s more important to have a deep seated passion for telling stories in whatever way is most comfortable for you.

 

4. During the 2008 presidential campaign you served as Editorial Director for the Huffington Post’s Off The Bus Project — which was a citizen journalism reporting project for the presidential campaign. For writers who don’t want to report on politics, what other venues could allow them to participate in journalism?

 

marccooper2Back to Jay Rosen and the phrase he coined a decade ago: “those formerly known as the audience.” Millions of people everyday already participate in myriad forms of journalism without ever thinking about it. Leaving a review on Yelp or TripAdvisor, tweeting a concert, Instagramming a beach trip, or whatever, is a form of sharing information and reporting. The opportunities to generate content and to spread that content through social networks is unlimited. Have an iPhone? What sort of journalism can you NOT do with it?

 

5. What was the most memorable story you reported on?
 

Probably the 1980′s wars in Central America, principally in El Salvador and Nicaragua. I know very few reporters who worked there who did not leave with deep, lasting impressions on their psyche. Those conflicts brought you into the midst of the very best and very worst of human behavior and then, at night, you drove back to your hotel. It was surreal.

 

6. As an USC Annenberg School for Communication Journalism Professor of News Writing and Reporting, what do you stress to your students about the practice of journalism?

 

marccooper4We live in a period of revolutionary transformation of journalism and media in general. It’s quite exciting. It’s like experiencing the birth of the printing press in the 15th century and imagining all the things that will be done with it in the decades to come. I stress to them that journalists no longer have a monopoly on the means of communication and that they are now shared with non professionals and citizens of all sorts. Journalism in a networked world is now a horizontal, not vertical, activity. This is a historical moment of great democratization of the media and studying journalism provides you a front row seat.

 

Pinochet and Me, Marc's anti-memoir detailing his time in Chile at the time of the 1973 coup.

Pinochet and Me, Marc’s anti-memoir detailing his time in Chile at the time of the 1973 coup.

7. Not many journalists have had career experiences like you have; at age 20 you worked for the Presidential Press and Information Office in Santiago, Chile and served as translator to former Chilean president Salvador Allende until you left after the 1973 military coup. What have you learned from those experiences about the practice of journalism? What advice would you give to reporters who want to have a career abroad?

 

To work abroad, you must go abroad. You must learn the language, culture and history of the areas you want to report from. Indeed, this principle applies across the board when it comes to journalism. Knowing the substance of what you are reporting is much much more important than perfecting the means.

 

8. You’ll be teaching a query letter clinic, a freelance journalism workshop, and a class on writing interviews and reviews. What can we expect from your workshops?

 

You can expect me to draw on 40 years of experience, much of it is as a freelancer, to teach the most effective ways to get the attention of an editor and convince him or her to commission you to produce the story you are burning to tell. It’s half art and half science, and we will cover both ends. Interviewing? Well, I used to do Playboy interviews back when that was the premier venue for such work (5-10,000 word interviews that were based on a dozen or so hours of conversation). Here’s the teaser: great interviewing is also about the art of seduction. :)

 

Thank you so much for that informative interview, Marc! Catch his classes on Freelancer Journalism, Pitch Letters (July 14), and Writing Reviews and Interviews this July at the Pad!

 

 

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TUNING IN TO TALES: AN INTERVIEW WITH BOB CARLSON

bobcarlsonby Jenny Chi

 

Bob Carlson is an award winning audio producer, musician and broadcaster. He’s the host and producer of UnFictional, a weekly program of unusual stories and compelling personal documentaries airing on KCRW radio, and podcast on KCRW.com. During his long career at KCRW, he served as director of production and shaped the station’s unique sound as a music engineer, DJ and radio drama creator. His work has also been heard on NPR, the BBC and many other places. We’re very privileged to have Bob teaching “Radio Storytelling: A Recorded Storytelling Workshop” at the Pad starting July 14nd!

 

Bob took time out to talk to us about his roots, his work, his criteria for great broadcast storytelling, and his most memorable aired stories.

 

1. How did you get your start in audio producing?

 

I actually studied radio in college (Emerson College in Boston). After that I worked at some commercial radio stations as a DJ. At one time I worked at one of those radio stations that look like a shack in the middle of the desert. During that time I was always drawn to the production aspect of the job; working in the studio, making programs and commercials. Eventually I started at KCRW, first as a volunteer, then as a recording engineer and finally Director of Production.

 

2. You produce the show UnFictional, a program of real-life stories and documentaries told by talented independent writers and performers. What do you look for in a story when you are choosing what to air on your show?

 

bobcarlson2I look for stories that have a viscerally interesting topic, like crime, secrets, mysteries, obsessions, or life changing situations. I also like characters that live in a world that I’ve always wondered about, like bathroom attendants, mariachis, or nuclear missile launch officers. I like stories that have twists and surprises, that don’t go in the direction you’re expecting.

 

Funny stories are great, of course, but I particularly like stories that feel human. They humor AND emotion. I like the listener to feel like they’ve been through something significant with the character, like a good novel or a short story.

 

3. What is the difference between broadcast and performed storytelling?

 

It depends on the storyteller, but the main difference is probably the dynamics of the performance. When you’re on stage, you’re standing in front of a group of people and you have to project enough energy to command attention. Big is better, big laughs and big moments. On stage you’re trying to create a communal experience for the audience, and the energy you create in the room is part of the experience.

 

A story on the radio is more like telling someone a story over dinner, or even whispering in their ear. People are often listening to the radio or a podcast when they’re alone, or at least isolated from the world by wearing headphones. Performances can be more understated and subtle. Rather than creating a group experience, you’re practically being a voice in someone’s head, so you can tap more directly into their emotions and personal memories and experiences.

 

4. You also host UnFictional, and have had various on-air broadcasting experiences. How do you think these hosting experiences have influenced your career as a radio producer?

 

bobcarlson3There is a ton of interesting audio work that goes on at KCRW, and I’ve done it all. I mixed live performances for the music shows, recorded and edited hundreds of talk shows. Having all that practice of listening to voices and hearing people tell stories gave me a good sense of what works and what doesn’t.

 

 

Also, at one time KCRW even produced radio dramas and story series’. That’s how I realized that often the most compelling type of storytelling on the radio is simply a single talented person telling a great story.

 

5. How did you come up with the idea for UnFictional?

 

One of my closest colleagues over my many years at KCRW has been Jennifer Ferro, who is now general manager. She and I were longtime fans of the work of independent radio producers. So in 2010 she asked me to put together an outlet to highlight great work, and create new stuff.

 

6. Before working on UnFictional, you served as KCRW’s Director of Production. What creative direction did you take the radio station to and how did you determine that?

 

bobcarlson4The biggest thing that happened while I was Production Director was the explosion of digital technologies for production. As a producer, all of a sudden you had incredible flexibility and capabilities. Now, one person could create intricately produced work that wasn’t even possible before.

 

Because of this, my contribution was to add an emphasis on craft and quality. We outfitted the studios with new equipment and used advanced techniques. The result was that our live music performances now often sound as good as studio recordings. Plus we were able to craft our interviews more, keep the good stuff and get rid of the boring stuff. All done more quickly and effectively. Plus we were able to start producing sophisticated documentary work, which ended up as an important step toward the kind of work I’m doing on UnFictional.

 

7. What advice would you give to DJs and hosts hoping to break into the field of radio producing?

 

No breaking-in necessary, just go and do it! The tools you need to do audio work are so cheap now, that if you have a passion for it, the cost of entry is low. It’s also vital to listen to a lot of the great work being done on the radio and podcasts nowadays. Once you’ve developed a style and you have work you want to share, there are many ways to distribute your work online.

 

8. What was the most memorable story that aired on UnFictional?

 

bobcarlson1I get so deeply entrenched in the details of producing the stories for my program that I barely forget any of them. That said, one of my most memorable moments happened when I was first developing the show. At the time I had a vague idea of what the tone of the show should be, but I probably wouldn’t have been able to articulate it.

 

A friend of mine invited my wife and I to a literary reading. While I was there I saw a writer named Dave White read a story he’d written. He was direct and matter of fact, almost a little scary. At the same time though, he projected a vulnerability that made it clear he had suffered plenty of psychological wounds in his life. Most importantly he was freaking hilarious. Immediately I could see the tone of my show defined right in front of me. And in fact, Dave White was on an early episode of my show, and several others since.

 

9. Can you give us a preview of the special techniques for selecting and producing stories that participants will learn in your class?

 

A good story will have something at stake, and say something that people can identify with on some level. It shouldn’t be a one-joke story, mean spirited or silly. Even a simple or funny story can say something profound.

 

Writing for radio should sound more like talking than writing. A listener can’t go back and re-read if they missed something. Radio writing should use clear, short declarative sentences, complicated sentence structures are for print.

 

Thank you so much for that informative interview, Bob! Catch his class, “Radio Storytelling: A Recorded Storytelling Workshop” at the Pad starting July 14nd!

 

 

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DRAMA AT ITS FINEST: AN INTERVIEW WITH SAM ERNST

Sam Ernst

By Cait Mylchreest

 

Sam Ernst certainly knows his way around a Television Drama! He has sold 5 pilots, is currently the co-creator/executive producer on SyFy’s HAVEN and consulting producer on NBC’s CRISIS, and he was a writer on USA’s popular hit THE DEAD ZONE. Learn a thing or two from Sam in our class “From Game of Thrones to Mad Men: Writing the Television Drama,” beginning June 24 right here at the Pad.

 

Sam took the time to chat with us about how he got his start in writing and what he finds so compelling about television today.

 
 

1.) How did you get your start on The Dead Zone?

 

My writing partner, Jim Dunn, and I sold a pilot to ABC with the producers of the Dead Zone. The pilot wasn’t picked up, but we all had a great experience on it together and we were hired onto The Dead Zone. It was our first TV staff job.

 

2.) Haven is based on the Stephen King short story “The Colorado Kid.” What was the writing process like for bringing this story to television?

 

You mean “how does a novella with no supernatural elements become a supernatural show on the SyFy Network?”  Ha. First thing we did was come up with the supernatural element. I believe I said to Jim – or maybe he said to me, I never remember –  ”how about if it’s a town full of cursed people and for some reason reason their curses are dormant. Then, once a week, a curse comes raging back.  Oh, and none of them know they’re cursed, because their families never told them.” The main issue was deciding how much backstory and serialized story to explore. Jim and I wanted quite a bit, but at first there was resistance to that. Over time, it became quite clear that the fans liked that the most, and so the show has evolved there.

 

3.) What is the dynamic of the Haven writers’ room like?

Haven

 

It’s like most writers’ rooms I think. Throw stuff at the white board, see what sticks. Then get a shape of a story and start working it through the system of notes. And more notes. The main difference year to year is that after season two we tried to work out more of the season ahead of time on a large grid, episode by episode. It helped quite a bit.

 

4.) Why are you drawn to science fiction and supernatural drama?

 

My mom let us watch TV in front of Star Trek – original flavor. It’s that simple. It was in repeats, and my brother, sister and I ate crappy 70s food and had our minds blown like everyone else. I could give you all the other scifi answers (exploration of the human condition through infinite possibilities, etc) but that’s really it.

 

5.) You wrote the Shrek the Third video game. Do you find video game writing more challenging than screenwriting? How can screenwriters successfully make the transition in genre?

 

Not sure why they’d want to transition: they should do both if they can. Game writing is a different art form. It’s a ton of fun, but I think a working writer has to be ready to write in more than just one medium. The skill sets are the same: the ability to write a compelling story, efficient, powerful dialogue, good characters (though they tend to be simpler in video games). I do think game companies are playing catchup as far as their emphasis on these things – it’s partially why most video games don’t make good movies. There just isn’t enough there, there. It’s improved, a lot, so I’m hopeful.

Sam Ernst Jim Dunn

 

6.) Many people, critics and viewers alike, are calling this “the Golden Age of Television,” which is really exciting for aspiring TV Drama writers! Why is television so special now?

 

It’s a “Golden Age” because there’s more. Quality and quantity. Just so much good stuff out there, whether you like character based drama or fast plot driven shows. It’s a great time to be a writer; I remember when I made my big move to LA to be a writer in 1999 and reality TV was taking over. Worst timing ever for me and Jim. There weren’t many cable networks doing their own scripted programming. But The Sopranos premiered that year, and while I don’t think that show changed TV, it was a harbinger of what was to come.

 

7.) Besides Haven (of course!), what’s your favorite show on television?

 

Justified. Graham Yost is an idol of mine. Great writing every single week. There are a bunch of other shows I love, but that one never gets stale on my DVR. The Wire is, to me, one of the best TV dramas of all time. I re-watch it when I need a boost, when I get tired of writing TV all day. So many characters that feel real – and it’s not dated in the slightest.

 

8.) What are some of the differences you’ve experienced writing for Network vs.  Cable?

Sam Haven Cast

 

I’m not sure we can make a cable/network distinction anymore. Each outlet has a perspective: ABC is so different from FOX, USA from TNT. I think the main difference these days is between networks (cable or broadcast) that know who they are and what they want to do, while other cast about second guessing themselves constantly, mired in perpetual identity crises. It take conviction to know who you are, and courage, and that can be in short supply some places.

 

9.) What cool secrets can your students expect to learn about writing drama pilots in your class?

 

I think it’s what staff writers can always learn from experienced writers: how to avoid the blind alleys a little better. How to trust the writing process, and let it help you get to the story you want to tell. We all want to walk into a room, or start a new script, and be brilliant from the get-go. But it never works out that way. What works is writing and more writing and listening to – and avoiding – the mistakes that writers have made time and again. Every room I’ve been I’ve seen the senior writers speaking fast, using shorthand, referencing blind alleys they’ve taken and want to avoid. It’s why they get the broken script to fix overnight, take the panicked production calls.   For people starting out, learning some of those skills will not only save them an enormous amount of time, it will help get the story from their minds onto the page, get them hired back, or that script sold. Their might be easier ways to do it, but i haven’t found them yet!

 

Thank you so much for that informative interview, Sam! Catch his class, “From Game of Thrones to Mad Men: Writing the Television Drama” at the Pad on June 24!

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LITERARY WANDERLUST: AN INTERVIEW WITH ERIC HISS

Eric Hissby Jenny Chi

 

Award-winning travel writer and photographer Eric Hiss regularly travels the world in search of unexpected and enlightening stories. In a career spanning nearly two decades, he has contributed to dozens of publications and websites, including Condé Nast Traveler, Robb Report, Los Angeles Times, Delta Sky, and others. Additionally, Eric is the author of the Los Angeles edition of Chronicle Book’s popular “City Walks” guidebook series. Eric has worked extensively in visual media; he has written, shot and produced videos for corporate and film clients such as Sony, Hewlett-Packard, and Carbo Films and premiered a short film he shot in India at multiple film festivals. An early adopter and long-time advocate of digital media, he is also a co-founder and editor of the global travel blog wandermelon.com. We’re very privileged to having Eric teaching “From Cheng Du to Timbuktu: A Travel Writing Workshop” at the Pad starting June 22nd!

 

Eric took time out to talk to us about his roots, his work, his secrets behind being a travel writer, and his most memorable trips abroad.

 

1. How did you get your start in travel writing?

 

My travel writing career has taken more twists and turns than Maui’s road to Hana. I started out with a degree in Journalism and an unfulfilled desire to travel the world, took some side trips through advertising copywriting and agency PR, and along the way found myself working on some large travel accounts, like Mexico Tourism. That’s when I decided to ditch the corporate world and get back to my writing full time. I leveraged some editorial and travel contacts, and have been filling up the passport ever since.

 

2. When people visualize travel writers, they imagine a tan, beach-side, notepad-wielding freelance writer. What does it look like to be a travel writer in 2014?

 

Well, that’s on the best days, and they do happen. I’ve been that tanned guy, I’ve also been the guy shivering in the back of Land Rover on a pre-dawn safari drive in Namibia, the guy sipping wine in a vineyard in Mendoza, Argentina, and the guy pounding out a blog post at 4am in Shanghai making a deadline. So it’s a mix.

 

3. What would people be most surprised to learn about the field of travel writing?

 

Eric HissHow very competitive it is. I’ve been doing this for almost two decades now and it’s gotten even trickier with digital platforms, social media etc. Take any opportunity you can to learn more about the business to stay ahead of the game.

 

4. What kinds of travel experiences make for great article pieces? What are some must-have components for an engaging travel piece?

 

Stories that surprise, delight and inform. It doesn’t have to be Namibia or Bora Bora either (though it’s pretty nice reporting those stories) it can be your hometown. As long as there is a great narrative that takes the reader somewhere. The trick is finding that thread. The big trends now are strong first-person storytelling, experiences that place more emphasis on local culture over hotel amenities and service info, and round-ups, expanded photo galleries and integrated video for digital platforms.

 

5. Your career has also involved a passion in photography and video projects. Is a talent in visual media required or recommended for aspiring travel writers?

 

Eric HissI think on some level, yes. It doesn’t mean you have to be Ansel Adams, but with the prevalence of social media and a video-hungry travel audience, it means at the very least you are handy with your smartphone camera. For extra credit, tools like GoPro cameras, smartphone camera accessories and lightweight DSLR cameras make you more valuable to editors. It’s all part of what is now called backpack journalism.

 

6. You have co-founded a journalistic travel website called Wandermelon. How did this website come about? Additionally, how has this project influenced your career direction as a travel writer?

 

wandermelonI started it with my partners about five years ago out of a desire to dive-in and learn more about digital media from the ground-up, as well as develop an outlet that was our own vision. There are stories we want to tell that may not fit with a mainstream magazine, and now we have the freedom to share those, as well as showcase the work of some great writers who contribute to our site. It’s all made me become a bigger advocate of digital storytelling and believer in the power of mixed media (photography, video) to create more compelling travel content.

 

 

7. You’ve done an extensive line of work in copywriting and marketing communications. How has that influenced your career as a travel writer?

 

It’s actually really benefitted my career, especially now with the advent of vehicles like branded blogs. I do some work with tourism authorities and hotels writing blog content for them, and it really helps to have this sort of background to develop this specialized type of online presence for them.

 

8. You researched and wrote the Los Angeles edition of Chronicle Book’s “City Walks” guidebook series. How do you approach these walking tours creatively?

 

citywalkslaGuidebooks are a huge amount of work, but they give you bragging rights as an expert on whatever city, country etc. you write the book about. Besides teaching me that I could be more organized than I thought possible, I learned to use many resources that were lifesavers (thank you Google satellite view) and create unconventional ways of approaching neighborhoods talking not just to the usual suspects like hotel general managers, but waiters and security guards (they’ve seen it all).

 

9. You’ve traveled the world extensively. What was your most memorable trip?

 

Wow, so many have impressed me on different levels. I really can’t say there has been one, but three top moments for me have been seeing the Taj Mahal for the first time, walking Havana’s seawall with a cigar and mojito in hand and going on my first African game drive and watching lions snack on a water buffalo. Those are impressions I will carry forever.

 

10. What special travel-writing techniques will you be teaching in your class?

 

It can be overwhelming when you step off a plane and try to figure out where to begin. I will share a system I have developed over the years that allows you to break down your travels into marketable bits, so you immediately start categorizing your experiences into different opportunities you can sell to editors. I will also share what’s hot right now and what editors are looking for, and how to write a killer pitch letter that makes magazines want to send you a contract.

 

Thank you so much for that informative interview, Eric! Catch his class, “From Cheng Du to Timbuktu: A Travel Writing Workshop” at the Pad on June 22nd!

 

 

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TUB CHAT WITH SARA BENINCASA, QUEEN OF MEMOIR & YA

sarafront by Mikaela Gilbert-Lurie

 

As the old adage goes, truth is stranger than fiction, which certainly is the case in the memoir “Agorafabulous!: Dispatches From My Bedroom” by award-winning comedian Sara Benincasa. Her bitingly funny memoir is based on her critically acclaimed one-woman show about panic attacks and agoraphobia. But while she’s great at writing about her actual experiences, Sara also has a knack for making stuff up! Her YA Novel “Great” was named one of 15 YA Novels To Watch Out For This Spring by Buzzfeed and Teen Vogue. Sara has also written for xoJANE.com, has an advice column on Jezebel, and is an award-winning stand up comedian.
 
We’re thrilled to have Sara teaching several classes at Writing Pad, including a live online Memorable Memoir class starting July 13th and a one day From Heartache to Literary Break: Memoir class on August 16!

 

Sara took time out to talk to us about her work, her writing process, and which politicians she would like to bathe with.

 

1. Your memoir Agorafabulous! Dispatches From My Bedroom, demonstrates your penchant for discussing deeply personal topics with sharp humor and enough levity so that your audience feels overwhelmingly endeared to you. What advice would you give to someone who is trying to write a memoir about a serious topic in a lighthearted way?

 

I’d advise anyone to make sure you’ve done at least a good chunk of work in therapy first! Writing can be therapeutic but it shouldn’t be therapy, if that makes sense. Also, memoirists live twice — first in real time, next when we relive the event through our art. That can be difficult and painful and enormously fun all at once. So writing memoir is an emotional journey. And since humor is tragedy plus time, well, you’d better have a little distance from the events in question before you attempt to write about them in a funny way!

agorafab
2. What can students expect to learn if they take your Memoir or YA Classes?

 

Oh man, it’s gonna be a great time. They’ll learn what it’s like to be evaluated and edited by people who genuinely care about good writing. They’ll discover new things about themselves, their writing skills, and the stories they have locked inside them. They can also expect to have a lot of fun, to learn how to be accountable to themselves and others when it comes to writing, and to learn what my hair looks like on random afternoons.

 

3. You have a background in stand up comedy and storytelling. How did you transition to writing essays, articles and books? Has your performing career helped your writing career or vice versa?

 

I think a performing career can really inform a writing career. You learn to deal with rejection, to think fast, and to work really hard to get even the slightest chance at success. Writers need to know those things too!

 

4. What do you think the elements of a compelling memoir or YA novel are?

 

Story, story, story, story. Does it take me somewhere outside my own experience? Are there highs? Are there lows? Is there suspense or tension, even in the course of recounting something as prosaic as brushing one’s hair? These are all important elements, methinks.

 

5. Your YA novel Great is sort of a gender and sexuality-flipped, modern day version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. How did you come up the idea for this novel and what choices did you make to adapt it to a modern YA audience?

 

Well, I think Gatsby has a lot to say about power and class (I recognize I’m not saying anything revolutionary here!) And in my opinion, high school society is all about power and class. The cliquishness, the cunning, the little deceptions…all of it plays well in a tale about teens or fancypants high society adults. I loved Gatsby in high school for that reason, and when it came time to write a novel, I figured I could do a kind of feminist take on it by switching the main characters to teen girls.

 

great

 

6. What’s your writing process like? Take us through a day with you.

 

Fear. Panic. Terror. Screwing around on the Internet. More fear. More panic. More terror. Actually start writing. Get into a flow. Feel very happy. Write until I’m tired. Go to sleep. At some point I use the bathroom and drink a lot of iced coffee (generally in reverse order.)

 

7. What gave you the idea for your show, “Gettin’ Wet with Sara B.” And who would you rather get wet with, Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann?

 

I just wanted to do a talk show in a bathtub because it seemed like a good idea. At the time, it felt innovative. Now it’s just an excuse for me to get in the bathtub with humans. And I’d rather hang out with Bachmann, because she is crazier and therefore more interesting to me.

sara

 

8. You have more than 20,000 followers on twitter. What did you do to get so twitter popular and how can our readers follow in your social media footsteps?

 

Basically, you tweet at the right people who are kind enough to RT you. It helps to livetweet major sporting events and cultural events. Being political can help, too.

 

9. You once joked that you should write a cookbook called What to Bake After a Panic Attack. What are a few examples of recipes that would be in that book?

 

Probably bread. Just tons and tons of bread.

 

10. How do you push through writer’s block?

 

Oh, I whine about it a lot. And then I just do it. It’s the only way to push through. You just grind it out.

 

glover
 
Thank you so much for that informative interview, Sara! Catch her live online memoir class, starting July 13th, From Heartache to Literary Break: Memoir on August 16th!
 
 

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