Faculty on Leave of Absence Spring 2016, MFA in Creative Writing Program
Residency Site: Plainfield VT
Susan Kim’s work has been published and produced in film, television, theatre, fiction, and graphic novels. She has worked as story editor/head writer on numerous animated TV shows, including Welcome to the Wayne (Nickelodeon, 2016). With husband Laurence Klavan, Kim wrote the young adult fiction trilogy, Wasteland. Kim wrote the stage adaptation of Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club, as well as The Arrangement, Where It Came From, Open Spaces, and the book to the musicals Merlin’s Apprentice (with Stephen Cole & Matthew Ward) and Allison Under the Stars (with Zina Goldrich and Marcie Heisler). One-acts include Memento Mori, Pandora, Dreamtime for Alice, Rapid Eye Movement, Seventh Word Four Syllables, and Death and the Maiden. She co-authored the nonfiction book Flow: the Cultural Story of Menstruation, with graphic designer Elissa Stein. Additionally, she’s written two graphic novels with Klavan: City of Spies (artwork by Pascal Dizin) and Brain Camp (artwork by Faith Erin Hicks). She has five Emmy nominations, four Writers Guild Award nominations and won the 1996 Writers Guild Award for Best Documentary for PBS’ Paving the Way.
BA in English and Theatre, Wesleyan University
AREA OF EXPERTISE
Dramatic Writing: Screenwriting, TV, Playwriting; Fiction including Young Adult; Graphic Novels
A screenwriter I know once referred to himself as a swan in that he prided himself on writing esoteric, “literary” films. According to this kind of classification, I am more what you’d call a mongrel. Over my professional life, I have written one-act plays, young adult fiction, documentary film, short stories, children’s theatre, musicals, animation, graphic novels, TV specials, nonfiction prose, and screenplays. These are distinct forms with their own rules, processes, and demands, yet they all rely on the basics of storytelling: structure, character, conflict, and stakes. And this understanding forms the foundation of how I teach.
Teaching writing isn’t like instructing someone how to ride a bicycle. Writing is unique and idiosyncratic, a deeply personal form of communication that is informed by not only time and place, but also identity, imagination, psychology, aesthetics, and world view. Good writing demands not just aptitude; it requires intense discipline, openness, and patience. As a teacher, I try to encourage personal expression while reinforcing the discipline of craft. I help students identify and clarify their voice and the story they’re trying to tell. At the same time, I teach them the basic tools of writing and how to use (or perhaps even subvert) them: structure, plot, character, action. How do you shape a play or a story? How do you maximize the potential of the form in which you are working, whether it is a graphic novel, a TV pilot, or a collection of stories? I encourage my students to engage in a deep and meaningful way with their reading lists and to learn how to read closely, the way all writers do – for reading is ultimately the best teacher there is, one that will last a lifetime. Lastly, I try to empower all my students to open up to the vast creative potential within them, and to help them find its best expression.
As a playwright, I wrote the stage adaptation of Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club (Dramatists Play Service), The Arrangement, Where It Came From, Open Spaces, and the book to the musicals Merlin’s Apprentice (with Stephen Cole & Matthew Ward) and Allison Under the Stars (with Zina Goldrich and Marcie Heisler). My one-acts include Memento Mori (Smith & Krauss), Pandora, Dreamtime for Alice (Farrar Strauss, Dramatists Play Service), Rapid Eye Movement, Seventh Word Four Syllables, and Death and the Maiden. My one-act play Guts was produced as an independent film, which aired on PBS. My plays have been produced at NY’s Ensemble Studio Theatre, Pan Asian Repertory and Ohio Theatre, and nationally, at the Long Wharf Theatre, LA’s East/West Players and Stella Adler, Palo Alto’s TheatreWorks, Denver’s Walden Family Playhouse, Honolulu’s Kumu Kahua Playhouse, and others. I attended the 2000 Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference and won a Drama Logue Award for Outstanding New Play for Open Spaces.
St. Martins Griffin published my nonfiction book Flow: the Cultural Story of Menstruation, co-written with graphic designer Elissa Stein, in November 2009. In 2010, two graphic novels that I wrote with my partner, playwright Laurence Klavan, were published by First Second Books. City of Spies (artwork by Pascal Dizin) was named One of the Best Books of the Year for Children by Scripps Howard News Service; and Brain Camp (artwork by Faith Erin Hicks) was named One of the Best Graphic Novels for Teens by the American Library Association.
I’ve also written extensively for television. I was nominated five times for the Emmy and four times for the Writers Guild award for best writing, all in the children’s category. In adult nonfiction, I won a WGA award in 1996 for Best Documentary for PBS’ Paving the Way. Other documentaries include Icebound, AMC’s Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the Holocaust, WLIW’s Through My Eyes, and the 3-part PBS series, The Meaning of Food, and the 8-part series, Television (PBS).
I live in New York City and am a member of the Writers Guild of America East, the Writers Guild of Canada, ASCAP, UAW 2322, and Ensemble Studio Theatre.
- City of SpiesFirst Second Books2010
- Flow: The Cultural History of MenstruationSt. Martin's Press2008
- The Joy Luck Club (Adaptation of the novel by Amy Tan)Dramatists Play Service2008
- Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the HolocaustAnker Productions2005
- The Meaning of FoodPie in the Sky Productions2005
- Memento Mori (Play)Ensemble Studio Theatre2003
- Dreamtime for AliceEnsemble Studio Theatre1999
- Paving the WayJVD Productions1996