His books include the theatrical anecdote compendium Stop the Show! (Da Capo), the humor writing how-to What Are You Laughing At? (Michael Wiese Prods.) and the biography Becoming Jimi Hendrix, which will be published in September by Da Capo. He created the Court TV series North Mission Road, based on his book on the L.A. Coroner’s Office, Death in Paradise. (Running Press).
Mr. Schreiber has worked as an in-house writer-producer and a development exec for PBS station KCET Los Angeles, as well as director of development for TV/film director Jonathan Kaplan. He has taught at the American Film Institute, UCLA Extension, Columbia College at CBS Studio City and the Gotham Writers Workshop in New York City.
Since 1999, he has been Vice President of Storytech Literary Consulting, founded by Christopher Vogler, and founded the international Mona Schreiber Prize for Humorous Fiction and Nonfiction (www.BradSchreiber.com).
He is a contributor to Huffington Post and other national credits include Variety, The Writer and Backstage. Mr. Schreiber has lectured and conducted workshops for California Institute of the Arts, University of Southern California, Pixar Animation and writers conferences in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. He also once made a living writing material for a phone line called “Dial-an-Insult” but he is not particularly proud of that fact.
Welcome, Mr. Schreiber. It’s an honor to have you join us. Our standard start up question is: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was born in Manhattan and lived in small towns, Stony Point and New City, NY, until I moved to Los Angeles, as a boy. In NY, for a brief time, I admired cowboys and even dressed up like one for a while, but inherently knew I did not want to work that hard. I admired lawyers and their ability to use words and defend/prosecute people but suspected when my mother told me I would have to go to school for four additional years, that was out. I never knew what I wanted to be until I was in my twenties. Even now, I have my doubts.
What or who influenced you to become a writer?
The first time I knew I could write well was in the fifth grade, when Mr. Ault, at my school in Belmont, CA read aloud a poem I wrote and everyone liked it. But know one knew who I was because I had just transferred there. When Mr. Ault announced after reading it that I was the author, literally, the boy across the row from me leaned over and asked, “Who’s Brad Schreiber?” “I am,” I said as I got up to proudly take my paper from the teacher’s hand.
My mother was a writer and instructor and influenced me greatly, which is why, in 2000, in her memory, I started the Mona Schreiber Prize for Humorous Fiction and Nonfiction at www.BradSchreiber.com. Writing for my high school newspaper, becoming the only student to be simultaneously editor of the newspaper and literary magazine and then, writing and performing professionally with a theatre-comedy troupe called The Burlingame Philharmonic set me solidly on the path of writing.
Many artists note the people who influenced them. Are there any authors who influenced you and your work?
Too numerous to mention them all. Humor: Christopher Buckley, George Carlin, Roald Dahl. Mystery/Suspense: T. Jefferson Parker, Shirley Jackson, Edgar Allan Poe, John Collier, O. Henry. Nonfiction: Hunter S. Thompson, Simon Winchester. Novelists: Charles Dickens, Thomas Pynchon, Jane Heller, Russell Banks, Philip K. Dick.
That’s a pretty impressive list. So, what kind of books do you read for pleasure?
I tend to read a number of works simultaneously, in all forms. Right now, I am reading a mystery by my pal T. Jefferson Parker, the autobiography of Larry Gelbart, who sadly passed away last year, a biography of the writer Shirley Jackson and a book on music criticism.
You’ve had quite the list of professions. Is there any other you would like to attempt?
Music producer. Talk show host. Amusement park ride designer.
What one word would you use to describe yourself?
I’ve heard you can tell a lot about a person by their surroundings. What does your workspace look like?
Surrounded by books, audiobooks, tapes, DVDs, and CDs in shelves. Two windows look out on the hills of Sherman Oaks. On the walls, I have collages I have made, as well as artifacts related to some of my books.
Most people see writers as hermits, closed off in a room, clacking away at the keyboard until the final page is typed. Do you consider yourself this disciplined as a writer?
How dare you suggest that I “clack.” I am more a “klump, klump, klump” writer. I tend to think about projects for a bit too long but once I begin, I work rapidly and my first drafts are very close to what I want.
Do you consider yourself eccentric as a writer? Is there something you must have or do before writing?
Eccentric? Do you consider live animal sacrifice prior to writing eccentric? Actually, I have written shorter works longhand and I do not like laptops. Is that weird of me? This is strange: I have a Chicony keyboard for my desktop and that model has not been made in years. I like the action on it and the large size of the keys suits my plump, greasy, little sausage fingers. So when the old one broke, I bought the exact same kind, the only Chicony keyboard I could find, on eBay. I am ambidextrous in mousing, thanks to a previous attack of tendinitis in my right elbow.
With so many interests, do you have any hobbies?
I search the Internet for music of all kinds. I’m also in the middle of the laborious transferring of VHS tapes to DVD. Is that a hobby, an obligation, an obsession or compulsion?
If you were stranded on an island, what four things would you want with you?
A lovely and calm companion, a hacksaw for coconuts, a comfortable bed and an unlimited supply of tranquilizers.
What was the most dangerous or scariest thing you’ve ever done?
Driving on a rocky, unpaved road in the Andes Mountains of Peru, with four other people in a small pickup truck carrying a drum of gasoline to a remote village, just days after an earthquake.
If you could have lunch with anyone living or dead… who would it be?
If you could live in another time period… when would it be and why?
I don’t want to live in other time periods. I just want to visit them and then leave quickly.
What is your favorite word? What is your least favorite word?
Favorite: “sesquipedalian.” (I had to look that one up.)
Least favorite: “awesome.”
What was your most embarrassing moment (that you are comfortable sharing).
I’m not comfortable sharing ANY of them but in order to be helpful, I refer you to the time I jumped off my high school auditorium stage, because the stairway had been removed, and fell to my knees in front of 90 of the smartest English students in the school, prompting a burst of laughter and my teacher, Mr. Christensen, offering me a hand, while saying, “Welcome to Retard P.E.” and bringing another round of derisive laughter.
Tell us something about you no one else knows.
I am so sick of how much this society worships youth over experience that I would like to pass a law that limits the number of books, TV shows and films that feature actors or are geared toward audiences under 35 years of age.
Favorite Ice Cream flavor?
Paris Parfait, not made any more by Baskin-Robbins. Vanilla ice cream, chocolate and cherry chunks and bits of macaroon as well as softened pieces of sugar cone.
Too many. Favorite desert: English trifle or Princess cake. In my case, Jewish American Princess Cake.
For scent: Jasmine.
For its goofy, absurd appearance: Bird of Paradise.
For it being the favorite of my mother, Ranunculus.
For playing: I loved basketball until I separated a shoulder playing tackle football without pads, like an idiot.
For watching: I like to watch highlights of all sports (except curling) but am stingy about spending time watching an entire game on TV. I tend to only watch championship games in their entirety. I did see Willie Mays in his last season for the San Francisco Giants, in person at Candlestick Park and for that, I am grateful. Despite being the oldest player on the field, he actually stole a base, due to my constant yelling, I believe.
Everything I enjoy, not related to work, is a guilty pleasure.
Can you tell us about the workshop you’ll be presenting at the Desert Rose Conference?
My time at the Desert Rose conference will be an amalgam of lecture, anecdotes, writing exercises and questions and answers, including a discussion of the structure of the Writer’s Journey model and its application to the pursuit of writing as both hobby and profession.
Thank you so much for visiting the blog. We’re looking forward to hearing more from you at the conference.