Jorjeana Marie: An Interview for Improv for Writers

Improv is for everyone even if you don’t realize your doing it. People improv speeches, and everyday encounters. We are all actors at some points in our lives. As my day job I have to become the greatest pretender in certain times of the day to encourage and engage young people. Jorjeana Marie is an incredible storyteller and has done so much in her career. She’s an actress, teacher and now an author. Her first book "Improv for Writers” is a great guide for all people. Whether your a writer or not. She takes very common techniques from the improv world and applies it to writing.

Buy her book HERE!!!

Who are you and what do you do? 

Jorjeana Marie Photo courtesy of Ten Speed Press

Jorjeana Marie Photo courtesy of Ten Speed Press

Oh my! I like to simplify by saying I’m a professional storyteller. It encompasses the variety pack of creativity I LOVE to keep myself active in. I am an author, an actress, a teacher. I narrate a lot of audiobooks. Over 300. And now, one from a book I wrote. That was a very surreal and magical experience...

How did you come up with the idea to apply improv techniques to writing?  

While I was attending the San Diego Comic Con one year, I was asked by the non- profit group Scriptwriter’s Network to pitch them an idea of a panel for writers. Since my focus has been on teaching improv, the idea just sort of tumbled out-all improvised, actually. I had been working on a book (still am) about how the rules of improv are great rules for a well-lived life, you know? So, I knew how malleable and generous the art form is, so it came together like the most fun kind of improvised scene on stage - organically.

What were some of your challenges with writing this book?  

Writing and working with my editor on deadlines while also writing on a television show and a feature for Writer’s Digest at the same time and juggling narrating other author’s beautiful works of fiction. (NOT complaining, I did develop writer’s neck, tho and had to readjust my whole office, because I was writing more at one time than I ever had before for completely different mediums and on three CLOSE deadlines.)


What was the book writing process like? 

IFW-concepts-4

 Fluid. It spilled out. I started with rules and focused on that. And I had this idea that I would approach games focusing on story elements like dialogue, character, etc. and had even written it, but I worked with an amazing editor Chandika Devi at KN Literary on my book proposal and we sort of agreed that that might be a separate book, a follow up, perhaps? But I guess there’s a reason for things… My amazing and insightful editor Lisa Westmoreland at Ten Speed Press was thinking the same thing about story elements when she looked over my proposal. She wrote me asking if I would consider covering those areas in the book and because I had already written them and taken them out based on my proposal editor’s advice, I was able to email them immediately. 

But it didn’t stop even once my editor and copy editor went through our final passes. I was still making some changes while I recorded the audiobook. And thank goodness my audiobook director and producer were game to include them on the next printing, because I found a few things I wanted to add. Recording the book inspired me to write more about certain parts of the book and got me excited to come up with more games and so I’m working to include those as additional material available in my newsletter and my website. 

I realized in working on the book and audiobook through this process that I am really excited to see new and experienced writers shake up their routine, try something they’ve never done before and create like wild-free-beasties! There’s so much creativity in all of us, and when we have permission, are encouraged, are supported-that individual creativity can really shine forth like a beacon. I offer up the games and loads of support, but it is ultimately up to each of us to lift a corner and see what we find under the tarp. I love hearing the stories uncovered with these exercises by friends, I love uncovering them myself. 

I am so grateful for improv.

With all the workshops and events you have had over the years what is your go to writing techniques you've used in the past?

 I always begin with one of two things if I am looking for a starting point. 

  1. Place/setting 

  2. Character

If I am pitching episodes for one of the animated shows I write on and I know the characters rather well, I start thinking of fun places to put them. I do, just like I would on stage, and try out the simple improv step of getting the audience to give my improv team a suggestion of a specific place like “water-park”. And I just ask my brain/the cosmos/infinite idea-land for some suggestions of colorful places to take these characters. Then, after I’ve got a list-perhaps I really like the ‘water-park’ suggestion that came up in this brainstorming session, that is lasting about a minute or two, I might use that as a jumping off point, a place to ‘dive in’ heh he! 

I don’t stop myself or judge those ideas. I try not to even think, that’s not right for this tv show, I just let the ideas roll and when I’m done, pick the ones that are the most fun to pitch. 

Or, I think about the characters and situations I’d like to see them get into. If I don’t have a fully developed character, I work on fleshing out this person, the way an actor might. Just getting to know them and all about them using different exploratory exercises. I lay a few out in the book, but there are just oodles of them in existence in improv, and I might even take one, change it up to suit what I need in the project and build from there. Improv is so very flexible and infinitely giving, so I often turn to it if I’m ever just staring at that blank screen. And it’s not blank for long.


Do you have any stories to share about different workshops you've held where you have used techniques in this book? 

Just that every time I play these games with other people I am always so amazed with what people come up with. When I’ve played with friends, I’m just tickled by their incredible imaginations. The same way it was when I was teaching improv to new and experienced performers. Magic ensues!

What do you love about writing and performing?

 I love disappearing. Going away into a very magical place. And then I really like coming back, refreshed, illumined, surprised and then sharing and connecting with others in a meaningful way. But, oh! I didn’t start out like that though. When I was a teen on stage in NYC, I think I just wanted attention. TBH. I wanted the only currency I was currently trading in: laughs. But, the longer you stick with any art form, the more it brings to you, the more it fills you up, so you don’t need so much anymore, (so much attention) and when you do, you have a reserve from all that creativity. You’re okay. And that’s what I think a lot of us writers and performers want - to be okay. I love that art can be a salve for the soul.

What's next for you? 

Words. Emotions. Lots of words and feelings. Always. I’ve got several children’s books that are complete and my husband, Phillip Mosness and I have a production company (Autumn Leaf Productions) and my children’s show Bubble Chicken is one of a few on our development slate. 

 

Fun questions

If you were stuck on an abandoned island what five items would you want with you?

 

  1. Ipad still connected to the library with magical long-lasting battery so I can read FOREVER 

  2. copy of Anna Karenina for when it dies. (or other long book - I’m open)

  3. acoustic guitar (extra strings)

  4. sunglasses 

  5. deck of cards (love me some solitaire)


If you could perform on any stage where would it be? 

Oooh, as someone who has performed a lot, it’s tough to narrow it down. I love performing in Canada because they’re so warm and giving and laugh laugh laugh. But I’ve also enjoyed being onstage at Comic Con performing Much Ado About Mean Girls with some amazing actors/literary friends. But now that I’ve thought about it? The Globe. London.