John Pielmeier: Adapting For The Screen

John Pielmeier began his career as an actor, working at Actors Theater of Louisville, The Guthrie Theater, Milwaukee Rep, Alaska Rep, Baltimore’s Center Stage, and the O’Neill National Playwrights’ Conference. It was at the O’Neill that his play “Agnes of God” was first staged. A co-winner of the 1979 Great American Play Contest, “Agnes” premiered professionally in March 1980 at Actors Theater of Louisville, followed by several regional productions and a seventeen-month run on Broadway.

His other plays include “Courage,” a one-man show about J.M. Barrie that premiered in Louisville, opened the new theater at the Lambs’ Club in New York City, and has been filmed by Kentucky Educational Television; “Jass,” presented at the O’Neill Playwrights Conference; “Young Rube,” a musical comedy (with music and lyrics by Matthew Selman) based on the formative years of cartoonist/inventor Rube Goldberg, which premiered at The Repertory Theater of St Louis; and “Willi,” a one-man show based on the speeches of mountaineer Willi Unsoeld, presented (and performed by the author) at A Contemporary Theater in Seattle, where it broke box office records.

For “Choices of the Heart,” a television movie he wrote about the slain American missionaries in El Salvador, he received a Christopher Award, the Humanitas Award, a Writers Guild of America nomination, and an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from St Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. He has written several movies for television, as well as the screenplay for the film “Agnes of God” (Writers Guild nomination).

He is a member of The Dramatists’ Guild, The Writers’ Guild of America East, and an alumni member of New Dramatists. He is a past recipient of an NEA grant and a Shubert fellowship, and has received Alumni Achievement honors from both his alma maters.

He is blissfully married to poet/author/book-maker Irene O’Garden and resides in Garrison, New York.

Q. Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? 

A. No, I never thought it possible until I got my first check for something I wrote. Then I realized that maybe I could make a living out of this.

Q. What inspires you? 

A. Dreams. Waking ones and sleeping ones.

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about your latest project?

A. I never talk about something I’m working on – it puts the creative energy in the wrong place.

Q. I’ve heard that writers often bond to their characters. What does it feel like to finish a story and let go of that bond a little? 

A. Like sending your grown children out into the world: you’re proud and more than a little relieved.

Q. Do you have any advice/cure/ for the infamous “writer’s block”?

A. Write even though it’s crap – you can always fix it later or throw it away.

Q. How did you get started in the writing industry and what is your best piece of advice to people interested in pursuing writing as a career?

A. By writing something that people responded to. There’s no secret to this – you either do it or you don’t.

Q. What is one interesting thing about you that most people don’t know?

A. I’m a vampire.

Q. What is the best food you’ve eaten in the past week?

A. My wife’s cooking.

Q. What is one thing you are really looking forward to with the Summer Writing Institute?

A. Interacting with students.

Q: How important is networking and social media in the field of writing?

A. Very, but I suck at it.

Q: What was the best piece of advice about writing or becoming a writer that someone has ever given you?

A. Find a mentor who will give you advice like this.

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