I was a reluctant debutante. When I received an invitation to join the Spinsters Club of Staunton, Virginia I told my mother I didn’t want to do it. Too snobby. “But Ann,” my mother said (insert thick Virginia accent), “your grandmother would be disappointed.” So I put on the white dress and long gloves and, carrying a bouquet of red roses, allowed my father to escort me across the ballroom floor. I felt like a fraud – my family had been in Staunton for generations, but we weren’t upper crust-y. My grandfather had been the managing editor of the local paper and my parents met there working as reporters. Being a deb didn’t feel like me. But surprise, surprise – I ended up having a great time. In spite of the white dress and long gloves.
I grew up in a house filled with typewriters. And being around reporters was fun – every time the phone rang it meant a potential story. The J. C. Penney’s is on fire! There’s been a terrible car crash on Barterbrook Road! When I was in the Brownies, we took a bus trip to McCormick’s Mill (where Cyrus McCormick invented the reaper) and passed a group of law enforcement officers trying to fish something out of a river with a hook. When we arrived at McCormick’s Mill I told our troop leader I needed to use the phone. I called my father and told him what I’d seen. “I think it was a body, Daddy.” He got the scoop.
So it made sense I’d be a writer. I was always making up stories and writing plays but drawing, too. For years I imagined myself as a writer/artist for MAD magazine. In college at the University of Virginia I discovered film – the perfect blend of writing and art. After getting an MFA in screenwriting from UCLA, I started to work in film and television.
Sometimes I can’t believe how lucky I am. You have to feel pretty blessed when you get paid for doing something you love.
Not that you love it all the time. Some days it’s like going to the dentist. A blank page in a Word document has the appeal of Joffrey Baratheon. Notes from a producer threaten to make your head explode – “Couldn’t the female character be a man instead? Or maybe a horse.” I’ve written films that have never seen the light of day. And a few that should never have seen the light of day. I’ve written for great TV shows that were successes. Great TV shows that failed. TV pilots that almost got produced, but just missed the cut. But in spite of the negatives, I keep telling stories. Because that’s what I do.