Katherine Glover Q&A

July 13, 2020
Katherine Glover writes for the stage, screen and publication with equal aplomb.

“I’m interested in how intensely humans are shaped by the stories we tell ourselves — both on a personal level and a cultural level. This country’s delusions about its own history continue to cause great harm, and I think it’s important to pick them apart and explore them.”

You are an acclaimed playwright who also has a master’s in journalism and an enviable archive of published articles. How do these different types of writing compare?

They feel very different to me. Creative writing has a lot more flexibility, obviously, since one is less limited by the facts. Though I would say I’m always trying to convey some truth about human nature or the world or history; I just have more options in creative writing since I can make up a scenario that illustrates whatever I’m trying to convey, whereas that is generally frowned upon in journalism. My creative writing projects also tend to be much longer-term; I do sometimes miss working on new stories every week and having them finished and published and being able to quickly move onto the next thing, as opposed to investing thoroughly in one project that may never see the light of day and cycling through periods of inspiration followed by periods of “this entire idea was stupid; why am I even wasting my time on this?” There’s less of that when you’re working on a paid assignment. But the rewards are also higher when you see a project you’ve spent months developing finally get on its feet.

When did you decide to shift your energy into the arts?

I was always a part of the arts community. I went into journalism because it seemed like a better way to pay the bills. There was a long overlap where I was doing freelance journalism as my “day job” and doing storytelling and spoken word stuff on the side, and I was still a journalist the first couple of years I toured the Canadian Fringe circuit with one-woman shows; I just took a few months off to develop and tour my show, or at least took a lot less work — there was at least one Fringe where I got a major assignment, my first feature in a national magazine, right before a festival and that was a rather hellish and exhausting experience, and I was working so hard on the article I didn’t have time to promote my show, but that was just how it worked out. The problem was that freelancing stopped working for journalism. When I started, people were already telling me it used to be much easier to make a living as a freelancer — and then it got worse. More and more staffers were getting laid off and entering the freelance market, and it got harder and harder to make new connections — editors wouldn’t even respond to pitches from people they didn’t personally know, and then the two publications I’d been writing for the most both folded, and it got to the point where I was a “starving journalist” — not actually starving but working other random jobs to pay the bills, and eventually I realized, this is silly; if I’m not going to make a living off my writing anyway, I’d much rather be a starving artist.

Do you enjoy writing and performing equally?

I enjoy writing so much more than performing. I’ve had a blast performing but I can really only be successful onstage when I’m being myself, and I had run out of personal stories I wanted to tell so my performance ability was limiting my writing. The first time I handed off my work to real actors, it was such a relief, and they brought so much to the piece and fleshed out the characters in ways that hadn’t even occurred to me, and I thought, OK, this is how it should be done.

How important is humor to your work?

The more depressing a topic is, the more important it is to bring humor. Laughing at the absurdity of things makes them bearable.

How is your musical coming along? Do you enjoy writing songs?

I love writing songs! It’s like crafting dialogue and doing a word puzzle all at the same time. My musical is about a controversial feminist anti-pornography ordinance that passed the Minneapolis City Council in the early ’80s and got vetoed by the mayor. The ordinance basically gave citizens the power to censor anything they felt violated their civil rights, and it created bitter divisions among feminists nationwide and led to some major shifts in the movement, paving the way for a more sex-positive framework to take hold. My protagonists are a fictional group of lesbian feminists who are working to pass the Minneapolis ordinance, but people they thought they were their allies keep stepping away, and they have the choice to listen to where that dissent is coming from, or to double down and get vicious.

You never shy away from social and political themes in your work, such as your play that featured Ronald Reagan.

I’m interested in how intensely humans are shaped by the stories we tell ourselves — both on a personal level and a cultural level. This country’s delusions about its own history continue to cause great harm, and I think it’s important to pick them apart and explore them.

You’re currently writing a TV pilot. How are you finding that process?

I’m still in the outlining phase. I’m not used to outlining things — at least not in this much detail. I like the efficiency; I can spot problems with a scene or a character before I’ve spent hours and hours developing and writing and rewriting and then having to throw it all away. That said, I’m sure I’ll still wind up needing to write out some scenes before I finish the outline just to help me explore the characters.

What’s next for you?

Working on television scripts is the main thing. In Covid times it’s hard to plan for the future. Mostly I’m trying to hang in there, stay in the moment, write as much as I can, and stay as safe and sane as current circumstances allow.