Amy Wilson: On blogging, "Page To Stage" at BlogHer, and...her sitcom?
By AnnsRants on August 01, 2011
On Friday Amy Wilson and I will lead a workshop at the annual BlogHer conference (the mother of all blog conferences) called "From Page To Stage." I took a moment to interview her so attendees can learn a little bit about Amy's background, and know what to expect from our session.
You've had a successful career as an actress--appearing on stage and screen. What prompted you to start writing and performing your own work?
I did speech and debate in high school, and my coach (much to my chagrin) made me compete in Original Oratory, with speeches I wrote, rather than doing a scene from "Agnes of God" or "Night, Mother," which seemed much more interesting to me at the time. But doing that taught me how to write, and how to get my point across in performance. And I've used those skills ever since.
I started writing solo shows as soon as I got to New York City after college- my first one was about my 8th grade diary. Then I wrote three others, the last being "Mother Load." Honestly, many of the big breaks that happened for me as an actor were because I could write stuff for myself to perform. No one knows better than you what you are capable of.
How has motherhood shaped your career?
It's changed it completely. I had two kids in three years, which became three kids in five years, and I couldn't fly to LA to work anymore, and then people kind of stopped calling, and my auditions dried up. That was completely frustrating, although I pretty much knew that's how it would play out.
What I couldn't predict was that writing ABOUT my life as a mother would open up an entirely new career for me. I did a national tour of my show. I discovered blogging. I wrote for magazines. I wrote a book. I never knew I could do any of that stuff, and honestly, I love all of it more than I loved having two scenes a week on a sitcom. It's been much more fulfilling. (Not to mention the parenting part.)
When did you start blogging? What were some of the first blogs you read? How has blogging informed your other work?
I started my "Mother Load" blog as a companion piece to my show , so people who visited the website would have a reason to stick around. My press person told me to start it, so I did. This was four years ago. I had no idea what I was doing. It was a new world for me; I mean, I had never even heard of Dooce. The first blog I started to follow was the first blogger who followed me! Missy at The Marketing Mama (marketingmama.com). Then I met Stephanie from Adventures in Babywearing at a speaking event I did, and I remember she handed me a business card. Then the light began to dawn that blogging was, and could be, a career-- and it was a world I wanted to commit to and know more about.
How did you come up with the idea for "page to stage?"
I feel like performing our writing, either in person or on the radio or on a podcast, is something more and more bloggers and writers are being asked to do-- and if you can do it well, it can really take you places. (David Sedaris's career and book sales took off after he read aloud from his "Santaland Diaries" on NPR.) However, it's not an automatic skill-- just because you write well doesn't mean you know how to perform your own writing. In a way, it's something you learn by doing-- you have to get up in front of an audience in order to understand how to do it. But I think you and I each have some been-there-done-that wisdom we will be able to impart.
What can attendees expect when they attend the Page to Stage session at BlogHer next week in San Diego?
You and I are going to talk about how to choose the best material; the differences between writing to be read and writing to be heard; how to edit material for live performance; how to deal with stage fright (also known as abject panic); and how to create your own opportunities to perform.
Then we'll have a few brave volunteers get up and read something they've brought along so we can give them totally positive and constructive feedback (and major props for getting up in front of us). Hopefully we'll have time to read our writing in some smaller groups as well, for those who might not be ready for a big group.
Do you have any new projects in the works?
Yes! My book When Did I Get Like This? has been optioned by a studio to be made into a sitcom. I've been working on that script all summer, and after BlogHer, will be heading to LA. I'm going to have to "pitch" in the room to network executives-- in other words, perform my writing for a conference-room audience of five, and try to help them envision what this show could be like on the air. Once again, being able to perform my writing will hopefully serve me well.
Thank you Amy. I have no doubt you will charm the suits right off those execs--as awkward as that sounds. If you haven't read Amy's book, buy it for the plane or for your last beach read of the summer. As witty as she is smart, reading Amy's book is like talking to one of your best mom friends over a strong beverage--with no pesky hangover!
If you are coming to BlogHer, please join us Friday Aug. 5th at 1:15 pm for "From Page To Stage." Then put your new-found skills to good use at the BlogHer/LTYM Open Mic Salon at 8pm in the Serenity Suite.