From Film & Books, Meet Writing Teacher Serita Stevens

Please welcome Serita Stevens, author of The Ultimate Writers Workbook for Books and Scripts, to SlingWords.

About Serita Stevens

Serita Deborah Stevens, or Serita Stevens, also writes under the names Shira Stevens, Tyler Courtland, and Megan MacDonnell.

Serita, a published author/produced writer of over 30 books, stories, and scripts, grew up in Chicago and moved to Los Angeles after an agent asked if she could write a movie treatment for one of her books.

With cold Midwestern weather chilling her that February, she went to sunny California for a conference and ended up getting a job teaching writing at (USC) University of Southern California where she instructed both the adult education, who wanted to write commercially, and the master's program, who felt they need to "create from their souls." Later, she taught at UCLA, Loyola Marymount, Santa Monica City College, and several other schools and programs as well as having taught numerous universities in the Chicagoland area.

The Ultimate Writers Workbook for Books and Scripts, published by Motivational Press in 2014, is a compilation of both the lectures and exercises that her students requested be put in print. While concentrating on story issues -- character, plot, view point, beginnings, and outlining -- the book also goes into major genres and sections on rewriting, agents, publicity, self-publishing, non-fiction, research as well as scripts, novelizations, and adaptations. The book is available in print and digital editions.

Serita Stevens Tackles the Dirty Dozen
1. In which genre do you write and why that particular genre?

I often write in the mystery and thriller genre because I like seeing justice done, which often does not happen in real life. However, I have written dramady (comedy/drama) both as books and scripts, as well as historical drama and romances, Western, Biblical, metaphysical, science fiction, true crime, and young adult.

2. What's your most recent book and what's it about?

Besides the workbook, my most recent books coming out next year from True North Press are Against Her Will and The Transylvania Heist: The Charles Allen Story. Producers have expressed interest in both.

Against Her Will

A wild teen is thrown into a psychiatric hospital against her will. While trying to prove her normalcy, she learns that not everything is against her will.

The Transylvania Heist: The Charles Allen Story

This true crime is about one of the FBI's top ten art heists. Four college students stole millions of illustrated manuscripts and were chased by the FBI for months.

3. As an author, what can readers expect when they read one of your books?

When people read my books, they can expect a good story. I try to develop the characters fully and create suspense. I write in a variety of genres.

4. How did you "become" an author? For instance, was there a moment when you said: "I think I'll write a book."

As a child, I always had a book in my hand. My nickname (from Serita) is Ritie. I would use the books to escape into my cubbyhole when my folks were fighting. I especially enjoyed historical novels -- romance and drama, biography and mystery. I'm not sure when I said I would write a book, but I wrote my first short story at the age of 13 only to realize that I had point of view problems. I tell folks that I used to lie to my father and decided to make a living out of it, but in truth I always I had an active imagination and enjoy playing the "What if?" game. I wrote eight books before my eighth became my first published one. I was later able to go back and revise four of the seven and was astonished at how much my writing had changed and how much work was needed to perfect those books.

5. What's the best thing about being an author?

The best thing about being a writer is being able to write at home, take tax deductions for buying books, seeing movies, traveling, etc. Also, I can kill off my enemies with a stroke of a pen -- and most of them don't know the difference.

6. What's the worst thing about being an author?

The worst thing is that writing can be a lonely profession, and if you are doing script writing, it becomes a team work -- you get notes from producers, actors, directors as well as your writing group. You have to decide what is best for your story. A hard thing to do sometimes. You do have to make an effort to get out and network, especially if you want to do films, since this is a relationship business.

7. Do you have editions of your books available other than ebook editions?

Yes, I have editions of my books in hard cover and paperback as well as eBook form. In fact, most of them are hard cover.

8. Do you listen to audio books? If so, what device do you use?

While on the road to meetings, appointments and the like, I love listening to CD books in the car. Since most of my actual reading is research, this provides a wider range of entertainment for me.

9. What device do you use to read ebooks?

I have a Kindle Fire and I enjoy it, but I still like the feel of paper and like being able to jot down notes as I am reading. As an author, I seem to read things differently than I did just as a writer.

10. If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

The advice I would give -- first of all if your tush is by the computer or your hand has a pen in it, you are not aspiring. That just puts you down. Just because you have not been published or produced yet, doesn't mean you won't be.

Keep at your dreams, no matter what it takes. I went through two husbands who could not support me in my writing.

Write because you are passionate about your story not to make money. Only 1or 2% of writers actually make a living at writing. When Mary Higgins Clark gets a million dollar sale, it makes the news because it is new. The average advance you get has gone down even from when I started.

You have to focus on your work and chose your times. That means sometimes you don't hang out with the girls after work but go home and write. You don't sit in front of the telly and veg out on shows - even though there are some good ones out now - you write. I used to take my lunch to work and gobble it down and use the rest of my time for writing or reading my research.

I once took a class from Harry Mark Petrakis, the then-Chicago writer-in-residence. Someone asked him when they should quit. His answer was: "Honey, if you can quit, do so now. If it's in your blood, than you just can't quit." Well, it's definitely in my blood.

11. If you could tell readers one thing, what would it be?

I would tell my readers that they have to follow their own dreams and make it happen. Sometimes, it is one small step at a time. Be mindful that not everyone will support your dreams and stick with the people who do.

12. What is your big dream (or goal) as a writer?

My big dream -- well, obviously I would like to make a lot of money and be a best seller, win the Academy Award -- but my real goal is to change people's lives and to educate them while entertaining them. I want my grave stone to read: "Everyone whose life she touched was changed for the better."

Buy The Ultimate Writers Workbook

Amazon Kindle Edition

Paperback Edition from Amazon

Nook Edition

Paperback Edition from Barnes & Noble

Also available on Serita's Website

Takeaway Truth

This workbook is great for the beginner or the published authors who need to boost confidence in their skills. Get it today.

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