I’m thrilled to bring back my Behind The Pen series. You might recognize this amazing actress from the Dolphin Tale series, but many may not know she is from Winston-Salem, NC and is an accomplished writer as well! Read on to hear more about why she loves writing, where she gets her inspiration, and much more.
What do you love about writing?
I love seeing worlds that have only existed in my head come to life on the page. There’s truly nothing more fulfilling than seeing a story I’ve lived with for a long time become a fully realized creation.
How did you get into the writing world?
I have wanted to become a writer for a long time but never felt like I knew how. After Dolphin Tale 2, my co-star Cozi Zuehlsdorff and her father dared me to try Stand Up Comedy because they found my stories really funny. So I did what I always do and found a class to teach me how to do Stand Up. I ended up not enjoying Stand Up itself as I’m quite the early bird and the late nights were too much for me. Also, I’ve never felt panic like that panic before getting onstage before a room full of strangers and having to make them laugh. But, Stand Up did what it was supposed to in my life and got me writing. A lot of the comedy content I’ve written came from jokes I wrote in Stand Up. Once I figured out that I didn’t want to do Stand Up anymore, I took several more writing classes geared towards film and TV script writing. I look back at my early scripts and cringe but they served their purpose in getting me behind a computer screen and also developing the discipline it takes to sit down and write a full feature script or pilot.
What top two challenges do you find in writing?
The two main challenges are the actual execution of an idea, fleshing it out and making sure I have enough to fill out either a ninety minute feature or a series. It’s always the toughest part trying to take a seed of an idea and allowing it space to grow into a full world and making sure each character has a life of it’s own. Usually my first drafts are filled with characters who aren’t shaped enough and don’t have wants that drive the story. Making them three dimensional human beings is very difficult, but also extremely rewarding once I crack the code and figure out who they are! Then there’s the “sitting down and writing it” part that always hangs over me like a cloud. It’s tough when you’re only a creative for a living. It feels like you should always be working and if the inspiration isn’t flowing easily then I feel guilty for taking the time to allow the ideas to expand. I feel like I should constantly be behind my screen typing. So giving myself permission after I finish a project before I move on to the next one is hard!
Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
I find inspiration everywhere. For my children’s book, that was based on my own life. For a few of my pilots, I pulled from my own family. My family is hilarious and has some fantastic characters, so coming up with material for a comedy I wrote about my parents was easy. For other scripts, I pull inspiration from news stories, magazine ads I see that make my mind wander, different situations I’ve been in or my friends have been in… I really find the idea part very easy. It’s the execution part that is arduous.
What is 1. The most challenging thing you’ve written and why and 2. The favorite thing you’ve written and why?
1. The most challenging thing I’ve ever written was a drama pilot I wrote because the classes I had taken were on comedy writing. The structure of drama series pilots/scripts is very specific and it was completely foreign to me. Even though I watch drama all the time, I had no clue where to begin when writing it. Thankfully a friend asked if I wanted to join a drama pilot writing class which I of course joined immediately and at least accomplished a first draft. 2. My favorite thing I’ve written at the moment is my first produced screenplay, “A Country Romance” because it was the first time I’ve seen my words create an entire world that other professional artists poured their own talent into. It was by far the most artistically rewarding experience I’ve ever had.
If you could give an upcoming writer, one piece of advice what would it be?
Figure out a discipline structure that works for you so that even when you’re not feeling particularly inspired, you’re still able to
write. For me, I have certain music I listen to and I set a timer for 50 minutes and shut off all distractions and just write. When I do this, the inspiration usually follows a short time later. It’s all about creating a routine that allows the creativity to arrive. Structure doesn’t just help screenplays, it helps the writer too!
Where can people go to see more of your work?
Right now the only thing people can readily see is the children’s book, “The Miracle Tree” that was published in 2019. It can be found at www.themiracletreebook.com. Hopefully before too much longer, people can watch movies that I’ve written/co-written. A comedy feature I co-wrote is being filmed in December of 2021.