Katie Rogin’s wise, sad, absorbing story “Afternoon,” appears in our current issue. She writes dialogue with such perfect pitch – revealing both what is spoken and what is left unspoken – that it was not surprising to learn that she honed this talent by writing for film and television. And, that “Afternoon” might have become a play rather than a story – and may perhaps become a short film. Rogin graciously agreed to answer our questions about how she writes – and what happens next:
When did it become clear to you that Afternoon was a story and not a play?
Afternoon began as voices in my head, a dialogue between a man and a woman. For a long time I just ran lines in my head before putting them down on paper. When the dialogue finally hit the page there was no format at all so I had no idea what medium I was working in. I’ve written for film and television and I’ve always wanted to write for the theater and initially I thought Afternoon might be that stage two-hander I was looking for. I was struggling to see where the two characters were physically in space and this kept me from seeing how it would work on stage. Two things happened around the same time that kind of shoved Afternoon into place. I signed a lease on a new apartment in Brooklyn and I was due to submit in my fiction writing workshop. I got the location for Afternoon from my new apartment, which I hadn’t even moved into, and the workshop deadline forced Afternoon into the short story format.
Could you still envision turning it into a play at some point?
A film producer friend of mine and I were talking about Afternoon and she thought it would make a great short film. I’ve been thinking about writing something for the screen again and getting back into directing. I’ve directed film before (a short called In A Blue Mood) and I really enjoyed it, but I’ve wanted to focus on the writing and getting that right. Writing is hard enough, but it’s basically all on you. Directing film is a huge commitment and it involves a ton of other people—and this requires a certain kind of sustained energy that I’m not sure I have at the moment. But as soon as this producer and I started figuring out how Afternoon could work on screen, I got really jazzed about the material being performed—so maybe I do have that energy these days. I think Afternoon could work on the stage or the screen at this point. Either way, the challenge becomes to create two characters and scenes that can be brought alive by actors. A play or a film is obviously much more of a collaborative creation than a short story so the material has to be usable by so many different kinds of artists (actors, director, set designer, lighting, camera, etc.) It would be a big effort to adapt Afternoon, but the notion keeps nagging at me so I may take a crack at it this summer.
Can you give us background about your other work — writing and film?
I’ve written novels, short stories, magazine articles, film criticism, personal essays, television and film. Some published, some produced, a lot is still in a drawer. I wrote for the TV soap “One Life to Live” when it was on ABC and won a Writer’s Guild Award as part of the writing team. I learned so much about character and structure writing for OLTL. It was this amazing factory of storytelling and the team had to produce five hours of drama every week all year long. There was none of this thirteen-episodes and you’re done for the year. It was story story story story, all year long. That’s when I learned the nuts and bolts of writing—alone and in a team. I learned about letting your drafts go public and being able to take edits and feedback, incorporate it, finish the thing on deadline and move onto the next one. I learned how to write for a living. I also wrote, directed and produced a short film “In A Blue Mood” and spent some time in Los Angeles writing spec film features and TV pilots. For now, I’m focusing on fiction.
Tell us something about your writing habits.
My writing habits vary depending on where I am in a project and what’s happening with my day job. I go through phases of certain work patterns. I work about forty-five hours a week at an ad agency so I’ll go through periods where I get up early and write for a few hours before going to the office. Other times, I’ll write after work in the evening. Lately, because of where I am in my current project, I’ve been writing on the weekends and during my vacations, which are usually staycations or a trip to a writing retreat. (I recently spent a week at The Porches in Virginia and got a ton of work done.)
What are you working on now?
I’m polishing the final draft of a novel called “Life During Wartime”. It’s about the search for an Iraq war veteran who has gone missing in Southern California. It explores the vast numbers of walking wounded that we live among since 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Great Recession of 2008. It’s about “aftermath” and how people live after a traumatic experience. It’s about coming home.
Are there links to anything else (personal web page, other published work, film credits, etc) that we might include?
My personal website is www.katierogin.com. There’s a link there to another short story, “Shuttle”, that I’ve recently published in Terrain.org. There are links to my other published works and descriptions of various spec screenplays and teleplays as well. I blog almost never, keep a list of the books I’ve read in a given year, and will occasionally post an essay there that I haven’t placed elsewhere. I’m also on Facebook and have begun to accept friend requests from readers.
–Suzanne Freeman, Fiction Editor
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