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Residents of Jeremy O. Harris screenwriting retreat reflect on their adventures in Tuscany

Being a writer means that you spend most of your time alone. In my case, that meant being alone in my apartment, talking to myself and reading scenes aloud. If someone walked in on me, I would look crazy. In Italy, everyone who lives there understands that it’s crazy. It’s a sharing and collaboration madness. We would spend time alone writing, then go out for a walk, eat, go around town for ice cream, and once get a tattoo. (I eventually recoiled from that guy.) We talked about theater and art and Love Is Blind

. My friend Harris told me this was my Lizzie McGuire moment. I earned it. I’ve been working on this show for years. It’s an opportunity to write another play, more plays, even TV, meet new people, learn. Jeremy pointed out that while I initially thought the resident was a scam, I actually lied to him. These scripts were submitted anonymously; he thought I would be much older than 2022, probably because of the theme of the play. Maybe I’m Lizzie McGuire. Or maybe I’m just lucky. Anyway, I’ve gone on a trip.

I write and read, eat outrageous food, and make lifelong friends who cherish and love. When I got back to the UK, I sat at Paddington Station waiting for my sister. She saw me and screamed. We hugged. African Prince didn’t lure me in with lies. I did it and I feel very lucky to be alive. — Rianna Simons

In these moments, coaching, listening to their hidden concerns, reminding them they are worthwhile…

It’s one o’clock in the morning. We’ve played two rounds of Mafia, but we’re determined to finish the third. In our murder mysteries, we allow ourselves to be whoever we want: Jennifer Coolidge, Viola Davis, Princess Mia Thermopolis. I play an exaggerated version of myself, an astrology-obsessed mentor who’s here to affirm and uplift her peers and finish her memoir. My gut tells me Her Majesty is the killer…

I shed anxious tears when Jeremy asked me to be a mentor for his inaugural writer-in-residence. What can I teach these writers? I haven’t had major workouts and shaky confidence yet. I still exist in a state of existence. My mother has been away for 10 years. There was no safety net for a full decade. We had no money, so my safety was her firm belief in me, and her dream beyond our circumstances. I wrote an article about what she taught me, “If You Ever Find Yourself,” and listed the rules I learned at age 9 for surviving poverty. Roxane Gay gave me my first book in her Emerging Writers series. Alexander Chee then chose it as Best American Prose 2022. Then I sold a memoir, This is Your Mother, totally an essay, determined to honor my mom’s life and make sense of our pain.




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