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CHAT & CHOW: Writers Sivert Glarum & Michael Jamin

Welcome to CHAT & CHOW: a Q&A series. My one request for a writer who agrees to participate — the person has to either a) meet me at a food truck or b) have boba with me, or in this case c) send me a selfie while I go and indulge in boba from a food truck.

Sivert and Michael have always had a way of making me laugh. A lot. So it makes sense this little skill of theirs has kept them busy over the years writing/developing/running shows. In fact, you should check out their IMDB pages here and here.

While you’re at it, head over to Jamin’s wife’s children’s clothing company: TwirlyGirl, where Jamin writes the creative content for the site. As for TwirlyGirl Theatre’s original children’s short stories — which you can play directly from the site here or download as a FREE PODCAST from iTunes — yep, he wrote those, too.

And now…



1. When do you like to write?

MJ: When there’s a check attached.

SG: Morning is always the most productive. if we can start by ten, that’s great. After around two pm, we start feeling talked out and our brains start feeling fried.

2. When do you actually GET to write?

MJ: Sivert and I are both pretty disciplined. It’s been that way ever since we started working together 17 years ago — even when we weren’t getting paid. None of this burning the midnight oil crap for us. When you’re doing something creative, it’s important to be awake for at least some of it.

SG: When we are working on Maron, it can be pretty tight. Depending on the kids’ school schedules, hopefully we can grab and hour or so before the room starts. Then maybe some time at lunch, and some time after. If there are enough stories broken, we can shut the room down for a couple of days and everyone can take the entire day to write. That’s always the best scenario. When the show is down and Michael and I are working on other things, it all revolves around our kids’ schedules. Usually, we can do 10 - 2:30, then somebody needs to get picked up.

3. Not including the show/project you’re working on now, name a series you would love to write for:

MJ: I think 30 Rock is pretty brilliant. It’s so funny that I have to keep myself from laughing out loud, just so that I don’t miss the next joke. I imagine their table reads run very long, just because of the laugh spread. Of course, that show isn’t on the air anymore. But for the sake of this answer, I’m going to pretend like this interview was conducted last year.

SG: Futurama, Doctor Who. 30 Rock would have been amazing. Being on a good multi-cam show is the most fun on a day-to-day basis. The next fun would be a bad multi-cam.

4. One of the benefits of having a writing partner is having someone to bounce ideas off of — what’s an unexpected benefit of having one?

MJ: As a showrunner, there are plenty of times when you have to say no. That can make you pretty unpopular. So it’s nice to have someone you can look to and say, “Can you please just take care of this so people will like me again?” I also like taking credit for my partner’s ideas.

SG: Michael gets free rides to the car mechanic. I get a lot of unsolicited nutrition advice.

5. Every person has a unique “breaking in” story. Can you single out a sliding doors moment you feel would’ve taken your career in a different direction had it happened the other way?

MJ: When we were first trying to break in, we got selected for the Warner Bros. writing program. At the time, Warner Bros. dominated the sitcom landscape and even though we didn’t see ourselves as 8 pm family show writers, they had a lot of them and we just wanted to get staffed. The writing program met every Wednesday night. As you know, it never rains in Los Angeles. But every Wednesday night, it rained. That was an omen.

Early in the course, it became very clear who the executives saw as their “star” writers and it wasn’t us. Even though we kissed a lot of butts, no one at Warner Bros was buying it. Around the same time, we got an offer to write on Just Shoot Me. When Warner Bros. heard about that, they were suddenly interested in sticking us on one of their family shows. I’m not knocking those shows. People love them, and they should. It’s just not what I always dreamed of doing. Anyway, we had to beg and plead with Warner Bros to let us out of our contract so that we could go on Just Shoot Me. I remember that as being a very tense couple of weeks. In actuality, it was probably just two days. But two weeks sounds more dramatic.

SG: Michael’s and my path was one of dogged persistence. Of course, everyone needs a “break,” but for us that break was created by years of knocking on thousands of doors. Eventually, one of our scripts landed in a very large pile of scripts Steve Levitan’s assistant was reading for Just Shoot Me. We were at a nondescript agency and had an agent with no juice. It’s a miracle he even read it. When we got the meeting for the show, we crammed for it like it was the Bar Exam. We read the pilot script a dozen times, memorized jokes, knew the characters inside and out. Michael had an interesting anecdote about the Menendez Brothers, the rich kids who murdered their parents. We were determined to wedge those into the conversation. We wanted to do anything we could to stand out. We were determined to go into that room and TAKE that job. And even then, I’m sure it was a toss up for Levitan. There are just so many people out there.

6. When reading someone’s script, what’s the main thing that turns you off or keeps you from finishing it?

MJ: If I’m not completely hooked into the story by page 5, there’s no chance I’ll finish it. That might sound cruel, but I think it’s fair. We live in the age of the remote control. If the viewer isn’t engaged, they’ll change the channel. I think the same standard needs to hold on a spec script. I need to know who the hero is, what the obstacle is, and what his goal is. All three things. And if you don’t get me hooked by page 5, some other writer will.

SG: “Clams,” or over done joke areas like viagra, etc. If its a script for a broadcast/basic cable network — swearing. I guess some people find it edgy, but it definitely can’t air that way, so don’t waste people’s time. I’m not a fan of bleeping out words — it just reminds viewers of the limitations of the specific medium.

7. What’s the biggest rookie mistake you see writers in the room make?

MJ: I see this all the time: Young writers in their 20s, thinking they’re going to impress an older writer by shitting on his idea as if to say, “Look how smart I am? I just poked a hole in your pitch!” They think their actions are acceptable because they’re just mirroring the behavior of the showrunner. But the showrunner is the boss! It’s his or her job to steer the conversation in the room. We recently wrote a freelance episode for a new show on TVLand, so we sat in the room for a few days. There wasn’t anyone on that staff with less than 15 years of experience. And I have to say, it was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my professional career. All the writers were very funny, very smart, and above all, very respectful to each other.

SG: Now matter how nice people on the staff are, a new writer will find the room intimidating. Take your time, and don’t feel you need to contribute immediately. Young writers are often too scared to pitch jokes, but feel they need to say something. As a result they sometimes become the self-appointed “logic guy,” and feel their job is to point out holes in the story. Or they might point out that they saw a similar story on another program, and suggest the show steer clear of it. This is not the way to make a good impression. All this will do is build an association with your face and the death of fun. Or worse, longer hours. Don’t worry — if there are holes in the story, the higher up writers will eventually find them! Or sometimes the entire story area will disappear for other reasons entirely. When someone DOES find that hole you spotted, pitch a solution. There’s an expression in a room — “pitch, don’t bitch.” It’s always a good thing to keep in mind. When you’ve built up a reputation of being a solid contributor, then you can afford your self more freedom in tearing ideas down.

8. Your advice to writers in 3 words.

MJ: “The secret is”

SG: “Hang in there.” OR BETTER YET “Do something else.”

9. Multiple choice: What would creep out your writing partner more:
a) spiders
b) clowns
c) anatomically correct gelatin molds

MJ: None of those things would creep my partner out. In fact, I’m fairly certain he’s made love to all of them.

SG: Spiders, for sure. Especially black widows. I’m not sure if that’s evidence of wussitude or common sense.

Filed under tv screenwriting q&a Just Shoot Me Maron tv writers twirly girl sivert glarum michael jamin

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CHAT & CHOW: Writers Erin Maher & Kay Reindl

Welcome to CHAT & CHOW: a Q&A series. My one request for a writer who agrees to participate — the person has to either a) meet me at a food truck or b) have boba with me.

Today’s guests, writing team Erin Maher and Kay Reindl.

Check out their IMDB pages here and here.

Kay: “It’s not a writing team unless there’s a phaser stand-off.”

I met up with Erin and Kay for some food truck goodness to learn more about their latest project THE PATH, now up at IdeaBOOST.

The cool thing about IdeaBoost is how fans show support for a creator/creators’ project: not by giving money, but by giving VOTES. Votes are calculated through tweets, likes and boosts. The projects with the most boosts make it to the next round. And if you’ve seen the 60 second trailer for The Path then you know this project needs to make it to the next round.

Because The Path is described as a transmedia experience, I asked Erin and Kay what that means for the audience as well as what it means for them as the storytellers.

The transmedia project at IdeaBoost gives us a chance to work on something and get potential audience feedback along the way. It’s sort of turning your potential audience into your network/studio; they get to let you know what THEY want to see, and we get to interpret that creatively and bring them something that they can be a real part of. We did something like this on the show BAR KARMA for Current TV; on that show, the user base actually voted on stories that they wanted to see, and the writers turned those stories into actual scripts that could be shot and broadcast. With “The Path”, the audience gets to be in on the series from the very beginning, and contribute in even more creative ways.

Kay: We haven’t been involved in any digital projects yet but I’m convinced it’s going to be the primary driving force in storytelling. It may take awhile and it will evolve a lot, but that’s where we are headed. I think the primary advantage for storytellers is that it’s a new model, in that there is more immediacy. We are going to be more connected to the fanbase and there’s going to be a more natural give and take than there is in network television. Built into this project is the idea that the fans can get creative with the show and I like the promise that the gulf between the creators and the fans will be lessened. If we do get to make the show, it’ll be great for us as creators to see how we can use the digital platform to make our show more immersive and inclusive.



1. When do you like to write?

EM: I prefer writing either in the very early mornings, or the very late evenings/night. I have a hard time writing in the afternoons; I tend to run out of steam then and need to take a break and re-energize.

KR: I like to start around 10 AM and write for a few hours, take a break, then keep going. I have almost convinced myself that I’m super disciplined. This is a lie. When I’m actually writing dialogue and script stuff, I can go much longer than when I’m brainstorming or writing up outlines. I’d rather just write, frankly.

2. When do you actually GET to write?

EM: At the moment, WHENEVER I WANT! And at the moment it seems that the late nights are when I get things done.

KR: I pretty much get to write whenever, which sounds awesome, but isn’t!

3. One of the benefits of having a writing partner is having someone to bounce ideas off of — what’s an unexpected benefit of having one?

EM: An unexpected benefit of having a writing partner is that you always have someone to exchange those “this is weird, right?” looks with when something goes pear-shaped in the writers room… and you also have a shorthand that makes it faster when you want to communicate an idea or ask for feedback on something.

KR: When you’re in the writer’s room and you get a strange feeling about something, look at your writing partner, and see that she caught it, too. Also, a writing partner is someone who is going through the exact same thing professionally as you are. That can be invaluable in our business, which can be pretty isolating.

4. Every person has a unique “breaking in” story. Can you single out a sliding doors moment you feel would’ve taken your career in a different direction had it happened the other way?

EM: Kay should tell you our breaking in story if she hasn’t already… although I wouldn’t recommend any other writer try it that way. Also, if she does tell it, I would like to remind people that at the time that happened, we had already been writing together for some time and had scripts to show; you can’t get discovered at Schwab’s if you don’t have the goods.

KR: There are a lot! It really involves a chain of people and chance meetings, like passing a restaurant where a friend asked, on the spur of the moment, if I wanted to go to an awards show, where I met Glen Morgan, and then afterwards we got on Millennium. I always remember that as the perfect coincidence.

5. When reading someone’s script, what’s the main thing that turns you off or keeps you from finishing it?

EM: It’s probably opening a script and seeing a huge block of text that’s nothing but description. Your heart sinks, because you realize that someone thinks he’s writing a novel, and it’s going to be slow going (with rare exceptions, of course.) Aside from that, and this will sound weird, the mark of an unskilled writer is often… restaurant scenes. For some reason, every writer who’s starting out has at least one long scene in a restaurant that involves everyone ordering their food in great detail. One of the most valuable things we learned on our first job is to start a scene as LATE in the scene as possible; don’t show someone walking into a room, don’t show someone ordering pasta unless there’s something really important/significant/humorous about that moment, and just get to the point of the scene as soon as you can. I think those long moments of dithering/not getting to the point are signs of a writer who needs to improve his/her skills.

And the other thing: it’s easy now to do research on these things. Learn proper script format, and use it.

KR: Lack of voice. Story problems can be fixed. The lack of a voice is, to me, almost impossible to overcome. But that is just for me when I’m reading, especially for writing competitions. Imagine how many scripts agents, producers and executives read every week. Triple that. You have to be able to stand out, and an original voice is the way to do that. Also, please for the love of God, don’t open your script with two solid pages of backstory on the sixth galactic winter. And don’t use pictures. Also only use two brads (a joke from back when we had to physically hand people scripts that had been printed on actual paper).

6. What’s the biggest rookie mistake you see writers in the room make?

EM: We’re all passionate about our storytelling, but remember when you’re working on your first show, you’re working for the showrunner/studio/network. You are there to please them, even when they’re taking out the best line of dialogue you’ve ever written in your life. Roll with it. And when you get your own show, you can put that line of dialogue back in. It is not the end of the world. Make your pitch ONCE, and if it’s dismissed, give in gracefully. (I know it’s hard when you’re just starting out and you’re REALLY emotionally invested in your first script and suddenly your favorite thing is gone. It happens. Sometimes it’s budget. You have to live with it. It’s TV, Jake.)

Also, for male rookies: a male staff writer in his very first job does not outrank a female producer. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen people forget that/ignore it/not care.

KR: Oh, constant naysayer, please stop derailing stories just because they are not how you would write them! Seriously, if you don’t have anything constructive, if all you are doing is saying you don’t like things, then we agree not likely to get along.

7. Your advice to writers in 3 words.


KR: Write another script.

8. Multiple choice - Because writing teams have been compared to marriages, I decided to ask them a multiple choice question ala “Newlywed Game”:

Your partner is opening a store at the mall. What type of store is it?
a) Pet supply store
b) Coffee shop
c) Book store

Kay’s answer for Erin: c) book store
Erin’s answer for Kay: b) coffee shop

They were both correct.

To give The Path a BOOST: Go here. (Seriously, go. Tweet. Like. Boost)

Got questions about The Path? Ask Erin (@epmaher) and Kay (@KayReindl) via Twitter. Or leave one in the comments below.

You can also get updates from Kay’s blog here.

Filed under Millennium The Path Writing Team Writing q and a Legend of the Seeker ideaBoost

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CHAT & CHOW: Anne Marie Becker

Welcome to Chat & Chow: a Q & A series.

Confession: I’m beyond excited about today’s guest, writer Anne Marie Becker, for two reasons.

1. I’ve known her since the eighth grade.
2. She’s letting me do a giveaway!!!

Anne and I survived not only high school together, but also JROTC (shout out to the TX782nd), driving school (their motto: “We taught a burro to drive, people are easy” — not kidding), and a rather awkward double date freshman year.

Today, Anne’s an award winning author (not that any of the previous contributed to this…) Check out her website here.

Last year, Carina Press, a digital-first imprint from Harlequin, released Anne’s first book in the Mindhunters series, ONLY FEAR.
Scary stuff.

Her second novel in the series, AVENGING ANGEL was released just last month.

Seriously, not for the faint of heart.

Anne’s currently writing the third installment while also developing yet another series. Oh, and she accomplishes all this while having three young children at home.

I bow down to her.

The Q & A

1. When do you like to write?

Whenever inspiration strikes! (Wow, wouldn’t that be nice?)

2. When do you actually get to write?

Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., for the most part, and if I don’t feel I’ve done enough that day, I’ll tack on some time in the evening, about 9 - 10 p.m. I spend the first hour or two of the day responding to emails, putting in an appearance on social media, and getting a bit of exercise. I find exercising in the morning helps wake up both my brain and my body.

3. How the heck do you find time to write with three kids?

Good question. I’m not really sure how I finished those first couple manuscripts, when my kids were babies. Somehow, the work gets done if I make it a priority. And now that the kids are in school most of the day, it’s gotten easier (as long as I continue to make it a priority).

Setting goals is key for me – big ones, small ones…long term, short term. And then prioritizing them. Putting my writing in front of other things like laundry and dishes (unless they become the main goal that day because they threaten to overtake the household).

For a while, I felt guilty putting the writing first because I wasn’t making a lot of money at it. I viewed it as a hobby. Realizing that my writing is important to my sanity and relabeling it as a career helped a lot.

4. There are quite a few categories under the romance novel umbrella. What drew you to write “romantic suspense”?

If you look closely at the world of romance writing, you’ll find about eight to ten subgenres. Romantic suspense comes naturally to me because of what I grew up reading. The thrills of Stephen King, the mystery of Agatha Christie, and the romance of…well, whoever I could get my hands on. They all colored my writing style. I’m told my sense of pacing is natural to thrillers, as is my chilling portrayal of the villain’s point of view. In fact, people who know me are surprised at how “scary” I am in my writing.

5. Every person has a unique breaking in story. Can you single out a sliding doors moment you feel would’ve taken your career in a different direction had it happened the other way?

That’s a tough one. I’m not sure I’ve “broken in” yet, but I’ve definitely reached a few milestones. In 2009, I signed with an agent, won a major award, and got a real taste of the next “level” of submitting. I’d been toying with a contemporary manuscript (no dead bodies or big mysteries) but the agent was most interested in my romantic suspense manuscripts, so I continued within that market.

I almost gave up in 2010 when romantic suspense tanked as the economy went south. It seemed publishers weren’t as interested in taking a risk with debut authors and readers wanted happier, lighter stories when reality was so tough. Things seem to be turning around now and I’ve heard of more authors selling.

Each time I’ve been about to give up on my writing career (or, at the very least, take a break for a few months), something would happen to pull me back in or push me harder. In late 2010, I received the offer to publish with Carina Press. Another sliding-door moment. I love being published with them, and having the resources of Harlequin (Carina’s parent company) at my fingertips.

6. When reading someone’s manuscript, what’s the main thing that’s turns you off or keeps you from finishing it?

I so love a great voice, so I look for that when I start a book. But what keeps me from finishing something? Characters who act in a way that doesn’t make sense for them, or a story that doesn’t seem to go anywhere.

7. What’s the biggest rookie mistake you see writers make?

For unpublished writers, not starting in the right place in a manuscript, and not keeping things moving.

For published writers, getting lost in social media and promotion instead of creating the next great story.

8. Your advice to writers in 3 words.

How about a math equation?

(Great) Story + Persistence = Success

9. Multiple choice question: Spicy, sour or sweet?

AND she was our valedictorian.

Follow Anne on Twitter: @annemariebecker


To celebrate Avenging Angel’s recent release, Anne & Carina Press are being pretty dang cool by letting me give away a copy to one of my readers. All you have to do is leave a comment below stating which ebook format you’d like to read it in (Kindle or Nook) by midnight, Pacific time, on Sept. 3, 2012. A winner will be picked at random. Make sure you include your email address.

Filed under Anne Marie Becker Avenging Angel Carina Press Only Fear Romantic Suspense chat and chow q and a writing giveaway contest