by Tqwana Brown
Jill Wisoff is best known for songs and score for Todd Solondz’s Welcome to the Dollhouse, a Sundance Film Festival winner. A graduate of Bennington College, she has co-starred in film, performed off and off-off-Broadway and in musical stock, and has had screenplays optioned and in development. She produced, co-wrote and directed the SAG feature film Creating Karma, which won two best feature comedy awards on the festival circuit before its official theatrical opening in Los Angeles. Her documentary about downtown Manhattan after 9/11, The Day After, is in the permanent archives of Tribute New York and the library of the USS New York, built with the steel from the World Trade Center. She is currently writing novels, lives in Greenwich Village with one cat, and has begun a blog at http://www.jillwisoff.com.
How long have you been a member of the WNBA-NYC? How did you get involved with the organization?
I’ve been a member for about a year. I got involved when members of a “sister” organization to which I belong, New York Women in Film and Television (NYWIFT), were invited to sign up for the query roulette.
As an aspiring author, how important are organizations like the WNBA to learning about the industry, getting published, making connections, improving your craft, etc.?
WNBA and similar organizations give grounding to aspiring writers. They disseminate information about jobs and writing workshops. They offer dozens of networking opportunities (as well as a directory). Writing is a solitary path. Many of us spend much of our waking lives doing it. It’s important at times to babble about our process and reciprocate, to step away from our computers, to share our writing lives with others who have the same passion. WNBA is a wonderful support network that cultivates readers, writers, and the professional industries that service both.
At a seminar on children’s literature, the lively discourse between industry heavyweights, successful authors and aspiring writers, was a real-world education on what sells in that genre. Every month, members are invited to do book reviews of new releases for the WNBA newsletter, The Bookwoman; recently, I had such a review accepted for publishing. I call that an opportunity!
Can you tell us more about your writing? Are you working on anything specific at the moment?
I’m working on a novel and its sequel about teenage girls, best friends from the East Village, who struggle to overcome their legacy of neglect when they’re torn away from New York City.
As a musician, I performed with many who came out of the original New York punk scene. The tragic consequence of the “sex, drugs and rock’n’roll” lifestyle on the children of some is what moved me to write these stories.
What has the transition been like moving from working on screenplays to writing novels?
I didn’t spring into the world a screenwriter like Athena a warrior, full grown and armed from Zeus’s forehead. I’d studied play-writing and had experience as a director of playwrights, gently guiding them from first readings through polished Equity showcases. I moved into screenwriting following a stint as a film composer. I’d talked a producer into developing a film based on the story of a Maasai warrior and, unable to secure writing talent with a looming deadline to produce or lose rights, volunteered myself. Six weeks later I’d finished my first full-length script.
I intended to produce my next on a minimal budget with minimal actors, on the cheap. I sat down in front of my laptop and something wasn’t clicking. In an odd twist of logic I decided to write a novel first and adapt that to the screenplay. Soon after, I read Kerouac’s On the Road, embarrassed I’d not earlier as it was a staple of my generation. It reset something in my brain chemistry, sort of zapped my “writing-on” button. From that day forth I would wake up writing, fall asleep writing. The novel became the thing, not the Franken-screenplay I’d planned to extricate in a manner akin to ripping organs from a healthy body.
Unlike playwriting and screenwriting, literary prose is a much vaster, richer and challenging medium. I’m extremely humbled at the amount of effort, revising, and sheer sweat-work that goes into creating literary fiction. Grammar isn’t the baby thrown out with the bathwater as it can be in a script. I look forward to waking up every day to write. I love it so much I decided to go back to graduate school for my MFA in Creative Writing. I’ve been accepted into the New School, to begin in the fall of 2013, with a concentration in fiction.
You’ve attended Query Roulette for the past 2 years. What were those experiences like? What was the most valuable thing(s) you learned?
I received one-on-one time with well-respected literary agents. I received advice on my pitch, novel excerpt, and what a publisher looks for as far as genre and “voice”. The most valuable thing I learned is to write a pitch so any moron can understand it – to create a hook that’s short and packs a punch. At both Query Roulettes I received an agent offer to submit my work for consideration.
Can you give us a preview of your Bookwoman book review?
“In Ashen Winter, Mike Mullin’s sequel to Ashfall (his well-received first novel of a YA dystopian trilogy about a neo-ice-age) an explosion of the Yellowstone super-volcano has cooled Earth’s atmosphere…In this niveous landscape, sixteen-year-old Iowan, Alex Halprin, living with sister Rebecca on Uncle Paul’s farm in Illinois, ventures forth to find his parents….”
What’s your favorite word?
Pusillanimous. It’s a word I memorized while cramming for the GREs in my last term of college and it stuck; a word for a haughty dowager that would only appear in a fictional world of flounces and petticoats.
What are you currently reading?
The Horned Man by James Lasdun, The Copyeditor’s Handbook by Amy Einsohn, and This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman.