• Put the Book Down and Listen

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    Today’s (and tomorrow’s — and hell, maybe even Friday’s) blog post comes from intern Brett Fowler, who will be holding down the WBN fort for the next couple of days. This is the first half of a two-part post.


    I cannot tell a lie.

    Actually, that in itself is a lie. I’m pretty capable of spinning a mean web of untruths whenever the occasion calls for it. So let me be frank with you when I share a little secret I’ve been harboring for quite some time now: I don’t enjoy reading. Not much, not a little bit, hell maybe not even at all.

    As a writer, this is some sort of cardinal sin, a clear violation of the code of writerly conduct. How can a writer write, you say, without first understanding the fruits of her own labor? Somehow, someway, I’ve learned to manage. Perhaps because my childhood was relegated to hours upon hours of staring away at a television screen I repelled books like they were the second coming of the black plague. I once recall crying when my mother attempted to read a Berenstein Bears book out loud to me. Why, oh why would she torture me like this when I could simply turn on a switch and see the Berenstein Bears come to life on the TV?

    Maybe I repelled books because it was also some subconscious way of subverting my parents’ authority. They, unlike myself, seemed to enjoy reading whenever possible for some reason way beyond my comprehension, and subsequently ordained an entire room of our house to their prolific collection of literature. Despite the fact that I had a whole library of reading material at my fingertips, the only reason I ever visited our library was to access the Internet and get my daily fill of fan fiction reading for hours on end about whether or not Mulder and Scully would ever kiss or if Joey would finally choose Dawson over Pacey. Books were too time-consuming, too painful for my youthful soul to bear and thus, I sought my daily fix of imaginative story-telling from the television screen.

    Needless to say, for much of my life television was always something of a surrogate mother for me. Not to say that my mother wasn’t a great mom. She was. I just always felt an odd compulsion towards the TV, fascinated for hours on end by epic tales of FBI agents chasing the paranormal or seemingly normal children caught in the midst of a wacky family. Television shows were my books. Some might call television a platform to brainwash the youth of the world, some might say it’s the end of high culture, but I say TV is much the same as a good book (so long as the show is not, say, Paris Hilton’s My New BFF). Scripted television has never been better, particularly on cable stations where shows like Breaking Bad and Mad Men continue to dazzle and redefine the boundaries of modern screenwriting. While movies are said to be a director’s medium, TV is slowly but surely proving itself to be a writer’s medium. Heck, the most successful author in the course of history (other than God/ Jesus/ whoever wrote the Bible or whatever) preferred the medium of the screenplay over any other format. No doubt, if good ol’ Willie Shakespeare lived in today’s times, he would be a television screenwriter.

    By no real surprise, I always had a fond inclination for writing dialogue, beginning at an uncanny age. While the other kids at school were struggling to properly form cursive letters, I was too busy writing stories filled to the brim with ill-formatted dialogue to partake in tracing cursive letters in shaving cream on my desk. Looking back upon it now, writing dialogue was merely a way for me to transcribe the endless conversations my imaginary characters were conducting in my brain, and ultimately the first sign that writing was truly in my blood.

    When my parents read my first true short story, something loosely based off of a crappy Christina Ricci movie where she and the chick from My Girl get stuck in a cave, I think that’s when they first knew, without a doubt, that I was destined to become a writer. Though my story was a blatant rip-off of the Christina Ricci movie, it ended up winning a few contests. I shrugged these contests off as no big deal, but in all honesty, they really were quite a feat.

    This casual avoidance of my writing talents was not just a first grade phase, rather it was the beginning of a roughly fifteen-year period in which I did everything in my power to disavow writing altogether. By the time I reached my eighth birthday I had already begun choosing my future careers. These ranged anywhere from an ill-fated seal trainer to a WNBA player to a powerful district attorney to an FBI agent. Never did I once consider becoming a screenwriter. Even at the tender age of eight I knew that screenwriting was certainly not a career I could make a real living off of, even in between my winters of playing for the WNBA and summers of autopsying corpses for the federal government.


    As a contributing member of both The New Movement Improv Theater and the Austin Screenwriters Group, an immense fondness for and love of pop culture starting from an unhealthy age has equipped Brett Fowler with the skills necessary to avoid facing reality. One day she hopes to finally end her six-year-long “journey of self-discovery” at the University of Texas at Ausin and funnel her liberal arts degree into a screenwriting career, or at the very least, gainful unemployment.

    In her spare time (when not making preparations for the inevitable zombie apocalypse), Brett enjoys volunteering at the local animal shelter, watching marathons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Battlestar Galactica, and, of course, writing.

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