NYC MIDNIGHT: Congratulations on winning the 2nd Annual Short Story Challenge. This year's competition attracted over 550 writers from around the world and more than twice the number of entrants from 2007. Why did you enter the Short Story Challenge 2008 and what did you hope to get out of it?
Adam: I had been in a funk with writing screenplays—not able to finish any projects—when I saw the NYC Midnight short story contest I thought it would be a great opportunity to force myself to get some writing done. I suppose I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could write short stories again, which I really hadn’t been doing since I graduated college in 2005.
NYC MIDNIGHT: How did you get started as a writer? Where are you now in your writing career and what are your goals?
Adam: When I was six, I wrote a story about four friends who got in a big fight and never talked to each other ever again. I gave it to all of my relatives for Christmas and it received lukewarm reviews.
Currently, things seem to be gaining momentum for my writing—I have optioned three feature screenplays (all to Canadians), the first of which is set to go to production May 26th. Today is actually my last official day as a coffee salesman, and my first official attempt at becoming a full time writer. I would love to keep this momentum and find a literary agent of some sort.
NYC MIDNIGHT: Do you prefer creative writing or screenwriting?
Adam: I love doing both. However, screenplays are a little more daunting because there is no last draft, so I think I have a little more fun with creative writing because there are no constraints.
NYC MIDNIGHT: Do you write on a regular basis? What is your general approach for writing a script or novel, from idea to final draft?
Adam: I do my best to write on a regular basis, but I do a lot better when I have a deadline and/or an assignment. Writing on spec is very hard for me.
I usually incubate an idea for quite a bit before I start writing. I think a lot when I’m trying to fall asleep. When I have a mental outline, I write it down and then move on to a treatment (for screenplays). Once the treatment is done (which is torture) then the script pages come pretty easily after that. The thing that helps the most is that I know everything will change anyway in the draft process, so I try not to dwell on it when I get stuck on a difficult scene.
NYC MIDNIGHT: In the first round, you received the assignment of genre (historical fiction) and subject (sewing). You won your heat with “Where No One Belongs” : (Synopsis - A teenage Japanese American girl and a white doctor struggle to adapt to life at a Japanese internment camp in Topaz, Utah. Sewing up old and new wounds is not easy in this unforgiving desert…)
Were you happy or disappointed with your assignment? Were there other 1st Round assignments that you would have preferred or despised, and if so, which ones? What genre(s) do most prefer when writing your own material?
Adam: I was relieved that I didn’t get assigned romantic comedy. On the scale of human difficulty, I think writing comedy, romantic or otherwise, is on par with building a time machine. I was actually pretty excited about my assignment, because I had wanted to write about amputees for a while, and the image of a doctor sewing an amputated limb came to mind right off the bat.
I definitely prefer writing drama and then trying to find the humor and tragedy within it.
NYC MIDNIGHT: In the 24-hour final round, you received the assignment of genre (ghost story) and subject (A Salesman or Saleswoman). You won the finals with “Raising Awareness” : (Synopsis - A little boy, believing that his parents can see ghosts, searches for ways to see them as well. Through a sales game that his father teaches him, the boy is finally able to see the tragedy in his world.)
How was your experience writing a short story on such a tight deadline?
Adam: It was exciting. I think I had an advantage being on the West Coast because I got my assignment at 9pm. I started writing pretty much right away, but the bulk of the story actually came out between 1am-3am when I was dead tired. I got about five hours of sleep and then worked on and off throughout the day until I was comfortable enough to send it in.
NYC MIDNIGHT: Have you done any rewrites on your first and final round entries since the competition ended and do you have any plans for the stories?
Adam: I’ve sent out a couple of queries on “Raising Awareness.” When I have more time, I would love to reexamine them. I think “Where No One Belongs,” would be great as a screenplay, but I need to do a lot more research on it.
NYC MIDNIGHT: This was our second year with our dedicated review forum where writers could share their stories from the competition with each other and provide/receive feedback. Did you participate in the forums and/or get a chance to check out some of the stories that were posted? If so, what were some of your favorites?
Adam: I was actually pretty poor about exploring the forum—I posted both stories after completing “Raising Awareness”—but haven’t had the time to do anything but skim some of the other stories. I plan on reading more when things simmer down a little bit.
Adam: The films at the Diesel Film Racing Tour were rad! I’m happy I got a chance to see them. I’m pretty new to Seattle, having moved out here last February, so I’m still largely unfamiliar with the Seattle indie scene. “Sleepless,” a short film that I wrote, is playing at the Seattle True Independent Film Festival in a couple of weeks, so it will be great to connect to filmmakers there. There’s no doubt that all the rain helps the creative process too—it makes it easier to stay inside when there’s no sun.
NYC MIDNIGHT: You had mentioned that you will be heading up to Vancouver in the next few weeks to start shooting on your first optioned feature screenplay. What can you tell us about this project and how does it feel to go into production on something that you wrote? Are there any sites or links where interested parties can follow the production? What are the plans for the film once it’s completed?
Adam: It’s a feature coming of age story called Cole. We were lucky enough to have Carl Bessai, a noted Canadian director, sign on to steer the ship. You can read about the history of the screenwriting process at my infrequently updated blog, adamzang.blogspot.com and check out the Cole imdb page at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1232830/
I’m not going to lie: it feels really effing awesome to have something going to camera. Once they edit it, I’m sure it will follow the traditional indie process of entering festivals and looking for a distributor.
NYC MIDNIGHT: What advice would you give to aspiring writers looking for their big break?
Adam: Just write something that you would want to read or see. If you’re passionate about what you’re doing, then someone somewhere will recognize that. Your work speaks for you, I suppose.
NYC MIDNIGHT: Will you be back to defend your title in 2009?
Adam: Rock and roll.
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