Susan Steadman has written for and about the stage throughout several decades as a professional theatre practitioner. Her wide-ranging plays include The Cinderella Chronicles (YouthPLAYS, 2012), performed in five countries, and The Thing with Feathers, which recently appeared in the South Florida Arts Journal and was presented at a national theatre convention. Susan’s competition-winning dark comedies, such as Filling Spaces and Tuesdays We Go to Playgroup, have delighted audiences from New Jersey to Texas. Her publications include Dramatic Re-Visions (ALA), a critically lauded reference work; magazine and journal articles; and contributions to books including Notable Women in the American Theatre. With a Ph.D. in Theatre from LSU, she has taught at universities, schools, camps, and conferences. Along the way, she has staged nearly seventy productions and served as artistic director of a professional theatre for sixteen years. A Dramatists Guild member, she resides in Wilmington, where she launched the Port City Playwrights’ Project.
Susan will lead a workshop at the North Carolina Writers' Network 2013 Fall Conference titled, "Creating Compelling Characters: What Playwrights Can Learn from Actors." Many approaches to acting also provide valuable tools for the playwright. This workshop will focus on motivation, subtext, choices and economy. Guidelines to improvisation, such as “show, don’t tell,” will also be explored. Through the analysis of short scripts and in-session writing exercises, participants will gain insight into the development of unique characters.
What was your favorite book as a child?
If you weren’t a writer, what kind of job would you like to have?
What’s one piece of advice no one gave you when you were starting out, that you wished they had?
You need to be tough.
Any memorable rejections?
To paraphrase Tolstoy: All acceptances are similar. Each rejection is memorable in its own way.
Hemingway wrote standing up; Truman Capote wrote lying down. What posture do you write in?
Slouched back in my desk chair, legs sprawling, when thinking. Hunched over my keyboard when actually writing.
The Cape Fear Coast is a hotbed for the film industry. In your opinion, what has been the best book-to-screen adaptation?
For the most part, as we all know, a film can’t compare to a book. I’m drawing a blank here.
What was the worst?
I don’t know where to start! Memoirs of a Geisha made a fascinating book into a boring film I couldn’t continue watching—but that’s just one of many.
Why do you feel it’s important for writers to attend conferences such as the NCWN Fall Conference?
Writers need to discover and recharge, and the conference offers a number of opportunities: meeting other writers and engaging in informal conversation that may be dotted with “aha” moments; attending specific workshops and discovering an approach or tool you can adapt to/use in your own work; getting away from your office (or alcove or kitchen table) and, especially for those with families, enjoying “me” time.
Do you have pet peeves as a reader? As a writer?
As a reader, I have no tolerance for grammatical errors. Reading local newspapers, for example, has become painful. As a writer of stage plays, my pet peeve is productions which ignore my instructions.
Are you scheduled in the time you set aside to write, or is your writing time more flexible than that?
Yes and yes (sorry). I usually write from mid-morning until 2:00 or so, when I break for exercise, snack, or both. On the other hand, inspiration may hurl me into my office at any time of day or night. I’ve also known productive bouts writing on a legal pad at the hairdresser’s or while a passenger on a long car trip.
Do you write to discover, or do you write point-to-point (for example, from an outline)?
I start in discovery mode—“What might happen if?”—then move to an outline (or at least a list of plot points and character traits). All too soon, the characters take on a life of their own, and I can be heard yelling at the screen: “No, I didn’t want you to do that!”
What was the first thing you ever published?
Feature articles in the newspaper of the town in which I attended college.
Who is your favorite North Carolina author?
As a relative newcomer, I’m still working on this one. North Carolina is home to an incredible number of talented writers.
Registration for the North Carolina Writers' Network 2013 Fall Conference is now open.