television writers

My Favorite TV Writing Book Authors (Post 19)

I’m a fan of television writers.  Ever since the birth of HBO, tv writing has become a strong contender for today’s top screenplays in my mind.  The stories are good.  The dialogue sometimes great.  What’s even more interesting to me are tv writers who have also written books.  I like the idea of being able to write across genres.  Is it easy to do?  No way, which makes it all the more fascinating in my mind.

 

For today’s post, I’m going to talk a little bit about the tv writing / book authors who have caught my eye as of late.  All of the author / book titles point to their Amazon pages, if you you’re looking for some winter reading.

 

Suzanne Collins: The Hunger Games.  Okay, I don’t think you can write about a topic like this without mentioning Suzanne Collins.  Suzanne originally wrote for Nickelodeon and you can only imagine that she must’ve written for some kind of Lord of the Flies, killing-machine type program that none of us have ever seen because we can drive cars and are therefore out of their demo.  Not so.  She wrote on those typical Nickelodeon shows with nicety-nice characters instead.  Suzanne came up with the idea for The Hunger Games, while doing the must mundane of things – flipping channels.  One day, she was flipping between a reality show and war footage when the idea came to her.  The rest is author, gang-buster, trilogy, best-selling, history.  She’s also 50 years old.  I guess you could say I dig her.  And hey, I’ve got some time to get to 50.  (sigh.)

 

Rob Thomas: Veronica Mars.  Rob did the whole entry into television writer-hood backwards.  He wrote a young adult novel first and then sent it to a tv producer who eventually helped him get staffed.  Rob then wrote and sold the teen sensation/ spy show, Veronica Mars.  While, I like Veronica Mars, I’m not a huge fan of the program.  I am, however, a huge fan of Party DownParty Down, a hysterical half hour show (now currently off the air) chronicled the day-job of a group of out of work actors in a catering company.  It’s my modern day, Alice.  The other thing that appeals to me about Party Down?  Rob Thomas shot it himself, in his own house, after having trouble selling the pilot.  So, after you sell your own show, you STILL have to produce your own work.  It never ends.  (sigh.)  Rob’s earliest published work was, Rats Saw God.  Check it out, but check out Party Down first.

 

 

Jill Soloway:  Tiny Ladies, In Shiny Pants.  There are some women who are laugh out loud funny.  Jill Soloway is that and her book, Tiny Ladies, In Shiny Pants, is like Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Bitch with a sense of humor.  It’s a must read for everyone with a vag and for a couple of you vag-less vag-lovers out there.  On top of a super funny book, Jill wrote for Six Feet Under.  In my mind, Six Feet Under was one of the best television shows of all time.  Not too shabby.  She caught the eye of creator Alan Ball by writing a super-hilarious essay called, “Courtney Cox’s A**hole.”  If you can locate it online, it’s well worth the search.

 

Mindy Kaling:  Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?  I’m a fan of Mindy’s.  I’m a fan of anyone who finds a way to circumvent the system.  Mindy did that with her NYC fringe hit play, “Matt and Ben” – a funny look at the success of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, if you’re not familiar with it.  From there, Mindy was hired as a writer for The Office.  Mindy’s book is funny and girly, in a good way.  She’s a nostalgia queen and a self-deprecating, every-girl.  My only gripe with her involved an interview that I heard on Marc Maron’s “Wtf” comedy podcast.  There she seemed to think that stand up comedy was an easy feat to attempt.  After watching a night of particularly bad comics, Mindy gave it a go and I’m sure, did rather well.  What always bothers me is the “famous five.”  When you’re famous and you “try” stand up like John Mayer and others have, people are going to laugh, mainly because they RECOGNIZE you or recognize your name.  That’s not the same as being a nobody and being funny.  That takes work and skill.  But, otherwise, I’ll read and see everything Mindy does.

 

maria semple book

Next up on my list…

 

Maria Semple:  Where’d You Go, Bernadette  I have yet to read Maria Semple’s novel.  But, it’s next on my list.  First off, I’m impressed that it’s a novel, as I find fiction more difficult than memoir or non-fiction.  Secondly, Maria wrote for the comedy Arrested Development among others.  If that’s not comedy writer cred than I don’t know what is.  Here’s what the NY Times had to say about her book:

 

“The tightly constructed “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” is written in many formats — e-mails, letters, F.B.I. documents, correspondence with a psychiatrist and even an emergency-room bill for a run-in between Bernadette and Audrey. Yet these pieces are strung together so wittily that Ms. Semple’s storytelling is always front and center, in sharp focus. You could stop and pay attention to how apt each new format is, how rarely she repeats herself and how imaginatively she unveils every bit of information. But you would have to stop laughing first.”

 

I mean, if that doesn’t make you want to read it than I don’t know what will.

 

Anyway, those are my thoughts for the day.  What about you?  Any other tv writing/ book authors I should know about?

 

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Sweet Mother is updated daily-ish on the quest to 365 posts.  You can follow this blog through email, by clicking “follow” at the top of the page.

 

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Photo creds:

Maria Semple, feature

 

23 thoughts on “My Favorite TV Writing Book Authors (Post 19)

  1. Dear SM, what strikes me about all your examples is that they found a way to express themselves first and found a box to fit it into afterward. I’ve been saying to my daughter for years not to worry about finding a job, because she’ll be the one creating what she’s meant to do – she’s not a filler to be put into some available slot. And neither are you. Yes, by all means look at what’s been done: as inspiration to do that which you, and you alone, are meant to do! All the very best to you, darling! xoxoM

    1. margs, that is so well said. seriously. in fact, jill soloway – who i am a huge fan of – has a hilarious end-of-her-book chapter where she talks about her advice on how to ‘break into the business.’ it’s all tongue and cheek and very funny, but the biggest takeaway for me was MAKE SOMETHING. KEEP MAKING THINGS. IT’S ONLY BY MAKING THINGS THAT YOU BREAK THROUGH. so, that is what i’m going to try and hold on to in the coming year. i think it’s one of the very few things that works. loool. xo, sm

  2. I think some of the best writing on TV is found on the FX series “Justified.” It’s based on the books of Elmore Leonard, and although I don’t believe he writes for the show, he does serve as its executive producer.

    I love the new show “The Mindy Project.” I think Kaling is great in it; the whole cast is, really.

  3. I am obnoxious to watch TV with because I constantly point out the writing, the genius lines, the ones that fall flat. My husband’s just like “Cool, but I just want to watch this mob guy punch another mob guy”.

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