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Jennifer started as a gymnast but is now an actress and a writer. Her life in New York influenced her book – which she describes as a cross between 50 Shades of Gray and Sex in the City.
Her writing started young with her own fan fiction based on TV shows. Now she has been a writer, producer and one of the stars. This helped with her book that started as a one woman show.
As a note – she was in “The Neighbours” by Tommy Wiseau who made The Room.
Today I’ve got Jennifer Lieberman on discovered pod discovered wordsmith podcast. Jennifer, how you doing today? I’m
[00:04:18] Jennifer: great.
Stephen, how are
[00:04:19] Stephen: you? I’m doing good. It’s a little warm still, which is nice for end of September. Yes. Where are you? I am in Ohio. Where are you?
[00:04:27] Jennifer: I’m just north of Toronto in a small town called me.
[00:04:31] Stephen: Okay. So we’re actually not super far apart.
[00:04:35] Jennifer: We probably have
[00:04:36] Stephen: similar weather. Yes. Very similar. I’m sure. So tell everybody a little bit about yourself and some of the things you like to do besides right.
[00:04:45] Jennifer: Okay. So I’m an actor, I’m an actor, I’m a filmmaker, I’m a independent film and theater producer. And I’ve been doing that for almost 20 years now. So I love to perform, I also dabble in standup comedy and I love to entertain. So I love to be silly. I love to make people laugh. I don’t mind being the butt of the joke.
So that’s one of the things I love to do, but I also, I love yoga and hiking and outdoor activities. I’m super active. I used to be in my first life, I used to be a competitive gymnast. So I spent 20 to 30 hours a week training in the gym for quite a large part of my life. And then I coached, I founded and coached my high school team.
So that I’ve always been like high energy and love all different types of sports. And even though I’m not a gymnast anymore, I still love to stay active.
[00:05:50] Stephen: Nice. Nice. And before we got rolling, you were telling me a few of the things you’ve done in the film world and on stage. Tell everybody a little bit about that.
[00:06:00] Jennifer: Okay. So I always knew since I was eight years old, that I wanted to be an actor. And I used to want to be on like TV shows that I used to watch. So I started writing at eight. I would write myself into TV shows. So I want it to be Zack Morris, his girlfriend on saved by the bell. So I’d write myself episodes where like I was some random girl that just transferred to base on
[00:06:23] Stephen: personal fan fiction.
[00:06:26] Jennifer: It was that’s totally how I started off as a writer. I didn’t know what a fan fiction was. I didn’t know what a spec script was. I didn’t know what any of that was. I just knew that I wanted to be on these shows and at eight years old, the only agency I had to get on them for right fantasy up.
[00:06:42] Stephen: Nice.
That was probably great training actually in great practice. A clear back
[00:06:47] Jennifer: then. Yeah. Yeah. So when I wasn’t training in gymnastics, that’s what I did. I’d spend a a lot of hours in like dark closets, like lying down in darkness, like imagining the movie going on in my head of, what my next thing was.
So after I graduated from university, I moved to New York city and was fortunate enough to get in with a couple of theater companies and ended up running one of them by the time I was 22. So even though I set out to be an actor who maybe would write her own projects, one day I fell into producing and that proved to be like one of the best decisions I made to say yes to that opportunity when it came my way, because that kind of set me on a course of eventually being able to write.
And produce my own projects that I get to be in.
[00:07:43] Stephen: So that was the impetus for writing your book, is that correct? Yeah. So
[00:07:47] Jennifer: my book was originally a one-woman show and I wrote that when I got to LA as a showcase piece, because some people had said to me nobody in LA knows who you are. Like, you’re just here, and it’s not just, you can’t just call up an agent and be like, Hey, I’m here. Hire me, send me out in those auditions. Awesome. You have to show them your awesome first. So I did this one woman show in LA to invite like directors and agents and people who could get me work or hire me.
And like in the movie Lala land, if you ever saw that movie with Emma Stone, she does this one woman show and there’s one person in the audience. I luckily had more than one person because I had like friends from acting class and my mom came from Canada. So I had four people, but the goal of the show to get these industry people there didn’t happen.
It didn’t lead to my desired outcome, how ever. I was like, huh, like maybe this show people liked it. Like maybe I should keep going with it and maybe do some rewrites and make it a little better and do it again. And I did, and then I submitted it to a festival in New York and I kept rewriting and kept refining it because as most writers know, your first draft is never your final draft.
No, but also when you first start, you think it’s such an accomplishment to accomplish that first draft. You don’t realize it’s not your final draft. You need other people to tell you
[00:09:21] Stephen: that a little experience of writing a couple.
[00:09:25] Jennifer: Yeah, exactly. So over the course of a few years, I refined the show and tightened it up and worked with a couple of different directors.
And directors are always helpful because you can’t see what you’re doing when you’re the person in the show. You don’t have perspective on your writing. And I eventually got to a festival in New York and won the audience choice award. Thank you. And that actually is what kind of blew the doors open in terms of.
First of all me having the confidence to produce more of my own work. And second of all, other people recognizing my ability and working with me. From there, I got hired to do a one woman show in Australia, and I got flown to Australia two years in a row to work for several months on a different piece.
And then a friend of mine asked me to collaborate on a web series, dump water divas, which was an eighties dance spoof. And we did that and it’s like that saying like work begets more work. So I feel like when you’re in show business, like the worst thing is to be an out of work, whatever, whether it’s a writer, actor, directors, and photographer.
So as long as you’re busy and people hear that you’re doing something and you’re constantly busy with something. People like people who are busy for some reason, because first of all, nobody knows if you got paid or not, or if it came out of your own pocket, that’s no business really. But also even if it did come out of your own pocket to get that production going, it’s a wealth of experience every time you do it.
So the more you do it, the more experience you get, the more connections you make. Like the director who I brought on to direct my web series, then brought me on to star in his web series, the director I hired to be to direct my one woman show then introduced me to people and got me jobs in several other theater projects.
One was my last one, starring in an off-Broadway play in New York, plain Gilda Radner. So that’s the thing too. Sometimes hiring somebody that you want to work with is a great way to work with them before they have a chance to hire you or introduce you to their contacts.
[00:11:44] Stephen: And I don’t want to forget about your book, but I just, everything you just said I totally love because that’s the world we live in that you get these people, like you said, I’m an out of work actor.
Oh, I haven’t sold any book. What are you doing? Write another book, go create the jobs, create the ability to use your content. You took a play and you turned it into a book. We’ll talk about that in a second. So there’s always something you can do, always an opportunity. And like you said, it starts snowballing and building up.
And I love that. So for everybody listening there you go. We’ve just had 10 minutes of like back to back advice and. Strategy for being successful. I love that. Thank you.
[00:12:29] Jennifer: Yeah. And on that note, I just want to mention my claim to fame, my claim to fame. For those of you out there who are familiar with the room, the cult classic, Tommy VSOs, Lisa the room.
So I actually got to work with Tommy and I was a series regular on his sit-com called the neighbors. Tommy is to me a huge inspiration. First of all, like the room is the best piece of cinema mastery ever created. Number one. And if you haven’t had a chance to see it. Turn this off,
[00:13:10] Stephen: it goes,
[00:13:11] Jennifer: A number or a number two. I don’t know if there’s live screenings where you’re living, but if you have a chance to go to a live screening of the room with all the crazy people, throwing things, and it’s ridiculous and amazing. But Tommy to me is the master of perseverance because the room, when it first came out was coined the worst movie ever made and he has.
The worst movie ever made into a multi million dollar empire that was screening in over 30 cities a month, the last Saturday night of every month consistently for a ten-year period. And the only reason it’s not going right now is because of COVID and he has t-shirts bobbleheads merchandise DVDs, James Franco fricking played him in a movie and got nominated for a golden globe,
[00:14:10] Stephen: And this is right there,
[00:14:13] Jennifer: but that’s what I mean, and he was not willing to take no for an answer.
And he was like, I know that there’s okay. Maybe it didn’t turn out to be the movie that he wanted it to be. I think he wanted it to be taken a little more seriously, people. People love it, nonetheless. And I don’t even think it would have had an impact if it was the serious movie. If it was accepted as the serious movie, he wanted it to be,
[00:14:41] Stephen: it sounds a lot like Rocky horror picture show.
[00:14:43] Jennifer: Exactly. Exactly. Yes. It’s in a very different way. Rocky horror is a totally different theme and, D musical totally different, but yes, it has that caliber of a following. So that’s the thing it’s anytime somebody says no to you. It’s your decision, whether you accept the, no,
[00:15:06] Stephen: I agree.
I love that. And I love the fact that he’s taken what was considered horrible and turned it into something good and reused it and changed and did whatever he had to. And that’s a lesson so well, Jennifer, you’ve given us everything we need to know. Don’t think we need to continue the conversation. So we’re all good now.
That’s great. I love that. That’s wonderful. But what we really want to talk about is your book. We’re going to talk a bit about some problems you had with your book on the second half, but for right now, just tell us what your book is called and a little bit about what it’s about.
[00:15:40] Jennifer: Yeah, totally.
So my focus right here, And it is called year of the wet. And basically I like to describe it as sex in the city meets 50 shades of gray. So the reason I describe it as that is because 50 shades of gray, you have a very naive, sexually inexperienced girl embarking on, this kind of sexual awakening and sex in the city is like the dating misadventures of these four women in Manhattan.
So year of the, what is about a young naive 20 something year old who’s heartbroken and just out of her first relationship. And she’s trying to navigate all of these dating misadventures in New York city. So she’s not self-assured like the sex and the city characters, those characters are in their mid to late thirties when the M series begins.
So she’s 10 years younger. So she’s super naive, super inexperienced, like the 50 shades of gray character, but thrown into the sex in the city world.
[00:16:54] Stephen: Okay. So you said 50 shades of gray sex in the city. Are there any books that you could think of that are similar? So if people read those books, they would like yours.
[00:17:05] Jennifer: have definitely compared this book to sex in the city, but just said but, imagine the characters 10 years earlier in their lives before there, and it does have some racy love scenes. So it has been compared to food dishes grills though.
[00:17:20] Stephen: All right.
[00:17:20] Jennifer: No, definitely not a kids book, but it’s a coming of age book and it’s a romantic comedy about a girl looking for love realizing before she can find love.
She has to fall in love with herself.
[00:17:34] Stephen: Okay, nice. So you originally, you told me, you originally wrote this as a play to give yourself an acting job and you repurposed it and put it into a book. What made you choose this story and this, that type of story?
[00:17:50] Jennifer: So when I started writing the play a woman that I had met at a creative workshop was the one who was really encouraging me to write a piece, a one woman show as a showcase piece.
And I was chatting with her and. Gave her some ideas. And then just as a joke, I threw out the original title of the book, which is year of the sled and cause everything else I had, I was coming from a New York theater background and everything else is no, that’s too artsy.
You’re not in New York. You’re in LA and has to be commercial. It has to be, flashy. It has to be this, it has to be that. With every kind of suggestion that she shot down, I was getting frustrated and I just blurted out. What if I write about this, a girl who’s heartbreaking heartbroken in New York, trying to find the one.
And it would be loosely based on my life because I had some similar experiences that the character in the book went through and it full disclosure, the show started off with my personal experiences and then for the sake of entertainment and comedy and dramatization, you start with a seed of what, they say, write what, and then it grew into a forest of imagination from that little seed of my experience.
So that’s how I came up with it. And. When I was writing it, I was specifically writing it to showcase my range. So I was like, okay, what kind of accents can I do? Oh, I can do a Russian accent. Okay. I’ll throw in a Brazilian bikini wax in the story. Cause I could do the Russian bikini waxing lady and okay.
I can do a, a dude from Brooklyn. So I’ll make Tony, the guy from Brooklyn and that’s one of the guys she dates and I can do a Spanish accent. So she’ll have a Spanish lever. Who’s only in town for, a week visiting from Spain to do an art installation.
And I just came up with oh, a French chef, because I was like, I can do a French accent. My roommate, I was like, oh, I can do a Texan accent. Like I can do something from the south. So I’ll make my roommate from Texas, even though my real roommate was from the Poconos. The chef in the restaurant was not a promiscuous female.
It was a, a guy named Rick but I needed to use my imagination to keep these characters like different, first of all, different, interesting dynamic. And that’s where all the, all the different trees started popping up from this one little seed.
If that makes any sense
[00:20:22] Stephen: at all. Oh, you’re working on another book now, is there a sequel to this one? There is a sequel.
[00:20:27] Jennifer: Yes. So I love that you asked that. So I am working on a SQL right now. So one of the reasons I decided to use the title original title for the show year of the slut is because the S word is used as a weapon against young women.
It is the most common derogatory term used against females in their teens and twenties and early thirties, if you want to attack them in some verbal way. So that’s why, because it’s a self discovery story, but it’s also a deconstruction of what are our view, like what is a slut like H how many partners is too many, women aren’t getting married out of high school anymore.
And. Society has changed so much in the past 10 years, let alone 30 or 40 years. So I wanted to like kind of deconstruct this idea. And so her roommate, her best friend, her roommate is a dominatrix in a dungeon in Chelsea. So you have this super naive girl. Who’s only been with one man. Who’s trying to find her husband and saved herself for the guy she was with for five years.
And then it didn’t work out. And then you have her roommate who’s bisexual and a dominatrix and promiscuous, and doesn’t follow any of the rules of society. So you have these, like the odd couple situation. So anyway, for people to understand where I’m going with the next book, they have to understand the dynamic of the first book.
So the next. It’s called. It’s all going to be under the year of the what umbrella. And we’ll get into that a little later, but book two is going to be gear of the bitch because
[00:22:18] Stephen: we’ll see how that goes. We’ll talk about that.
[00:22:20] Jennifer: Exactly, because that is another verbal attack and it’s a word that’s used as a weapon against women, and especially as women start to assert themselves and come into their own, as they get out of that kind of category where the word slut is the attack.
Once they grow out of slut, then the word bitch becomes the attack. And so once again, I wanted deconstruct this word. And what does it mean when a female is in a managerial position or a position of power and has to delegate and has to assert herself? So it’s the same character on her evolutionary journey.
So the book two is going to be several years later. And and at a different stage of her life where she’s a little more settled in her life, but has other challenges that she’s going through. So that’s going to be booked to. Okay,
[00:23:16] Stephen: great. And so book one, did you traditionally publish or are independent?
[00:23:22] Jennifer: tried traditional publishing. It was quite a long journey of disappointment and not being able to look at it for quite some time and then having the wrong editor who just didn’t get it like wrong fit for the piece. Couldn’t look at the manuscript for literally over a year after I read her notes and I was like, wow I can’t believe I paid somebody to hurt me this much.
Yeah, but it’s, but that was like a huge lesson on the wrong fit for the wrong project, because then I got another editor who was the perfect fit for the project and totally got it and was closer to my age. And who just, was a champion of the work as opposed to somebody who like just wanted to Kai Bosch it and didn’t even think it had any merit in the public space.
So I had given up on it several times and had gone off and done a web series and done some short films and got to go to some international festivals with my films. And in 2017, a friend of mine heard that I had written a book. I was like, why do you mean you wrote a book? Where’s this book? And I let him read it.
And he encouraged me to get to the finish line, regardless of if I ever sell a copy. Cause I had gone to author 1 0 1 university. I had pitched it. I had sent query letters. I had tried to find a lip, find a literary agent because it was a literary agent who heard of the title of the show and said, if I wrote the book, he would rap me.
And then I never heard back from him when the book was written. But I don’t fault him for that because if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be on this literary journey that I’ve now been on for several years. And I have to say from a filmmaking point of view, writing a book is so much easier. And I don’t mean the writing part.
The fact that once you’re finished writing it. And of course, rewrites and edits and all of that stuff. That’s the only step in the process. It’s not about raising money and casting actors and shooting a movie. And then post-production, and like when you’re making a movie, writing is just step one of a 30 step process.
When you’re writing a book, the writing is step one of maybe a four or five step process.
[00:25:58] Stephen: We got a bunch of authors wanting to strangle you right now, listen to this.
[00:26:03] Jennifer: But compared to shooting a movie, I’m not comparing it. I’m not diminishing the the extent of work and effort and talent and refining your skills.
I’m not, that’s not what I’m saying. But when you’re writing a book to be a book and the book is the final product, there’s not nearly
[00:26:26] Stephen: as making a home.
[00:26:28] Jennifer: I’m sorry, like with all due respect, all you authors out there, if you’ve ever made a movie, then come talk to me and we can
[00:26:37] Stephen: discuss, okay, it’s good to put it in respective.
There are worse things and harder things. Definitely. I haven’t done very much, but I agree.
[00:26:48] Jennifer: Yeah, because getting a screenplay to where it needs to be, to actually be ready to shoot is just as much work as getting getting a manuscript to where it needs to be. You know what I mean? It’s a different writing style, but the job of the writer is the same.
I think. Sorry, what I didn’t explain correctly is when you’re making a movie. You’re not just a writer or if for me, when I make my movies, I’m not just the writer, I’m the writer, I’m the producer. I have to hire the whole team. I have to see every step of the process through. So I’m wearing many more hats.
I know, taking on many more responsibilities than the job of the writer, which is a big job in itself.
[00:27:33] Stephen: And I know a lot of writers don’t like to advertise. They don’t like to do the publishing and all that. But it’s part of the job unless you’re, one of the big names.
[00:27:44] Jennifer: Yeah.
Actually to me, that’s the most daunting thing. That’s what I hate the most about acting is having to sell myself, having to like. Constantly audition and convince people that I’m the right person and with a book, especially self published, because I haven’t been blessed with a traditional publishing deal yet, but the process is it’s it’s a full-time job trying to convince people to give your book a chance and like full disclosure.
I have an audible and I have all these promo codes to get people, to listen to the audio book for free. And I’m struggling finding enough
[00:28:29] Stephen: people. Maybe we can mention that. And then if anyone is interested, they can get ahold of you after the podcast.
[00:28:35] Jennifer: Yes. If anyone is interested, sign up for my newsletter and I’m happy to send you a free download.
Yeah. Because that’s, even for free people don’t want to read your,
[00:28:48] Stephen: okay, so the people that have read it or listen to it, what’s the feedback you’re getting from readers.
[00:28:56] Jennifer: I’ve gotten really great feedback. That’s the hard part. That’s the hardest part is I’ve gotten such great feedback.
I’ve got, I’ve had people that I know and people that I don’t know, write me and say, I picked up your book to read one chapter and I was up till three in the morning. I couldn’t put the whole, I could put it down. I read the whole thing in one sitting. I’ve never read a book in one sitting in my home.
No. So to me, it’s is there any higher praise like that? Somebody truly could not put the book down, so I’ve been getting great responses. I’ve been getting responses from male reviewers saying that like the book is for men, just as much as it is for women, because you can really get inside like the female psyche and, because it’s a narrative like the CA the main character, the protagonist you’re in her head, the whole book.
So a lot of men have said you can learn so much about the way women think, and it’s, it’s just as entertaining for them. One guy was so great on my Amazon review. He wrote it’s not about like lifesavers or spaceships, but I still enjoyed it.
[00:30:03] Stephen: Nice. Nice. Okay. If you had to choose, would you rather turn this into a TV series or a movie?
[00:30:12] Jennifer: I would say a TV series, because I feel like each kind of chapter with each guy is its own episode. Yeah. So I would definitely say TV series. Come on, HBO. I’m ready for
[00:30:28] Stephen: you. So many out there. There’s so many, that could happen. That’s great. To end some things here what are some of your favorite books and authors personal favorites?
[00:30:37] Jennifer: Okay. So Tom Robbins is one of my favorite authors. Like still life with woodpecker is what am I? That was like one of the books I read as a teenager that I finally liked to read. I was a slow reader. I did not enjoy reading as a youngster or a young teenager. And I was about 16 when I came across that book and I was just like, oh, books can be like this.
I’ve read so many of his books. I also love like fierce invalids home from hock climates. And I just love his like titles. Herman has, is one of my all time favorites. I reread Steppenwolf like once every two years. I’m a big Paulo Coelho fan. Not the Alchemist. I know that’s like his most popular book, but his book 11 minutes is one of my all time favorites.
I also love the winter stands alone. I I also read a lot of plays, so just because I’m at the attrical person. In terms of playwrights, I’m a huge Tennessee Williams fan. I know it’s very cliched, but he’s so good.
[00:31:40] Stephen: Everybody likes him for a reason. Yeah. Okay. Where you live just a little north of the border here.
Do you have a favorite bookstore you like to go to in the.
[00:31:49] Jennifer: There’s a few that I like, but actually I lived in LA for many years and books soup on sunset. In west Hollywood was my, one of my favorite bookstores. And then they have the last bookstore downtown LA, which is like one of the coolest bookstores ever I’d spend like hours getting lost there.
And I would frequent a couple of the reading groups there. And then when I lived in New York, cause I also lived in New York for several years. I’ve only been in maple since the pandemic. So yeah in New York, the strand was my favorite. And when I was living in Queens and in Brooklyn, I would literally go through a book a week, just reading it on the subway for my commute to, and from work each day, because it would be an hour commute each way.
So that’s two hours of solid reading and I like lamented LA traffic because I couldn’t have a book in my lap while I was like sitting on the 4 0 5. So Toronto has some really great bookstores. And of course, like I’m thinking of the location and I don’t remember the name names. I’m so terrible
[00:32:54] Stephen: to think of it afterwards.
Email me, we’ll add it in.
[00:32:57] Jennifer: Yeah, like the name of it is like on the tip of my tongue, because I passed by it two days ago to go in and it was closed. Had her sham, 10
[00:33:07] Stephen: books. I know the last bookshop, you’re like the third person I’ve talked to that recommends that one. So if I ever get back out to LA, I’m going to have to go visit that.
[00:33:18] Jennifer: Yes. Oh and oh, also there is, this is my, actually my all time. I can’t believe I forgot it. My all time. Favorite bookstore in LA is a used bookstore called ILEAD books. And it’s in Burbank. It is on, just north of Burbank avenue in Burbank, California. And that’s the absolute best one.
[00:33:40] Stephen: I’ll put some links. Maybe some people will visit. That’d be cool.
[00:33:44] Jennifer: Yeah. And I will send you a couple links to ones in Toronto because I feel like, I feel I’m like, oh my God, my hometown. And I can’t even come up with the three stores that I love.
[00:33:54] Stephen: All right. Before we go on this first half of the podcast Tell everybody out there listening why they should get your book and read it.
[00:34:00] Jennifer: It’ll go. It’ll give you all the fields. Like it’s, it will make you laugh. It’ll make you horny. It’ll make you cry. And it will definitely inspire you to do something a little bit outside yourself. And that always leads to magic.
[00:34:18] Stephen: Oh, nice. Good. That’s a good, a blur right there on why to get the book. I love it.
Jennifer has been really great talking to you about your book today. And we’ll be back in a few minutes and talk about author stuff. So thank you. Thanks. Alright, that was great.