Author Q & A with Jennifer Downes
August 10, 2022
This week’s Author Q&A is with Jennifer Downes. Jennifer is a writer, actor, and producer based in NYC. She is the Associate Artistic Director of New Ambassadors Theatre Co. She is a graduate of the William Esper Studio and studied writing under Jerome Perzigian and Stephen Molton. Her script “Camp” was the 2022 winner of the Honey Bee Literature Prize in script writing and appears in our Summer issue.
We asked Jennifer to tell us some detail about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of her script and also something that she learned in the process of working on it.
Her response: “I finished the revisions for this piece about 15 minutes before the deadline to submit it–there’s nothing like “deadline mode” to really make me able to kill my darlings and make a better draft!”
“This is one of the more sweet things I’ve ever written. I tend to write a lot of dark comedy and this felt like getting in touch with a very different side of myself. It also felt distinctly feminine, which was really lovely to engage with and spend some time with that part of myself. Thinking about and indulging in the girlish friendships I remember from my childhood and translating them to these characters was a particularly joyous writing experience.”
We asked what part of the writing process is the most difficult for her.
Her response: “The first draft is always the most difficult for me. I tend to want it to be perfect on the first go, and that can really freeze me from actually writing. I’ve tried over the last few years to get out of that habit and get more into the (forgive the phrase) “vomit draft” mode, where you just let whatever comes out of your brain be what goes onto the page, and then you can edit from there. It’s still a bit of a struggle, but I think I’ve made a little progress towards that goal.”
We then asked what is the most satisfying.
Her response: “Editing is the most satisfying for me. I love the feeling of going over a page and cutting an unnecessary line or tightening a joke–then at the end you read the same page over and it just feels better. When I can read through my script and it feels breezy I know I’ve done some good editing.”
We asked Jennifer to share what fuels her desire to write.
Her response: “When I have an idea for a project it just sort of sits in my brain. The world or the story will just live in my brain as its own space, its own little room that I can walk into and know that I need to put it down on paper (or pdf) for other people to see this room I’m in. …Also deadlines. Deadlines are great.”
We agree that deadlines can be very motivating, especially when you have a project that is so close to completion. We also asked her what author(s) (or other persons) have been the biggest influence in her writing life.
Her response: “I love reading science fiction–I’m a big fan of Kurt Vonnegut and Neil Gaiman. I am also an avid Jane Austen reader, I re-read Pride & Prejudice every winter. I think they’ve all influenced my writing in different ways, but mostly to not shy away from having a particular voice and also having a distinct sense of humor to your writing.”
As always, we asked what she thinks of when she hears the phrase “The Good Life.”
Her response: “Enjoying some fresh air with a hot cup of coffee and something new to read.” She also wanted to share her hope that people enjoy being in the darling world of Camp when they read as much as she did when I wrote it.
Jennifer’s full-length play Tight Five which she co-wrote with her writing/life partner John Peña Griswold is premiering at Cherry Lane Theatre in NYC July 13-17th. She also has a short play, Skim, playing in the New Ambassadors Theatre Co. “Blurring Boundaries” festival the first two weeks of August at the Tada! Theater.
Congrats on seeing that work come to life! And thanks so much for participating in our Q&A and allowing us to publish your wonderful script!!
~The Good Life Review Team