A graduate of the University of Southern California Master of Professional Writing Program and member of Women in Film and Television, Kristin Johnson draws on her multitude of experience in writing and storytelling. She is an award-winning poet (Blue Mountain Arts) and short story writer whose fiction has appeared in anthologies including the Southern California Anthology and Aleatory’s Junction, a journalist and Web writer, and a produced playwright with theatre award nominations (Desert Theatre League, Palm Springs, California). She is the author of the Midwest Book Review ‘enthusiastically recommended CHRISTMAS COOKIES ARE FOR GIVING (Tyr Publishing, 2003), co-written with Mimi Cummins. ORDINARY MIRACLES: My Incredible Spiritual, Artistic and Scientific Journey, written by Sir Rupert A.L. Perrin, M.D. with Kristin Johnson, was published by PublishAmerica in 2004. Ms. Johnson is also the author of BUTTERFLY WINGS: A Love Story (iUniverse, 2000).
Her essay “Lincoln, YouTube and History Reconsidered” was excerpted for HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MR. LINCOLN, A National League of American Pen Women anthology celebrating the Lincoln Bicentennial and officially sanctioned by the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Celebration.
Her short screenplay “Daniel’s Letter From Heaven” has been a finalist in the 2003 British Short Screenplay Competition, ‘The Best & Most Prestigious Short Screenplay Competition in the World,’ and a quarterfinalist in the 2007 Screenwriting Expo Screenplay Competition in the Short Screenplay category.
Kristin is a writing consultant with many projects in the works.
What are three colors that reflect your personality…why?
Red, because it is my favorite color and I’m passionate about what I do. Pink, because it’s romantic. And blue, because it’s a healing color, a peaceful color.
What was the first inkling in which you thought you wanted to be a writer?
As a child, I would make up plays, written on a typewriter, and cast either my stuffed animals or my family and friends. I also wrote an Elizabethan-era (unfinished) romantic novel when I was twelve. However, my mother, a former teacher and librarian, and my seventh grade favorite teacher, Mary Delaney, told me I was a writer, and that stuck.
What is your favorite movie…why?
I would have to say “Casablanca,” just because of its brilliance and redemptive message — and you haven’t experienced it until you’ve witnessed Robert McKee analyze it scene by scene, moment by moment. However, I also will watch “The Shawshank Redemption,” same reason, or “Legally Blonde” (just because it’s always cute and diverting) any time they show on cable. “The Big Chill” is a favorite because of the connection to my alma mater, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
What is your favorite beginning of a movie…why?
“Shawshank Redemption” is one of my favorites. Also, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. You learn so much about Andy DuFresne and “Red” in those first few minutes of “Shawshank,” and the image of Holly Golightly in those big sunglasses eating her pretzel outside Tiffany’s is hard to forget. I also like Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Little Mermaid,” just because they set the magical tone so well.
You are a writer of all trades – poet, stories, screenplays – what form do you enjoy writing in the most?
Another great question. Screenplay writing challenges me, so I enjoy it the most for that reason. However, with fiction, I love playing with words and expanding on character. For the fourth annual MuseOnline Writers’ Conference, the free virtual writers’ conference where you and I first met, I’m presenting a chat and weeklong workshop on what writing both screenplays and fiction can teach you about writing action. I cover more than action, of course — character, dialogue and the Hero’s Journey. I’ve converted scripts to novels and novels to scripts.
Talk to us about one of your first YES moments – a time when you received positive reception for your words.
Reading the wedding poem for my sister and brother-in-law, “On Our Wedding: Ahava,” that later won first place in the Blue Mountain Arts Tri-Annual Poetry Competition. That poem was my wedding gift to them. When a local playwriting group staged a reading of my one-act play “Greetings and Salutations” (that later appeared in its playwriting festival and was nominated for five local theater awards), one of the audience members, an actor, jumped up and said, “I love it!”
You’re strutting down the street – looking, feeling like a million bucks – what’s your theme song?
“Wind Beneath my Wings” by Bette Midler, “One Heart” by Celine Dion or “That’s Life” by Frank Sinatra.
What are some of the things you’re doing to get your writing into the right hands?
Beyond the usual, writing contests and submitting to publishers/producers/agents (which I need to do more of), I would say: Networking, networking, networking. I network with people who aren’t, strictly speaking, in the business, because you never know. I go to screenwriters’ events hosted by Women in Film-Palm Springs, an organization I cannot praise enough. I connect with people through wonderful groups such as the Original Palm Springs Writers Guild, National League of American Pen Women and The MuseItUpClub Online.
Why do you write?
Author Christopher Rice, son of Anne Rice and a formidable professional in his own right, spoke to one of my writers’ groups recently. He said, “What you do is valuable to our culture.” While that’s uplifting in the grander scheme (and a comforting thought on those writer’s block days), my more elemental answer is that writing is part of who I am. I have a passion for it. Words, ideas, thoughts. A painting can spark a story. Anything I’m reading about or watching inspire stories, or else make it into my writing. I am a voracious reader and moviegoer. The written word is my lifeblood. My great-grandmother was a writer and my mother published a children’s book.
To all those screenwriters out there looking to get a moment in the limelight, what are three pieces of advice you’d offer them?
Don’t be afraid to take chances. Don’t be afraid to put your work out there. I think of a friend of mine who died this year, actor Elwood Carlisle, who began his acting career as an extra “at the young age of 74”. He died at 84. Among his career achievements was creating a “FANTASTIC” (his catchphrase) documentary on his life, “Elwood Superstar,” produced by two amazing people who worked on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and are now filmmakers. I am in the footage of that documentary. Whenever you think of giving up, think of Elwood, as I do.
And don’t do screenwriting unless you genuinely love movies and television. The upside of that is that every time you go to a movie, any movie (good and bad), that’s research.
What projects are you currently working on?
I’m doing quite a bit of work for clients, all types of writing, and enjoying the people who have given me their stories to work with. I have clients all over the world, from the UK to Illinois, New York to the Netherlands, from the Middle East to my home state of California.
I’ve started a novel of my own, just finished a rewrite of a script about cyberbullying (I’m working with the marvelous Michele Wallerstein), and am still writing on the “Dotcomers” project that I talked about in All the Blog’s a Page when you so generously gave me the spotlight. By the time this is published, I will be in Japan and have visited Malaysia, which will inspire plenty of writing, I’m sure — including travel writing for sites such as goparoo.com.